INL’s Rita Baranwal Nominated to be DOE A/Sec of Nuclear Energy

The post, which has been vacant for almost two years,
will be filled by a superbly qualified nuclear technology manager


Rita Baranwal

The Idaho Falls Post Register reported this week that Rita Baranwal, the head of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), has been nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy.

Update 07/11/19: Rita Baranwal was sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy

Update 06/20/19: Baranwal’s confirmation was approved by the U.S. Senate in an 86-5 vote.

Update 11/27/18: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sent Baranwal’s nomination to the Senate floor for approval. 

Update 01/18/19Baranwal’s nomination has been re-submitted to Congress as there was no action on the many nominees for federal office during the closing days of the last Congress.

The White House announced the nomination of Rita Baranwal, who heads GAIN, which DOE created in 2015 to support nuclear startups and help universities, industries and other private groups get nuclear technology to the market more quickly. GAIN is managed by Idaho National Laboratory.

Previously, Baranwal was director of technology development and application at Westinghouse. She was a manager in materials technology at Bechtel Bettis. She led research and development in nuclear fuels materials for U.S. naval reactors.

Baranwal has a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. She also is on advisory boards for MIT’s materials research laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley’s nuclear engineering department.

Baranwal was recommended for the high-level position by several nuclear energy groups, including the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Energy Institute.

“We are pleased with the president’s nomination of Dr. Rita Baranwal to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy,” Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Maria Korsnick said in a prepared statement.

“She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience that will help advance nuclear energy and Secretary Perry’s policy agenda. This nomination further affirms the administration’s strong support and confidence in the nuclear industry to help meet the nation’s energy, environmental and national security goals.”

What is GAIN and What does it do?

In support of nuclear energy innovation, DOE-NE vouchers managed by GAIN provide funds to assist applicants seeking access to the world class expertise and capabilities available across the U.S. DOE Complex.

gain-logo_thumb.pngGAIN seeks to provide the nuclear industrial community with access to the technical, regulatory , and financial support necessary to move new or advanced nuclear technologies toward commercialization.

The goal of the NE Voucher program is to accelerate commercialization of innovative nuclear energy technologies.

For a list of previous awards (two rounds), and how to apply for one, go to this page at the GAIN web site.

Idaho National Laboratory Awards
Funding to Support Proposed Fast Spectrum Reactor

The Idaho National Laboratory announced this week nearly $3.9 million in funding for 13 university-led projects to develop instrumentation and tools needed to monitor and conduct experiments in a proposed fast spectrum test reactor. (list of awards)

inl logo 2018The projects were awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor program.

They are part of an effort to develop a conceptual design and cost estimate for a new, one-of-a-kind test reactor that would support advanced reactor research and development.

“Developing these instruments, tools and other experimental mechanisms are a necessary part of understanding what sorts of test capabilities are needed to advance the next generation of nuclear technology,” said Dr. Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, executive director of the Versatile Test Reactor program.

DOE’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee (NEAC) examined this issue and recommended in a 2017 report “that DOE-NE proceed immediately with pre-conceptual design planning activities to support a new test reactor (including cost and schedule estimates).”

The recommendation was based, partially, on responses from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors, many of which require different testing facilities than the commercial nuclear power technology in use today. Currently, there are only a few capabilities available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none in the United States.

In response to the NEAC recommendation, the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy established the Versatile Test Reactor program. DOE-NE is working with national laboratories, universities, and industry partners to develop cost estimates, a conceptual design, and potential schedule.

DOE is expected to decide whether to proceed with a fast spectrum irradiation test reactor in 2020. If approved, the intent is for the test reactor to be designed and built by domestic research entities and industry partners, continuing to establish U.S. leadership in nuclear energy innovation.

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