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ACU NEXT Lab partners with Teledyne Brown to design molten salt research reactor

Abilene Christian University’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing Laboratory has contracted Teledyne Brown Engineering to perform front-end engineering and design work to produce the first university-based molten salt research reactor (MSRR).

“We received interest in working on this first-of-a-kind project from over a dozen top engineering companies,” said Dr. Rusty Towell, director of NEXT Lab and professor in the Department of Engineering and Physics. “This contract is a significant step into the detailed design and construction phase of this project.”

Teledyne is a world-leader in the design and fabrication of nuclear components and systems, having performed fabrication and testing for the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and industrial customers. 

“TBE impressed us with their history of providing unique engineering solutions and their vision for both the development of the MSRR at ACU, as well as future deployments,” said Jordan Robison, director of engineering for NEXT Lab.

The contract is part of a $30.5 million sponsored research agreement with Natura Resources in collaboration with the NEXT Research Alliance – a university consortium including ACU, Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin – to design and build a university-based advanced molten salt research reactor to be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NEXT Lab is scheduled to submit a construction permit application to the NRC later this year.

Research reactors are small reactors used for research and training purposes. Currently, the NRC licenses 31 such reactors. The molten salt research reactor to be built at ACU through NEXT Lab will use ​​salt as the coolant instead of water. 

“Teledyne is interested in actively building a strong, sustainable, collaborative working relationship with ACU in this first-of-a-kind project,” said Scott Hall, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering. “We believe in the potential for commercial realization of the technology presented by ACU and developed through the NEXTRA consortium.”

Construction is underway on the new Science and Engineering Research Center on the south border of the main ACU campus. The 28,000-square-foot center is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2023 and will include dedicated spaces to support construction of the advanced research reactor and other research efforts in chemistry, physics and engineering. 

Learn more about NEXT Lab.

— Wendy Kilmer

July 12, 2022

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