A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to share technical expertise and computing resources to accelerate the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies.
Advanced reactor technology (Image: DOE)
"The primary purpose of the MoU is to coordinate DOE and NRC technical readiness and sharing of technical expertise and knowledge on advanced nuclear reactor technologies and nuclear energy innovation, including through the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC)," the MoU states.
The NRIC was established under the provisions of the 2017 Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which directs DOE to facilitate the siting of advanced reactor research demonstration facilities through partnerships between the department and private industry.
Located at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the NRIC develops the DOE's Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear initiative which connects industry with the US national laboratories to accelerate the development and commercialisation of advanced nuclear technologies. NRIC will provide support as developers move to the later stages of commercialisation, coordinating with industry, federal institutions, national laboratories and universities on testing and developing concepts.
The DOE said its MoU with the NRC "couples the research capabilities of DOE's National Laboratories with the regulatory expertise of the NRC to help inform and accelerate the development and licensing of advanced reactors".
Under the agreement, DOE and NRC will share technical information and expertise. In addition, the NRC will have access to capabilities developed through NRIC, including state-of-the-art high-performance computers and modelling codes, to support licensing of advanced nuclear reactors. The NRC will also have access to DOE facilities in order to observe and learn from the research, development and demonstration of innovative nuclear technologies.
The NRC will provide DOE and the nuclear community with information on its regulations, guidance and licensing processes for new or advanced nuclear reactor technologies. DOE will assist prospective new or advanced reactor applicants in understanding and navigating the regulatory process.
"The United States has the technology, expertise and facilities to lead the world in developing next-generation reactors," said Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the DOE. "This partnership between DOE and the NRC is a crucial step forward in making sure US nuclear technologies are available, both domestically and abroad, as soon as possible to bring clean and reliable energy to everyone around the world."