Research Quantities of Commercial Nuclear Fuel – INL's Mission
DOE and industry rely on INL to conduct America’s nuclear energy research, development and demonstration. More than 50 advanced nuclear companies across North America are examining advanced reactor concepts, often in partnership with INL and other national laboratories.
These companies have expressed the need for a fast neutron test reactor to support testing of advanced fuels, materials, instrumentation and sensors. This is a capability the U.S. does not possess. Development and construction of the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) reactor will reposition America at the forefront of developing and improving new nuclear energy systems. A VTR — to be constructed at INL or Oak Ridge National Laboratory — would play a critical role in helping develop advanced fast reactors that generate as much as 10 times the power of existing reactors, use less water, and produce waste that is easier to handle and remains radioactive for a shorter period of time.
INL is home to DOE’s new National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC). Private companies can come to NRIC to access the technical expertise and infrastructure necessary to develop, test and demonstrate new reactor designs, as well as materials, fuels and other nuclear energy technologies. The NRIC will allow companies to demonstrate proof of concept, proof of performance, and proof of operations to ensure the safety, viability and sustainability of advanced reactor concepts throughout their lifetimes. These demonstrations, which will be funded in whole or in part by the private sector, will reduce costs and accelerate commercialization. INL is excited for this incredible opportunity to work with the nation’s leading advanced reactor companies to ensure economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.
Through NRIC, INL’s leadership role for DOE’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative continues. Namely, INL serves as the interface to bring national lab and university capabilities together to address the challenges brought to us by the private sector. For example, dozens of small modular reactor (SMR) projects are in various design and planning stages around the world. Several advanced reactor design companies have expressed interest in using test facilities at INL.
Oregon-based NuScale Power and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), a consortium that serves more than 40 community electricity suppliers in seven western states, are looking to deploy the world’s first SMRs at INL by 2026. INL has been involved with NuScale from the beginning, providing technical support and guidance.
Construction could begin at the INL Site in 2023, and plant construction would create about 1,100 jobs during the three-year peak of activities. When operational, the facility would provide 400 permanent jobs with an average salary of $85,000. Idaho’s economy could receive a tremendous boost if companies that build SMRs across the world are located here.
These and other exciting developments are boosting INL’s ability to recruit the best and brightest R&D scientists and staff. Our laboratory, industry and university partnerships support the future workforce through training and education. Plus, INL continues to build its credibility with the domestic nuclear industry, other national labs and international partners. Our work is helping create a supply chain around advanced reactor deployment, which presents a huge opportunity for U.S. companies.
In short, INL’s nuclear energy mission underlies a vibrant future that helps protect the environment, human health and safety.