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Microreactor being tested for use at Idaho National Laboratory

Marc Lutz//September 21, 2023

The first new reactor in four decades to be used at Idaho National Laboratory is currently being tested before being put to use.

A prototype of the electric-powered MARVEL microreactor is undergoing tests by the U.S. Department of Energy, the developer of the 12-foot-tall machine.

The reactor is being built to help advance new reactor technologies, the department said in a statement, and should be operational at INL by 2025.

“The MARVEL project underscores the potential of human innovation to address pressing energy security and climate challenges facing modern society,” said Yasir Arafat, the chief designer and project lead for MARVEL, in a statement.

MARVEL is undergoing a primary coolant apparatus test, known as PCAT, and is being conducted for the first time in New Freedom, Pennsylvania, at the Creative Engineers, Inc. manufacturing facility.

“This PCAT demonstration is an important step in that process and will help validate and benchmark tools we use to accurately predict how the reactor will perform,” Arafat said.

Creative Engineers “installed the PCAT back in May and loaded the system with sodium-potassium and lead-bismuth coolants to demonstrate heat removal from its electrically heated core,” the statement read.

The Department of Energy is collecting new data on the coolant flow and temperature readings to make sure the reactor performs as it should.

MARVEL is expected to generate 85 kilowatts of thermal energy and will operate within INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility, “connected to the lab’s first nuclear microgrid.”

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