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Diving Deeper

Nuclear Research and Development

Work Area: Advanced Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Research and Development activities in the United States are performed in an almost completely applicant-driven process and can result in siloed and limited applications. While nuclear research activities aimed at commercialization will generally arise from the applicants and vendors, a key challenge is to deploy limited public money in a way that is strategic and maximizes benefits across the field.

In recent years and months, significant research and development funding has been applied towards numerous nuclear applications and to the benefit of numerous nuclear companies and startups. Clean Air Task Force activities under this focus area seek to make recommendations and provide data that ensures the benefit of this funding is felt across the nuclear development community and limited funding is utilized as effectively as possible. Current projects and activities under this focus area are:

  • United States Generation III/IV Research and Development Recommendations – The domestic nuclear vendor market is becoming a quickly crowded space, a paradigm never before seen. This unprecedented growth has been tempered by the need for many designs and companies to spend millions (if not billions) of dollars on experiments, testing, simulation, etc. The application of the limited domestic funding for the commercialization of Generation III/IV designs requires concerted thought and planning. Clean Air Task Force recommendations in this area would accelerate commercialization and push for the funding of cross-cutting research and development applications in lieu of more singular applications.
  • International Fusion Research and Development Recommendations – Similarly, the Fusion community is growing at an unprecedented and staggering rate. However, the variability and technical challenges in this community limit the ability of funders (whether public or private) to understand and prioritize. Clean Air Task Force recommendations and research in this area would seek to provide better understanding of the many facets of this community, where funding could best be applied, and how best to achieve commercialization.
  • Thermal Storage – Current commercial nuclear power plants are designed to operate most effectively and economically when always producing electricity. However, increased variability in grid distribution due to the increased reliance on intermittent energy sources in markets where subsidies have driven significant intermittent generation deployment has changed the economic environment for nuclear power plants. In these markets, the ability of nuclear plants to operate most economically when always at full power, once an advantage, can now be a detriment. As gains continue in intermittent energy usage, the economics of current commercial nuclear power plants will become more challenged. Clean Air Task Force research and recommendations in this area would seek to explore realistic potential thermal storage options to pair with current generation nuclear power plants to improve their economics and overall access to clean, on-demand electricity.

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