From medical isotopes to clean power, nuclear advances look promising.
Innovative nuclear technologies that are currently under development have the potential to support a low-carbon energy future and help meet an international demand for medical isotopes. These systems are being designed to help reduce greenhouse gases, enhance energy security and provide grid-stabilizing power.
In the future, advanced nuclear reactors are expected to become available in a range of sizes. From microreactors that produce a few megawatts (MW) to operations of more than 1,000 MW that can easily power large cities. This design flexibility will help utilities more easily tailor electricity generation to meet energy demand and support intermittent needs from renewable energy.
Design approaches focus on incorporating simplified construction with the goal of reducing construction and operating costs. Scientists are also investigating a variety of coolants including water, molten salt, high-temperature gas and liquid metal.
Some systems will include additional innovative design features, such as the ability to produce drinking water, hydrogen and/or heat to help decarbonize the industrial and transportation sectors. Nuclear medicine imaging depends on unique materials, many of which have short shelf lives and are produced outside of the country.
State Research and Development Efforts
Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) / Nuscale Project
Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is a political subdivision of the State of Utah that provides wholesale electric energy, transmission and other energy services, on a nonprofit basis, to community-owned power systems throughout the Intermountain West.
UAMPS members are located in Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.
The UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) is in the first phase of investigating the feasibility of a small modular reactor project using NuScale small modular nuclear reactor technology. The CFPP is expected to consist of up to twelve small modular reactors that will be located at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls.
NuScale Power, an Oregon-based company, is developing a new modular light water reactor. Their approach relies on a train of smaller, pressurized water reactors that include state-of-the-art safety features.
San Rafael Energy Research Center
The San Rafael Energy Research Center, located in Emery County, Utah, is focused on advancing molten salt technology, pursuing medical isotope production and developing thorium-powered nuclear energy. A long-term goal is to establish a 30-megawatt thorium reactor at the center. The project has received development support from universities, the Utah State Legislature and the U.S. Department of Energy.
University of Utah
The University of Utah offers an undergraduate nuclear program, which is one of fewer than 50 nuclear engineering programs in the country. Students can take classes in nuclear principles, neutron-based engineering, radiochemistry and nuclear science.