DOE is Investing in Advanced Nuclear Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $49.3 million in nuclear energy research, facility access, crosscutting technology development, and infrastructure awards for 58 advanced nuclear technology projects in 25 states. The awards fall under DOE’s nuclear energy programs called the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP), the Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF) program, and crosscutting research projects.

DOE is investing in advanced nuclear technologies.

Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP)

DOE is awarding more than $28.5 million through its Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to support 40 university-led nuclear energy research and development projects in 23 states. NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.

Additionally, seven university-led projects will receive more than $1.6 million for research reactor and infrastructure improvements providing important safety, performance and student education-related upgrades to a portion of the nation’s 25 university research reactors as well as enhancing university research and training infrastructure.

Crosscutting Research Projects

Five research and development projects led by DOE national laboratories and U.S. universities will receive $4.5 million in funding. Together, they will conduct research to address crosscutting nuclear energy challenges that will help to develop advanced sensors and instrumentation, advanced manufacturing methods, and materials for multiple nuclear reactor plant and fuel applications.

Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF)

DOE has selected two university-, one national laboratory- and three industry-led projects that will take advantage of NSUF capabilities to investigate important nuclear fuel and material applications. DOE will support three of these projects with a total of $1.5 million in research funds. All six of these projects will be supported by more than $10 million in facility access costs and expertise for experimental neutron and ion irradiation testing, post-irradiation examination facilities, synchrotron beamline capabilities, and technical assistance for design and analysis of experiments through NSUF. In addition, two of the abovementioned NEUP R&D projects will be supported with $3 million in NSUF access funds.

With this year’s awards, the Office of Nuclear Energy has now awarded more than $678 million to continue American leadership in clean energy innovation and to train the next generation of nuclear engineers and scientists through its university programs since 2009.

DOE $17 Million for Research in EPSCoR States

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $17 million in funding for nine energy research projects under the federal Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program. EPSCoR is designed to build capabilities in underserved regions of the country that will enable them to compete more successfully for other federal R&D funding.

51 thoughts on “DOE is Investing in Advanced Nuclear Technologies”

  1. My point about taxation is to be understood as an alternative to other forms of taxation. I mean we need some, don’t we?

    While the US Government might like the idea of being able to tax Chinese and Nigerian people, I don’t think that’s really going to happen, and so a taxation scheme that doesn’t work for this application isn’t really any worse than any other realistic tax scheme.

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  2. What is your opinion of the ESBWR, or to perhaps ask the same question in a different way, what paper reactor would you come up with?

    Actually I think you’ve mentioned this: a very large BWR core running at lower energy density.

    Which in turn is a way of asking the question: If (as is often the case in many different fields) the amatuer paper designs keep trying to “solve the wrong problems”, then what problems DO need work on?

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  3. Additionally, GE seems to be less aggressive about nuclear construction than Westinghouse, Framatome, Rosatom, and the Asian nuclear companies probably because the construction business has historically poor margins (AKA losses or negative profit) and GE is a well diversified business that focuses on profit making whereas the others (including Westinghouse) are quasi-governmental organizations that ‘try’ to make money while representing government interests. Shoot, Rosatom is a Russian emissary to the developing world – even wants to build in Africa – wise foreign policy. A representative from one of the US nuke vendors explained that their company cannot compete with a government organization that finances and builds reactor plants like Rosatom does.

    GE owns the BWR technology. Anybody that builds BWR owes licensing fees. That exists to a lesser extent with PWR technology. That may be the reason no BWR built in China – they don’t want to license it.

    PWR have more components to break; and they do break.

    BWR has double the worker dose than PWR; this is only significant factor considering LNT dose effects model – still the workers are kept to 2Rem/year at both sites and that limit itself is very rarely challenged for any individual.

    BWR need to shield the steam system because there are some strong, short-lived (seconds, minutes) gamma emitters in the steam.

    BWR cheaper to construct just based on steel and concrete volume being less.

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  4. Elevator speech?

    There are plenty of BWR in the world. A third of the USA fleet is BWR. Most reactors in Japan and Sweden are BWR. Some in Germany, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan… BWR is probably 30% world’s nuclear generation capacity although less than 30% of installed units globally. Isn’t that more like Ford vs. Toyota; both survive because both are good products?

