Maintenance of Advanced Reactor Sensors and Components (MARS)

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Project Term:
09/28/2020 - 03/27/2024

Critical Need:

Although nuclear power is one pathway to achieving a zero-carbon grid, nuclear power plants are comparatively cost-intensive in some markets. Many industries are employing AI, advanced data analytics, distributed computing, powerful physics simulation tools, and other breakthroughs to advance autonomous, efficient, and low-cost O&M in their processes. O&M is approximately 80% of a reactor’s total generating cost. The nuclear energy industry has not fully explored these innovations, necessitating new designs of effective and low-cost advanced reactor O&M procedures. Knowledge gained from innovating now can lay the groundwork for optimal O&M. GEMINA sets the stage for advanced reactors to operate with a staffing plan and fixed O&M costs more akin to those of a combined cycle natural gas plant than those of the legacy light-water reactor fleet.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Advanced reactor (AR) power plants can minimize O&M costs by integrating advanced instrumentation and control systems into designs. Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) aims to reduce the O&M cost of the Kairos Power fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor by (1) developing advanced distributed sensing and data generation techniques to characterize critical components and systems; (2) increasing sensor diversity and functionality to measure several process variables simultaneously; and (3) automating maintenance tasks through machine learning-enabled fault detection and diagnostics and intelligent sensor placement. Accomplishing these objectives will reduce the number of required AR staff as well as repair and replacement costs. Research facilities will include ANL and University of Wisconsin liquid sodium and molten salt facilities. Proposed methods are expected to achieve $2/MWh O&M cost.

Potential Impact:

The program goal is to reduce fixed O&M costs from ~13 $/MWh in the current fleet to ~2 $/MWh in the advanced fleet. Benefits include:


Establishing U.S. advanced reactor technological leadership and improving U.S. energy security with safe, reliable, dispatchable power for a robust and resilient electric power system;


Reducing energy-related emissions with a competitive, carbon-free electricity source; and


Increasing productivity and creating a competitive edge for advanced reactors.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jenifer Shafer
Project Contact:
Dr. Alexander Heifetz
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of Wisconsin

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