InvestmentsResearch Funding Two Details

Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)

Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are a key part of the Department’s goal to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options. The advanced SMRs currently under development in the United States represent a variety of sizes, technology options, capabilities, and deployment scenarios. These advanced reactors, envisioned to vary in size from tens of megawatts up to hundreds of megawatts, can be used for power generation, process heat, desalination, or other industrial uses. SMR designs may employ light water as a coolant or other non-light water coolants such as a gas, liquid metal, or molten salt.

Advanced SMRs offer many advantages, such as relatively small physical footprints, reduced capital investment, ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants, and provisions for incremental power additions. SMRs also offer distinct safeguards, security and nonproliferation advantages.

The Department has long recognized the transformational value that advanced SMRs can provide to the nation’s economic, energy security, and environmental outlook. Accordingly, the Department has provided substantial support to the development of light water-cooled SMRs, which are under licensing review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and will likely be deployed in the late 2020s to early 2030s. The Department is also interested in the development of SMRs that use nontraditional coolants such as liquid metals, salts, and gases for the potential safety, operational, and economic benefits they offer.

Advanced SMR R&D Program

Building on the successes of the SMR Licensing Technical Support (LTS) program, the Advanced SMR R&D program was initiated in FY2019 and supports research, development, and deployment activities to accelerate the availability of U.S.-based SMR technologies into domestic and international markets. Significant technology development and licensing risks remain in bringing advanced SMR designs to market and government support is required to achieve domestic deployment of SMRs by the late 2020s or early 2030s. Through these efforts, the Department will provide broad benefits to other domestic reactor developers by resolving many technical and licensing issues that are generic to SMR technologies, while promoting U.S. energy independence, energy dominance, and electricity grid resilience, and assuring that there is a future supply of clean, reliable baseload power.

The projects involve scientists at 51 U.S. institutions of higher learning across the nation, and include both experimental and theoretical research into such topics as the Higgs boson, neutrinos, dark matter, dark energy, and the search for new physics.

“Research in high energy physics not only advances our understanding of the universe, but is also critical to maintaining American leadership in science,These research efforts, at dozens of universities across the nation, will not only yield fresh insights into such problems as dark matter and dark energy, but also help build and sustain the nation’s science and technology workforce.”

Projects include experimental work on neutrinos at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory; the search for dark matter with the LZ (LUX-ZEPLIN) experiment one mile below the Black Hills of South Dakota; the analysis of observatory data relating to dark energy and the expansion of the universe; and investigation of the Higgs boson from data collected at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Other projects are aimed at further developments in particle physics theory, in advanced particle accelerators, and in new detector technologies, which scientists will use in continued explorations of the subatomic world.

High energy physics serves as a cornerstone of science efforts. It plays a major role in nurturing top scientific talent and building and sustaining the nation’s scientific workforce. It also provides a deeper understanding of how our universe works at its most fundamental level.

The early ultraviolet telescopes were ten or twenty centimeters in diameter; they were small. Now, we’re talking 2.4 meters; that’s the Hubble. And the Hubble, with all of its instruments, probably cost a couple billion dollars to build and launch. With all of the subsequent servicing missions to Hubble, add it all up and you’re looking at six or seven billion over the years. You can see where it’s headed. The easy things have all been done. Astronomy in space is now in the era of big science: in physics, the big particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider in Europe represent big science; in biology, the Human Genome Project is big science. Big science costs billions of dollars for each program.

Physics, after all, is supposed to be a cerebral pursuit. But this cavern almost measureless to the eye, stuffed as it is with an Eiffel Tower’s worth of metal, eight-story wheels of gold fan-shape boxes, thousands of miles of wire and fat ductlike coils, echoes with the shriek of power tools, the whine of pumps and cranes, beeps and clanks from wrenches, hammers, screwdrivers and the occasional falling bolt. It seems no place for the studious.

The physicists, wearing hardhats, kneepads and safety harnesses, are scrambling like Spiderman over this assembly, appropriately named Atlas, ducking under waterfalls of cables and tubes and crawling into hidden room-size cavities stuffed with electronics.

They are getting ready to see the universe born again.
Again and again and again — 30 million times a second, in fact.