Newswise — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that six small businesses recognized as nuclear energy innovators will have a chance to work with the department’s Argonne National Laboratory through the department’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear, or GAIN, initiative.

Argonne’s vast nuclear expertise and world-class facilities provide businesses with the technological support needed to move innovation from concept to commercialization. Argonne researchers will be working with six of the 14 voucher recipients on projects under the auspices of GAIN.

Jordi Roglans-Ribas, director of Argonne’s Nuclear Engineering Division, sees GAIN as a perfect way to share the laboratory’s expertise to businesses dedicated to advancing nuclear reactor designs and technologies. Partnering with six GAIN awardees is especially noteworthy.

“These voucher awards demonstrate that the businesses pursuing technological innovations in nuclear energy recognize our capabilities and want to work with us.” – Jordi Roglans-Ribas, Argonne Nuclear Engineering Division director

“These voucher awards demonstrate that the businesses pursuing technological innovations in nuclear energy recognize our capabilities and want to work with us,” Roglans-Ribas said.

GAIN voucher recipients do not receive direct financial awards. Instead, the competitive program provides access to national laboratory capabilities at no cost. This is the second year for GAIN, which in 2017 awarded vouchers worth approximately $4.2 million with Argonne projected to receive $1.6 million.

Businesses receiving vouchers to work with Argonne are:

  • Elysium Industries, Clifton Park, New York. This project will demonstrate the feasibility of directly converting spent nuclear fuel discharged from conventional reactors into a new liquid salt fuel that can power an advanced reactor.
  • Fauske & Associates, Burr Ridge, Illinois. Researchers will develop analytical predictive capabilities to describe the transport and possible release of radioactive constituents generated in the fuel of advanced liquid metal reactors as a result of postulated accident scenarios.
  • Kairos Power, Oakland, California. This project aims to improve the computational modeling of fluid flow and heat transfer in Kairos Power’s high-temperature liquid-salt cooled reactor.
  • Oklo Inc., Sunnyvale, California. Researchers will simulate the response of Oklo’s innovative fast reactor design to postulated accident scenarios, including the potential transport of radioactive constituents.
  • Terrestrial Energy USA, New York, New York. This project will measure key properties such as thermal conductivity and viscosity of the molten salt fuel used in the firm’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) design.
  • Transatomic Power Corp., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Researchers will measure key thermal properties of molten salt fuel used in the firm’s reactor design.

Argonne is partnering with Idaho National Laboratory in the projects supporting Elysium Industries and Kairos Power and Sandia National Laboratories in the Oklo Inc. project. Oak Ridge and Pacific Northwest national laboratories are also participating in the 2017 voucher projects. Idaho National Laboratory leads the overall GAIN initiative for DOE.

Working with Terrestrial Energy USA through a voucher project awarded last year, Argonne scientists characterized fluoride salt compositions for its molten salt reactor design. Efforts continued this year to determine the heat capacity of these salt compositions and to verify the solubility of selected fission products in the fuel salt.

The other business working with Argonne for a second year is Oklo Inc., a start-up developing a 2-megawatt micro reactor. Starting in 2016, researchers at Argonne and Idaho national laboratories helped Oklo gather and gauge information about legacy metallic fuel data and how to fabricate commercial fuel. This work greatly interests the larger fast reactor development community. Argonne and Idaho national laboratories also participated in Oklo’s initial meeting with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Idaho will fabricate prototype fuel elements to test potential manufacturing methods for Oklo.

Through GAIN, voucher recipients, which share costs and equipment, also benefit from Argonne’s expertise in physics, modeling, analysis, cluster computing and programming. For decades, Argonne scientists designed and analyzed most existing and past reactor types and many advanced reactors, particularly those cooled by liquid metal. More information about Argonne’s nuclear systems modeling and analysis capabilities is available here.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.