By Jason Ellis, ORNL Communications
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy has selected Lou Qualls of Oak Ridge National Laboratory as the national technical director for molten salt reactors, or MSRs. In his new role, Qualls—a nuclear engineer who joined ORNL in 1988—will serve as a liaison among the nuclear industry, the national laboratory system, and DOE in defining the future of MSR technology in the United States.
The new position was created in response to the private sector’s growing interest in MSRs as the next generation of power reactors. A significant number of nuclear plants are expected to close beginning in 2030, with most closed by 2045, as their operating licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expire. Various companies are pursuing new reactor designs to replace this loss of nuclear energy, which is the nation’s largest source of carbon-free energy and represents approximately one-fifth of electricity generated in the United States.
“There are about 10 U.S. companies developing MSR designs in hopes of seeing their technologies make it onto the grid,” Qualls said. “My job is to work with these vendors and DOE to understand how each design could fit into the energy market and to identify hurdles that could prevent these reactors from ever delivering electricity. It’s a positive step that shows the level of excitement from industry, DOE, and the national labs.” [Read more…]