The US Department of Energy said Wednesday it has selected a design for a multibillion-dollar test nuclear reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory that could help develop fuel for advanced nuclear reactors.
The Multifunctional test reactor, or VTR, was proposed in 2018 and, if funded by Congress, would be the first rapid nuclear test reactor to operate in the United States in nearly three decades and enable American companies to conduct advanced technology and fuel testing.
The Energy Department plans to use the GE Hitachi Nuclear Power Generation Reactor Innovation Small Module as the design basis for the VTR, and says the VTR program will help modernize the U.S. nuclear research and development infrastructure and significantly accelerate technology development for current and next-generation reactors.
The VTR could cost $3.9 billion to $6 billion, 40 percent more than estimated earlier that year, and with today's inflation and supply chain and labor constraints, the current cost could be even higher.
The Energy Department requested $45 million in its fiscal year 2023 budget for the VTR, which could use uranium, plutonium and zirconium as fuel.
The government sees nuclear power as crucial to meeting climate targets to decarbonise the electricity grid by 2035 and the wider economy by 2050.