Nuclear Research and Test Reactors have a long history of safe operation on campuses across the country, beginning from the first human-made fission chain reaction right here in Illinois at the University of Chicago, and including the UIUC TRIGA reactor that operated for 38 years in the heart of campus. Today, 24 U.S. university campuses provide critical research with nuclear Research and Test Reactors and while student enthusiasm in carbon-free nuclear energy is growing, a new university research reactor has not been built in nearly 30 years.
At UIUC, we are proposing that a new university research, training, and test reactor representing the next generation of nuclear technology could underpin the University of Illinois’ broader leadership in a clean, sustainable energy future. Our vision for the deployment of a new generation of Research and Test Reactor aims to amplify the profound expertise at our campus in research, education, and power production to address the urgent need for carbon-free energy technologies.
The Campus Master Plan and Illinois Climate Action Plan in 2015 identified that Advanced Small Modular Reactors are one potential clean energy solution for campus, but at the time, they were not commercially available. Since then, the technology underpinning very small advanced micro-reactors has matured greatly. The faculty from the Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) believe the installation of a research-focused micro-reactor, similar in size to university research reactors past and present, could support research, training, and technology demonstration while also producing steam for Abbott as an emissions-free alternative to fossil fuels, particularly for our steam production needs.
***UIUC professors Katy Huff and Caleb Brooks and Mark Mitchell of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation spoke to Rod Adams on the Atomic Show podcast about the micro-reactor proposal.
What are Micro-Reactors?
Micro-reactors are small, factory-built advanced nuclear reactors. They have the potential to supply thermal and electric power to remote communities, post-emergency locations, essential medical facilities, critical federal installations, military applications, and space missions.
Ultra Safe Nuclear Micro-Modular Reactor
U.S.-based, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation™ (USNC) has developed a Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR™). This advanced, high-temperature gas reactor incorporates advanced Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM™) fuel. Watch the video or click below to dive deep into the technology.
U.S. NRC Backgrounder on RTRs
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is responsible for regulating all nuclear reactors, including Research & Test Reactors.
The Ultimate Fast Facts Guide to Nuclear Energy
The Department of Energy has prepared a factual guide to nuclear energy, safety, spent fuel, and even advanced microreactors.
ANS Position Statement #53
"The nation’s research and training reactors (RTRs) are vital elements of the U.S. nuclear science and technology education, training, and research infrastructure..."