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ACU NEXT Lab research published in Annals of Nuclear Energy

Students and faculty in the Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing Laboratory at Abilene Christian University recently published their first peer-reviewed journal article, “A molten salt test loop for component and instrumentation testing,” in the Annals of Nuclear Energy.


Student working in the NEXT Lab.

Highlights of the article include:

  • Development of a forced-flow system for testing molten salt reactor technologies.
  • A molten salt training system for data acquisition and instrumentation testing.
  • Comparison of nitrate salt performance with high-fidelity modeling.
  • Demonstrated basic salt sampling and analysis method.

The article revolves around the first molten salt system created by the NEXT Lab four years ago. Students from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as well as students from the Department of Engineering and Physics partnered together with professors to create the molten salt system.

“This shows the interdisciplinary work between departments, which is fairly unique in academia,” Rusty Towell (’90), director of the NEXT Lab, said.

ACU’s Molten Salt Research Reactor (MSRR) is the only research reactor currently under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and it is the first and only liquid-fueled reactor ever to be reviewed by the NRC. It is also one of only two advanced nuclear reactor applications currently under review.

In order to further its status on a national scale, the NEXT Lab looks to have its research published in more peer-reviewed journals to solidify its status among its peers.

Dr. Tim Head, department chair and professor in the Department of Engineering and Physics, said this publication has been in the works over the last several years with students and faculty alike.

“This represents the hard work of many students and faculty across several years,” Head said. “We hope it is the first of many in a new area of expertise for ACU.”

About NEXT Lab

ACU’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing Laboratory is experimenting with using molten salts, rather than water, as a coolant for nuclear reactors with the goal of designing and building the first university-based molten salt research reactor. ACU is the lead university in the NEXT Research Alliance (NEXTRA), which includes Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University and The University of Texas at Austin. NEXTRA has a $30.5 million research agreement with Natura Resources to design and build a university-based molten salt research reactor.

— Connor Mullins

May 4, 2023

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