ORNL seeks to move advanced reactors forward

nuclear flagMoving advanced nuclear reactors from the drawing board to the field was the focus of the Advanced Reactors Technical Summit III, hosted by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and attended by 180 experts from industry, government and academia.

The conference, sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council (http://www.usnic.org) in conjunction with ORNL and the Summit III Organizing Committee, featured remarks by

  • John Kotek, acting assistant secretary of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy;
  • Jeffery Merrifield, former commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and chairman of the Nuclear Infrastructure Council’s Advanced Reactors Task Force; and;
  • current NRC Commissioner William Ostendorff.

Alan Icenhour, ORNL associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science and Engineering, noted that enthusiasm among advanced reactors designers continues to grow as evident by this year’s attendance, which more than tripled last year’s participation.

“Attendance was strong as we’re seeing a growing interest in advanced reactors,” Icenhour said. “Some 40 companies are developing new reactors worldwide and we’ve seen investments of an estimated $1.3 billion.”

The conference comes on the heels of DOE’s Jan. 15 announcement that will initially fund two projects, awarded to X-energy and Southern Company Services at $6 million. The projects allow industry-led teams to work with national laboratories and universities to advance nuclear energy technology.

ORNL is among the partners that will support both projects, which have a possible multi-year value of $80 million including cost-share from the industry teams. With the DOE investment, X-energy and Southern Company Services will be able to further develop their advanced reactor designs with potential for demonstration in the mid-2030s.

Other notable summit participants included

  • David Blee, executive director of the Nuclear Infrastructure Council;
  • Christofer Mowry, director of ARC Nuclear;
  • Cindy Pezze, vice president and chief technology officer of Westinghouse Electric Co.;
  • Robert Hill, technical director, nuclear engineering, Argonne National Laboratory;
  • Tom O’Connor, director, Office of Advanced Reactor Technologies, DOE; and
  • Kamal Pasamehmetoglu, associate lab director, Idaho National Laboratory.
  • Other participants from ORNL were Gary Mays, a group leader in the Reactor and Nuclear Systems Division;
  • Jeremy Busby, director of the Materials Science and Technology Division; and
  • John Hunn, program manager in the Fusion and Materials for Nuclear Systems Division.

Panel discussions focused on fuels, materials, accident tolerance, passive cooling, proliferation resistance, test reactor concepts, prototype and demo concepts, costs, and funding avenues and licensing considerations.

Kotek and others also stressed the important role of the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear, or GAIN.

Through GAIN, DOE’s state-of-the-art and continuously improving R&D infrastructure at its national labs will be made available to stakeholders to achieve faster and cost-effective development of innovative nuclear energy technologies.

The Nuclear Infrastructure Council is a leading U.S. business consortium advocate for new nuclear and engagement of the American supply chain globally. The council, composed of nearly 70 companies, represents the “Who’s Who” of the nuclear supply chain community.

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