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$2.35 Million ARPA-E Award Will Help Develop Safer Nuclear Energy

EMREL team

$2.35 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program has been awarded to the team in the Engineered Microstructures and Radiation Effects Laboratory (EMREL), led by Principal Investigator (PI) Professor Jason Trelewicz with co-PIs Lance Snead and David Sprouster. ARPA-E is an agency tasked with promoting and funding research and development of advanced energy technologies.

EMREL team
Jason Trelewicz, center, with Lance Snead, left, and David Sprouster

“The ARPA-E award process is extremely competitive and requires demonstrating leading-edge research and solutions,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Jason and the EMREL team deserve hearty congratulations for a groundbreaking proposal all of us at CEAS can be proud of.”

Their project, Technology Enabling Zero-EPZ Micro Modular Reactors, will develop advanced moderator (Ad-Mod) technologies to increase the output of modular high temperature gas cooled reactors (HTGR) while also reducing the reactor footprint and overall costs of nuclear energy.

The modular HTGR is considered inherently safe because of its negative reactivity temperature coefficients, its passive heat removal systems, and unique fuel designs. In addition, the high outlet temperature helium coolant can be used for hydrogen and synthetic fuel production, water desalination, or as process heat for industrial processes.

“Current technology utilizing graphite requires HTGR’s to be quite large,” Trelewicz said. “The solution being proposed by the EMREL team will deliver new materials with enhanced moderating powder to enable both size reductions and an increased capability for long-term flexible operation.”

The proposed innovation relies on engineered moderator materials, which will be encapsulated in a radiation-tolerant, high-temperature material to increase the structural strength of the moderator while maintaining thermal insulation characteristics resulting in adequately low temperatures. The impact of Ad-Mod technologies on the reactor safety case and long-term operation will be evaluated using validated models based on international benchmarks.

— Dick Wolfe

 

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  • We don’t need safer nuclear energy. It is already the safest source of all (deaths per kW-hr, etc..). Also carbon free. We only need one thing, less expensive nuclear energy. The way to reduce overall risks to the maximize *deployment* of clean sources like nuclear, so that actually dangerous sources (fossil fuels) are displaced to the maximum degree. The way to do that is to minimize nuclear’s costs. That should be the sole focus of all nuclear R&D.

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