In early June, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $24 million in federal funds awarded to ten Advanced Nuclear Reactor development projects through a program under the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). The program leverages the increasingly sophisticated advanced modeling and simulation capabilities of U.S. National Laboratories and affiliated Universities, and is dubbed Modeling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration (MEITNER).
TerraPower will partner on two separate projects with the North Carolina State University and the State University of New York at Buffalo teams. These two teams were awarded a total of $4.8 million in funding for advanced nuclear energy systems and enabling technologies. Collaboration with U.S. universities leverages their valuable research facilities while supporting the development of the next generation of nuclear energy experts, scientists and engineers. Details on the awards can be found on the ARPA-E website.
The North Carolina State University team is developing a highly automated management and control system for advanced nuclear reactors. Incorporating recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), and data-driven modeling and simulation, this AI guided system will help with accident management, enhance operator training, reduce control room staffing and overall operational cost, and predict future plant status through machine learning. The award for developing this nearly autonomous control system is $3,386,834.
With the State University of New York at Buffalo, TerraPower is supporting the team’s efforts to reduce nuclear plant complexity and cost by integrating seismic protection systems into the plant’s design. Regulations require nuclear plants have protections in place against earthquakes and seismic events. The $1,443,635 award will support work to simplify plant design and enable the use of standardized equipment that can be optimized for individual locations.
Each of these forward-leaning research efforts aligns with TerraPower’s approach to combine advanced computing and information technology with advanced nuclear science to increase performance, reduce complexity and cost and bring clean, efficient and reliable nuclear energy to new applications. These and other advancements are spurring new thinking and applications for this abundant and reliable clean energy source to lift millions out of energy poverty and mitigate mounting concerns around the impact of climate change across the globe.