In 1998, DOE established the Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee (NERAC) to provide advice to the Secretary and to the Director, Office of Nuclear Energy, Science, and Technology (NE), on the broad range of non-defense DOE nuclear technology programs. The NERAC recommended development of a long-range R&D program. This R&D plan is a result of that recommendation and is the first of what is expected to be an iterated series of long-range plans for nuclear energy in the Department of Energy.
To develop this plan, 145 nuclear and non-nuclear scientists, engineers, and academics were canvassed for recommendations of R&D topics that should be evaluated and addressed in a DOE nuclear technology long term R&D plan. .A website was established and notices put in technical journals and given at meetings of the community. As a result, many suggestions were gathered to serve as a starting point. Two workshops were held, involving 123 participants from across the involved scientific and technical community to consider and expand on the submitted ideas. These workshops produced summaries of specific areas, which are included as appendices to the report. A writing committee composed of representatives of the workshops drafted a report. This draft report was circulated twice to the writing group, after which the third draft was sent to all workshop participants for their comments. This report is a result of that process.
The focus here is not on next year's budget but on what is necessary to develop over the next 10-20 years. Although this plan is intended to comprehensively focus on DOE's non- defense nuclear technology, it simultaneously (a) excludes some aspects of DOE's non- defense nuclear technology program that do not involve R&D, e.g., landlord at sites, or nuclear technology activities that are being addressed by other reports, e.g., accelerator transmutation of waste (ATW), and (b) includes some closely related nuclear technology activities that have defense or national security implications.
Within DOE's overall nuclear technology mission, DOE-NE has a mission to create and advance nuclear technology and infrastructure for non-defense and related closely related defense applications. The DOE-NE mission leads to the following areas of responsibility:
• Enhance nuclear power’s viability as part of the US energy portfolio. The issues for this R&D plan are what elements of nuclear energy should be supported and at what level.
• Sponsoring needed R&D and coordinating this work with other agencies. • Providing the technical framework to implement US nuclear policies in support of
national and global security.
1• Supporting selected other missions, such as assuring a supply of medical isotopes and of space power systems
• Maintaining necessary national laboratory and university nuclear infrastructure, including user facilities, such as test research reactors, test loops, and other research instruments or machines.
• Supporting the education system in nuclear engineering and science. • Maintaining sufficient US expertise to assure an effective role in the international
community and to support the needs for nuclear expertise to meet DOE defense and environmental missions.
In many respects, DOE-NE's role is to support and to catalyze research which, if successful, will be scaled up or applied by others. DOE-NE's focus should be on planning and sponsoring research in partnership with industry, thereby helping to broker with other sponsors to pursue promising results. When a concept is ready for the prototype or demonstration facility stage, DOE-NE should help transition the concept to whomever will implement or commercialize the results. A Government-industry partnership, leveraged with substantial international participation, would be appropriate to undertake R&D, especially where market competition is critical to success or major development and demonstration of advanced nuclear technologies is required.
NE provides user facilities, such as research reactors, test loops with provisions for inserting samples under known (controlled and measurable) parameters, and other research instruments or machines that are not commonly available but may be needed by the civilian and national security research community. NE has a role in insuring isotopes are available as needed by the community. NE is responsible for insuring that power and heat sources are provided to support NASA’s deep space and planetary explorations.
Lead responsibility resides outside of NE for defense applications, safeguards and nonproliferation activities, environmental management and waste cleanup, and Navy nuclear propulsion systems development.1 The department has a lead role in insuring that excess nuclear weapons material is safeguarded and, in a joint program with Russia, that such material is made much less accessible. And, of course, the DOE provides stewardship for the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile and for the development of nuclear power systems for the US Navy. This R&D plan does not address these national defense areas or the program for the final disposition of spent fuel at a geologic repository, the lead responsibility for which is carried by DOE organizations other than NE.