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Reactivity Control Device for Advanced Reactors

Yellowstone Energy

Reactivity Control Device for Advanced Reactors

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,599,154
Location: 
Knoxville, TN
Project Term: 
08/01/2018 to 02/28/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Nuclear power provides about one-fifth of U.S. electricity generation, delivering reliable, low-emission, baseload power to the grid. However, the future of nuclear power is unclear; high costs and a rapidly changing grid--including growing renewable resources like wind and solar--present new challenges for existing and new nuclear plants. The next generation of nuclear plants require new technological advances to achieve "walkaway" safe and secure operation, extremely low construction capital costs, and dramatically shorter construction and commissioning times than currently available plants.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Yellowstone Energy will develop a new passive control technology to enhance safety and reduce nuclear power plant costs. The team's Reactivity Control Device (RCD) will integrate with the Yellowstone Energy Molten Nitrate Salt Reactor and other advanced reactor designs. The RCD will use fluid embedded in the reactor's control rods to control reaction rates at elevated temperatures, even in the absence of external controls. As the heating from fission increases or decreases, the fluid density will automatically and passively respond to control the system. The RCD's passive control is highly beneficial for ensuring reactor safety and stability under normal operation and accident scenarios. The team will use simulation tools to determine the effectiveness of the control device and conduct a techno-economic analysis at the plant level to determine cost effectiveness. If successful, the system will provide a high level of resiliency and reliability while significantly improving the economics and safety of many advanced reactor designs. The RCD may also serve as the basis for additional innovations in reactor designs including a broader range of coolant salts in solid fueled, salt-cooled reactors and further advanced reactor defense against cybersecurity threats.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, developments from MEITNER projects will inform the development of lower cost, safe, and secure advanced nuclear power plants.

Security: 

Nuclear power plants contribute to grid stability by providing reliable baseload power.

Environment: 

Nuclear power has low life cycle emissions, making it a key source of clean electricity.

Economy: 

Nuclear power provides high-efficiency electrical generation for the U.S. grid. Reducing plant costs reduces exposure to price volatility.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Rachel Slaybaugh
Project Contact: 
Dr. Samuel Shaner
Partners
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Jensen Hughes
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tennessee Valley Authority
Release Date: 
6/4/2018