Idaho National Laboratory is teaming up with five universities to form the Institute for Nuclear Technology (I-NEST), which lab officials said exists to help define the lab’s long-term nuclear energy research and development strategy. The universities involved are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Oregon State University, The Ohio State University and the University of New Mexico.
“The goal is to bring strength of the universities and the strength of the lab and focus them on the long-range needs in nuclear research and development,” said Dave Hill, Idaho National Laboratory deputy lab director, said in a release. “The strengths of the universities and the lab really complement each other. The universities really concentrate on basic research and the lab’s strength is applied research.”
The five universities are part of the Battelle Energy Alliance management team that runs Idaho National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy. As part of that team, the schools have worked with the lab to help determine where it should focus its nuclear energy research. They will take on a greater role through the institute, laboratory officials said.
Marsha Lambregts, Idaho National Laboratory relationship manager for university partnerships and deputy director of I-NEST, said in an interview that I-NEST aims to get the universities more directly involved with defining the future research interests of Idaho National Laboratory. Previously, the universities would help review existing Laboratory programs, and would provide workshops and outreach opportunities.
“What we’re trying to do now is get them to participate more fully in looking at the future of the Lab,” she said. The universities will look at research direction over a longer period, such as five to 10 years, rather than the one- to two-year planning period associated with many current projects.
One of the first objectives of I-NEST – which is funded with existing, pre-approved money – is to identify gaps in various aspects of nuclear energy research and suggest how Idaho National Laboratory can strengthen its programs to address those needs.
The institute comprises four Centers of Research and Education that focus on nuclear energy areas: fuels and materials, space nuclear research, fuel cycle, and safety and licensing. Each Center of Research and Education will be led by two researchers – one each from Idaho National Laboratory and one of the partner universities.
I-NEST will be based at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho Falls.
Idaho National Laboratory, in eastern Idaho, is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s 10 multi-program national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of the strategic goal areas of the Department of Energy: energy, national security, science and environment. Idaho National Laboratory is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development, lab officials said.