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Energy Department Finalizes Reactor Review

The Energy Department has released a final environmental impact study on a next-generation nuclear research facility, according to POLITICO Pro (subscription). 

What’s going on: “Since 2019, DOE has been working toward constructing a 300-megawatt Versatile Test Reactor that officials say would provide research and demonstration capacity for advanced nuclear components and fuels.”

  • It “will provide U.S. researchers from industry, academia and our national laboratories with a critical tool for developing transformational technologies that will expand nuclear energy’s contribution to abundant, carbon-free energy,” said Kathryn Huff, DOE’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy.

What’s next: DOE is expected to issue a final decision on the facility this year.

  • The agency’s top site choice for the VTR is the Idaho National Laboratory, but the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a possible alternative, according to POLITICO Pro.

The impact: “A summary document states that the project will have ‘small environmental consequences’ in both potential locations, but that environmental impacts would be smaller in Idaho.”

  • DOE explained that “the fight against climate change begins with our commitment to designing, constructing and operating the VTR in a way that protects the environment and nearby communities.”
  • While there is no permanent repository, “[s]pent fuel would be treated and stored on-site until a repository becomes available.”

The NAM says: “From the outset, the NAM has insisted that nuclear energy must play a significant role in the pursuit of a clean energy economy,” said NAM Director of Energy and Resources Policy Chris Morris.

  •  “VTR technologies will help advance the development of next-generation fuels and materials. DOE’s completion of its final environmental impact study is a critical step in taking a proposal from paper to breaking ground for the test reactor.”
  • “The U.S. is currently lagging behind our European and Asian counterparts when it comes to clean nuclear energy, but VTR technologies will allow us to make great strides in our civilian nuclear competitiveness.”
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