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US initiative to support new reactor designsThe US Department of...

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    US initiative to support new reactor designs
    The US Department of Energy (DOE) has launched the National Reactor InnovationCentre, located at the Idaho National Laboratory, where many new designsemerged up to the 1990s. The new facility will give private sector developersaccess to US national laboratory assets and infrastructure to support thetesting and demonstration of reactor concepts and to assess their performance.The Centre is set up under a 2018 Act which directs DOE to facilitate thesiting of advanced reactor research demonstration facilities throughpartnerships between the department and private industry.

    The Centre’s purpose is to help accelerate licensing and commercialisation ofnew designs that “will define the future of nuclear energy.” Afterdecades of US government indifference to nuclear power technology and thecancellation of several very promising programs, the declared aim is now to“enhance our energy independence and position the US as a global leader inadvanced nuclear innovation." Today, China and Russia are well ahead, butseveral promising small reactor designs are backed by private equity in USA andthey should benefit from the new approach.

    The 2018 Act also directed the DOE to develop a reactor-based fast neutronsource for testing advanced reactor fuels and materials. The DOE formallylaunched the Versatile Test Reactor project earlier this year, and is proposingto build a reactor using GE Hitachi’s PRISM technology for an integralsodium-cooled fast reactor. This is the best-developed new Western fast reactordesign, and seems likely to be built at Idaho.
    WNN 19/8/19. US policy, US NFC

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