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Second NRC official visits ACU’s NEXT Lab


NRC Commissioner David Wright (center) met with representatives from NEXT Lab and Natura Resources, including (left to right) Dr. Lester Towell, NEXT Lab licensing manager; Douglass Robison, founder and CEO of Natura Resources; Dr. Rusty Towell, NEXT Lab director and professor of engineering and physics at ACU; and Dr. Kim Pamplin, NEXT Lab director of chemistry and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at ACU.

The Honorable David Wright, a member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), visited Abilene Christian University’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing Laboratory (NEXT Lab) Dec. 6 to meet with senior leaders from ACU and Natura Resources

Wright is the second NRC official to visit NEXT Lab; NRC chair Christopher Hanson came to ACU’s campus in October.

“Having our second visit by an NRC commissioner to spend a day learning about the mission and progress of the Natura Resources-funded work at NEXT Lab confirms the importance of our work at a national level,” said Dr. Rusty Towell, NEXT Lab director and professor of engineering and physics. “Commissioner Wright enjoyed getting to meet everyone involved in the work and was impressed with our progress.”

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). ACU’s construction permit application is one of only three currently under review with the NRC. 


Commissioner David Wright (foreground) speaks with students in the lobby of the Dillard SERC on the Abilene Christian campus.

During his time on campus, Wright toured the SERC to learn more about the planned reactor and Natura’s plans to commercially deploy molten salt reactors. Meetings also included conversations with university leadership, NEXT Lab researchers, and students in engineering, physics and chemistry. 

“It was great to have Commissioner Wright in Abilene, Texas. We greatly appreciate NRC’s engagement and support of this project,” said Douglass Robison, founder and CEO of Natura Resources.  

The NRC is an independent agency of the federal government tasked with protecting public health and safety related to nuclear energy. The agency is headed by five commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms.  

Learn more about NEXT Lab and Natura Resources.

Wendy Kilmer

December 11, 2023

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