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DOE awarding $12.5M to nuclear energy projects, training

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $10.9 million to 13 projects to help solve common challenges across the nuclear industry and improve reactor safety, performance and cost competitiveness. Additionally, the Energy Department announced today a $1.6 million investment in three university-led projects, helping to train and educate the next generation of nuclear energy scientists and engineers.

The 13 projects fall under two categories:

  • Advanced Methods for Manufacturing (total $3 million, 4 projects) to improve the production and design efficiency of nuclear plant components including advanced concrete construction methods, near-net shape fabrication methods and joining processes that can be used in small modular reactor manufacturing.

  • Reactor Materials (total $7.9 million, 9 projects) to conduct research into advanced reactor materials for piping, wiring cladding and other related structures in nuclear reactors and across the nuclear fuel cycle.

Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies (NEET) Advanced Methods for Manufacturing
Lead organization
Description Funding
Purdue University
Project will develop Steel-plate Composite wall connection strategies, and evaluate their behavior, fabrication efficiency, and construction economy for use in Small Modular Reactors, which could speed the deployment of that technology. $792,572
Electric Power Research Institute
(Carpenter Technology; General Electric-Hitachi; The Ohio State University)
Project will study if powder metallurgy/hot isostatic processing can be used to produce very large near-net shaped components with erosion/corrosion resistant surfaces, which could lead to significant advancements in a new sustainable manufacturing methodology for large components employed in advanced nuclear power plants. $800,000
Lockheed Martin
(Quad City Manufacturing Lab)
Project will use Laser Direct Manufacturing (LDM) to manufacture nuclear power generation components that demonstrate accelerated schedule for deployment, reduction in manufacturing costs while incorporating improved resistance to nuclear radiation over standard state of the art components. $640,226
Idaho National Laboratory
(Edison Welding Institute; Nuclear Fabrication Center; Electric Power Research Institute)
Project will develop and demonstrate a prototype system to monitor and provide real-time weld process control information, which could lead to a more efficient fabrication process. $800,000
Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies (NEET) Reactor Materials
Lead organization
Description Funding
University of Nebraska
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Texas A&M)
Project will explore the development of advanced metal/ceramic composites. These improvements could lead to more efficient production of electricity in advanced reactors. $979,978
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
(University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Project will develop novel high-temperature high-strength steels with the help of computational modeling, which could lead to increased efficiency in advanced reactors. $849,000
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Project will develop a new high-temperature structural material that can be used in advanced reactors as an accident tolerant replacement for zircaloy cladding, among other alternative uses, which could extend fuel lifetimes—decreasing the cost of electricity production in both nuclear reactors. $977,577
University of California - Davis
(Los Alamos National Laboratory)
Project will develop an understanding of the microscopic mechanisms underlying the radiation tolerance of tool steels, which could improve the performance and efficiency of light water reactors. $749,940
Los Alamos National Laboratory
(Colorado School of Mines; National Energy Technology Laboratory; Northwestern University )
Project will explore and develop nanoscale stable precipitation-strengthened steels that are manufacturable and joinable for structural applications in nuclear reactors, which could lead to increased efficiency in the production of electricity in advanced reactors. $880,000
North Carolina State University Project will develop new nanocrystalline Fe-Cr alloys that have exceptional resistance to irradiation damage, which could allow for increased efficiency in the production of electricity in advanced reactors. $788,156
Electric Power Research Institute
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Global Nuclear Fuel; Tennessee Valley Authority; Idaho National Laboratory; AREVA)
Project will develop the necessary technical data to support the demonstration of using SiC-SiC composite material in fuel structure applications. The strength and long lifetimes of these composites will decrease costs and increase the efficiency of both light water reactors and advanced reactors. $800,000
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Project will initiate the development of a transformative materials system to increase the radiation and thermal resistance and high voltage performance of electrical insulating materials, which could increase the lifetimes of wiring and cables used in nuclear reactors, decreasing costs and increasing performance. $940,000
Brookhaven National Laboratory
(Rutgers University)
Project will evaluate the effects of radiation on specific materials under extreme temperatures, which could increase efficiency in the production of electricity in advanced reactors. $990,000

Training. Through the Advanced Test Reactor National Scientific User Facility Program (ATR NSUF) and the Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP), the three university-led projects will connect university teams with a national network of ATR NSUF partner research reactors and other unique research facilities. Today’s awards, subject to final negotiations, include:

  • Pennsylvania State University, along with scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will lead an experiment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology research reactor. The project will assess instruments that allow operators to better monitor changes in nuclear reactor material properties when the reactor is producing power. (DOE Award: $600,000)

  • University of Illinois will perform their experiment at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s beamline at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source accelerator. The project will evaluate the changes that steel experiences under radiation. Ensuring that steel can withstand radiation at high temperatures is critical to moving forward with advanced reactors. (DOE Award: $100,000)

  • University of Michigan, along with scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will conduct research at the university as well as at Idaho National Laboratory. The project will examine whether post-irradiation heating can reduce or eliminate cracks in steel that can occur in light water reactors materials after years of operation. The research will help to understand why these cracks occur and how they might be reduced without costly component replacements. (DOE Award: $907,000)

Since 2007, the ATR NSUF Program has invested over $57 million in more than 40 experiments at the program’s research reactor facilities. Over the past four years, the Department’s Nuclear Energy University Programs have invested $219 million in 220 research projects at 79 US universities and colleges, demonstrating its strong commitment to training and educating the next generation of leaders in America’s nuclear industry.


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