Press Release

General Atomics Awarded ARPA-E Funding for Advanced Reactor Research

San Diego, June 5, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) on Monday awarded General Atomics (GA) a total of nearly $3 million in funding to continue development of two key technologies associated with GA’s Energy Multiplier Module (EM2) concept. The awards are part of ARPA-E’s Modeling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration (MEITNER) program, which is providing up to $24 million to support development of advanced nuclear energy.

Since 2009, GA has been developing the EM2 advanced reactor concept, which addresses the four core challenges facing nuclear energy – safety, waste, cost and non-proliferation.

The first ARPA-E award of approximately $1.45 million will focus on design and optimization of the reactor’s innovative power conversion system, which uses a high-speed, helium-driven Brayton cycle turbine operating at variable super-synchronous speeds. This technology, which is also applicable to other advanced reactor designs, will enable nuclear plant efficiencies that are competitive (in excess of 50 percent) with modern gas turbine plants. The system will also greatly improve flexibility and load following – features that are essential for future nuclear plants operating on a grid with large amounts of variable wind and solar generation. The work will be conducted in collaboration with the University of Texas – Arlington and Sandia National Laboratories.

The second award, for $1.53 million, will be used to develop modular methods for large-scale concrete construction, which holds the promise to significantly cut plant construction timelines. GA’s innovation combines strengthened modular components with post-tensioning pre-stressing by aligning high-strength continuous-fiber tendons within the concrete and applying a tensile load. Because it offers the ability to produce large-scale structures without temporary external supports, this technology has the potential to greatly reduce nuclear plant construction time as well as overall costs. The development will be performed in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego.

Previously in April, DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy awarded just over $3 million in cost-shared funding for two GA projects to advance the development and qualification of new types of advanced nuclear fuel. The first will combine advanced computer modeling and simulation with new microcapsule irradiation to establish techniques that substantially reduce the time and expense required to qualify new fuels. The second will support the pre-application license review of silicon carbide–uranium carbide fuel by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.