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UTPB and LANS (Los Alamos National Security LLC, manages the LANL for the Department of Energy and was formed by the University of California, Bechtel, BWX Technologies, and Washington Group International) are collaborating via a Cooperative Research And Development Agreement (CRADA) to accomplish the following: 

  • Develop and implement technologies that have direct relevance to establish UTPB as a recognized center of Energy Engineering and Science,
  • Facilitate regional economic energy development for the Permian Basin,
  • Provide LANL a nuclear engineer and science human resource pipeline,
  • Facilitate advancement of National Energy Security technologies and processes, and
  • Establish a GEN-IV (UTS, UTPB, LANS) Technology Research and Development center for diverse energy developments.

UTPB maintains a unique commitment to establish a College of Energy Engineering and Science that will be instrumental in the successful deployment of LANS' research and development. UTPB is located in Andrews County, an area that is the country's largest onshore oil and gas production center - the Permian Basin. The local communities are behind the project. There is already a low-level nuclear waste facility in the area, and a uranium enrichment plant under development that is literally a few feet away, but across the state line into New Mexico. The local communities, listed as part of this CRADA, have each already donated significant funding to the HT3R project. LANS' expertise in reactor design, analysis, safety and licensing is vital to the project. The UTS has the vision and commitment to establish UTPB as an epicenter in Energy Engineering and Science. LANS provides the internationally recognized engineering technical capability, as a scientific laboratory, to provide the reactor design, analysis, safety, operating and licensing capabilities. The product of this collaboration will be the operational deployment of co-developed technologies that are based on the strengths of both UTPB and LANS. Elements include:

  • Simulation Research Facilities,
  • Design & Licensing Frameworks for Gen-IV Reactor Technologies,
  • Academic Programs, and
  • Economic Development

Future prospects

The heart of the project and CRADA relationship revolves around the interest and need to establish GEN-IV high temperature nuclear reactor technologies, through the development of the HT3R - High Temperature, Test & Teaching Reactor. Deployment of the HT3R reactor itself, at UTPB, is not ultimately critical to the success of the operation. Rather, development of deployable GEN-IV technologies and a transferable design/licensing framework is key. No future advance reactors are seen as being deployable in the current design/test/license environment, in great part due to a lack of experience with advanced systems, and the US regulatory requirements associated with reactor licenses. That said, high-temperature GEN-IV reactors are likely key to the future synthetic fuel production opportunities and processes for the US.

The US GEN-IV Initiative Forum (GIF) and Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) programs face formidable obstacles and challenges. The HT3R program is a unique, commercial-sector opportunity to effect a real positive change in the likelihood, timing and surety of deployed GEN-IV high-temperature reactors.

Development Opportunities/Recommendations: Form a design/evaluate support service capability in FY 2009 that could be rapidly mobilized in FY 2010 to facilitate design certification of GEN-IV gas reactors.

  1. Complete CRADA with UTS/UTPB/PB Entities
  2. Leverage Permian Basin Entities $1.5M investment, along with annual AFOSR $1M - foster an expanding collaboration through LANS investment. This collaboration could include DOE or AREVA, PBMR (South Africa) Pebble Bed reactor alliances. Encourage significant UTS and LANS investment.
  3. As the NGNP program evolves, incorporate the benefits and progress of the HT3R campaign; establish the HT3R as the reference application to further the technology readiness of attendant high-temperature technologies.
  4. Develop a state-of-the-art, modern, comprehensive (fully QAed, electronic) licensure framework. This will incorporate design procedures, analysis guides, licensing topical reports, etc. The objective here is to change the game - establish LANS/UTPB as a national advanced reactor implementation institute.