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Fuel pellets sometimes degrade to a sandlike consistency and can disperse into the reactor core if a rod’s cladding bursts. ORNL researchers are studying how often this happens and what impact it has, in order to let reactors operate as long as possible without increasing risk.

A developing method to gauge the occurrence of a nuclear reactor anomaly has the potential to save millions of dollars.

Nuclear – Finally, a benchmark

In the 1960s, Oak Ridge National Laboratory's four-year Molten Salt Reactor Experiment tested the viability of liquid fuel reactors for commercial power generation. Results from that historic experiment recently became the basis for the first-ever molten salt reactor benchmark.

Nuclear — Seeing inside particles

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers working on neutron imaging capabilities for nuclear materials have developed a process for seeing the inside of uranium particles – without cutting them open.

A new computational approach by ORNL can more quickly scan large-scale satellite images, such as these of Puerto Rico, for more accurate mapping of complex infrastructure like buildings. Credit: Maxar Technologies and Dalton Lunga/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A novel approach developed by scientists at ORNL can scan massive datasets of large-scale satellite images to more accurately map infrastructure – such as buildings and roads – in hours versus days. 

Smart Neighborhood homes

To better determine the potential energy cost savings among connected homes, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a computer simulation to more accurately compare energy use on similar weather days.

Argon pellet injection text

As scientists study approaches to best sustain a fusion reactor, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory investigated injecting shattered argon pellets into a super-hot plasma, when needed, to protect the reactor’s interior wall from high-energy runaway electrons.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have developed an experiment for testing potential materials for use in interplanetary travel. The experiment exposes prototype materials to temperatures over 2,400 degrees Celsius with only 300 watts of input electrical power. Credit: Carlos Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

If humankind reaches Mars this century, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-developed experiment testing advanced materials for spacecraft may play a key role. 

Nuclear—More than the core

Researchers have developed high-fidelity modeling capabilities for predicting radiation interactions outside of the reactor core—a tool that could help keep nuclear reactors running longer.

Microreactors could offer unique mobility and flexibility—opening the possibility for nuclear energy to reach isolated areas.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists are evaluating paths for licensing remotely operated microreactors, which could provide clean energy sources to hard-to-reach communities, such as isolated areas in Alaska.

ORNL nuclear engineer Chris Petrie

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is using ultrasonic additive manufacturing to embed highly accurate fiber optic sensors in heat- and radiation-resistant materials, allowing for real-time monitoring that could lead to greater insights and safer reactors.