The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) of the US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded vouchers to four companies under its Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative to help with the development of several US advanced reactor designs. Companies will be given access to research capabilities and expertise at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to help advance their projects.
The Profit Initiative is a partnership mechanism launched by DOE-NE in 2016 to accelerate the commercialization of advanced nuclear technologies. Its objective was to provide research, development and demonstration (RD&D) infrastructure to stakeholders “to achieve faster and more cost-effective development of innovative nuclear power technologies towards commercial readiness”.
The DOE said it would “realize the vast potential of nuclear power and maintain the United States’ historic leadership in the field”. It was noted that the R&D required to bring new concepts to a commercial readiness was traditionally lengthy and costly. FAIN was intended to address this by giving companies access to DOE facilities.
The latest awards are for:
- Dow (Midland, Michigan) to work with INL to investigate how Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technologies can be integrated to provide power and process heat for the company’s chemical plants. Dow intends to use SMR to provide process heat and power at one of its US Gulf Coast sites by 2030.
- Flibe Energy (Huntsville, Alabama) to work with ANL to fabricate and characterize salt systems for use in the company’s low-enriched uranium fueled molten salt reactor. The company is developing a liquid fluoride thorium reactor that could be used for power or medical isotope production.
- Oklo (Santa Clara, California) to work with ANL to conduct experiments that can simulate coolant flow through the company’s reactor core to validate key modeling parameters and inform their reactor design Can go Oklo is developing the Aurora microreactor to provide off-grid electric power to customers disconnected from the larger electric grid.
- Radiant Industries (El Segundo, California) will work with ANL and INL to develop computational analysis tools to better advance the design of its portable microreactor. The company’s Kaleidos design concept is being developed as a potential replacement for diesel generators.
GAIN voucher recipients do not receive direct financial rewards, but do provide funding to DOE national laboratories to help businesses overcome critical technical challenges to commercialize their technologies. All awardees are responsible for at least a 20% cost-share, which can be an in-kind contribution. These were the first vouchers awarded in the fiscal year 2023 cycle.
Vouchers were awarded in FY 2022 to Curio Solutions, Elemental Power, Tennessee Valley Authority, Orano Federal Services, TerraPower, Elysium Industries, Kairos Power, Terrestrial Energy Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. (two awards). Other companies to benefit from the plan include Kinectrix AES, Engineered Solutions Group, Vega Wave Systems, Lightbridge, Oklo, Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation, Terrestrial Energy, Urbix Resources, Thorcon and Transatomic.