Bechtel, a global leader in engineering, procurement, construction, and project management, today announced it has been selected to participate in the research and development phase of a program critically important to the future of  advanced nuclear power reactors in the U.S. With nuclear industry leader GE Hitachi, the team will advance the conceptual design and cost estimates for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) planned for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Instead of producing electricity, the Versatile Test Reactor would conduct irradiation testing for fuels, materials, and equipment to be used in rapidly evolving designs for advanced reactors brought forward by U.S. companies, as well as public and private research institutions.

“Advanced reactors hold great promise but their fuels and materials need the proper testing before they can be licensed and used in energy-producing reactors,” said Peggy McCullough, a Bechtel senior vice president and general manager of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security, and Operations business line. “The U.S. currently has no capability to test these components. That testing capability is what the Versatile Test Reactor will provide. It’s extremely important for the science community, industry, regulators, and the future of nuclear energy research.”

The Bechtel team will perform conceptual design of the non-nuclear facilities surrounding the test reactor – a sodium-cooled fast reactor based on GE Hitachi’s PRISM design. The team will also develop a comprehensive cost estimate for the entire project and develop a schedule that supports reactor startup by 2026.

GE Hitachi President and CEO Jay Wileman said, “Our VTR project team combines GEH’s strength as a nuclear plant vendor, service provider and nuclear fuel fabricator with Bechtel’s strength in nuclear project management, engineering, procurement and construction. The mature PRISM technology is ideally suited to meet the VTR mission needs.”

The VTR would have the ability to conduct a large number of experiments simultaneously. The work will be performed under contract to Battelle Energy Alliance, the management and operating contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory.

Safer, less waste, no greenhouse gases

Advanced, or Gen IV, reactors are cooled by substances other than water, such as liquid sodium, molten salts, gas, or molten lead. They are inherently safer because they can cool without backup power, produce less radioactive waste, and, as with all nuclear power plants, produce no greenhouse gases during operation.

Bechtel has been a leader in nuclear services across the facility lifecycle. Since the 1950s, Bechtel has performed work on more than 150 nuclear power units around the world and on all major reactor designs.  Bechtel is now completing construction on Plants Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in the U.S. state of Georgia, the only active new nuclear plant construction project in the nation.

About GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

Based in Wilmington, N.C., GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is a world-leading provider of advanced reactors and nuclear services. Established in 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry. The nuclear alliance executes a single, strategic vision to create a broader portfolio of solutions, expanding its capabilities for new reactor and service opportunities. The alliance offers customers around the world the technological leadership required to effectively enhance reactor performance, power output and safety.

About Bechtel

Bechtel is one of the most respected global engineering, construction, and project management companies. Together with our customers, we deliver landmark projects that foster long-term progress and economic growth. Since 1898, we’ve completed more than 25,000 extraordinary projects across 160 countries on all seven continents. We operate through four global businesses: Infrastructure; Nuclear, Security & Environmental; Oil, Gas & Chemicals; and Mining & Metals. Our company and our culture are built on more than a century of leadership and a relentless adherence to our values, the core of which are safety, quality, ethics, and integrity. These values are what we believe, what we expect, what we deliver, and what we live.