ARPA-E funding safer and lower cost nuclear energy

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will be providing $20 million of funding for projects to identify and develop innovative technologies for lower cost and safer advanced nuclear reactors as part of the ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) program.

ARPA-E’s Modelling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration (MEITNER) programme will focus on new, innovative enabling technologies aiming to help achieve “walkaway” safe and secure operation, extremely low construction capital costs, and dramatically shorter construction and commissioning times for the next generation of nuclear power plants.

According to ARPA-E, MEITNER encourages a “rethinking of how pieces of the nuclear reactor system fit together when developing the technologies that will make these plants viable.” In the building phase, that could mean cost savings through modular and advanced manufacturing techniques. Robotics, sophisticated sensing, model-based fault detection, and secure networks to enable substantially autonomous controls could reduce operational costs as well as contributing to a high degree of passive safety, the organisation said.