Oak Ridge National Laboratory Reports Progress in 3-D Printed Nuclear Reactors

The following is from a news release from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.


OAK RIDGE, Tenn., May 11, 2020 — Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are refining their design of a 3D-printed nuclear reactor core, scaling up the additive manufacturing process necessary to build it, and developing methods to confirm the consistency and reliability of its printed components.

The Transformational Challenge Reactor Demonstration Program’s unprecedented approach to nuclear energy leverages advances from ORNL in manufacturing, materials, nuclear science, nuclear engineering, high-performance computing, data analytics and related fields.

The lab aims to turn on the first-of-its-kind reactor by 2023. The program has maintained its aggressive timeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, using remote work to continue design and analysis efforts. [TCR video]

“The nuclear industry is still constrained in thinking about the way we design, build and deploy nuclear energy technology,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “DOE launched this program to seek a new approach to rapidly and economically develop transformational energy solutions that deliver reliable, clean energy.”

Reactor development and deployment have traditionally relied on materials, fuels and technology pioneered in the 1950s and ’60s, and high costs and decades-long construction times have limited the United States to building only one new nuclear power plant in the last 20 years.