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DOE Issues Request for Information on Advanced Nuclear Reactors

  • Mar 27, 2019 7:50 am GMT
Targeted News Service

WASHINGTON, March 27 -- The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy issued a Request for Information on technologies that could enable advanced nuclear reactors to achieve operating cost profiles that approximate those of natural gas combined cycle plants.

The agency description of the grant states: "This entails reducing operating costs per megawatt of electricity (MWe) at nuclear power plants by more than one order of magnitude. Attaining this vision requires semi-autonomous nuclear power plant operations, a radical departure from traditional nuclear power plant operations. Because autonomy is so unconventional for the nuclear sector, attacking the problem requires operational technologies and controls strategies that have limited or no technical precedent in the nuclear community.

For this reason, ARPA-E is especially interested in perspectives from outside the traditional nuclear energy space. Today's nuclear plants are mostly conventional light water reactors (LWRs). Their continued viability in the U.S. electricity mix is challenged in part by high operational and maintenance (O&M) costs compared to other electricity generation types. The higher costs stem largely from the high staffing level required for nuclear power plant operation, maintenance, safety, and security.

Advanced nuclear reactor systems that are anticipated to comprise the next generation of new reactor builds are likely to face costs that are similar to LWRs, should they not pursue new approaches to O&M. High O&M costs might be especially burdensome for small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors, which do not have the benefit of economy of scale. Much greater focus on achieving a radical reduction of O&M costs will likely prove necessary to assure the competitiveness of advanced nuclear systems.

Therefore, approaches in predictive maintenance, autonomous maintenance, fault detection and isolation algorithms, novel sensor systems, data analytics, dynamics modeling, and advanced control systems are of interest. Also of interest are advanced modeling and simulators that allow exploration of a full range of potential data streams, and can help identify/evaluate the most relevant control algorithms and sensor needs. Finally, test loops and experimental facilities that can be leveraged to investigate and validate approaches for autonomous controls, operations, and maintenance are of interest."

The funding opportunity number is DE-FOA-0002115 (CFDA 81.135). It was posted on March 26.

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