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ORNL supports new projects to develop advanced nuclear technologies

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Jan. 21, 2016— Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory will support two new DOE-funded projects to explore, develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear reactor technologies.

The projects announced Jan. 15 will allow industry-led teams with participants from universities and national laboratories to further nuclear energy technology, and will enable companies to further develop their advanced reactor designs with potential for demonstration in the mid-2030s. Initially, DOE’s investment will be $6 million for each project and both companies will provide cost-share. The possible multi-year cost-share value for this research is up to $80 million.

A project led by Southern Company Services, a subsidiary of Southern Company, focuses on molten chloride fast reactors (MCFRs). The effort includes ORNL, TerraPower, the Electric Power Research Institute and Vanderbilt University.

The liquid-fueled MCFR is a molten salt reactor design that offers advantages in terms of its simplicity, fuel cycle and efficiency. Compared to other advanced reactor concepts, MCFRs could provide enhanced operational performance, safety, security and economic value.

ORNL technical support will focus on the development of reactor systems and technology, safety assessment and licensing strategy, materials assessment and fabrication methods, chlorine isotope separation methodology, and salt purification and property measurement. The new project builds on the lab’s historical work in molten salt reactor technology, including the 1960s-era Molten Salt Reactor Experiment.

ORNL will also support a project led by X-energy to develop the fuel manufacturing methodology needed to supply the Xe-100 Pebble Bed Advanced Reactor. Partners on the project include BWX Technologies Inc., Oregon State University, Teledyne-Brown Engineering, SGL Group and Idaho National Laboratory.

The next-generation design, advanced safety features and small footprint of the pebble bed high-temperature gas-cooled reactor will enable such a reactor to serve a wide array of community and industry needs while ensuring public safety.

ORNL will provide technical expertise for the development of spherical fuel pebbles containing a specialized particle fuel known as TRISO in the areas of kernel fabrication, particle coating, pebble forming, and fuel characterization.

The projects are funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science. DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit