DOE National Labs Kickstart Work on Micro and Small Modular Reactors at Two Sites

  • Kickstart-motorcycleIdaho National Laboratory Selects Oklo Inc. for Opportunity to Demonstrate Reuse of Fuel Material
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory & TVA Sign Agreement to Collaborate on Advanced Reactor Technologies Including SMRs

Idaho Lab and Oklo to Work on Nuclear Fuel Project

INL will provide Oklo with access to recovered material from used nuclear fuel.
This award paves the way for an important demonstration of the first Oklo 1.5 MW Aurora plant, as well as the ability of advanced reactors to convert used nuclear fuel into clean energy.  The fuel is downblended from higher levels of enrichment to be more than 5% U235 and less than 20% which is also known as “high assay low enriched fuel.” Use of this material would allow a reactor like Oklo’s to run for years without a core change out of fuel elements.

The project will help advance creation of the technical capability to build and operate the Oklo Aurora – a small advanced fission technology that can be used in remote or off-grid locations to generate power.

The California-based company applied for access to “left overs” materials from EBR-II through a competitive process INL launched in 2019. Notifications of selection were made to applicants in December 2019. The goal is to accelerate deployment of commercially viable microreactors by providing developers with access to material needed to produce fuel for their reactors.

“We are excited to work with Oklo Inc. and support their needs related to fuel development and microreactor demonstration,” said Dr. John Wagner, associate laboratory director for INL’s Nuclear Science & Technology directorate.

“As the nation’s nuclear energy research laboratory, we are committed to working with private companies and others to develop the technologies that will provide clean energy to the world.”

Jacob DeWitte, Oklo co-founder and chief executive officer, said, “This award paves the way for an important demonstration of the first Oklo Aurora plant, as well as the ability of advanced reactors to convert used nuclear fuel, that would otherwise be treated for disposal, into clean energy.”

Last month, Oklo announced it received a site use permit from the U.S. Department of Energy to build and demonstrate the Aurora technology at INL.

“Building and operating advanced reactors is essential to restoring U.S. leadership in nuclear energy,” said Dr. Ashley Finan, director of the National Reactor Innovation Center.

“The NRIC team is committed to empowering innovators to move their projects from concept to reality. We look forward to working with Oklo on the fuel supply for their first unit and congratulate them on achieving this milestone.”

Led by INL, NRIC was established in August 2019 to provide access to resources to accelerate the demonstration of advanced nuclear technology concepts.

Oklo Inc. (Oklo) is a California-based company developing clean energy plants to provide emission-free, reliable, and affordable energy using advanced fission. Oklo’s first product is the Aurora, which produces 1.5MW of electric power and can save 1,000,000 tons of carbon emissions during its operation over diesel generator alternatives at remote sites. The Aurora has the capability to turn nuclear waste into clean energy and can produce clean energy for decades without needing to refuel.

Oklo received a Site Use Permit from the U.S Department of Energy, successfully demonstrated prototype of its metallic fuel, and is completing the first advanced fission license application with the NRC.

More CoveragePower Magazine  Oklo Microreactor Is INL’s Pick for First-of-a Kind HALEU-Fueled Nuclear Demonstration

Oklo Inc. Backgrounder

Oklo Inc. (Oklo) is a California-based company developing clean energy plants to provide emission-free, reliable, and affordable energy using advanced fission. Oklo’s first product is the Aurora, which produces 1.5MW of electric power and during its operation can save 1,000,000 tons of carbon emissions over the diesel generator alternative.

The Aurora can produce clean energy for decades without needing to refuel, and also has capability to turn nuclear waste into clean energy.

Oklo received a Site Use Permit from the U.S Department of Energy, successfully demonstrated prototype of its metallic fuel, and is completing the first advanced fission license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the near term.

ORNL, TVA Sign Agreement to Collaborate
on Advanced Reactor Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have signed a memorandum of understanding to evaluate a new generation of flexible, cost-effective advanced nuclear reactors.

Under the agreement, ORNL and TVA will collaborate to improve the economic feasibility of potentially licensing, building, operating and maintaining one or more advanced nuclear reactors, such as a small modular reactor, at TVA’s 935-acre Clinch River site in East Tennessee.

TVA has received an Early Site Permit from the NRC to build an SMR there. TVA has not made a decision to build anything yet and would first need approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a specific design.

In terms of the R&D program the two organizations will pursue, the partnership will take advantage of ORNL’s scientific expertise and its unique facilities including the High Flux Isotope Reactor, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said, “”We are combining our world-leading research capabilities and TVA’s operating expertise to accelerate the next generation of cost-effective nuclear power”

“Nuclear generation plays an important role in providing clean, reliable power at TVA,” TVA President & CEO Jeff Lyash said.

“This partnership with ORNL supports TVA’s mission for innovation and will allow us to better explore potential future nuclear technologies and help lead nuclear energy’s future in the United States.”

This new effort builds on decades of collaboration between TVA and ORNL, leveraging nuclear capabilities and assets from both organizations, including a 2016 effort using modeling tools developed at ORNL to predict the first six months of operations of TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power plant. Specific areas of importance that will be evaluated by the participants of the MOU include, but are not limited to:

  • Development of advanced construction techniques
  • Evaluation of integrated development activities for site infrastructure support
  • Development of various economic deployment catalysts
  • Innovation of advanced manufacturing technologies
  • Use of technology deployment to meet regulatory and safety requirements more efficiently

TVA at one time had an agreement with B&W to designs and license its 180 MW mPower SMR, but did not pursue completion of the work scope.  Instead, TVA decided to hedge its bets by applying for and receiving the Early Site Permit. It referenced four SMR designs but did not indicate a preference for any of them. TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan has no indication of the need for new nuclear energy generating capacity.

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