GAIN vouchers to be awarded

Baranwal

Approximately $4 million worth of vouchers will be given to nuclear energy tech companies seeking to take advantage of Idaho National Laboratory’s infrastructure and expertise.

The vouchers will be administered through Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear, which was created in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Energy to facilitate research and development for expensive and lengthy nuclear-related projects. INL staff lead the GAIN initiative.

The awards are intended to help companies overcome technology or commercialization challenges, an INL news release said.

“We are excited to offer another round of vouchers to help support U.S. innovation in advanced nuclear technology,” GAIN Director Rita Baranwal said in the release.

“The objective of GAIN is to accelerate cost-effective commercialization of advanced nuclear energy technologies. This cost-sharing initiative enables partnerships with businesses and provides them with access to the technical, regulatory and financial support necessary to bring these important technologies to the market sooner.”

Vouchers are not financial awards; recipients instead gain access to lab scientists and centralized information, among other things. The first round of GAIN vouchers were distributed last year.

Vouchers generally range from $50,000 to $500,000, the release said. More information regarding the program, including Request for Assistance and contract templates, can be found at gain.inl.gov.

Five GAIN-related vouchers were administered in July. One was used by a New York company to develop a way to synthesize molten chloride fast reactor fuel salt from spent nuclear fuel. Others were used to create new modeling, control, battery and convection systems.

California-based Oklo Inc., chosen last year to work with INL during the first round of vouchers, has made progress in developing an 2-megawatt “micro reactor,” also known as a nuclear battery, according to a GAIN news release from March.

INL and Argonne National Laboratory employees assisted in compiling and assessing information regarding “legacy metallic fuel data and commercial fuel fabrication,” which the release said is of interest to the broader advanced reactor tech community.

Personnel from both labs also participated in pre-application meetings between Oklo and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and INL is expected to fabricate prototype fuel elements as well as test possible manufacturing methods, the release said.

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