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Cost Reduction Technology for Neutron Absorbers in Microreactor Applications

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0022822
Agency Tracking Number: 0000276501
Amount: $1,149,841.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: C54-36n
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2023
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-08-21
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2025-08-20
Small Business Information
631 Barbrow Lane
Knoxville, TN 37932
United States
DUNS: 964860451
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Drew Spradling
 (865) 966-2170
Business Contact
 Drew Spradling
Phone: (865) 966-2170
Research Institution

Microreactor technology has the potential to supply off-grid power to a diverse base of applications including data centers, mines, remote communities, electric vehicle charging stations, and industrial plants, among many others. While several companies have made considerable progress in the technology that can make these reactor systems feasible from a technical standpoint, there is still an economic hurdle to overcome to compete with other remote off-grid power technologies such as solar, fossil energy (natural gas/diesel), wind, micro-hydro, and fuel cells. While component costs for nuclear power plants at grid-scale can seem relatively low, at the microscale some of these components play an outsized role in either the capital or operational cost of the reactor system. One specific example is the neutron absorber and shielding components that are critical to the design and operation of most fission power plants. Currently however, there is limited domestic manufacturing capability for these critical raw materials and the current high component price is limiting the economic competitiveness of microreactor technologies. MillenniTEK is proposing to demonstrate a unique fabrication technology to produce neutron absorbing and shielding components that can support lower installed capital and operating costs that have an outsized effect on the economics of microreactors. A significant constraint is the fact that both the traditional raw materials and forming processes are prohibitively expensive and limit the economic competitiveness of microreactors. In the Phase I project, we were able to successfully synthesize the raw material in a continuous process, and consolidate it into a representative microreactor component geometry. The Phase II project will scale the process and involve significant collaboration with leading microreactor development companies to perform case studies using the lower cost components. A goal by the end of Phase II is to demonstrate the feasibility of reducing the manufacturing costs by >25% over what is currently available for these components and to have delivered multiple prototype components to our commercial microreactor customers. In addition to microreactor applications, there are other significant potential areas where this innovation could be commercialized, including small modular reactors, advanced reactors for Gen IV nuclear plants, fusion power, nuclear thermal propulsion, and fission power reactors for lunar and Mars surface use.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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