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INL Mulling Building New Nuclear Reactor to Energize Net-Zero Campus Microgrid

By District Energy posted 05-03-2022 08:51




Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is exploring designing, building, and operating an onsite nuclear reactor resource as part of a broader effort to achieve net-zero emissions at its sprawling campus in Idaho Falls by 2031.

Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), an entity that manages and operates the Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory, on April 29 launched a request for information (RFI) from industry, utilities, energy users, and other stakeholders that could inform how it can integrate nuclear-generated power and heat into a campus microgrid. The initiative falls under the April 2021–launched INL Net-Zero Program, which aims to eliminate or offset all emissions from the campus where 5,400 employees work.

The quest to achieve net-zero in less than a decade will serve as a crucial demonstration of a decarbonization pathway that would utilize “technology innovations, collaborations, increased efficiencies, and novel approaches,” BEA suggested. The city-like INL campus already has 100 miles of transmission lines, a landfill, a 605-vehicle fleet, 357 buildings, and hundreds of miles of roads. “Moreover, we are developing the INL site electrical infrastructure in preparation for the next 50 years of mission growth,” BEA said.

If it achieves net-zero, INL would effectively become a “national carbon-neutral prototype,” it added. To achieve the goal, BEA said it is prepared to demonstrate “integrating advanced nuclear reactors and other clean energy systems on a net-zero microgrid to provide clean electricity, thermal energy, hydrogen, ammonia, and/or other value-added products to achieve our carbon-reduction goals.” A key part of the vision entails introducing—through demonstrations, pilots, and eventually campus-wide implementation—energy from multiple sources, including small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors, into the campus’s transmission and distribution systems.

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