Alexander: Oak Ridge’s 3-D Printing Is a Promising Way To Cut the Cost Of Producing New Reactors By As Much As Ten Times

Posted on January 16, 2019

WASHINGTON, January 16, 2019 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said, “Nuclear power must be part of our energy future if we want a future with clean, cheap, and reliable energy that can create good jobs and keep America competitive in a global economy.”

Alexander said: “Perhaps the most promising way to assure a nuclear industry for America’s future is to accelerate the development of advanced reactors. And specifically to deal with the single biggest obstacle facing this development, which is one word—cost. One of the most intriguing ways to reduce cost is with 3D printing, which is a conceptually simple process of using a computer model to join materials, one layer at a time, to make complex objects. In other words, a computer program can create an auto part, a tool to make an auto part, or even a replica of a Ford Shelby Cobra. In fact, in May 2017, the Secretary of Energy Rick Perry drove a 3D-printed Ford Shelby Cobra at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.”

“The tantalizing question is, what if this 3D printing process were used to build nuclear reactors? Could it significantly reduce the cost enough to make nuclear reactors competitive with natural gas?” Alexander continued, “For fiscal year 2019, Congress appropriated $30 million to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to begin work to demonstrate that we can build an entire nuclear reactor with 3D printing. This project is called the Transformational Challenge Reactor. I am glad Dr. Zacharia from Oak Ridge National Laboratory is here today to tell us more about that.”

Alexander said another issue Congress must address to have a future with nuclear power is the nuclear waste stalemate. “I want to resolve the nuclear waste stalemate this year. I support funding Yucca Mountain and proceeding with plans to allow used nuclear fuel to be stored at interim storage sites and at private facilities. I expect President Trump will continue to request funding to restart the licensing process for Yucca Mountain, and I look forward to moving forward on all tracks at the same time,” Alexander said. 

Alexander is chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, which oversees the Department of Energy—a federal agency with three critical missions: nuclear security, science and energy, and environmental management.

You can view Alexander’s prepared remarks here.

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Lamar Alexander is the senior senator from Tennessee, and he serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. For his full biography, click here.