    Navy went PWR because BWR would slosh on a rolling, pitching ship. Simple as that. PWR was also first – Nautilus and SW1 were operating well before the modern BWR appeared as the BORAX5 experimental facility in the early 1960s.

    I think you got tripped up when I stated the fact that the BWR is a lot better at load following compared to PWR. This is true for the forced convection BWR2/3/4/5/6, ABWR and NOT the natural circulation ESBWR (which hasn’t been built). The forced convection BWR have automatic, essentially instantaneous forced circulation “run-backs” with up to 70% power reduction without reactor trip if the BOP has issues. The BWR can reduce/increase power just by reducing forced convection – PWR needs to borate/dilute – the latter becomes difficult in the last 1/3 of the cycle when there is little solute to dilute. So, any nuclear engineer will tell you that a BWR load follows better than a PWR in that it can reduce output nearly instantaneously. For both types, the real issues with load following happen hours after the power reduction – it is difficult to maintain the desired power level.

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  5. Many of the SMR other than NuScale are proposing using up to 20% enriched. It is a waste.

    9 tons is a smaller source term than 88. 110 tons is a larger source term than 88.

    With source term and the public perception: placing 1g of feces into a tanker truck full of milk will produce a tanker truck full of feces.

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  6. Taxing carbon emissions seems really artificial to me. It might briefly take in libtarded post-industrial avocado-toast-eating, latte sipping regions like the Bay Area or New York or Germany – something like the brief prohibition of ethanol in the USA in the 1920s. My statement that you cannot “ban burning things” is reasonable as military vehicles will always use petroleum fuel, there is no foreseeable substitute for aviation, rocketry, steel/cement production, etc., etc.. People that don’t live in cities burn wood for heat all over the world including the USA; forest fires happen often, cooking tends to require combustion. Much of the world does not live under or tolerate the legal quagmire cancer that afflicts the Anglosphere; South America, Africa, Asia are very unlikely to impose economic penalties for “burning things” to keep their worlds running – even if their version of ‘running’ is what we would call ‘sputtering’. Coal may be on its way out, but taxing it as a pollutant makes no sense. Regulations make cars safer, technological development has made them more efficient and powerful. Carbon emissions taxes are unprecedented IMO and are the symptom of a top-heavy post-industrial society consuming itself with excessive regulations. It is a disgusting idea. You live in the same world as me, right? Natgas is booming… more cars than ever. more coal plants all over the world and the West tries to find new ways to hobble itself. Disgusting.

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  7. demonstrated “coolability”

    9 tonnes of uranium looks safer than 88. Of course, until simultaneous accidents on all 12 units are inconceivable… Though wait a minute do you say it is 20% enriched instead of 4.4%? Not good.

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  8. I had forgotten to add that the interest in doing such R&D must be not overpriced costs, but rather manufacturing products more effectively, so the margin becomes bigger.

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  9. Can you give an elevator speech explanation of why the industry went to PWR if BWR offers the many advantages you suggest?
    I know the Navy went to PWR for their reasons, but both the BWR and PWR were developed well enough to be established in commercial power, and I would have thought that the two streams of development would be fairly independent by now.

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  10. Point 3 points to another feature of fossil fuels. They are just about the BEST target for taxation.
    Adam Smith laid out the 4 rules for good tax. Mostly ignored these days to our cost.
    In order of importance:

    1. Calculable. Everyone can look at the same situation and calculate exactly the same tax bill. No interpretation. No room for corruption, uncertainty, influence. No $500k/y tax lawyers. A pure cost per carbon dioxide molecule offers this.
    2. Predictable. Can I predict ahead of time what my bill is, assuming my business does X I will owe $Y. Does point 1 apply to the future?
    3. Limited collection points. Do the calculation and send the bill to 3 oil refineries, not individually to 37 000 petrol stations or 12 million car owners.
    4. Fair. Does everyone pay an amount that doesn’t load up on a few people who can’t pay and just managed to annoy the wrong politicians?

    These days everyone is concerned about point 4 and try to pretend that modern computers allow us to ignore points 1-3, but I think they still have a lot to recommend them. Not as much as when calculations were done in longhand using a quill pen, but there is still a big drag on society for all three issues.

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  11. I’m with Mark here.

    Well no, I don’t agree that banning fossil fuels is the appropriate step at this point.

