An ongoing study of the feasibility of using advanced nuclear reactors to power Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus in Indiana has found small modular reactors (SMRs) to be one of the most promising emerging technologies and a potential carbon-free option that should be further explored to help meet the university’s future, long-term power needs.
The interim report is published a year after Purdue University and Duke Energy began the study. Amongst other things, the study has confirmed that SMRs are a “potential option to zero carbon emissions” with “significant safety and other advantages”. Building SMRs would offer economic benefits both to Purdue and to Indiana, creating “thousands of temporary construction jobs and hundreds of high-wage permanent jobs” and generating millions of dollars in local taxes.
Advocating for state and federal policy and funding needs is one of the key recommendations of the report. These include regulatory outcomes and economic incentives, nuclear engineering, and science workforce development programmes, launching a public-private advanced reactor development programme, and creating a fuel availability programme. Efforts to engage stakeholders should continue, building from a six-part lecture series which reached an audience of 4,900 people between August 2022 and February 2023 and helped build awareness of the benefits and opportunities of new nuclear development.
The interim report also recommends that cost and economic studies, site evaluations and additional technology assessments should be carried out. No technology has yet been selected, and no decision made, to build a new nuclear plant at Purdue, but the report recommends SMR and advanced reactor projects should be monitored to enable a more detailed technology evaluation as first-of-a-kind projects advance. It also recommends a siting study and timeline to identify the best locations for advanced nuclear to support both the university and the Indiana grid, and “potentially develop an early site permit application for the selected site.” Excess power beyond the campus’s needs would be provided to the state’s grid.
“Our early findings show that advanced nuclear technology presents a potential path to zero emissions for our university, and we intend to continue our teamwork with Duke Energy in the next phase of the study,” said Purdue University President Mung Chiang, adding that the collaboration between Duke Energy, the university and energy and policy experts “demonstrates the critical importance of this exploration into advanced nuclear energy and what it could mean not only for our campus, but also the community, state and nation”.
“To reach a clean, carbon-free future, we need to explore a broad range of technologies, including advanced nuclear,” said Duke Energy Indiana President Stan Pinegar said. “We need to study this and other options further, and this report starts a conversation about how we might transition to carbon-free power that can operate on demand in concert with renewable energy, such as solar and wind.”