The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its Fiscal Year 2025 budget request, which includes nearly $1.59bn for the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). This includes $694.2m in research and development activities “that will help advance important reactor and fuel technologies, address gaps in the domestic nuclear fuel supply chain, and harness the latest artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to optimise the performance of the nation’s fleet of reactors”.

The request relates to five key areas:

Access to HALEU: NE is requesting $188m to secure a near-term supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) for DOE-supported research and demonstration projects. This includes the recovery and down-blending of government-owned legacy uranium and ramping up enrichment operations in Piketon, Ohio to help make limited quantities available. The funding complements DOE’s longer-term strategy to expand its domestic enrichment capacity through purchase agreements with industry partners to help spur demand for additional HALEU production. The recently passed FY24 spending bill directed $2.72bn to further build out a low-enriched uranium (LEU) and advanced nuclear fuel supply chain. NE said it will also help assure there is an adequate supply of LEU fuel “to meet the current needs of US reactors and our allies to eliminate the nation’s dependence on Russian fuel services”.

Developing New Reactor Technologies: The request includes $142.5m to support continued execution of five advanced reactor projects supported through DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). NE is also requesting $56m to establish new testing facilities at the national labs, including $12m to finish the construction of the NRIC DOME at Idaho National Laboratory. DOME will be the world’s first microreactor test bed and could start testing designs as soon as 2026. A further $16.5m is requested for DOE’s MARVEL microreactor testing platform to complete fabrication of its fuel and key components. NE is requesting $18m to initiate construction of the LOTUS test bed to test first-of-a-kind technologies to generate data required for design and licensing.

Boosting University R&D: NE is requesting $143m to support emerging technologies developed by US universities, colleges, and small businesses. This will also be used for university infrastructure improvements and fuel services, along with workforce development activities such as scholarship and fellowship opportunities.

Additive Manufacturing and AI: NE is requesting $32m to advance the use of cutting-edge digital tools and manufacturing methods to strengthen nuclear supply chains and help optimise reactor performance. This includes $17m to support the qualification of additively manufactured materials for use in nuclear reactors and $9m to develop and demonstrate advanced sensors, instrumentation and control systems, including potential ways to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to advanced reactor designs and operations. The remaining $6m will address high priority supply chain needs for the near-term deployment of advanced reactors.

Deploying US Reactors Internationally: The FY25 request includes $8m to support several US international projects, including providing workforce development, training, and technical expertise to new and emerging nuclear energy countries in Africa, Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe. The funding will be used to establish regional clean energy training centres in key markets to provide capacity-building and professional development opportunities in regions looking to develop or grow their civil nuclear programmes.