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DOE awards millions to Savannah River National Lab for tritium fuel projects

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SRS Sign, Centerra-SRS Lawsuit (copy)

An entrance to the Savannah River Site. The Savannah River National Laboratory is at SRS.

A pair of Savannah River National Laboratory proposals totaling millions of dollars were recently selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Energy’s advanced-research agency known commonly as ARPA-E.

Both ventures focus on the tritium fuel cycle and potential upgrades and efficiencies.

The first project, led by Dr. George Larsen at the lab, is a collaborative effort involving South Carolina and Clemson universities. If successful, the three-year venture will lead to significant cost savings and a marked reduction in power consumption at fusion facilities, according to the national lab.

“We’re challenging convention, a bit, here,” Larsen said. “But, by designing the pumping fluid and recycling system in an integrated manner, we can achieve a holistic and innovative solution for fusion power plants.”

The second project, also three years, is headed by Dr. Brenda Garcia Diaz. It focuses on a portion of the fuel cycle known as breeding, a means of generating fuel. Diaz’s project could, she explained, decrease the need for “expensive mechanical parts” and greatly reduce a facility's footprint, among other improvements.

Dr. Vahid Majidi, the director at the Savannah River National Lab, has praised both undertakings.

“These projects show a great deal of promise in improving reactor technology and financial savings by finding efficiencies in materials and processes,” he said. “We’re excited about how they can benefit fusion technology in both the public and private sector.”

ARPA-E – the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy – targets "challenges that could radically improve U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and environmental well being," according to its website. "We invest in short-term research projects that can have transformational impacts."

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