The Department of Energy said the new versatile test reactor is needed as part of an effort to revamp the nation’s nuclear power industry by developing safer fuel and power plants.
The DOE said it believes nuclear can provide large amounts of carbon-free, economical electricity for the nation’s power grid.
“This testing capability is essential for the US to modernise its nuclear energy infrastructure and for developing transformational nuclear energy technologies that reduce waste generation and enhance nuclear security,” said energy secretary Rick Perry.
He said the lack of a domestic reactor with versatile fast-neutron-spectrum testing capability is a significant national strategic risk affecting the DOE’s ability to advance the energy, environmental, and nuclear security of the US and promote scientific and technological innovation.
The DOE said it will prepare an EIS as part of the process to build the new reactor either at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho or Oak Ridge National Laboratory in eastern Tennessee by the end of 2025. Public comments on the EIS are being taken until 4 September 2019.
US assistant secretary for nuclear energy Rita Baranwal warned that if this capability is not available to US innovators as soon as possible, “the ongoing shift of nuclear technology dominance to other international states such as China and Russia will accelerate, to the detriment of the US nuclear industrial sector”.