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Top U.S. nuclear official visits ACU’s NEXT Lab


Christopher Hanson, NRC chair, visits with ACU students and NEXT Lab employees
Christopher Hanson, NRC chair, visits with ACU students and NEXT Lab employees

The Honorable Christopher Hanson, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), visited Abilene Christian University’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing Laboratory (NEXT Lab) Oct. 12 to meet with senior leaders from ACU and Natura Resources.

“Hanson shared his priorities for the NRC, which included advanced reactors, supporting academic institutions and improved safety,” said Dr. Rusty Towell, NEXT Lab director and professor of physics. “As an advanced university research reactor with a walk-away-safe design, it’s easy to see why he took the time to visit ACU.”

ACU’s NEXT Lab, sponsored by Natura Resources, is seeking to deploy a molten salt research reactor at the newly constructed Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC). A construction permit application is currently under review with the NRC.


(L-R) Dr. Rusty Towell, director of NEXT Lab; Dr. Phil Schubert, ACU president; Christopher Hanson, NRC chair; and Douglass Robison, CEO and founder of Natura Resources in the lobby of the Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center.

During his time on campus, Hanson toured the SERC to learn more about NEXT Lab, the planned reactor and Natura’s plans to commercially deploy molten salt reactors. He also met with engineering, physics and chemistry students, telling them about what he does and encouraging them to consider a career of service in government.

“An important added benefit to the path Natura has taken to bring advanced nuclear technology to the marketplace is that we are also advancing educational pathways and workforce development,” said Douglass Robison, founder and CEO of Natura Resources.

The NRC is an independent agency of the government tasked with protecting public health and safety related to nuclear energy. The NRC is headed by a five-member commission, and the president designates one member to serve as chair and official spokesperson. Hanson was designated chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by President Joe Biden in 2021.

— Wendy Kilmer

Oct. 17, 2023

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