A blueprint for advancing US nuclear energyS. Himmelstein | January 18, 2021
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy has outlined a roadmap to support and expand the U.S. nuclear reactor fleet and to explore new market opportunities for nuclear energy.
The technology development plan seeks to enable continued operation of U.S. nuclear reactors by advancing technologies that reduce operating costs, expanding to markets beyond electricity, and providing the scientific basis for continuing the operation of existing reactors. Performance objectives include demonstrating a scalable hydrogen generation pilot plant by 2022 and replacing existing fuel in commercial reactors with accident tolerant fuel by 2025.
To spur the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors, research efforts will focus on supporting reducing the risk and time needed to deploy advanced nuclear technology and supporting a diversity of designs that improve resource utilization. Goals include demonstration of a commercial U.S. microreactor by 2025, operation of a nuclear renewable hybrid energy system by 2027 and launch of the first commercial U.S. small modular reactor by 2029.
Advanced nuclear fuel cycles will be developed by addressing gaps in the domestic nuclear fuel supply chain and fuel cycle for advanced reactors and evaluating options for establishing an integrated waste management system. Target goals include initiating the procurement process in 2021 for establishing a uranium reserve and demonstrating domestic high-assay low-enriched uranium technology by 2022.
Maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear energy technology will entail sustaining world-class research and development capabilities and developing highly trained scientists to support the future nuclear workforce. The roadmap calls for awarding up to 50 university R&D projects and $5 million in student scholarships and fellowships in 2021, building a versatile test reactor by 2026 and collaborating with NASA to demonstrate fission power systems for surface power and propulsion by 2030.