DOE Picks Fast Nuclear Test Reactor Design

The 300MW reactor would be of the pool-type, cooled by sodium, and employ an alloy fuel composed of uranium, plutonium, and zirconium.

Cover Image Attribute:  Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) / Source: Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
Cover Image Attribute:  Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) / Source: Idaho National Laboratory (INL)

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it has decided to construct its Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) using a sodium-cooled fast reactor design — in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

The project would be the first fast nuclear test reactor in the United States in almost three decades with a dedicated “fast-neutron-spectrum” testing capability, provided that Congress authorizes funding.

The VTR project did not get any money from Congress during the Fiscal Year 2022. The DOE has submitted a funding proposal for the fiscal year 2023 to assist in moving the project forward.

Schematic Attribute: The conceptual design of Versatile Test Reactor (VTR)
Schematic Attribute: The conceptual design of the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR)

Until 1994, the Department of Energy (DOE) had a fast reactor known as the Experimental Breeder Reactor II in eastern Idaho. It shut down as the US turned away from nuclear power.

The DoE claims that the reactor would produce higher neutron fluxes, making it possible to test nuclear materials up to ten times more quickly than is now possible in the country.

The 300MW reactor would be of the pool-type, cooled by sodium, and employ an alloy fuel composed of uranium, plutonium, and zirconium. It would be modeled after the PRISM small modular reactor, manufactured by GE Hitachi, and borrow many of its design and passive safety measures.

Schematic Attribute: GE Hitachi's Power Reactor Innovative Small Module (PRISM) design
Schematic Attribute: GE Hitachi's Power Reactor Innovative Small Module (PRISM) design

INL is leading this VTR project, which has been underway since the beginning of 2019, in collaboration with five other national laboratories: Argonne, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Savannah River. Several additional partners from both industry and academia are involved in the initiative.



Experimental Capabilities of VTR



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IndraStra Global: DOE Picks Fast Nuclear Test Reactor Design
DOE Picks Fast Nuclear Test Reactor Design
The 300MW reactor would be of the pool-type, cooled by sodium, and employ an alloy fuel composed of uranium, plutonium, and zirconium.
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