[Update 07/25/08 below . . .
DOE awards $7.2 million to Idaho, Argonne labs]
The Department of Energy isn't giving up on GNEP even if Congress has repeatedly sent a strong message it isn't going to fund the program at the levels requested by the agency. In a new twist DOE has linked nuclear reactor R&D design work for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant and GNEP objectives to the concept of nuclear fuel “Deep-Burn” in which plutonium and higher transuranics recycled from spent nuclear fuel are destroyed. GNEP and NGNP have been more or less until now traveling down separate R&D paths. Now with this new $7.3 million grant, their paths and fates may be intertwined.
The funding opportunity seeks to establish the technological foundations that will support the role of the very-high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor (VHTR) in the nuclear fuel cycle, which is one of the prototype reactors being researched/developed under the Department’s Generation IV Nuclear power program. The work under this FOA will be carried out in two parts requiring separate proposals:
1. Advanced Modeling and Simulation Capability for VHTR Development; and
2. Design; and Transuranic Management Capabilities of the Deep-Burn VHTR.
“The Deep-Burn concept is particularly attractive because it employs the reactor design that is used for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant program, with the potential for highly efficient electricity and process heat production,” Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dennis Spurgeon said. “We are eager to see how this concept can add to the mix of advanced nuclear technologies.”
The transuranic elements are the hottest and most radiotoxic chemical elements in used nuclear fuel that require disposal in a waste repository. In Deep-Burn, the transuranics from used light water reactor fuel are recycled into coated-particle fuel and “burned” in a VHTR while producing energy in the form of process heat and electricity. The term “Deep-Burn” is used because of the VHTR’s ability to reach very high fuel burnups (up to 65 percent of initial fuel), resulting in very efficient use of the fuel and a high degree of destruction of the transuranics.
The primary mission of the NGNP is production of high-temperature heat, for use as a source of process heat or generation of electricity. A further goal of this FOA is to enable a quantitative assessment of the scope, cost and schedule implications of extending the NGNP mission in the future to destruction of plutonium and other transuranics.
DOE's Idaho Field Office said in a statement,
"The Deep-Burn R&D effort will be coordinated with the ongoing Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) programs to ensure synergism and to avoid duplication of efforts. The R&D that will be carried out is a part of DOE’s Generation IV program which aims to further the fundamental R&D to ensure the viability of the next-generation of nuclear energy systems."
Responses to the FOA # DE-PS07-08ID14907 are due to DOE May 22, 2008. DOE anticipates announcing the selection later this year. Full text of the announcement is at grants.gov. The period of performance once the grant is awarded is one year.
Update 07/25/08 - DOE Awards $7.3 million to Idaho and Argonne labs
World Nuclear News reports that The Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) could be used to burn up plutonium and transuranics currently thought of as waste. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is planning to build a very high temperature gas-cooled reactor (VHTR) at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), with the prime objective of supplying heat at about 900°C. This heat could be used to generate electricity, or as process heat for other industrial processes such as hydrogen production, chemical plants, oil refining, or water desalination.
- See INL's press release on the DOE award of funding and the brand new INL web site on NGNP for additional details.
INL will conduct the deep-burn research program worth $6.3 million. Argonne National Laboratory will do research on modelling and simulation of VHTRs at a cost of $1 million. The labs were chosen after a competitive process also open to universities and commercial entities.
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