DOE Announces $27 Million for Advanced Nuclear Reactor Systems Operational Technology

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy today announced $27 million in funding for 9 projects as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets (GEMINA) program. These projects will work to develop digital twin technology to reduce operations and maintenance (O&M) costs in the next generation of nuclear power plants by 10-times in order to make them more economical, flexible, and efficient.

“As the United States’ largest provider of clean, emissions-free energy, nuclear power is an essential component of our Nation’s electricity supply,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “Investing in projects and R&D that will make our nuclear fleet more efficient and cost-effective is critical to ensuring this clean, reliable energy source continues to power our country for years to come.”

“Advanced nuclear reactors have the potential to provide reliable and low-cost clean power to millions of American homes,” said ARPA-E Director Lane Genatowski. “These GEMINA teams are working to develop tools for the advanced reactors of tomorrow to improve operations and lower maintenance costs by designing more autonomous, and efficient processes.”

GEMINA teams will develop digital twins and associated technologies for advanced nuclear reactors to strategically design O&M frameworks for the next generation of nuclear power plants. These teams are designing tools to introduce greater flexibility in reactor systems, increase autonomy in operations, and speed up design iteration, with a goal of reducing costs at advanced reactor power plants.

The projects will work to lower O&M costs by using diverse technologies that are driving efficiencies across other industries, such as artificial intelligence (AI), advanced control systems, predictive maintenance, and model-based fault detection. The teams will develop digital twin technologies for robust O&M strategies that can facilitate, among other things, more flexible operations for integration into an electrical grid with a large fraction of intermittent generation resources.

Nuclear energy is considered by many to be critical to achieving emissions reduction goals. Improving the cost-competitiveness of nuclear power generation through reductions in O&M costs, particularly for the next generation of advanced reactors, is advantageous for maintaining and increasing this critical energy source. GEMINA is focused on novel digital technologies to achieve significant and sustainable reductions in O&M costs. These advances will lay the groundwork for a future where advanced reactors operate with a staffing plan and fixed O&M costs more competitive with those of other generation sources.

A sampling of GEMINA projects can be found below; for the full list of projects click here.

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI

PROJECT "SAFARI”- Secure Automation For Advanced Reactor Innovation - $5,195,000

The University of Michigan will develop physics-based, model-centric, and scalable capabilities to achieve unprecedented integrated state awareness for advanced reactor power plants. Individual modules include (1) a scalable digital twin, (2) a maintenance proactive evaluator to monitor usage and assess the health conditions and maintenance needs of advanced reactors; (3) an operations intelligent controller to achieve autonomous control during normal and accident conditions; and (4) an O&M deep supervisor to supervise O&M conditions. The team will first validate the product using a molten salt loop operating at the University of Michigan and apply it to the Kairos Power fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor design to demonstrate how the proposed capability can be used to optimize plant design.

Framatome, Inc. – Lynchburg, VA

Digital Twin-Based Asset Performance and Reliability Diagnosis for the HTGR Reactor Cavity Cooling System Using Metroscope - $809,701

Framatome will develop two novel digital twins for use with Metroscope, a software package that connects digital twins and their associated fault libraries and monitors them with an algorithm to detect problems early on. The digital twins will simulate a passive cooling system with internal thermal hydraulic faults and a typical cooling circuit with different operating modes and control states. The twins will be paired with the reactor cavity cooling system of Framatome’s Steam Cycle High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor. Digital twins will allow for sensor sensitivity and reliability to be characterized and optimized.