Puerto Rico study and advanced reactors receive US funding

24 November 2021

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded funding to the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP) to study the potential siting of small reactors in Puerto Rico. Funding also goes to address hurdles to the use of small reactors in commercial shipping and to support the development of advanced reactor designs.

Angel Reyes, Ramon Martinez, Jesus Nunez and Valerie Lugo of the Nuclear Alternative Project (Image: NAP)

A total of USD8.5 million was awarded on 18 November to five industry-led projects through the through the Office of Nuclear Energy's US Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity. This funding is intended to "help commercialise promising advanced nuclear technologies," said the DOE.

"Advanced reactors will completely change the way we engineer, build, and operate nuclear reactors," said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Katy Huff. "These awards support technical and regulatory strides necessary for commercialising new carbon-free nuclear technologies poised to help our nation reach net-zero emissions by 2050."

The headline award of USD1.6 million was for a "phase 2 site suitability study" regarding small reactors and microreactors in Puerto Rico. The money will go to NAP, which has identified two potential sites on the island, based on Nuclear Regulatory Commission criteria. A previous study by NAP has found small reactors and microreactors would be feasible to complement Puerto Rico's increasingly solar-dominated grid, while increasing resilience and lowering power prices for its manufacturing economy.

NAP said the news was "exciting" for the company, noting that the work will be undertaken by Puerto Rican nuclear experts. DOE said the results would help it to commercialise the technologies for island and remote locations in general.

Another award worth USD800,00 was made to the American Bureau of Shipping to "address hurdles in the maritime domain so that new reactor technology can be rapidly deployed for commercial applications."

Two awards were made to advanced reactor technology companies. The US subsidiary of Terrestrial Energy will receive USD3 million to develop an approach to handling uncertainty in the modelling of off-gas systems for molten salt reactors such as its IMSR. Terrestrial Energy CEO Simon Irish said: "These grant programmes support private companies as they work to deliver nuclear power technologies that can succeed in competitive global energy markets and deliver global net-zero goals. Technologies such as our IMSR Generation IV nuclear plants will produce reliable, cost-competitive heat and power without emissions, making them uniquely capable of competing with fossil fuels."

Lastly, General Atomics' Electromagnetic Systems subsidiary will receive USD 2.7 million from the DOE to deliver a physics-based model for its silicon carbide-based fuel for high-temperature reactors.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News