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Federal Lab Embarks on 6 Projects Exploring New Reactor Designs

Jan. 4, 2019
Researchers at DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory will work with private industry on six projects focused on advancing commercial nuclear energy technologies.

Researchers at DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory will work with private industry on six projects focused on advancing commercial nuclear energy technologies to improve current reactors and move new reactor designs closer to deployment. The total funding for these ORNL projects is about $9.5 million, with industry cost-sharing for two projects pushing the total value to approximately $12 million.

Two of the projects are supported through a DOE Office of Nuclear Energy program, U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development:

  • Exelon Generation and ORNL will improve the modeling and simulation techniques of boiling water reactors (BWRs), which could enhance current reactor operations and reactor development. Leveraging the ORNL-based Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, the partnership will take current modeling tools that simulate pressurized water reactors and expand them to simulate BWRs.Ÿ
  • ORNL will work with Analysis and Measurement Services Corp. and Pacific Northwest National Lab to develop criteria testing for age-related deterioration of nuclear power plant cables and cable insulation. ORNL will provide expertise in characterizing cables and modify current facilities to accommodate for better testing.

The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors will use its Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications (VERA) software to model and simulate various nuclear reactors, such as the Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactor (shown).

DOE-NE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear will fund four projects that partner with ORNL:

  • Exelon Corp will perform a feasibility study of enriching gadolinium-157 using plasma separation. Using an enriched form of gadolinium fuel for reactors could reduce U.S. annual fuel costs by more than $100 million.
  • ORNL will work with Eastman and INL on designing and analyzing a nuclear hybrid plant. ORNL’s expertise in reactor technology makes it well-suited for analyzing the performance, cost, and reliability of nuclear power plant.
  • NexDefense, Inc. will work with ORNL to analyze its cybersecurity software for use in nuclear reactors. The project will spell out the software’s benefits and examine potential cyber vulnerabilities in nuclear reactors.
  • Westinghouse Electric Co.and ORNL will develop and evaluate alumina-forming austenitic stainless steels for lead-cooled fast reactors. Improving the steel for various reactor components will help overcome the key hurdle of high-temperature lead compatibility.

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