GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and its PRISM technology have been selected by Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) to support the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) programme, GEH has announced. The programme seeks to utilise fast neutron spectrum technology to support accelerated development of fuels and materials for advanced reactors.

The project focuses on advancing the reactor design and developing cost estimates for a new fast neutron spectrum irradiation capability. The results will help inform a DOE decision about whether to build a sodium-cooled fast test reactor that could become operational as early as 2026, GEH said.

GEH and Bechtel National will advance the design and cost estimates for the VTR based on GEH’s PRISM technology.   

“The VTR is a vital and strategic project for the US and its promising advanced reactor industry,” said Jay Wileman, president and CEO of GEH. “Our VTR project team combines GEH’s strength as a nuclear plant vendor, service provider and nuclear fuel fabricator with Bechtel’s strength in nuclear project management, engineering, procurement and construction. The mature PRISM technology is ideally suited to meet the VTR mission needs.

“The USA currently has no capability to test these fuels and materials,” noted Peggy McCullough, a Bechtel senior vice president and general manager of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security, and Operations business line. “Advanced reactors hold great promise without their components need the proper testing before they can be licensed and used in energy-producing reactors. That’s what the Versatile Test Reactor will provide. It’s extremely important for the science community, industry, regulators, and the future of nuclear energy research.”

PRISM builds on the proven principles of the EBR-II, an integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype that operated for more than 30 years by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) in Idaho. It is the only sodium-cooled reactor to have completed the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) pre-application review process. The PRISM Probabilistic Risk Assessment, developed with ANL in 2016, provided a validation of the advanced reactor’s safety.