Versatile Test Reactor (VTR)
- Frequently Asked Questions | Versatile Test Reactor
DOE launched the Versatile Test Reactor Program following studies that analyzed the need for a research reactor that could test materials, fuels and other components at higher neutron energies and neutron fluxes than what is available today.
An Idaho National Laboratory-led team, which includes Argonne National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Savannah River National Laboratory, universities, and industry partners, is collaborating on the program.
In February 2019, VTR cleared Critical Decision 0, the first in a series of project approvals required by DOE Order 413.3B. To pass CD-0, a project must demonstrate a mission need requiring investment. DOE will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to analyze alternatives and study the impacts of a VTR.
What is a test reactor?
What advanced technologies would a Versatile Test Reactor foster?
These advanced technologies are very different than those in the existing commercial fleet of nuclear reactors operating in the U.S. They use thermal or slow neutrons to create a chain reaction to produce the heat to make low-carbon electricity. Because of high neutron flux, accelerated materials testing to support thermal reactor needs also is envisioned for a VTR.
Why is a VTR needed?
Today, there is no fast spectrum irradiation capability in the United States to support the advanced reactor research and development occurring at national labs and in the private sector. Without it, the U.S. will not be able to regain and sustain its leadership role in the development of the next generation of nuclear power reactors. Many heavily populated and developing countries are investing in nuclear power plants to help provide low-carbon, reliable electricity to their citizens. U.S. technology leadership in the area of advanced reactors is critically important both from economics (market share) and national security (international safety and security protocols) perspectives.
Why can’t we use existing U.S. test reactors?
Can this testing be done somewhere else?
Has the need for a VTR been studied?
In addition to the NEAC report, researchers from INL, Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory interviewed multiple domestic reactor vendors in 2016 to assess overall industry test reactor needs, including TerraPower, Westinghouse Electric Company and General Atomics. The report, issued in January 2017, states that “all survey responders indicated they would utilize irradiation services that a fast-spectrum reactor can provide with rapid accumulation of displacements per atom under prototypical conditions for qualification of fuel, qualification of fuel manufacturing processes, extension of the useful lifetime of cladding and structural materials under irradiation, study of corrosion behavior of materials and advanced coatings under irradiation, and demonstration of fuel performance.”