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Idaho National Lab Completes Prototype of DOE Electrically Heated Microreactor

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Machinists from the Idaho National Laboratory have built a full-scale prototype of a microreactor that uses an external electricity source for heating instead of the traditional nuclear fission process.

INL said Monday the Microreactor Applications Research Validation and Evaluation system will undergo trials to verify the design of an envisioned 100-kilowatt thermal reactor for a planned U.S. nuclear microgrid.

The MARVEL prototype, developed under a Department of Energy project, will be used to test the reactor’s natural circulation for cooling, electricity-generating engines for removing heat decay, four control drums for absorbing and reflecting neutrons in case of an accident and various remote monitoring capabilities.

According to Yasir Arafat, MARVEL technical and project lead, testing a prototype is required because models alone could replicate flow and heat dynamics inside a reactor to a high degree of reliability and confidence.

Once trials are completed, INL plans to develop and install a demonstration microreactor at its Transient Reactor Test facility and achieve criticality with the energy source by 2024 for external research work.