The U.S. Department of Energy has selected the Idaho National Laboratory to play a key role in a new initiative intended to lead to the building of new or advanced nuclear reactor designs that can be brought to the commercial market.
Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy John Kotek made the announcement Nov. 6 at the White House Summit on Nuclear Energy.
Kotek said the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear, called GAIN, will offer innovators and entrepreneurs in private industry and public institutions through the Idaho National Laboratory a single point of access to federal experts and facilities.
Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters took part in the announcement and said the program creates what he calls an ecosystem that national labs are excited to support.
“I’m encouraged by the fact that there are so many different concepts and classes of reactors being pursued,” Peters said.
Also on Nov. 6, the Department of Energy said its Loan Programs Office will clarify eligible costs in its Advance Nuclear Energy Projects loan program. The program makes up to $12.5 billion in loan guarantees for projects such as the building of small modular reactors or upgrades to existing facilities.
Officials said Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear is needed because facilities needed to conduct nuclear research are expensive to build and maintain, making them beyond the financial ability of many innovators.
Also, officials said, companies hoping to access government facilities can face a federal labyrinth that’s difficult to navigate. The Idaho National Laboratory could help solve that problem.
“Labs are open for business,” said Peters, who took over as the Idaho National Laboratory director last month. “This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for for a couple of decades.”
The announcements concerning nuclear energy are part of the Obama administration’s goal of reducing carbon emissions.
“Nuclear power is central to President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and will advance our efforts to reduce carbon emissions,” Energy Department Deputy Secretary Liz Sherwood-Randall said in a statement. “We want to ramp up investment in innovative technologies to ensure that future generations have access to reliable, low-carbon electricity.”