Federal nuclear research funds - Smart Energy Decisions

Power Prices, Regulation  -  October 24, 2017

New DOE program to fund nuclear power research

The U.S. Department of Energy on Oct. 20 announced a new initiative within its Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, known as ARPA-E, to provide up to $20 million in funding for nuclear energy research. 

The initiative, called Modeling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration, aims to "identify and develop innovative technologies that can enable designs for lower cost, safer, advanced nuclear reactors," the DOE said in a news release. The ARPA-E team developed the funding opportunity in close coordination with DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy.

The DOE said in its announcement:

Nuclear power generates nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity, offering a reliable source of power that complements the country's diverse portfolio of fossil-fuel and renewable generation sources. Existing nuclear power plants, however, face comparatively high operational and maintenance costs. Today, there is a compelling opportunity to leverage design, new manufacturing processes, and technologies to increase the competitiveness of nuclear power. The MEITNER program seeks transformative technologies to allow advanced reactor designs that achieve lower construction cost and autonomous operations while also improving safety.

The department said the funding opportunity will encourage collaboration across all disciplines for its projects, calling on scientists, engineers, and practitioners from different organizations, scientific fields, and technology sectors to form diverse and experienced project teams. These interdisciplinary and cross-organizational collaborations facilitate scientific and technological discoveries that a single group alone would not be able to achieve.

Many existing U.S. nuclear projects have struggled for profitability in recent years, leading to a number of retirement announcements as increasing amounts of low-cost natural gas, wind and solar power are added to the U.S. grid.

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