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Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear

The mission of the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) is to advance nuclear power as a resource capable of meeting the nation's energy, environmental and national security needs by resolving technical, cost, safety, proliferation resistance, and security barriers through research, development and demonstration [RD&D]...


Read the March 2017 issue of the ASI Newsletter


​Read the March 2017 issue of the AMM Newsletter


​See for the original.

DOE Nuclear Innovation Partnership GAINs Steam

  • DOE public-private nuclear partnership program reports early success
  • Three of eight 2016 funding recipients are advanced reactor developers
  • Second round of small business vouchers underway
March 30, 2017—An initiative begun just over a year ago by the U.S. Department of Energy to help developers of advanced nuclear technology to accelerate innovation and commercialization has reported “significant progress” on the eight projects chosen for voucher awards in 2016. DOE’s call for applicants for the 2017 voucher award cycle will close April 10.

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy launched the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative in November 2015, to provide private-sector innovators of advanced nuclear technologies with direct access to the technical, regulatory and research capabilities of DOE’s national laboratory system.

“Since work on these projects began in September 2016, the GAIN voucher program has shown itself to be successful in fostering relationships between innovative technology developers and DOE laboratory staff, serving the GAIN mission to develop a public-private partnership framework that will enable accelerated commercialization of innovative concepts,” GAIN Director Rita Baranwal said.

“DOE and the national laboratory complex have a lot of tools, but the industry does not always necessarily know about them. GAIN helps bridge that gap,” says Everett Redmond, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior technical advisor of new reactor and advanced technology.

“GAIN illustrates how DOE and the national labs are becoming more responsive to the research and development needs of the industry. We’re very happy about it, but there’s a lot more work to be done,” Redmond adds.

In March 2016, GAIN’s Nuclear Energy Small Business Voucher pilot program awarded a total of $2 million to eight of 29 applicants, based on the projects’ technical quality, potential for commercialization and level of innovation. Individual awards ranged from $50,000 to $300,000, depending on the complexity of the task requested. Voucher recipients were required to provide a 20 percent share of the costs. The financial awards allow research work to be performed on recipients’ behalf by staff at designated DOE laboratory facilities, to be completed within 12 months (see table).


Of the eight awardees, three are developers of advanced nuclear reactor technologies—Terrestrial Energy USA Ltd., Transatomic Power Corp. and Oklo Inc.

Staff at Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) procured, prepared and characterized fluoride salt compositions for Terrestrial Energy USA’s molten salt reactor design. Efforts to determine the heat capacity of these salt compositions will continue in 2017, after which ANL will verify the solubility of selected fission products in the fuel salt.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in February issued a technical memorandum verifying aspects of the reactor core and fuel cycle performance of Transatomic Power’s molten salt reactor. Further work is planned for the near future.

“This is just the first step in what we hope will be a long, productive engagement with the national lab system,” Transatomic Cofounder and CEO Leslie Dewan noted last month.

Oklo Inc. is a Silicon Valley-based startup developing a 2-megawatt “micro-reactor.” Through the GAIN voucher program, researchers at ANL and the Idaho National Laboratory assisted Oklo in compiling and assessing information about legacy metallic fuel data and commercial fuel fabrication, which also is of interest to the larger reactor development community. Both labs participated in a pre-application meeting between Oklo and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff, and INL will fabricate prototypic fuel elements to test potential manufacturing methods.

The other voucher awardees are involved with other laboratory staff in advanced fuel fabrication and testing and various other nuclear innovations.

“Overall, the voucher pilot program has run smoothly through its first quarter and voucher recipients are satisfied with progress thus far,” Baranwal added.

GAIN and DOE applied lessons from the 2016 voucher program to the 2017 award cycle, which opened March 13 and closes April 10.

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RT @JanEbenholtz: #Supermiljoblogg