The Crosscutting Technology Development (CTD) program awards funding to U.S. industry, U.S. universities, and national laboratories to develop innovative solutions to crosscutting nuclear energy technology challenges. CTD provides the innovative technologies needed to maintain the current fleet of nuclear reactors and to support the development of advanced reactors. CTD is coordinated with NE’s other R&D programs to ensure that developed technologies and capabilities are part of an integrated investment strategy aimed at improving safety, reliability, and economics of U.S. nuclear technologies. Current areas of R&D emphasis include Advanced Sensors and Instrumentation, Advanced Methods for Manufacturing, Integrated Energy Systems and Nuclear Energy Cybersecurity.
The Advanced Sensors and Instrumentation (ASI) program conducts research to develop and deploy innovative and advanced sensors and instrumentation technologies that address critical technology gaps for monitoring and controlling advanced reactors and fuel cycle facilities.
- Support DOE-NE R&D programmatic needs and the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) Initiative
- Provide new capabilities for measurement and control
- Address R&D needs for successful deployment
Role: Coordinate crosscutting I&C research among NE programs to avoid duplication and leverage resources
The NEET ASI program has identified four strategic I&C areas of research that represent key capabilities for nuclear energy systems, fuel cycle facilities, and that are needed to support materials test reactor irradiation-based research. These strategic areas are:
- Advanced Sensors. To develop and qualify new sensor capabilities and methods to detect and monitor behavior of reactor and fuel cycle systems and of desired parameters in integral tests to achieve needed accuracy and minimize measurement uncertainty.
- Digital Monitoring and Control. To enhance monitoring of process variables and implementation of control actions that increase system reliability, availability, and resilience.
- Nuclear Plant Communication. To research and develop communications technologies needed to support greater data generation and transmission demands expected to accompany advancements in digital sensor, measurement, and control technologies while maintaining reliability, resiliency, and data security.
- Advanced Concepts of Operation. To develop and test advanced concepts of operation for future nuclear energy systems designed to achieve highly automated control, where new human and system interaction is defined.
ASI project information, including award summaries and ASI newsletters, can be found in the ASI Documents.
Advanced Methods for Manufacturing (AMM) conducts R&D to accelerate innovations that reduce the cost and schedule of constructing new nuclear plants, and to make fabrication of nuclear power plant components faster, cheaper, and more reliable. Based on past industry work and new stakeholder input, this effort will focus on opportunities that provide simplified, standardized, and labor-saving outcomes for manufacturing, fabrication, assembly, and construction processes (both technologies and methods) and that show the most promise in shortening timelines and lowering overall deployment costs.
By evaluating state-of-the-art practices found in other large manufacturing industries, the nuclear community has identified six major areas of innovation that AMM is currently helping to advance. These areas of innovation are:
- Welding and Joining Technologies. New technologies focused on high-speed, high-quality and code-acceptable welds are needed in both factory and field fabrications. Electron beam and laser welding are examples of technologies needed to join heavy section components to improve their efficiency. Online, non-destructive testing that can provide real-time, or near real-time, feedback on the quality of the weld would improve the productivity in both the shop and the field.
- Additive Manufacturing. This process, compared to subtractive manufacturing, utilizes lasers, electron beams, friction stir welding or conventional technologies to fuse thin layers of solid or powdered material in a precise two-dimensional pattern to create a near-net shape component provided by computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) information. Additively manufactured components could provide necessary cost and schedule savings over conventionally manufactured components.
- Modular Fabrication. This concept will move new nuclear reactor builds away from “piece built” fabrication and construction techniques and allow them to be built economically. The modules must be factory-built, transportable, capable of precise placement, engineered to their function in their environment, and easily mated to form a single entity.
- Concrete Materials and Rebar Innovations. High-strength, high-performance concrete and rebar will both improve the quality and reduce the construction time required for new nuclear power plants. Advancements that enable integrated prefabrication of reinforced steelform assemblies will also help to move new builds away from the conventional "stick builds."
- Data Configuration Management. Complex civil and mechanical designs, and the systems they make up, need to maintain their design configuration for the duration of construction and the operational life of the facility. Digital gathering of data and multidimensional data capture are tools that can help maintain that design and assist in design control when modifications are necessary.
- Surface Modification and Cladding Processes. Cladding and surface modification techniques in current nuclear components are typically applied through some form of welding, a process that melts one material into another. This causes unique alloys at the interface. These material differences are the cause of many surface and sub-surface flaws. Avoiding melting by using solid state, cold spray or other bonding processes can eliminate the welded clad problems.
AMM Project information, including Award Summaries and AMM Newsletters, can be found in the AMM Documents.
The primary goal of the Integrated Energy Systems (IES) R&D is to expand the role of nuclear energy beyond just supplying electricity to the grid to include various industrial, transportation, and energy storage applications. Integration of energy systems that include multiple energy inputs (nuclear, renewable, and fossil), energy users (grid energy consumers, industrial heat or electricity users, and transportation fuel users), and mass energy storage would allow the electric grid to continue to rely on clean nuclear baseload electricity, while offering economic benefits to nuclear energy operators providing needed grid flexibility. These integrated systems would also expand the availability of clean, affordable nuclear energy to applications currently relying on other energy sources. As more advanced reactor technologies come into the marketplace (e.g., high-temperature reactors), even more opportunities will arise for integrating these innovative energy systems into existing or newly designed industrial infrastructure.
The IES R&D effort provides modeling, simulation and experimental capabilities to help form the economic and technical basis for selecting early-stage concepts for further development. The IES activities are coordinated with DOE’s Office Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, with the support of Idaho National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Focused research and development of technology options through complementary research programs, will enable a more efficient, environmentally sustainable energy sector in the future.
NE launched its Nuclear Energy Cybersecurity (NEC) R&D in 2015, with the goal of producing cost-effective solutions for cyber threats to the nuclear industry. This R&D focus area emphasizes only the unique aspects of nuclear power plant digital controls, leveraging and adapting R&D from other applications and developing completely new solutions where needed to meet the technical and regulatory needs of current and future nuclear power plants. NEC’s effort currently includes four major research pathways – Cybersecurity Risk Management, Secure Digital Architectures, Modeling and Simulation, and Supply Chain Cybersecurity – that individually and collectively improve the protections against and reduce the impacts from potential cyber-attacks. The program is supported by the Sandia and Idaho National Laboratories.