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The U.S. Department of Energy announced funding for 12 projects with private industry to enable collaboration with DOE national laboratories on overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.

Fusion—Heating the core

In a recent study, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory performed experiments in a prototype fusion reactor materials testing facility to develop a method that uses microwaves to raise the plasma’s temperature closer to the extreme values reached in a fusion energy reactor’s exhaust system.

Tyler Gerczak, a materials scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is focused on post-irradiation examination and separate effects testing of current fuels for light water reactors and advanced fuel types that could be used in future nuclear systems. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Ask Tyler Gerczak to find a negative in working at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and his only complaint is the summer weather. It is not as forgiving as the summers in Pulaski, Wisconsin, his hometown.

Tungsten tiles for fusion

Using additive manufacturing, scientists experimenting with tungsten at Oak Ridge National Laboratory hope to unlock new potential of the high-performance heat-transferring material used to protect components from the plasma inside a fusion reactor. Fusion requires hydrogen isotopes to reach millions of degrees.

Nuclear—Tiny testing fuels

For the first time, Oak Ridge National Laboratory has completed testing of nuclear fuels using MiniFuel, an irradiation vehicle that allows for rapid experimentation.

Small modular reactor computer simulation

In a step toward advancing small modular nuclear reactor designs, scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have run reactor simulations on ORNL supercomputer Summit with greater-than-expected computational efficiency.

The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors uses its Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications (VERA) software for the modeling and simulation of various nuclear reactors, such as the Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactor.

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is collaborating with industry on six new projects focused on advancing commercial nuclear energy technologies that offer potential improvements to current nuclear reactors and move new reactor designs closer to deployment.