The DOE said the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) programme sets out to protect the environment and increase the deployment and use of nuclear power as a reliable source of clean energy.
“More than half of our zero-carbon energy is generated from nuclear power, and through this groundbreaking research we can expand nuclear’s potential,” said energy secretary Jennifer Granholm.
The programme, known as ‘Optimising Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems’ (Onwards), will address challenges posed by limited disposal options for spent nuclear fuel through the development of techniques that prevent the formation of nuclear waste from advanced reactors.
Onwards is ARPA-E’s first focused programme working to identify transformative advanced nuclear reactor, used nuclear fuel waste, and used nuclear fuel disposal methods.
The DOE said Onwards teams will aim for a 10X reduction in used nuclear fuel waste and waste volume generation or repository footprint.
It said nuclear power is one of the most reliable sources of energy in the US, and the largest domestic source of clean energy – providing 52% of the nation’s carbon-free electricity in 2020, and about a fifth of US electricity overall. Nuclear power production, however, produces approximately 2,000 tonnes of used fuel each year that must be disposed and safely stored.