Wilmington-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has been awarded a subcontract to support the design of a proposed advanced nuclear reactor test facility, currently unavailable in the United States. GE Hitachi and its PRISM technology have been selected by Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), the managing and operating contractor for the Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL), to support the conceptual design, cost and schedule estimate and safety framework for the agency's Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) program, according to a news release. GE Hitachi and Bechtel National Inc. will develop the VTR project based on GE Hitachi's PRISM technology, officials said in the release. Bechtel, an engineering, procurement, construction and project management firm, announced its selection Wednesday to participate the VTR program. PRISM is a high energy neutron (fast) reactor which uses a series of proven, safe and mature technologies to create an innovative solution to dispose of used nuclear fuel and surplus plutonium. GE and Hitachi have a legacy of building nuclear plants safely for more than 50 years. The PRISM reactor builds on this sodium-cooled reactor experience first pioneered in 1951 to turn the binding energy of the atom into electrical energy. PRISM incorporates a number of innovative features which make it the ideal vehicle for addressing used nuclear fuel and dispositioning plutonium. In addition, PRISM’s simplified design allows factory fabrication with modular construction and ultimately lower costs… all while generating clean electricity. GE Hitachi is a joint venture between General Electric and Hitachi that provides advanced technology and services for the nuclear industry. The joint venture said that PRISM is "the only sodium fast reactor to have successfully completed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission preapplication review process." The contracted work will investigate what it would take to establish a "reactor-based fast-spectrum neutron irradiation capability" in the country by 2026, according to the BEA. There a few countries that have this test capability, including Russia, according to leaders in the nuclear industry. The development of a VTR in the nation would reign in advanced nuclear reactor experiments currently being performed outside the United States. (Source and image: GER Hitachi)