Vanderbilt on team to develop advanced nuclear reactors to reduce carbon emissions

Vanderbilt University is part of a new public-private partnership that has been awarded up to $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to explore, develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear reactor technologies to help America meet its goals for carbon emission reduction.

The current award to Southern Company Services, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based utility giant Southern Company, is $6 million to support the work, which will be housed at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The contract has an opportunity for $40 million in total funding over five years.

The private partners in the project include Vanderbilt, TerraPower, and the Electric Power Research Institute.

The research is aimed at developing molten chloride fast reactors, an advanced concept for nuclear power generation. Researchers believe molten chloride fast reactors will provide enhanced operational performance, safety, security and economic value when compared with other advanced reactor concepts.

When completed, the project is intended to mitigate key technical risks through integral effects and materials tests, to develop a conceptual design and license application for a test reactor, and conduct preliminary safety analyses, manufacturing readiness evaluations and supply chain and infrastructure assessments to support deployment.

Steven Krahn

Vanderbilt has teamed with EPRI for more than four years to perform research and applied engineering to evaluate the safety, health and environmental impacts of advanced reactor concepts as well as their readiness for implementation in the nuclear fuel cycle, according to Steven L. Krahn, professor of the practice of nuclear environmental engineering and the principal investigator leading the Vanderbilt team.

“Vanderbilt, with EPRI, has developed and are implementing improved methods for assessing nuclear energy generation technology in its early development through the use of tools such as probabilistic risk assessment, hazard analysis methods and technology readiness level determination as useful measures of safety and technology maturity for early-phase concepts,” Krahn said.

The demonstration of the Vanderbilt-EPRI technology assessment methods are documented in a free, publicly available EPRI Report.

Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
Twitter @VUEngineering