Microreactor Project Mission Statement
This is the complete overview of our goals, motivations, and strategies for the implementation of a nuclear microreactor on the Illinois campus. For more details on different aspects of the project, navigate our other tabs through the main page or visit our partner's website.
Our Broader Mission
At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, we are working to bring the next generation of nuclear research reactors to our campus. The project’s overall goal is to advance the commercial readiness of advanced reactor technology through education, research, and at-scale demonstrations via the deployment of a micro nuclear reactor. This project will leverage and amplify the profound expertise in our community while addressing the urgent need for carbon-free energy technologies. With this reactor, we are striving to push the boundaries of nuclear engineering, support the education of future engineers and scientists, and underpin the University’s broader leadership in the nation’s sustainable energy future.
Nuclear research reactors have an extensive history of safe and efficient operation on university campuses across the nation. In Illinois, this began with the first human-made fission chain reaction at the University of Chicago and includes the UIUC TRIGA Mark II reactor, which operated for over 38 years on our campus. Today, 24 U.S. universities provide critical research in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, and energy engineering with these reactors. However, while enthusiasm for these carbon-free energy sources and powerful research devices is growing, a new university research reactor has not been built in nearly 30 years.
Core Mission One: Education
The reactor deployment is designed to address the acute emerging shortcomings in the nuclear workforce and public perception. Licensing and operating advanced nuclear reactors will require training facilities representative of those technologies. However, the closure of many of the nation’s university research reactors has left a widening gap in student access to hands-on reactor experience. Engineers with this experience are better equipped to become trained reactor operators and regulatory officials with a background in the management and licensing of advanced nuclear facilities. Furthermore, research reactors on campuses have historically been a powerful driver of public engagement. Their low risk profile and variable operational posture make them accessible to the public, valuable to the communities in which they are embedded, and underpinned by trusted university researchers. A university microreactor can further enhance public confidence and trust in nuclear power, educating broad stakeholders in the innovations of next generation reactor technology.
Core Mission Two: Research
Microreactors represent a paradigm shift in nearly all aspects of nuclear power deployment and operation, and this facility will be a research testbed to further their viability. Direct research with the microreactor will include instrumentation and monitoring systems, operations and control methodologies, validation of reactor analysis codes, optimization of system components and performance, system integration with existing power generation infrastructure, system coupling with energy intensive processes such as hydrogen production, and many other research and development areas currently being considered in the project planning.
Cross-Cutting Mission: At-Scale Demonstration
This cross-cutting mission is focused on the research and education enabled through at-scale demonstration of emerging microreactor markets. Large U.S. university campuses are a microcosm of the national landscape for energy needs and source diversification. The commercial viability and applicability can be demonstrated through interfacing with existing university-owned power generation and distribution infrastructure. University demonstration can provide an example of microreactor performance for broadly anticipated microreactor markets. These include high-performance computing and data storage, steam production for local heating, hydrogen generation for energy storage and decarbonization of transportation, resilient backup of critical infrastructure, traditional coal power replacements, and remote microgrids. The research and education performed in this cross-cutting mission is designed to accelerate the viability of advanced reactor technology to these non-traditional nuclear markets.
Licensing White Paper - Mission Statement
In June 2022, the University of Illinois publicly released the below document. The 104(c) Licensing Pathway White Paper for the proposed UIUC research reactor (USNRC Project No. 99902094) discusses all aspects of our mission and goals for the project in greater detail than presented here. To view this information, find Chapter 3 (pg. 10) in the PDF below.