The Department of Energy (DOE) announced on their website that they are allocating $82 million in funds for a total of 93 projects in 28 states. The aim of these new projects? They “will help push innovative nuclear technologies toward commercialization and into the market.” While this sounds like a lot of money, it is significantly less than the amount it normally takes to develop new reactor technology, estimated to be in the billions’ range.
Other countries are still building nuclear reactors, such as China and India. But they are using the same conventional nuclear technology developed in the 1970s, which are riddled with safety concerns and public opposition due to the hazards it poses to both the environment and people.
Notably, these reactors are also very costly.
DOE aims to solve these problems by research and development that would, hopefully, result in an upgrade in nuclear power systems. This funding is part of DOE’s effort to align nuclear energy with the advocacy to limit climate change.
A budget of $36 million will be allotted for research in universities, which would revolve around developing materials, nuclear waste disposal, advanced manufacturing techniques, fuel production, and nuclear technology as a whole.
Around $7 million will also be dedicated towards the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative, which focuses on restructuring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval process for private companies looking to build new reactors. The initiative aims to connect innovators with DOE labs.
Apart from this, DOE is also awarding up to $2 million in total to 8 small businesses to help nuclear industry startups and accelerate innovativion in nuclear technologies.
This is to encourage development and the establishment of nuclear energy within US soil, since the past processes were expensive and lengthy, discouraging companies and driving several startups to build reactors in other countries instead.
So far, the companies given GAIN awards are GE Hitachi, Westinghouse, Terrestrial Energy USA, and Transatomic Power Corporation, as well as Terrestrial Energy, which will be building a prototype of its integral molten salt reactor.