In 2019, nuclear energy provided a whopping 55% of America’s carbon-free electricity. Yet the nation’s existing nuclear infrastructure is aging and there are virtually no new plants being built in the U.S. Research and development is underway on radical new designs for nuclear reactors that seek to completely change the paradigm for nuclear energy. What are these new technologies and what role might they play in helping decarbonize America’s energy future? What challenges are involved with moving these innovations from the lab to the marketplace?
Experts on nuclear technology and policy will explore these questions at a July 14 webinar organized by the Duke University Energy Initiative. They’ll focus on advanced reactor designs that are highly automated, modular, and capable of being mass-manufactured. These designs promise improved features and dramatically reduced capital costs and operating expenses relative to the large-scale, one-of-a-kind reactors that make up the current U.S. nuclear fleet. The conversation will spotlight entrepreneurs who are currently pursuing commercialization of these innovative technologies—and the economic, regulatory, and social challenges they are facing.
The webinar will feature insights from nuclear energy experts Dr. Rachel Slaybaugh (ARPA-E and UC Berkeley) and Jessica Lovering (Carnegie Mellon and Energy for Growth Hub). The conversation will be moderated by Dr. Eric Rohlfing, Energy Initiative executive-in-residence and former acting director of ARPA-E. Time will be reserved for audience Q & A.
About the speakers:
Dr. Rachel Slaybaugh is a program director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), in the U.S. Department of Energy. Her role at ARPA-E includes the development of programs and management of research projects that cover a wide range of technologies to enable advanced nuclear reactor systems. She is also an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research is focused on numerical methods for neutral particle transport with an emphasis on supercomputing and with applications to reactor design, shielding, nuclear security and non-proliferation. Slaybaugh is the founder of the Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp to train the next generation of innovators in nuclear energy. She was previously a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee and currently serves as a senior fellow at the Breakthrough Institute. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering at Pennsylvania State University and master’s and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering and engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Jessica Lovering is a doctoral student in the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University, where she studies policies concerning commercial nuclear exports and models the economics of microreactors less than 10MW. Lovering is also a non-resident fellow with the Energy for Growth Hub in Washington, DC, where her work focuses on the potential role for advanced nuclear in emerging economies. Previously, she served as the director of energy for the Breakthrough Institute. Lovering earned a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics at the University of California, Berkeley, and master’s degrees in astrophysics and planetary science as well as environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Dr. Eric Rohlfing (moderator) is an executive-in-residence at the Duke University Energy Initiative, where he advises efforts by university leadership and faculty to develop and execute a strategy for advancing energy science and technology and cultivate technological innovation and entrepreneurship. He joined Duke after a distinguished career at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), including as Deputy Director for Technology and Acting Director for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). During his tenure at DOE, Rohlfing also served as the director of the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division of DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Rohlfing holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia and a doctoral degree in physical chemistry from Princeton University.