Purdue University, with one of the country’s top nuclear engineering programs, is at the forefront of SMR (small modular reactor) technology. Purdue is pioneering, developing and verifying the steel-plate composite construction used in SMRs at the on-campus Bowen Laboratory through the Center for Structural Engineering and Nuclear Power Plants, which is led by Amit Varma, professor of civil engineering and director of the Bowen Laboratory of Large-Scale CE Research.

Purdue, a national leader in scalable and sustainable energy innovation, has now partnered with Duke Energy to explore the use of advanced nuclear energy for the long-term energy needs of its campus. The two entities will explore the ability of an SMR, which is much smaller than a traditional nuclear power plant, to meet the needs of Purdue’s West Lafayette campus and provide excess power to Indiana’s electric grid.

“No other option holds as much potential to provide reliable, adequate electric power with zero carbon emissions," said Purdue president Mitch Daniels. "Innovation and new ideas are at the core of what we do at Purdue, and that includes searching for ways to minimize the use of fossil fuels while still providing carbon-free, reliable, and affordable energy. We see enough promise in these new technologies to undertake an exploration of their practicality, and few places are better positioned to do it."

Small modular reactors are the future of nuclear energy

The International Atomic Energy Agency views SMRs as promising emerging technologies in the area of nuclear power. The SMRs’ modular structure is part of what makes them revolutionary. Offsite fabrication lowers construction costs. "Steel-plate composite technology is fundamental to successfully deploying SMRs within budget and on schedule," Varma said. "We have the world's pre-eminent team and facilities to conduct the testing, analysis, design, and construction demonstration to actualize the potential of this technology."

Purdue’s current energy comes from the Wade Utility Plant, a combined heat and power system that uses steam to provide heat, electricity and chilled water used to cool facilities. A Duke Energy plant provides thermal energy in the form of steam. About 50% of the electricity on campus comes from Duke Energy.

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