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Bechtel leading team designing, building advanced nuclear reactor R&D project for Idaho lab

Illustration courtesy Wikipedia.

The contractor that operates Idaho National Laboratory has selected Bechtel National (BNI) to help lead design and construction of a research and development facility for advanced nuclear energy technologies.

Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) has initiated contract negotiations with a team led by Bechtel to support development of the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) planned for the Idaho lab. The Bechtel team also includes TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

The Idaho National Laboratory is an ongoing effort by the U.S. Department of Energy to study new energies for the future. The lab has done extensive work on nuclear reactors.

“We received excellent proposals from industry, which is indicative of the support to build a fast-spectrum neutron testing facility in the United States,” Mark Peters, director of the Idaho National Laboratory, said in a statement. “We are excited about the potential for working with the BNI-led team. They will bring a lot of design and construction expertise to the VTR projects.

It’s been several years since a test reactor has been built in the U.S., he added.

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program in 2018 in response to several reports outlining the need for a fast spectrum test reactor and requests from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors. Currently, there are very few capabilities available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none in the United States.

Congress passed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act in 2018. Since then, experts from Idaho and five other national laboratories, 19 universities and nine industrial companies have been developing a conceptual design, cost estimate and schedule for the VTR.

Those national labs include Argonne, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest and Savannah River.