Bechtel tapped to work with GE Hitachi on DOE’s Virtual Test Reactor

Published on November 20, 2018 by Dave Kovaleski

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Bechtel has been selected to work with GE Hitachi to develop the U.S. Department of Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor (VTR), a program critically important to the future of advanced nuclear power reactors in the U.S.

The Versatile Test Reactor would conduct irradiation testing for fuels, materials, and equipment to be used in advanced reactors brought forward by U.S. companies, as well as public and private research institutions.

“Advanced reactors hold great promise, but their fuels and materials need the proper testing before they can be licensed and used in energy-producing reactors,” said Peggy McCullough, senior vice president and general manager of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security, and Operations business line. “The U.S. currently has no capability to test these components. That testing capability is what the Versatile Test Reactor will provide. It’s extremely important for the science community, industry, regulators, and the future of nuclear energy research.”

The Bechtel team will design the non-nuclear facilities surrounding the test reactor – a sodium-cooled fast reactor based on GE Hitachi’s PRISM design. Bechtel will also come up with a cost estimate for the entire project and develop a schedule that supports reactor startup by 2026.

“Our VTR project team combines GEH’s strength as a nuclear plant vendor, service provider and nuclear fuel fabricator with Bechtel’s strength in nuclear project management, engineering, procurement and construction. The mature PRISM technology is ideally suited to meet the VTR mission needs,” GE Hitachi President and CEO Jay Wileman said.

Advanced reactors are cooled by substances other than water, such as liquid sodium, molten salts, gas, or molten lead. This makes them safer because they can cool without backup power and produce less radioactive waste. And, like all nuclear power plants, produce no greenhouse gases during operation.

Bechtel has performed work on more than 150 nuclear power units around the world including one currently under construction in Georgia.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is a provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services, while Bechtel is a global engineering, construction, and project management company.