Executive Intelligence Review


U.S. Energy Secretary Gives Green Light To Proceed on Fast-Neutron Test Reactor

March 1, 2019 (EIRNS))—U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced yesterday that the Department of Energy (DOE) will proceed towards building the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR, also known as the Versatile Fast Neutron Source), as “a key step to implementing President Trump’s direction to revitalize and expand the U.S. nuclear industry.”

The test reactor, projected to start operations in December 2025,

“will provide leading edge capability for accelerated testing of advanced nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation, and sensors. It will allow DOE to modernize its essential nuclear energy infrastructure, and conduct crucial advanced technology and materials testing within the United States in a safe, efficient and timely way,”

the DOE press release explains.

Secretary Perry is quoted:

“This cutting-edge advanced reactor will give American companies the ability they currently lack to conduct advanced technology and fuels tests without having to go to our competitors in Russia and China.”

This is the first reactor the Department of Energy has built since the 1970s. It will be the first fast-neutron spectrum facility operating in the U.S. for over 20 years; the lack of one precluded “the ability to conduct the types of accelerated irradiation testing needed by non-light water advanced reactor concepts,” the DOE reported.

DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory will lead the VTR project. This is interesting, given that the INL is at the center of Department efforts to develop a U.S. capability for developing advanced nuclear reactors, both fission and fusion.

The lead nuclear engineer on the project at INL, Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, told Science magazine that Secretary Perry’s announcement represents only the first of five “critical decisions” which DOE has to make before any construction will begin. But the announcement gives the go-ahead for researchers to work on a conceptual design for the reactor, which Science describes as a small, 300 MW reactor, most likely cooled by liquid sodium, which would not produce electrical power.