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Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle Division

Advancing nuclear power for the next generation  


As a world leader in innovation for nuclear energy, a significant clean energy source globally, ORNL is accelerating the deployment of new and economical technologies—all the way from concept through regulatory acceptance and adoption by industry. 

Some of the pressing problems the Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle Division is providing science and technology breakthroughs to solve are extending the lives of current nuclear plants; furthering modeling and simulation capabilities for nuclear application; delivering new insights into nuclear fuel performance at all stages of the fuel cycle; and providing innovations for nuclear fuel systems—current and future.

ORNL is using artificial intelligence and advanced manufacturing and fuel technologies to build the Transformational Challenge Reactor. The challenge is building the cost-effective reactor, with novel materials and new methods, in a short timeframe. The transformation will happen when industry adopts the technologies used for operating the microreactor that results from this demonstration program.

But scientists are also looking at other advanced reactor concepts, assessing and improving the systems and components they use to make them more effective and cost-efficient, and developing and testing new fuels and fuel systems, molten-salt components, and other energy conversion methods. 

State-of-the-art modeling and simulation, done with complex codes and supercomputers, help to not only create better reactors, but also make existing reactors more predictable and cost-effective, more quickly meeting regulatory requirements. ORNL scientists help bring the benefits of high-performance computing directly to the nuclear industry. 

Researchers in the division are also looking at how to reprocess fuel, extracting useable elements and generating less waste; delivering longer-lasting fuel; and safely transporting, storing, and tracking the nation’s inventory of used fuel.

These new breakthroughs in fission energy will inform increasingly smaller, better, less expensive, more predictable reactors—resulting in clean power for the generations to come.

CASL’s legacy: Nuclear industry benefits from groundbreaking mod-sim tools

The Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, which 10 years ago became the Department of Energy’s first Energy Innovative Hub, developed a powerful software suite to address challenges faced by the nuclear industry – and now it’s being used nationwide. This research used resources of the Compute and Data Environment for Science (CADES) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725.”