    But

    1. Banning stuff really does reduce how much it happens. Sometimes a vast amount. That’s why we have laws. It’s why we don’t have sword fights in the streets any more.
    2. Yes, we’ll always have half the population <100 IQ
    3. Fossil fuels are going to be especially easy to ban, because they only available in limited locations, and (for any significant volumes) require huge, visible infrastructure to extract/refine/transport/distribute. Sure someone can operate a personal coal mine in the back paddock of a fortunately located farm, dig out a few tonnes/week using a small backhoe, transport it in the back of their Toyota Hilux and sell it to their friends and neighbours for use in home heating. But the millions of tonnes required to run an industrial economy needs facilities you can spot from space.
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  12. That is only evidence of one side of the equation. Now we need evidence that building stuff on the moon is any better.

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  13. They don’t manifold the steam supply systems together because that sets-up common cause failure for tripping more than one unit. Lose back-pressure in one condenser due to tube rupture (very common), you only trip one unit.

    https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1831/ML18310A332.pdf

    Page 7: “Each NuScale Power Module has its own steam and power conversion system. The steam and power conversion system has no safety-related function.”

    That “no safety related function” is kind of a funny thing: Loss of the power conversion system is what causes the challenge to the safety systems… You isolate the reactor from the condenser and all of a sudden you are on the safety related decay heat removal.

    As far as SWU, it does matter. If a $100,000,000 4.4% enriched reload is good for 500 days @ 1.2GWe, then the fuel costs are $200,000/day. If wholesale power is worth $30/MW-h, then there is $864,000/day revenue. Seems like the fuel cost is about 25% or revenue. It’s not just SWU. You have to buy the feed too. 20% enrichment creates about 50 tons of tails per ton with tails assay of 0.25% (vs. the 0.71% natural abundance).

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  14. I am sorry but I always figured the reason we have government was to regulate things otherwise why put up with the overhead.

    Often outlawing things greatly reduce the nature of the problem. Traffic accidents aren’t as high as they would be if we were allowed to do as we please. Don’t assume regulation does not work because of a few exceptions. Suggesting we stop enforcing the laws against murder because we can’t stop every murder is ridiculous.

    Since IQ test are normalized I would assume that 50% of the population will have an IQ test less than 100.

    If the choice was between billions dead or profits for fossil fuel companies I would think the smart choice would be to outlaw burning fossil fuel. BTW, it would be relatively easy to catch those breaking the law.

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  15. They did essentially break 1 big core into 12 pieces for the sake of some demonstrated “coolability” and some proposed “manufacturability”. Referring to Chapter 4 of the NuScale design application, the 12 cores will together weigh 110T of uranium. A 1.2GWe PWR holds 88T. It would be nice to see if their “coolability” scales-up in radius and height. Can you make the reactor BIG and still support the passive cooling? I think so. Then the issue would again be manufacturing and to a lesser extent transporting big vessels.

    The NuScale reactor is not going to load follow better than is typical. Load follow is about xenon transient – and it is manageable to 85% power and back as needed. Deeper is a problem. BWR are absolutely the best for load follow; AP1000 seems kinda good with it’s ‘gray control rods’ (MSHIM system) because it might not need to borate/dilute to change temp/power. Unless NuScale has some boration/dilution minimization strategy like MSHIM for load following, which doesn’t appear to be the case with normal control/shutdown bank logic per design certification document, then NuScale has nothing over other designs WRT load-following. That is to say: it wouldn’t be able to go deeper than 85% and back to 100% without exchanging a lot of water, especially towards end of cycle when the RCS is diluted to begin with. Load follow capability kinda ends at 200 ppm – starts to require a lot of primary water in/out.

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  16. Nuscale claim that with a dozen smaller units they can follow wind better than one big LWR. Sounds dubious to me – making a virtue out of the vices of a competitor. At least they should be able to sell power from unit #1 while they’re still working on 2 to 12, and they don’t need the world’s largest crane to shift everything.

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  17. Well, no one in their right mind will call you a fool, if you invest in a mere IP and not actual building on Moon. Like what Elon has done with the HyperLoop blueprint (hyperloop_alpha.pdf). There are many cheap engineers ready to work remotely in Ukraine, Poland, Czech and other such countries.

