US chooses test plant for advanced nuclear reactor fuel

WASHINGTON, July 27 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Energy said on Wednesday it had selected a design to build a multibillion-dollar nuclear test reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory that could help develop fuels for advanced nuclear reactors.

The Multipurpose Test Reactor, or VTR, was proposed in 2018 by the Trump administration, and if Congress provides funding, it would be the first fast nuclear test reactor to operate in the United States in nearly three decades. .

Backers say it would allow US companies to conduct advanced technology and fuel tests without having to travel to competitors in Russia and China.

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The department plans to use the innovative small module of the GE Hitachi nuclear power reactor as the basis for the design of the VTR.

“The VTR project would help modernize America’s nuclear energy research and development infrastructure and significantly accelerate technology development for current and next-generation reactors,” the Department of Energy said. the design of the sodium-cooled fast reactor.

Reuters in 2019 reported on internal Department of Energy documents revealed by a freedom of information request from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) that showed the cost of VTR could be 3.9 billion to $6 billion, up to 40% more than a US official estimated earlier this year.

Ed Lyman, nuclear security expert at UCS, said the current cost could be even higher with current inflation, supply chain and labor constraints.

A DOE spokesperson did not comment on the cost estimate.

“The DOE has no plans to build the VTR until Congress grants us funding to move forward,” the person said.

The department requested $45 million in the fiscal year 2023 budget for the VTR, which would likely use uranium, plutonium and zirconium as fuel.

The Biden administration believes nuclear power is essential to meeting the president’s climate goals of decarbonizing the electric grid by 2035 and the broader economy by 2050.

But a fuel likely to be used in high-tech reactors, called high-dosage low-enriched uranium, or HALEU, with uranium enriched up to 20%, is mainly produced in Russia.

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Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Barbara Lewis and Mark Porter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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