OSU spinoff gets federal money to fund nuclear power research

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A spinoff company out of Oregon State University is working on a project that could be the next advancement in nuclear energy. The NuScale project is working on small, modular nuclear reactors that run underground.

Heading the project is OSU Professor Jose Reyes, who said that the systems include new safety designs that could have prevented the disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The company qualified for up to $226 million in matching funds from the U.S. Department of Energy to finish engineering and design work. Reyes said he sees federal grant award as validation of their research.

"This design actually works. We've actually done these tests that we are simulating. We've done on real hardware at Oregon State University, so we have great confidence in that," said Reyes.

The power design is set up so that the reactor can safely shut down on its own, should something bad happen.

NuScale has 90 days of negotiations ahead with the Department of Energy.

Critics of their nuclear power proposals say the technology is still primarily based in theory. Reyes said that their tests at a quarter-scale nuclear test facility at OSU have been done with real hardware, and he's confident that it does work.

"OSU will continue our collaboration through NuScale's access to that reactor for testing and research," said Brian Wall, a representative from OSU's office for corporate development.

The program is far from making a full-scale working model of their technology. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the final say, however Reyes hopes to have a full reactor up and running by 2025.

NuScale began as a spinoff company based on the pioneering research of OSU professor Jose Reyes, and since has become one of the international leaders in the creation of small "modular" nuclear reactors.

"This is a wonderful reflection of the value that OSU faculty can bring to our global economy," said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. "The research conducted by Professor Reyes, colleagues and students at OSU has been a fundamental component of the innovation at NuScale."

In the early 2000's at OSU, Reyes envisioned a nuclear power reactor that could be manufactured in a factory, be transported to wherever it was needed, grouped as necessary to provide the desired amount of power, and provide another option for nuclear energy.

It also would incorporate "passive safety" concepts studied at OSU in the 1990s that are already being used in nuclear power plant construction around the world.

"OSU has made a strong effort to build powerful partnerships between our research enterprise and the private sector," said OSU President Edward J. Ray. "The DOE support for NuScale is a vote of confidence in the strategy of building these meaningful relationships, and they are only going to pick up speed with our newest initiative, the OSU Advantage."

The Oregon State University Advantage connects business with faculty expertise, student talent and world-class facilities to provide research solutions and help bring ideas to market. This effort is in partnership with the Oregon State University Foundation.