General Atomics: U.S. Must Put Higher Emphasis On "Leapfrog Technologies" In Advanced Reactor Research

Advanced Reactor Concepts Must Solve All Four Core Objectives: Cost, Safety, Proliferation, and Waste

WASHINGTON – 17 May 2016 – In written testimony submitted to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for their hearing examining "The Status Of Advanced Nuclear Technologies," Dr. Christina Back, Vice President, Nuclear Technologies and Materials for General Atomics and lead physicist responsible for the Energy Multiplier Module (EM2), an advanced reactor concept, highlighted the concern that focusing primarily on minor improvements to existing nuclear reactor technologies is unlikely to lead to the kind of reactors that could economically provide the baseload electricity needed to fuel America's growth. 

"It is extremely important that the U.S. resist the temptation to rely almost solely on improving existing technologies that may be at hand and, instead, take the time to develop new leapfrog technologies that may make nuclear energy truly desirable," Dr. Back wrote.
The time to start is now, and the Congress should fund long lead research and development at universities, industry and the National Labs.

"To provide [electricity] in today's world, an 'advanced reactor' must improve over existing reactors in the following 4-core objectives. It must produce significantly less costly, cost-competitive clean electricity, be safer, produce significantly less waste and reduce proliferation risk," continued Back. "It is not sufficient to excel at one without regard to the others."

EM2 is an advanced reactor concept designed to meet the needs of the 21st Century U.S. electrical grid. EM2 is a passively safe, helium-cooled, convert-and-burn reactor with a net power of 265 MWe. It embodies significant advances in plant safety, operability, economics, resource utilization and security. EM2 capabilities are the result of bold innovations in reactor physics, core materials, safety system design, and power conversion technology.

"For a radical improvement in safety, EM2 uses engineered ceramic materials that are capable of working in higher radiation and higher temperature environments. The fuel is contained in materials that can survive accident temperatures over two times higher and would not be subject to failure like those in Fukushima," Back wrote. 

EM2 is one way to address all four core objectives. "There may be many other interesting ideas, and many – if not most – will involve designing new materials for nuclear applications," concluded Dr. Back.

Dr. Back's complete written testimony is available here. For more information on General Atomics' EM2 project or to speak with Dr. Christina Back please contact Julie Harris at (858) 455-2635.

About General Atomics:

San Diego-based General Atomics and its affiliated companies constitute one of the world's leading resources for high-technology systems addressing a wide range of challenges, ranging from the nuclear fuel cycle to electromagnetic systems, remotely operated surveillance aircraft, airborne sensors, and advanced electronic, wireless and laser technologies.

For more information contact:

Julie Harris
(858) 455-2635

Go Back