DOE restores to operation nuclear transient test reactor offline for more than two decades

Published on November 17, 2017 by Chris Galford

© Shutterstock

The Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility, which tests nuclear reactor fuels and materials, has been restored to operation by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) for the first time since its closure in 1994.

It was restored to operation after passing inspection and refurbishment that has stretched for several years. With the reopening, the INL hopes to restore some semblance of U.S. nuclear energy transient testing capability, allowing scientists to study the potential of future nuclear reactors. At its height, its tests could produce bursts of energy five times more powerful than those of a commercial power plant.

“The Department of Energy’s decision to restore transient testing capability at INL is part of our efforts to revitalize the nation’s nuclear energy capacity,” Ed McGinnis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, said. “By investing in innovative fuel cycle infrastructure, we can advance nuclear as a key source of clean, resilient power and maintain U.S. leadership in developing advanced nuclear technologies.”

In all, the restoration project cost $20 million less than the DOE had expected, and has brought the facility back into operation 12 months ahead of schedule. Several months of preparation remain, however, before the facility begins one of the first new transient experiments, as conducted by the INL.