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10/3/2011: Full-ride scholarships available for students in college at the sophomore level and above. Completed college freshmen (sophomores to be) as well as juniors and seniors should fill out this form: HT3R Sophomore Plus Scholarship Application.

9/15/2010: Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and UTPB form a cooperative agreement for Green Freedom research and development.

An Umbrella of Energy Projects

a.  The HT3R Program Office
 
The HT3R program office was started in 2005 to focus on developing nuclear energy projects and programs that would 1) serve to educate and train uniquely qualified engineers, and also 2) improve the financial growth and stability for our region’s future. We are located in an energy production region called the “Permian Basin” that is still one of the largest oil and gas producing fields in the world. In addition, the nuclear industry is well represented by the presence of 1) a nearby low-level nuclear waste disposal site (operated by Waste Control Specialists) in Andrews County, Texas and 2) a nuclear fuel enrichment facility (operated by URENCO) adjacent to Waste Control, but actually in the Texas-New Mexico border.  With the increased activity of oil and gas production in the Permian Basin, this mission has broadened to include the full spectrum of energy projects.
  
The acronym HT3R comes from the HTTTR (­High Temperature Teaching and Test Reactor) project that was the first project in this office (in the parlance of mathematics, the HTTTR translates to HT3R). The HT3R would be a “High-Temperature Gas Reactor” (HTGR) whose design is classified as “inherently safe” by the international nuclear community. General Atomics, which designed, constructed and operated the first such reactor in the United States, was our primary partner in this Pre Conceptual Design (PCD) project along with significant contributions from O’Donnell Engineers. In addition to the funds from the local Economic Development Corporations, we also received a significant Congressional “earmark” with the assistance of US Senator Hutchison from Texas. 
 
The HT3R program office has historically been funded by the sales-tax supported regional Economic Development Corporations (EDC’s), and industry. We have helped University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) obtain accredited 1) Mechanical Engineering and 2) Mechanical Engineering (Nuclear Emphasis) degree programs and have recently started a Petroleum Engineering Degree Program that will be soon accredited. Scholarships are provided to our engineering students by Industry, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and Department of Energy (DOE). In addition, the NRC funds a “Coordinator” in this office to provide academic guidance and assistance to our engineering and science students plus arrange and coordinate industry field trips.
 
A Cooperative Research And Development Agreement (CRADA) was developed with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to provide technical support and assistance in getting the Department of Energy to supply the fuel for the HT3R. The Director of this HT3R Office manages this CRADA with LANL for the University of Texas System (the parent organization of this campus). This is important because it would reduce the liability in the handling and disposal of this new fuel type, plus offset some operating costs since this is where all the “fuel” would be developed and certified for the DOE’s Next Generation (GEN-IV) reactors. However, with the election of President Obama, DOE ceased all talks with regard to support of the HT3R and we decided to shelve the HT3R project until a more favorable political environment comes back to Washington, DC.
 
The activities of this Program Office include not only training and educating scientists and engineers, but also managing planning, financing and pre-construction activities of major facilities that would have a significant economic impact of this region (the Permian Basin). Once projects are deemed to be potentially economically viable, we organize and start the commercialization process including 1) the Pre-Conceptual Design, 2) siting the facilities, plus 3) Project Financing for Engineering, Design and Construction of facilities. In order to accomplish our mission, we team with industry, US National Laboratories in the the Federal Government, and other Universities as required.
 
b.  The HT3R – High-Temperature Teaching and Test Reactor
 
The HT3R was originally meant to be an international test and research facility for the next generation of “inherently safe” Gen-IV (HTGR) reactors. The term “inherent safety” means that if the reactor starts to overheat to the point that the integrity of the fuel may become in doubt, it automatically shuts itself down without human intervention – hence the term “inherently safe” is used to describe the technology! The Pre-Conceptual Design of this 25 MWth (Megawatt thermal) research and test facility was completed in October of 2007 with the assistance of General Atomics. Similar, but smaller, facilities are presently operating China, and Japan. When completed, this facility could lead the US and world in developing a commercial-sized HTGR reactors by being able to fully test the fuel design, fuel manufacturing process, and facility operation.
 
As was stated above, with the election of President Obama, all nuclear power projects were put on a “slow track,” and the DOE stopped discussions with us regarding their support of supplying the fuel to the HT3R.
 
c.  “Green Freedom” Technology
 
After we completed the PCD for the HT3R, we involved Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to assist our efforts to fund the facility as an international center for the study of HTGR technology. As part of this effort, LANL suggested we look at their Green Freedom© technology to see if it could be integrated into the Permian Basin.
 
The Green Freedom technology uses a conventional “commercial” nuclear reactor to economically power the extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere which can then be used to manufacture hydrocarbons. We tested the “capture-release” process on our campus and found that it met the initial projections of the LANL scientists and that it could be made to extract “a few” billion cubic feet of CO2 per day to make aliphatic hydrocarbons.
 
The problem with the model is one of simple economics: a $5-7 billion nuclear reactor has to be the first item of the plant to be constructed!
 
This led us to search for a new solution that did NOT include the large capital cost of the nuclear reactor because these economics ($5+ billion up-front cost) made the GTL portion of the plant too high a mountain to climb in order to reach profitability. We are now working on other GTL solutions without the nuclear reactor.
 
d.  Student Activities
 
Student Field trips to energy facilities are planned for every year. The sites visited have included:
  a.  Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant
  b.  Los Alamos National Laboratory
  c.  Sandia National Laboratory
  d.  WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) for low-level nuclear weapon waste
  e. CEMRC (Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring Center to measure environmental effects of WIPP
  f.  Waste Control Specialists (Low Level Waste Disposal)
  g. National Enrichment Facility to enrich Uranium for reactor fuel
  h. CO2 reprocessing Facility (from tertiary produced oil and gas production streams)
 
Academic Scholarships are available for students in college at the sophomore level and above. Completed college freshmen (sophomores to be) as well as juniors and seniors should apply at the HT3R Office.

We would like to welcome you to our HT3R website and to the new and exciting world of advanced nuclear energy technology. We hope you will navigate around this website to learn more about this important project.

Organization of this Web Site

  1. Home - This page is the introduction to the HT3R website.
  2. Description - This Section will provide a general description of the Facility.
  3. Project Team - This Section will provide information about the Regional Team that has been organized to support and drive this Project. This Section will also include information about Public Forums and Meetings organized, or held, by the Project Team Members.
  4. Why Now! - This Section outlines why this HT3R Energy Research Facility is needed now.
  5. Technologies - The purpose of this Section is to educate the general public about radiation.
  6. Funding - This Section will indicate how donations can be given to help the project. Every contribution counts and this Project will be funded by individuals, civic organizations, industry, the State of Texas, and the federal government.
  7. Contact - This is where you can find how to ask us questions and send us checks.