Optimal Operations for Advanced Nuclear Reactors

Alexandria, VA

May 15-16, 2019

ARPA-E convened people from diverse industries to discuss technologies for enabling advanced nuclear reactors to achieve operating cost profiles approximating those of natural gas combined cycle plants. This entails reducing operating costs per megawatt of electricity (MWe) at nuclear power plants by more than one order of magnitude. Attaining this vision requires optimal operations of nuclear reactors, a radical departure from traditional operations. Attacking this problem requires operational technologies and controls strategies with limited or no technical precedent in the nuclear community. ARPA-E is especially interested in perspectives from outside the traditional nuclear energy space.

Areas of interest included:

  • Approaches in data analytics, dynamics modeling, advanced control systems, predictive maintenance, autonomous maintenance, fault detection and isolation algorithms, and novel sensor systems;
  • Advanced modeling and simulators that allow exploration of a full range of potential data streams to help identify/evaluate the most relevant control algorithms and sensor needs; and
  • Test loops and experimental facilities that can be leveraged to investigate and validate approaches for autonomous controls, operations, and maintenance.

The workshop agenda provided background information for those not familiar with the nuclear energy space; discussions around the best current thinking about asset performance management, autonomy and automation, and controls and maintenance, focused around industrial facility operation; and breakout sessions for deep discussion about the cutting edge of existing technology and requirements for making a real difference in the future of nuclear reactor power plant operations and maintenance.

The meeting's output will help direct the actions of ARPA-E towards the most promising and appropriate high risk, high return R&D funding opportunities and management strategies.

Wednesday, May 15



8:00 – 9:00 AM

Breakfast & Registration

9:00 – 9:10 AM

Welcome and Introduction to ARPA-E

Jennifer Gerbi, ARPA-E Associate Director for Technology

9:15 – 9:35 AM

Introductory Presentation: What Are We Doing Here? 

Rachel Slaybaugh, ARPA-E

9:40 – 10:00 AM

Online Monitoring for Advanced Reactors

Jamie Coble, U Tennessee Knoxville

10:05 – 10:25 AM

Innovation and Nuclear Regulation: It’s Possible

John Monninger, Nuclear Regulatory Commission

10:30 – 10:50 AM

Autonomy and Automation for Robotic Spacecraft

John Day, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

10:55 – 11:05 AM

Breakout 1 Overview

Rachel Slaybaugh, ARPA-E

11:05 – 11:15 AM

Break / Networking

11:15 AM – 12:45 PM

Breakout Session 1: Understanding Today’s Technology Edge
[4 concurrent sessions]

12:45 – 1:45 PM


1:45 – 2:30 PM

Panel: Asset Performance Management

Moderator: Richard Huntsinger, UC Berkeley

Rusty Irving, GE Global Research

David Knezevic, Akselos

Nick Farrant; Uptake

2:35 – 2:55 PM

Nuclear and Industrial Operations and Maintenance

Kyle Cooper, Cypress Creek Renewables

3:00 – 3:10 PM

Breakout 2 Overview

Rachel Slaybaugh, ARPA-E

3:10 – 3:25 PM

Break / Networking

3:25 – 4:40 PM

Breakout Session 2: What are the Priorities?

[4 concurrent sessions]

4:40 – 5:00 PM

Internal ARPA-E huddle

5:00 – 6:30 PM

One-on-one meetings with Rachel Slaybaugh, Program Director

6:30 PM

Informal Networking – Organize on Your Own


Thursday, May 16



8:00 – 9:00 AM


9:00 – 9:30 AM

Day 1 Summary and Day 2 Objectives

Rachel Slaybaugh, ARPA-E

9:30 – 9:50 AM

Related Opportunities at DOE-NE

Alice Caponiti, DOE-NE

9:50 – 10:00 AM

Breakout 3 Overview

Rachel Slaybaugh, ARPA-E

10:00 – 11:30 AM

Breakout Session 3: Program Structure and Targets

[4 concurrent sessions]

11:30 AM


12:00 – 2:00 PM

One-on-one meetings with Rachel Slaybaugh, Program Director