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DOE Kicks Off Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

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  • May 15, 2020

Cost sharing with industry is a key element of the $230M program

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week the launch of the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) within the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). ARDP is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States.  (Fact Sheet)

adv reactor marix

For the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, Congress appropriated $230 million to start a new demonstration program for advanced reactors. Through cost-shared partnerships with industry, ARDP will provide $160 million for initial funding that will eventually lead to full funding to build two reactors that can be operational within the next five to seven years.  (Fact Sheet) The actual cost of building the reactors is yet to be determined and will be higher than commercial units due to the first of a kind nature of the technology for each unit as a demonstration project.

reactor sizes

Top-Level Support for the Program

The funding announcement got a high level send off with a statement from the top.

“The next generation of nuclear energy is critical to our Nation’s energy security and environmental stewardship,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

“We must pursue technological innovation and advanced nuclear RD&D investments to strengthen American leadership in the next generation of nuclear technologies, ensuring a healthy and growing U.S. nuclear energy sector.”

“Advanced nuclear energy systems hold enormous potential to lower emissions, create new jobs, and build a strong economy,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy.

“The U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratory system was created to solve national challenges,” said INL Lab Director Mark Peters.

“Today’s announcement by U.S. DOE will accelerate innovation in advanced nuclear energy systems by leveraging the tremendous capabilities and expertise at INL and our partner national laboratories.”

Role of the National Reactor Innovation Center

In addition to the two reactors, ARDP will leverage the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) (Fact Sheet) to efficiently test and assess ARD technologies by engaging the world-renowned capabilities of the national laboratory system to move these reactors from blueprints to reality.


Funding Opportunity Announcement

The primary implementing tool for ARDP is the ARD Funding Opportunity Announcement, issued 5/14/20, which provides applicants three separate technology development and demonstration pathways. One size does not fit all.

ARDP will provide $160 million in initial funding. Applicants can receive support through three different development and demonstration pathways.

  • Advanced reactor demonstrations, which are expected to result in a fully functional advanced nuclear reactor within seven years of the award.
  • Risk reduction for future demonstrations, which will support up to five additional teams resolving technical, operational, and regulatory challenges to prepare for future demonstration opportunities.
  • Advanced reactor concepts 2020 (ARC 20), which will support innovative and diverse designs with potential to commercialize in the mid-2030s.

Assistant secretary for the office of nuclear energy Rita Baranwal said during a webinar on 5/14/20 the DOE has been “moving very quickly” to execute the new program.

Applications for funding opened on 5/14/20 for 90 days (closes 8/12/20) and there will be a “virtual industry day” in June for applicants to get further details. Funding awards will be made at end of calendar year.

More Information from NRIC

The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) enables advanced reactor demonstration and deployment by preparing infrastructure and providing access to National Laboratory sites, facilities, materials, and expertise.

NRIC has prepared a standard memorandum of understanding (MOU) for use with innovators seeking to work with NRIC. For a copy of the MOU or for more information on how to work with NRIC, please email

ARPA-E Awards $27M to Nine Firms

The US Department of Energy announced $27 million in funding for nine projects as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets (GEMINA) program.( Complete list of projects – PDF file)

GEMINA’s goal is to reduce fixed operations and maintenance (O&M) costs from ~13 $/MWh in the current fleet to ~2 $/MWh in the advanced fleet. These projects will work to develop digital twin technology to reduce O&M costs in the next generation of nuclear power plants.

GEMINA teams will develop digital twins and associated technologies for advanced nuclear reactors to strategically design O&M frameworks for the next generation of nuclear power plants. These teams are designing tools to introduce greater flexibility in reactor systems, increase autonomy in operations, and speed up design iteration, with a goal of reducing costs at advanced reactor power plants.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 15, 2020

GEMINA’s goal is to reduce fixed operations and maintenance (O&M) costs from ~13 $/MWh in the current fleet to ~2 $/MWh in the advanced fleet. 

Love this goal-- what sort of rate of growth in new nuclear do you think would be accompanied with such an immense drop?

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on May 15, 2020

The focus of the program is on the current fleet.  Rate of growth for new builds isn't known yet.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 15, 2020

Ah, thanks for that clarification. So while it doesn't impact new build, it certainly would extend the commercial lifespan of many nuclear plants that might've been at threat of being undercut from costs, while also of course benefitting the ratepayers. 

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on May 15, 2020

yes, exactly right/

Dan Yurman's picture
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