    The only problem is to get protection from IP stealing. Ideally governments must make anyone, who uses or wants to use an IP, pay to its holders an equal share of its R&D costs and thus to become one of them. There may be some exceptions to that rule, of course. Then it is just a matter of disseminating ideas : )

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  18. I google for it and didn’t find it. But it sounds like it would be a pretty large unit. Small units could also use passive cooling. MSR could use a freeze plug. And I read about Lead/Bismuth as coolant. There seems to be a lot of solutions that no one is interested in exploring. As for carbon tax, I preferred that fossil fuel be just outlawed. Phase it out in steps to reduce the shock but its gone.

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  19. It seems no one actually wants to take a large risk and be called a fool if they don’t win. They all want to take the smaller risk and always lose but can always claim they though they had a good chance to win.

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  20. I respect your opinion; you’re more knowledgeable on this stuff than I am. This will of course not prevent me from arguing with you.

    Just going off EIA LCOE numbers, the levelized variable cost (aka fuel) for new advanced nuclear is $9.50 of the roughly $90.00/MWh of its LCOE. Say we crank that up to $15 to account for the squirrelly burnup.

    How much does the overnight cost come down from using SMR methodology? I’m guessing that the amortization cost will come down considerably more than $5/MWh. (You’re also hurt somewhat by amortizing the BOP for a smaller reactor, but other than that I assume that the overnight cost scales pretty linearly with the nameplate.)

    Same thing with using 20% HEU (although I don’t know much about the Russian thing): That’s about 35% more SWUs than 3.5% LEU. If you make up in amortization what you lose in fuel costs, isn’t that a winner?

    A 12-pack of Nuscales would be 720 MWe of nameplate. That’s probably in the grey area where you’d be better off bidding GW-scale reactors.

    BTW: Do you really need 12 turbines? Surely they’re thinking of a manifold so that you can size your BOP to your needs?

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  21. I think you’re omitting some of the distinct advantages of smaller scale, especially if you can manufacture the reactor and primary loops offsite:

    1) Vastly lowering financing risk. If you only have to float the financing for the balance of plant until the last moment when they bring the reactor in on a truck, your overnight costs go down a lot.

    2) Broader range of sites. Lots of places just don’t need a 2-4 GWe multi-reactor plant. Plunking down a 200-500 MWe plant in markets that can’t sustain a big plant seems like it makes the total market a lot bigger.

    3) You’re significantly re-packaging the refueling, storage, and decommissioning costs if you just swap reactors at burnup. It’s not like the NIMBYs and BANANAs are going to give you a free pass, but at least you have an answer for the most infuriating set of vacuous objections. (Of course, then there’s that “keep that cold-shutdown nuke on a truck away from me!” problem, but that’s not really much different from the “keep that convoy of dry casks away from me!” problem. One way or another, this problem either gets solved or we have a serious scaling limit.)

    Baked into all of this is of course the assumption that you can get down to factory scale, which is by no means a slam-dunk. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for some innovative SMRs in the inventory, even if they’re based on PWR tech.

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  22. Except in China, Canada, France and other countries that don’t seem to have a problem with actually building them.

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  23. I assume you are using a voice-to-text system or something, but man you need to get a better one. That is very hard to follow.

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  24. There have been some small scale beamed power at km ranges, but this also strikes me as something that needs more work.

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  25. Seems like table stakes here is to get the Idaho National Lab to expedite experimental licenses, and to manage sites where pilot reactors can be operated. Maybe somebody could even come up with an architecture where you could do a generic balance-of-plant design that small reactors could be dropped into for testing for a few years.

    Until somebody is willing to turn a few of these new Gen IV suckers on and see what they can do, let’s not pretend that this announcement means anything at all.

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  26. “NEUP” sounds like what the Canadian nuke regulators answer when you ask them whether $28.5M of university research funding will do anything at all.

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  27. Some one in the public I hold a speech for came after and said.

    I have met Weinberg 6 times, last he said.

    -Now I have been energy adviser to seven presidents, no one have been interested in cheap energy.

    For me the scientific rejected CO2 treat just exist to motive higher energy taxes here in Europe, if not they should give one tenth of the tax money as subsides solar and wind to mass production of modern nuclear that can produce all energy forms the modern society demand not just electricity that will be extrem expensive over 50% .

