The U.S. Department of Energy will spend $115 million to develop advanced fuels for “next-generation reactors,” the WSJ reports.
The money will go into a three-year pilot program aiming to produce a more energy-dense uranium to support smaller reactors. The Energy Department is starting this program amidst concerns that the U.S. may be falling behind rival countries in nuclear power.
Facing pressure from safety concerns, regulations, and competition from other fuels, the U.S. nuclear power industry is aiming to make its core technology “simpler, cheaper and often much smaller,” according to the Journal.
This more energy-dense uranium “is likely essential” to companies pushing micro reactors small enough to fit in semitrailers. Most companies developing advanced-reactor technology, however, opt to use the type of uranium currently available.
The Energy Department has reportedly prioritized its support for advanced reactors, whether they use standard or advanced fuels. According to the Journal, that support doesn’t guarantee the technology’s success, however, as the nuclear power industry will have to compete with falling energy prices in other sectors, including wind, solar and gas-fired power.
Department officials told the Journal they plan to award the $115 million contract to Centrifuge Operating, a unit of Centrus Energy Corp., in Ohio.
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