A US Government Accounting Office report has recommended that the US Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy develop a strategy for resuming the Next Generation Nuclear Plant project and provide a report to Congress updating the status of the project.
DOE agreed in principle with the first recommendation and disagreed with the second, according to GAO report 14-545 published in June.
It said that the Office of Nuclear Energy's advanced reactor R&D project focuses on high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, sodium-cooled fast reactors and fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors.
The report quotes a NE planning document that says that the HTR is most likely to be developed and commercialised in the near-term; it said that NE officials said that this was because of a wide range of industry applications and substantial government investment in its development.
HTR development has been carried out under the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP); under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, DOE is to deploy a prototype reactor for NGNP by 2021.
But deployment was stopped in 2011 because of barriers. NE and industry have been unable to agree a cost-sharing arrangement to fund deployment. NE has not selected initial reactor design parameters or reported to Congress on an alternative date for selecting them.
"Without doing so, it is not clear when NE is going to take this next step in deploying the NGNP prototype reactor and it risks the project not being completed by the target date of 2021," the report said.
The report also said that NE also funds other reactor technologies, and its general policy is to research multiple technologies, and work in collaboration with industry and academia with an aim for industry to take over a project. The report's authors said that they found both praise and criticism for this approach; praise from the nuclear industry and the National Academy of Sciences; criticism from others including the Nulcear Energy Advisory Committee, which feels that it should focus its efforts on a smaller number of technologies to ensure that one is deployed.