    For me oak ridge proposal to blue ribbon 2011 is best but can simplifies a lott, no control rods and a vertical construction that give cirkulation true convection.

    Closed Brayton and super critical CO2 for production of electricity and heat pumps of wolfram to reach temperatures for H2 production.

    Windmill with 12 MW demand more than FS-MSR with 600 MW if they builds in the same amount.

    For me global welfare is the most important argue, with out 4 times today´s energy production no global welfare and then no global environment protection.

    Since i started to propagate for mass production of modern nuclear power 20 years ago, humanity has increased by 1.6 billion

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  28. Yeah, but there are not so much _different_ drug R&D projects. So spending $2 million even on each of them seems like a good investment in IP. It all reminds me the situation with banks in Germany (EU), which had been offering almost 0% (0.3-0.5%) annual deposits, while at the same time banks in Ukraine had 14-18% (EUR to UAH exchange rate was stable too). People just are not told how to invest properly. They are not interested in technology and opportunities in other countries…

    By the way, I am against current IP laws which protect monopolies. Why not to allow anyone to use an IP after paying equal share of its R&D expenses (estimated by government) to the IP holders (and becoming one of them afterwards)?

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  29. I’m always suspicious when someone says that

    1. They have a product that could earn any drug company $100 billion, but they aren’t interested.
    2. Our drug will only take $2 million to develop, even though the other drugs entering the market cost $1 billion each.
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  30. The theory seems to be that you can use Moon resources to build the things, that way it’s much cheaper than having to send them up from Earth’s gravity well.

    And then the claim is that having a solid surface with some gravity to build on makes construction easier. But seeing as we’ve never built anything on the moon, and no big structures in orbit, that’s pure theory at this point.

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  31. I guess the design has to be approved. But then you have to certify each individual reactor that it meets the design. And since we have so few reactors, each has their own tweaks on the design. That’s why small modular reactors look promising. You can amortize the costs of the design approval.

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  32. As long as “…reform the NRC” doesn’t translate into “letting gut thinkers build shoddy reactors to save a buck”

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  33. Unless the DOE money is used to build an actual commercial reactor that sells electricity to paying customers it is not “investing” at all. It is making research grants that will not pay off in an actual commercial reactor for decades if ever. There are plenty of Gen IV designs for nuclear reactors which could be built in the next ten years if the regulatory environment was reformed. My favorite family of designs use factory built modular Stable Salt Reactors to both generate electricity and process heat. The Nuclear regulatory agencies should certify by reactor design not each individual reactor. All existing sites and historic sites that have or have had a commercial reactor should be “grandfathered” as pre-qualified sites for the new designs. New sites should be approved unless there is an extraordinary hazard to the public based on hard scientific evidence and not public hysteria.

    The time for “paper reactors” is drawing to a close. There is little point in research that never produces a real world result. New and better designs are available now. Let’s build some!!!!

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  34. Solar in geosynchronous orbit is probably more practical. Same sunlight, way closer, easier tracking.

    Since it’s easy to launch from the moon, geosynch is probably still best even with lunar manufacturing. Until we have that, we can launch from Earth; the launch costs Musk has been talking about for BFR would keep it economical.

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  35. There are a bunch of advanced reactor startups but in the U.S. the problem is the NRC. Before they’ll even look at your reactor design, you have to spend a couple hundred million dollars on near-complete blueprints. Then the NRC gives a flat yes or no and if it’s no you’re out of business. It’s really difficult to get investors that way.

    Canada has a more rational process, and that’s why nuclear startups in Canada are making more progress.

    All this DOE stuff is great but it’s probably a waste of time unless we also reform the NRC.

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  36. Yes, but it is not the investment towards new stuff that I am focused on. We need more human investment in the field. We need to train up the next generation of nuclear scientists.

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  37. Private industry will throw many billions at it when they can make a buck. Let the market work. I would say there has been no viable tech in this area for private business to latch onto. I don’t want my tax dollars being used for other’s wetdream science projects.

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  38. The important thing is that they are investing in R&D.
    Now, hopefully- the recipients of this investment will be native-born patriots, and not just conduits for the transfer of advanced technology.

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  39. Why would you do that?! That’s so much! You could put it in a savings account and live off the interest for the rest of your life!

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