US DoE confirms funding for nine nuclear projects

12 July 2018 (Last Updated July 12th, 2018 14:50)

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has chosen nine nuclear projects to receive a total of $20m in funding for research and development purposes.

US DoE confirms funding for nine nuclear projects
Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the scheme is part of the department’s investment into the future of US nuclear power Credit: Gage Skidmore

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has chosen nine nuclear projects to receive a total of $20m in funding for research and development purposes.

Each of the projects is currently investigating advanced nuclear technologies and has been selected by the DoE for its perceived potential to advance nuclear power in America.

These nine mark the second group chosen for funding under the DoE Office of Nuclear Energy, which implements such schemes for cost-shared projects developing novel reactor designs.  The first group was announced in April, with 13 projects receiving $60m.

A funding opportunity was also released last December, with the money to be made available in fiscal 2018 under the DoE office’s US Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the scheme is part of the department’s investment into the future of US nuclear power, saying the energy source ‘is a critical part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy for the country’, and highlighting the importance of early-stage research to ensure such technologies are given the greatest opportunity for successful development.

There are three possible funding pathways under which projects can be considered for financing; first-of-a-kind nuclear demonstration readiness projects, advanced reactor development projects and regulatory assistance grants.

Under the former category,  $7m has been given to NuScale for the second phase of its small modular reactor (SMR) project, specifically for activities such as completing the independent verification and validation licensing report, completing the reactor building design optimisation, and level sensor prototypic testing.

Funds awarded under the advanced reactor development project pathway include $400,000 for the conceptual engineering of an SMR plant that uses lead-bismuth fast reactor technology, currently under development by Columbia Basin Consulting Group. Additionally, around $1.9m is to be given to GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy for its work identifying methods to reduce the construction and maintenance costs of its BWRX-300 small light water reactor concept.

Around $1.1m will be given to the Electric Power Research Institute, which is currently working to improve the models used to estimate the post-accident radionuclide releases from integral pressurised water reactors.

 Just over $2m has been awarded to Flibe Energy and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, for their research into the use of nitrogen trifluoride to remove uranium from a molten-salt fuel mixture, while around $6m has been put towards Holtec International’s research on hybrid laser-arc welding.  It is hoped that the latter technology will be useful in the fabrication of SMRs, as well as other nuclear components.

Technology development vouchers have been awarded to two companies as part of the DoE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative, a scheme that launched in 2015. These are Yellowstone Energy and ThorCon US, the former of which will receive $160,000 and the latter of which will receive $400,000. The scheme also allows the chosen companies to access DoE research and development infrastructure.

Application reviews and selection processes are to be conducted over the next five years, and approximately $30m additional funds will be awarded in the next quarterly proposal cycle.