CAES Opens New Reactor Simulator Lab

The Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) announced the opening of its newest laboratory, the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Simulator Laboratory, featuring NuScale Power’s Energy Exploration (E2) Center, at its Idaho Falls headquarters.

CAES Simulator LabThe new lab features a virtual nuclear power plant control room that allows users to assume the role of operator to learn about NuScale’s SMR technology.

For CAES, the new lab enhances the ability to inspire, train and educate the future energy workforce, the research center said. It also expands opportunities for collaborative research between CAES and NuScale.

NuScale’s SMR is the first to receive design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The first module is expected to be fully commercially operational by the end of the decade. Tentative plans call for the first NuScale power plant to be constructed on Idaho National Laboratory’s 890-square-mile desert Site west of Idaho Falls, as part of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems Carbon Free Power Project.

CAES’s new laboratory is the result of a $286,000 award CAES-affiliated University of Idaho professor Richard Christensen obtained in 2019 through the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program. Christensen is the principal investigator of the project, which involves University of Idaho professors Robert Borrelli, Michael Haney, and Michael McKellar, and NuScale’s Derrick Botha. It is the second such simulator to be installed in the U.S. The first went online at Oregon State University in 2019. A third will be installed at Texas A&M University.

In addition to providing hands-on opportunities to apply nuclear science and engineering principles through simulated, real-world nuclear power plant scenarios, the new lab provides a platform for communicating the importance of carbon-free nuclear power for attaining a safe, clean, and secure energy future for the U.S. and the world.

The lab will enhance CAES’ community outreach efforts through demonstrations, tours, and education to community leaders, K-12 students, and interested citizens. The new lab also will help the CAES entities (Idaho National Laboratory and Idaho’s public research universities) research and demonstrate safe, secure, and resilient microgrid systems.

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