Energy Education

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Nuclear Innovation Workshops Issue Final Report

A national group of nuclear energy experts, including Ohio State University researchers, has issued a final report to the U.S. Department of Energy recommending changes to the industry.

The report found that while the U.S. does not lack technical innovation in nuclear energy, there are barriers to the continued development and commercialization of new technologies.

Considering the large investment required for development and commercialization, the U.S. government must play an important facilitating role to ensure innovation occurs.

“Nuclear energy represents a key component in our nation’s technology portfolio to help achieve the goal of providing a clean, secure energy source. Growth of the nuclear industry has been relatively stagnant for several decades, as has America’s historically strong leadership in nuclear energy,” according to the report, which was finalized in September.

Idaho National Laboratory convened the workshops to crowdsource forward-looking ideas regarding the use of nuclear energy technologies to help tackle energy challenges facing our nation and the world.

The report’s recommendations to the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Hold a workshop focused on obstacles to technical innovation and formulate a strategy for removing these obstacles.
  • Plan workshops on emergent innovation themes resulting from this workshop, including development of a national testbed, improvement of human resources, government encouragement of private investment, and improved regulatory development for innovative and advanced technologies.
  • Develop approaches to better utilize existing national test-bed and national demonstration platform capabilities. For example, a test bed or user facility could include a new fast test reactor that would enable development of fast reactor technologies and accelerated development of radiation-resistant materials. A future demonstration platform for full-scale reactor concepts would reduce costs to commercialization by having access to sites that are secure, are well characterized, and have pre-existing connections to the power grid and requisite utilities. These developments would 1) rapidly and cost-effectively remove technical risk for innovative technologies and 2) reduce commercialization costs and associated risks for deploying initial commercial units.
  • Diversify input. Learning from other industries is applicable to innovation in nuclear power, and input from people not generally involved in the nuclear industry, or those who are thought leaders in initiatives such as clean energy, may offer valuable insight.
  • Use a modernized model of science communication to reach broad audiences via digital media platforms. Of particular importance is alignment with the values of women, young people, and minorities — the key demographics that are currently least supportive of nuclear energy.
  • Conduct feasibility studies and prioritize technical innovation ideas.
  • Incorporate innovative ideas into energy department research and development roadmaps and formulate requests for information to focus on prioritized technical innovations.
  • Optimize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop and demonstrate innovative technologies.

Nuclear Innovation Workshop Final Report

Workshop Details

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