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Letter to NEAC to Review the Next Generation Nuclear Plant Activities

The Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project was established under the Energy Policy Act in August 2005 (EPACT-2005). EPACT-2005 defined an overall plan and timetable for NGNP research, design, licensing, construction and operation by the end of FY 2021. At the time that EPACT-2005 was passed, it was envisioned that key aspects of the project included:

NGNP is based on R&D activities supported by the Gen-IV Nuclear Energy initiative; NGNP is to be used to generate electricity, to produce hydrogen or (to do) both; The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will be the lead national lab for the project; NGNP will be sited at the INL in Idaho;

INL will organize a consortium of industrial partners for the cost-shared project; NGNP project will be conducted in two phases:

Phase I (2005 - 2011) is to select and validate hydrogen generation technology; carry out enabling R&D on associated technologies and components (energy conversion, nuclear fuel development, materials selection, reactor and plant); determine if it is appropriate to produce electricity, hydrogen or both; and carry out initial design activities for the prototype nuclear power plant.o Phase II (2011-2021) is to continue first phase activities and to competitively develop a final detailed design, obtain an NRC license for construction and operation, and construct and start-up operations for the NGNP.

NGNP project will have technical interchange and technology transfer with other sources of relevant expertise; i.e., nuclear and chemical industries, international Gen-IV partners.

The NGNP project selected the High Temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR), a helium-cooled, thermal spectrum nuclear reactor as the overall reactor technology to be designed, licensed and constructed. The gas-cooled reactor offers the attractive feature of potentially filling a market for a high-temperature source to a range of process heat applications (e.g., chemical processes such as hydrogen production) and for electricity to selected industries, and thereby reducing CO2 emissions by replacing the use of fossil fuels for such applications. This technology is unique in its ability to expand the role of nuclear reactor systems to a broader range of energy products. The NGNP project did not decide on the reactor core design for the technology. EPACT-2005 sets a target date to complete the first project phase by the end of FY2011. At that time, EPACT-2005 states that “the Secretary is to either (1) select the technology to be used by the NGNP Project and the initial design parameters for the prototype nuclear plant; or (2) submit to Congress a report establishing an alternative date for making the selection”. On a determination by the Secretary that the appropriate activities under the first project phase are nearly complete, the Secretary shall request the NEAC to conduct a comprehensive review of the Project and to report to the Secretary their recommendation concerning whether the Project is ready to proceed to the second project phase.