The U.S. Department of Energy adopted order 413.3B in 2010 to provide program and project management direction for acquisition of capital assets that exceed $100 million. The order outlines a process for gathering information about cost, schedule and design requirements and project approval milestones known as Critical Decisions. VTR achieved the first milestone, Critical Decision 0, in 2019, which examined and approved the mission need.
Yes, it has. DOE’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee studied the issue and released a report in February 2017, recommending “that DOE-NE proceed immediately with preconceptual design planning activities to support a new test reactor (including cost and schedule estimates).” Multiple advanced reactor developers, including TerraPower, Westinghouse and Oklo, submitted letters in support of the NEAC report.
No, it is not. VTR is a test reactor designed for experimentation. The proposed design does utilize sodium because it is the most mature fast reactor technology and is based on GE-Hitachi’s PRISM reactor design. However, the core of the reactor is being designed to provide the flexibility for well-controlled experiments to support other fast reactor concepts.
If spent fuel is reprocessed and material recovered to send back to the reactor as nuclear fuel, it is referred to as a closed fuel cycle. If the fuel is used “once through” and not reprocessed, it is referred to as an open-fuel cycle. There are no plans to close the fuel cycle using the VTR. However, small quantities of fuels and materials needed to close the fuel cycle in the future may be tested using the VTR.
The fuel will be processed after irradiation to remove the sodium and stored on site until a repository becomes available.
The proposed Versatile Test Reactor complex would encompass approximately 20 acres.
VTR has customizable “loops” that allow researchers to create specific environments and conditions to test different fuels, coolants and other materials.