DOE shells out $67M for advanced nuclear technology research

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Energy yesterday announced nearly $67 million funding for nuclear energy research this week, including facility access and infrastructure awards in 28 states, to support 85 projects in total.
  • DOE said in a statement that the funding "sows the seeds for safer, more efficient, clean baseload energy" that will support the economy and energy independence.   
  • Among the awards, DOE will provide $31 million through its Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to support 32 university-led nuclear energy research and development projects in 23 states. 

Dive Insight:

The federal government has been signaling its interest in nuclear development, particularly advanced reactors and modular designs, for several years now. But the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, a nuclear development firm working on two projects in the United States, could add a new sense of urgency to the research as the time and cost of traditional nukes continues to face pressure.

“Investing in the future of nuclear energy is an important strategic priority for the Energy Department,” DOE Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Ed McGinnis said in a statement, “Nuclear energy technologies contribute to our economy, our environment, and our national security.”

In addition to the NEUP funding for universities, DOE also said 19 universities will receive approximately $6 million for research into reactor and infrastructure improvements. The agency will also award $11 million for three integrated projects which address well-defined but highly complex technical issues.

DOE also said almost $6 million will be awarded for six research and development projects led by Department of Energy national laboratories, industry, and U.S. universities, to address crosscutting nuclear energy challenges that will help to develop advanced sensors and instrumentation, and advanced manufacturing methods.

Finally, DOE said it has selected five university, four national laboratory, and five industry-led projects that will take advantage of NSUF capabilities. The agency will support six of these projects with a total of $2.3 million in research funds, and all 14 of these projects will be supported by over $10 million in facility access costs.

But more traditional nuclear projects are continuing—despite turmoil in the industry.

Georgia Power and its parent company, Southern Co., have reached an agreement with Westinghouse to complete the long-delayed Vogtle nuclear plant expansion. The announcement helps alleviate fears the project may be permanently halted and the nuclear industry on hold, but it is also a reminder of the costs involved. 

Under terms of the agreement, Westinghouse parent company Toshiba has guaranteed $3.68 billion in payments to Georgia Power for completion of the project. Vogtle is billions over budget and years behind schedule, and the completion date for two new reactors has been extended multiple times.

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