University awaits approval for on-campus micro-nuclear reactor

By District Energy posted 09-16-2020 15:26


The Daily Illini


The University may soon be home to a new micro-nuclear reactor, which would provide campus with clean energy, as well as opportunities in research and education on campus. 

The project is pending approval and funding by the U.S. Department of Energy. If awarded, work will begin in 2021, with projected completion by 2026. 

The DOE would give the University $44.8 million for the project, said Caleb Brooks, professor of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering.

“It’s no surprise that the University of Illinois has been working at the cutting edge of future energy and technologies,” Brooks said. “And if the project is awarded, the University is in position to deliver on a critical research and education necessary for a climate-conscious energy future.”  

Since the University entered the Illinois Climate Action Plan in 2008, annual carbon emissions on campus have been cut by 25%. The University’s strategic plan means achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and preferably sooner. 

One micro-nuclear reactor is able to supply 138,000 megawatt-hours of steam and 12,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, the energy equivalents of 10 utility-scale wind turbines and 175,200 tons of coal respectively. 

The reactor timeline would consist of four and a half years of regulatory review and environmental impact, safety, operational license review by federal and state authorities, then construction if all else goes well. Currently, the plan is to locate the reactor next to Abbott Laboratory.  

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