Nuclear power has reliably and economically contributed almost 20% of electrical generation in the United States over the past two decades. It remains the single largest contributor (more than 70%) of non-greenhouse-gas-emitting electric power generation in the United States.
Small modular reactors can also be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times. The smaller size also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.
The existing U.S. nuclear fleet has a remarkable safety and performance record. Extending the operating lifetimes of current plants beyond 60 years and, where possible, making further improvements in their productivity will generate early benefits from research, development, and demonstration investments in nuclear power.
As a result of ARC research, nuclear energy will continue to provide clean, affordable, and secure energy while supporting the administration’s greenhouse gas reduction goals by introducing advanced designs into new energy and industrial markets. DOE will pursue RD&D on both advanced thermal and fast neutron spectrum systems.
In February 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy announced its plans to build a Versatile Test Reactor, or VTR. This new research reactor will be capable of performing irradiation testing at much higher neutron energy fluxes than what is currently available today.
For over 50 years the Department of Energy and its predecessor agencies have been deeply involved in space research and exploration. Currently, the Office of Space and Defense Power Systems supplies Radioisotope Power Systems (RPS) to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and national security applications for missions that are beyond the capabilities of fuel cells, solar power and battery power supplies.