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DOE to award $12M to two companies to further next-generation nuclear reactor designs

The US Department of Energy (DOE) selected two companies—X-energy and Southern Company—for a combined $12 million in awards ($6 million each) to develop further advanced nuclear reactor designs. These awards, with a multi-year cost share of up to $80 million for both companies, will support work to address key technical challenges to the design, construction, and operation of next-generation nuclear reactors.

  • X-energy—partnering with BWX Technology, Oregon State University, Teledyne-Brown Engineering, SGL Group, Idaho National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory—will solve design and fuel development challenges of the Xe-100 Pebble Bed Advanced Reactor. This type of reactor has next-generation design and the most advanced safety features and it is also smaller than traditional nuclear reactors. These factors would potentially enable such a reactor to serve a wider array of communities—particularly densely populated areas—while ensuring public safety.

  • Southern Company Services—partnering with TerraPower, Electric Power Research Institute, Vanderbilt University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory—will perform integrated effects tests and materials suitability studies to support development of the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor. The MCFR is also a next-generation design with the most advanced safety features that enable its potential use across the country.

Nuclear power provides almost 20% of the electricity generated in the United States, and more than 60% of the nation’s carbon-free electricity. These awards provide an example of the public-private partnerships envisioned under the recently launched Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative. Announced at the White House last fall, GAIN provides the nuclear energy community with access to the technical, regulatory, and financial support necessary to accelerate the commercialization of advanced nuclear energy systems.

Following a competitive process, DOE will fund cost-shared research and development activities with industry to support these two companies with performance-based advanced reactor concepts for further development in the areas of safety, operations, and economics.

The projects announced today will allow industry led teams, which include participants from universities and national laboratories, to further nuclear energy technology, and will enable companies to further develop their advanced reactor designs with potential for demonstration in the 2035 timeframe.





I would like to see more progress on new nuclear power plant design. If we are going to get off fossil fuels, we are either going to need more nuclear power or a smaller population. Of course, we could always use fast nuclear reactions to achieve a lower population but that probably be politically incorrect.


There are 2 new conventional LWR designs aimed at the USA:&nsp; the AP1000 (4 FOAK units under construction today) and the ABWR (no firm orders yet).  mPower and NuScale are two new integral (steam generators built in and inside the pressure vessel) small modular LWR designs.  GE-Hitachi is ready to build S-PRISMs for anyone who'll sign a contract.  There's a surge of interest in more exotic technologies as well, such as molten salt reactors.

Mostly what this needs is customers.


... and relief from nitpicking, pettifogging regulation and legal harassment by "intervenors".

Nick Lyons

Low cost, passively safe, green nuclear energy is the future. The only question is whether the USA will lead and innovate in this space, or lag and buy the technology being developed in China, India, the UK, Canada, etc.

Account Deleted

This looks like good news for Nuclear Power and the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) in particular. I am a big fan of the MSR and have read up on all the different types. They address the important issues with nuclear power: safety, non-proliferation, and no long lasting actinide waste.
Last year the Alvin Weinberg Foundation reviewed all the types of MSR designs and recommended the Moltex Stable Salt Reactor which is also a Molten Chloride Fast Reactor like Southern Company Services and Terrapower are proposing. Their report concluded that the UK designed reactor, “due to its relative simplicity and relatively few and low technical hurdles, is the most suitable configuration for immediate pilot scale development in the UK”.
As a former employee of Southern Company Services hope this design moves forward.

Nick Lyons

Let a thousand flowers bloom.


Russia is far ahead in fast reactors, GE has the Prism design but has yet can find customers. We were set to build one until the Clinton group killed it.


Yes, the problem with NPPs is lack of customers with very deep pockets willing to invest/risk a few $$B.

The best way to solve that problem seems to be to push the initial bill (50+%) and secondary financial responsibilities on the tax payers shoulders, if they accept?

