Negotiations start with industry team to support design and build of Versatile Test Reactor
IDAHO FALLS – Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) has initiated contract negotiations with a team led by Bechtel National Inc. to support the design and build phase of the Versatile Test Reactor, a one-of-a-kind facility that would support research and development of innovative, clean nuclear energy technologies. The BNI team also includes TerraPower and GE Hitachi.
The announcement comes after BEA, the contractor that operates Idaho National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, and members of the VTR technical team reviewed submissions by industry teams in response to a Request for Proposal issued earlier this year. After careful review of multiple high-quality proposals, BEA selected the BNI-led team to start contract negotiations. INL manages the VTR project on behalf of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.
“We received excellent proposals from industry, which is indicative of the support to build a fast-spectrum neutron testing facility in the United States,” said Mark Peters, Idaho National Laboratory director. “We are excited about the potential for working with the BNI-led team. They will bring a lot of design and construction expertise to the VTR project. This is essential since it has been several years since we built a test reactor in the United States.”
DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program in 2018 in response to several reports outlining the need for a fast spectrum test reactor and requests from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors. Currently, there are very few capabilities available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none in the United States. In 2018, Congress passed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA, which highlighted the need for a reactor-based fast neutron source and authorized DOE to proceed.
Since then, a team of experts from INL and five additional national laboratories (Argonne National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Savannah River National Laboratory), 19 universities, and nine industry partners have been developing a conceptual design, cost estimate and schedule for VTR.
“We are looking forward to successful negotiations with the BNI team and want to make sure the project is ready to go in Fiscal Year 2021,” said Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, executive director of the VTR project.
Dr. Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, said it is important for the VTR project to move forward.
“The VTR team led by INL has established a solid foundation upon which the design phase can begin,” Baranwal said. “We have repeatedly heard from industry and other stakeholders that the United States needs a fast neutron scientific user facility to maintain our global leadership in nuclear energy. The selection of the BNI team with its TerraPower and GE Hitachi partners, puts us firmly on the path toward building this important infrastructure capability.”
The INL-led team is also supporting the development of an Environmental Impact Statement that will be used to assist the Department in making the final decision on the design, technology selection and location for VTR. The final decision is expected in late 2021.
INL is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory that performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.