The US Department of Energy (DOE) on 16 December announced $30 million in initial funding for one of three programmes under its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme (ARDP).

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) has selected five teams to receive $30 million in FY20 funding for Risk Reduction for Future Demonstration projects. The awards are cost-shared partnerships with industry, and companies were chosen through a funding opportunity announcement issued in May 2020.

ARDP is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States. DOE expects to invest approximately $600 million over seven years with industry partners providing at least 20% in matching funds.

“All of these projects will put the US on an accelerated timeline to domestically and globally deploy advanced nuclear reactors that will enhance safety and be affordable to construct and operate,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “Taking leadership in advanced technology is so important to the country’s future because nuclear energy plays such a key role in our clean energy strategy.”

The goal of the Risk Reduction programme is to design and develop safe and affordable reactor technologies that can be licensed and deployed over the next 10-14 years. DOE has selected five US-based teams to receive Risk Reduction funding:

  • Hermes Reduced-Scale Test Reactor – Kairos Powerwill design, construct, and operate its Hermes reduced-scale test reactor. Hermes is intended to lead to the development of Kairos Power’s commercial-scale KP-FHR (Kairos Power Fluoride Salt-Cooled High Temperature Reactor), a novel advanced nuclear reactor technology that leverages Tri-structural ISOtropic particle fuel (TRISO) fuel in pebble form combined with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. Total award value over seven years: $629 million (DOE share $303 million).
  • eVinci ™ Microreactor – Westinghouse Electric Company will advance the design of a heat pipe-cooled microreactor to support a nuclear demonstration unit by 2024. The project will serve to reduce technical risks associated with the moderator canister design, improve the ability to manufacture heat pipe wicks, and develop an economically viable refuelling process and licensing approach. Total award value over seven years: $9.3 million (DOE share $7.4 million).
  • BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor (BANR) – BWXT Advanced Technologies will develop a commercially-viable transportable microreactor with the design focused on using TRISO fuel particles to achieve higher uranium loading and an improved core design using a silicon carbide (SiC) matrix. Total award value over seven years: $106.6 million (DOE share $85.3 million).
  • Holtec SMR-160 Reactor – Holtec Government Services is receiving funding for early-stage design, engineering, and licensing activities to accelerate the development of Holtec’s light water-cooled SMR-160 (small modular reactor). Total award value over seven years: $147.5 million (DOE share $116 million).
  • Southern Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment – Southern Company Services will design, construct, and operate the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) which is intended to demonstrate the high burnup capabilities of Southern’s liquid salt-fuelled Molten Salt Reactor. Total award value over seven years: $113 million (DOE share $90.4 million).

DOE expects to announce awards for Advanced Reactor Concepts-20 (ARC-20) Projects later in December. The ARC-20 programme aims to assist the progression of advanced reactor designs in their earliest phases.

In October 2020, DOE announced the selections of TerraPower and X-energy to receive $160 million in initial funding for ARDP Demonstration projects to develop and construct two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years.