Another way to even the playing field may be to charge $100/tonne for the GHG and pollution from CPPs and NGPPs and use those new revenues to help clean e-energy producers like NPPs, Hydro, Solar and Wind with storage.

Not so sure that the majority would agree? Coal, Oil and NG lobbies would fight it in both Houses.


The British might build a Prism, they have lots of waste plutonium. Savannah River could buy one, they have lots of waste as well.


As soon as you have a fast-spectrum reactor and a fuel cycle, plutonium (even plutonium with so many higher isotopes it isn't usable in a light-water reactor) isn't waste any more; it's seed material.

Account Deleted

Probably should not have said "actinide waste", it really is "spent nuclear fuel" or SNF. The MCSR uses U235/plutonium and SNF in the liquid fuel salt. The actinides in SNF are predominately unburned U238 since solid fuel reactors cannot use all of the nuclear fuel like any MSR.
Russia (BN-600), France (Superphenix), and PRISM are sodium cooled FBR. Sodium cooled reactors have difficulty with leaks, etc. and definitely have safety issues. This is probably the reason Terra Power is looking at other reactor designs besides the Traveling Wave Reactor which was also sodium cooled.

Henry Gibson

It is comforting to see that some people realize that used nuclear fuel rods from US type reactors of all kinds, and all UK and French and Chinese reactors have at least 90 percent of their remaining fuel mass available for use. Now it can be told that more energy can be obtained even without reprocessing the fuel and in some cases without any modifications of intact fuel rods.

The fuel rods could be cut and capped in an assembly that contained many more similar rods filled with thorium oxide that absorbed neutrons to sufficiently dilute the "waste" fuel to a level that would not overpower a CANDU heavy water reactor reactor which ordinarily uses non enriched uranium oxide in far smaller quantities for the amount of heat produced than any of the other types of reactors.

It can be shown that fission power is not zero-carbon releasing or even carbon neutral; It is carbon negative or can be. Because all of the carbon fuels use for building the reactor, operating it and processing the fuel is soon over compensated by the energy produced by the reactor. Even carbon based fuels can be made with the energy of nuclear reactors. Some reactors operated secretly to develop the atomic bombs before and after the first nuclear bombs, formed hydrogen and oxygen directly from water. Reactors, as they are, are more cost effective at producing low carbon fuels than Maize to Ethanol; especially in France where there is the availability of surplus nuclear electricity. Hydrogen can be used as part of the food for yeasts to make ethanol along with the CO2 from fermenting wine. This ethanol would meet most or all of the US tests for drinking ethanol, and distillation could use waste heat from a nuclear station turbine.

It would be far more efficient and cost effective to store the energy in NGK sodium batteries or even perhaps enhanced lead batteries.

There is an element that gives off about one watt of heat for each two grams of mass of about half the size of a US cent coin. After 80 years it is only giving off one half watt. This isotope powers the large lunar rover and is still powering some heart pacemakers. It was a financial mistake to not power the mars polar lander with it. At least the small rovers were heated with it so they did not have to waste electricity for heating. Even so, they had to park in the winter. It is probably now a fact that far more people have been killed by inattention whilst operating a cell phone texting than by radioactivity at Fukushima or Chernobyl.

Calculations by the inventors of CANDU heavy water moderated reactors and experiments by them and the Chinese indicate that presently operating CANDU reactors could be started with thorium slightly enriched with the non explosive mix of non uranium heavy isotopes from used fuel rods, and then operated only with additions of thorium after minimal fission product removal is done on site or off site. Right now CANDU reactors can operate with fuel deliveries by a bicycle messenger or postman with no radioactive danger to them, but the assemblies contain far too expensive purified Zirconium alloy. ..HG..


I consider depleted uranium to be waste, power plant plutonium can not be used for bombs. We have 700,000 tons of depleted uranium from all the entichment over the decades, enough to power the country for 1000 years.


Only a bit over 400 years if you include everything, but that's way beyond any pol's next election.

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