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Purdue and Duke Energy to explore potential for SMR nuclear power source for campus

Purdue University and Duke Energy plan to explore the feasibility of using advanced nuclear energy to meet the campus community’s long-term energy needs. With interest rising worldwide in new technologies that are reliable and carbon-free, Purdue and Duke Energy intend to study power produced through Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), a move that may be unprecedented for a college campus and a potential fit for Purdue’s energy needs.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, SMRs are among the most promising emerging technologies in nuclear power. Significantly smaller than traditional nuclear power plants, an SMR could meet current and future needs for Purdue’s West Lafayette campus as well as provide excess power to the state’s electric grid.

Home to one of the nation’s top nuclear engineering programs and a national leader in energy innovation that is scalable and sustainable, Purdue and its experts are uniquely qualified to evaluate this “giant leap” toward a carbon-free energy future.

No other option holds as much potential to provide reliable, adequate electric power with zero carbon emissions. Innovation and new ideas are at the core of what we do at Purdue, and that includes searching for ways to minimize the use of fossil fuels while still providing carbon-free, reliable, and affordable energy. We see enough promise in these new technologies to undertake an exploration of their practicality, and few places are better positioned to do it.

—Purdue President Mitch Daniels

Purdue is currently powered through the Wade Utility Plant, which is a combined heat and power system that uses steam to provide heat, electricity and chilled water that is used to cool facilities. A new Duke Energy plant on campus also provides thermal energy in the form of steam to Purdue, while also supplying Duke Energy’s Indiana customers with electricity. Approximately 50% of campus electricity is purchased from Duke Energy.

Advanced nuclear technology is still under development, and nationally Duke Energy is involved with industry groups, reactor technology companies, and leading research universities such as Purdue that are exploring deployment of this advanced nuclear technology.

SMRs are revolutionary in part because of their modular nature. They can be prefabricated off site, thereby saving money and time in construction. And Purdue is at the forefront of this technology by pioneering, developing and verifying the steel-plate composite (SC) construction used in SMRs at the on-campus Bowen Laboratory through the Center for Structural Engineering and Nuclear Power Plants, which is led by Amit Varma, Purdue’s Karl H. Kettelhut professor of Civil Engineering and director of the Bowen Laboratory of Large-Scale CE Research.


A typical SC wall, from Bhardwaj and Varma (2007) Modern Steel Construction

Steel-plate composite technology is fundamental to successfully deploying SMRs within budget and on schedule. We have the world's pre-eminent team and facilities to conduct the testing, analysis, design, and construction demonstration to actualize the potential of this technology.

—Amit Varma

Purdue engineering leaders and experts involved will include Mung Chiang, Seungjin Kim, Amit Varma and Arden Bement. Chiang is the executive vice president of Purdue University for strategic initiatives and the John A. Edwardson Dean of Purdue’s College of Engineering. Kim is the Capt. James McCarthy, Jr. and Cheryl E. McCarthy Head of the School of Nuclear Engineering at Purdue University. Bement achieved international recognition as director of the National Science Foundation and director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He has a long and distinguished career with Purdue, having served as the Basil S. Turner Distinguished Professor of Electroceramics, the David A. Ross Distinguished Professor of Nuclear Engineering, the chief global affairs officer, and the inaugural director of the Global Policy Research Institute.

The exploration, including a series of meetings and joint studies, will begin in the coming weeks.


  • Varma, Amit H., Malushte, Sanjeev R., Sener, Kadir C., & Lai, Zhichao (2014) “Steel-plate composite (SC) walls for safety related nuclear facilities: Design for in-plane forces and out-of-plane moments.” Nuclear Engineering and Design, 240-249. doi: 101016/jnucengdes201309019



The die-hards strictly refuse that fission reactors, irregardless of their size, have no future. It is, however, highly recommendable to channel all possible financial -, as well as time and human resources into a sustainable future.


yoatmon, the stubbornness is entirely on the other side.  Check out the Gordian Knot book version wN, appendix A6 (pp. 293-4), available at http://gordianknotbook.com/

Everything Devanney wrote is true.  Unreliable "renewables" can only lock in fossil fuels permanently, and trying to go that way will destroy civilization, with our species and possibly most life on Earth becoming casualties of a "green" ideology which refuses to acknowledge resource limits and even physics.


There will always be at least a niche market for expensive nuclear.


Fast reactors, Russia and China and India are way ahead.

Albert E Short

If Li-ion can be put in cars, armor-plated and cooled, for $100/KWh, I don't get why anyone thinks that something with lower power/energy density requirements (like the EOS zinc battery) can't support an adequately buffered grid at a substantially lower cost. IMHO, Duke building a 20 GWh storage facility with some renewable offtake agreements is a far more effective use of their massive endowment and engineering prowess.


Start quantifying the amount of material required (lithium, zinc, lead, whatever) and compare against world production.  That will tell you what you're up against.

If you haven't done this, you're ignorant and shouldn't opine.  If you can't do this, you're innumerate and should shut up.

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