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GE Hitachi awarded INL subcontract

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has been awarded a subcontract by the Idaho National Laboratory to support the conceptual design, cost, scheduling and safety framework for a proposed fast spectrum Versatile Test Reactor (VTR).

The VTR would be critical in the development of innovative nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation, and sensors. The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy is investigating what it would take to establish a reactor-based irradiation capability in the United States by 2026.

According to the INL, only a few capabilities are available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world, and none in the U.S.

“To meet our aggressive schedule for establishing this much-needed capability in the United States, it is necessary to leverage an existing and mature sodium-cooled fast reactor design that can be modified to meet the needs of a versatile test reactor,” said INL’s Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, the executive director of VTR. “Having a timely and detailed conceptual design is critical to generating an accurate cost and schedule estimate, which will then be key to DOE’s decision on whether to move forward in 2020.”

Within the INL-led team, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy will adapt the company’s PRISM, sodium-cooled nuclear reactor design to the needs of a test reactor for state-of-the-art research and development purposes.

According to GE-Hitachi’s website, the PRISM technology (pictured above) “offers the most efficient, clean, cost-effective option for turning nuclear waste into low carbon energy; while also managing used nuclear fuel and surplus plutonium by converting it into electricity.”

The DOE Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program earlier this year, based on responses from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors. Many of those reactors require different testing facilities than the commercial nuclear power technology in use today.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S.97) also highlighted the need for a reactor-based fast neutron source, authorizing the Department of Energy to proceed with relevant activities.

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