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EPRI's Technology Innovation Portfolio Preview

This quick video highlights EPRI's Technology Innovation program, which accelerates development of breakthrough technologies, and provides thought leadership and applied R&D to help maintain an innovation pipeline through EPRI's research sectors. To learn more, download the program's prospectus.

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The theme for this year's conference is "Embracing the Grid of the Future". As an integrated, more renewable based, communication driven, dynamic power system emerges, it's imperative that utilities are prepared at all levels for this transformation. Areas of focus include: power quality; distribution grid modernization and resiliency; integration of distributed energy resources; and information and communications technology.
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The commercial use of nuclear energy to generate electricity began in the 1950s and currently accounts for about 14% of the world’s electricity production. More than 400 nuclear reactors operate around the world in 30 countries, and several more countries are pursuing nuclear power.

Nuclear power plants are reliable generation sources, often operating for 18-24 months without shutting down. Further, because the energy is derived from the fission of a nucleus and not from chemical combustion, emissions are minimal. Key challenges include the high capital costs of nuclear power, the management of radioactive waste, and the aging of plant components and materials. Research and technology can help address these challenges, informing the operation of existing nuclear plants and the design and deployment of advanced nuclear plants






For more information please contact:

Renita Crawford
Communications Manager
Office: 704-595-2888
Email: rcrawford@epri.com

Featured Research Fuel and Waste Radiation and Safety New Plants Operations and Maintenance Resources

Fuel Reliability

Safe, economic nuclear plant operation depends on the reliability of the nuclear fuel assemblies that are comprised of thousands of individual fuel rods. While rare, nuclear fuel failures can result in unplanned plant outages and tens of millions of dollars in replacement costs. EPRI conducts research aimed at identifying the underlying causes of fuel failures and developing guidelines that will ensure nuclear fuel assemblies function as intended. EPRI also investigates advanced fuel concepts that may enhance a nuclear plant’s ability to cope during situations that challenge safety.

Used Fuel Storage and Disposal

After powering a nuclear reactor for several years, used nuclear fuel must be carefully stored and managed prior to ultimate disposal. Because final disposal facilities are not yet operational around the world, nuclear plants must safely store used fuel on-site for many years. EPRI research examines the technical issues that may impact used fuel storage, transportation, and disposal, informing operational and regulatory decisions regarding such high-level waste management.

Nuclear Waste Management

Nuclear plants generate “low-level” waste materials that have been contaminated with minor amounts of radioactive material or have become radioactive through exposure to neutron radiation. These materials – which include protective shoe covers and clothing, rags, filters, reactor water treatment residues, and other equipment and tools – must be handled and disposed of in a safe and cost-effective manner. EPRI research activities focus on minimizing the generation of low-level waste, developing guidance for on-site storage, and examining safe and effective alternatives to existing regulations.

Accident-Tolerant Fuels

The Fukushima Daiichi event has raised interest in fuel designs with greater resistance to accident conditions. EPRI is investigating several fuel concepts that could replace some of the zirconium used in current designs with materials that melt at higher temperatures, potentially giving plant operators more time to take actions during an accident.


Radiation Protection

To protect worker and public health, regulations establish limits on the amount of radiation that individuals can be exposed to in and around nuclear plants. Technologies and work practices can be employed to reduce how much radiation is produced from a given source and how much is transmitted to a given individual. EPRI research develops guidance, technologies, and operational practices to more aggressively reduce radiation fields at the source and to minimize worker dose to as low as reasonably achievable levels.

Safety Assessment

An important element of safe nuclear plant operation involves the lowering of risks to certain events and scenarios. Opportunities to improve plant safety can occur via physical plant changes that directly reduce risks and through less tangible measures such as enhanced safety focus. EPRI research enables nuclear plants to perform rigorous safety assessments that can inform plant design and operation. EPRI’s accident analysis code, for example, can be used to understand how an accident might progress, facilitating planning, training, and heightened emphasis on safe plant operation.

Health Effects

Radiation, whether it’s from the sun, from medical equipment, or from nuclear power plants, can have human health effects. Differences in radiation type, exposure time, time between exposures, and other factors can impact the degree of damage from radiation. EPRI conducts health effects research in targeted areas, such as the health effects associated with low-dose radiation and cancer in populations living near nuclear facilities.


New Plant Deployment

More than 60 new nuclear plants are under construction around the world. Many more are in development. These plants must overcome a number of regulatory, economic, technical, and social challenges prior to licensing, construction and successful startup. Through its Advanced Nuclear Technology Program, EPRI focuses on developing the technologies and tools to support the safe, economic, and reliable deployment of advanced nuclear plants in the near term, while pursuing research to inform decisions regarding nuclear sustainability and growth in the long term.

Key focus areas include:

  • Advanced Light Water Reactors: The foreseeable future for nuclear power will be tied predominantly to advanced light water reactor designs. EPRI research helps accelerate activities aimed at building confidence in these newer designs, including optimized fabrication and construction practices.

  • Small Modular Reactors: Commercial interest is building in small modular reactors as an alternative to conventional large-scale nuclear plants. Small modular reactors could offer opportunities for enhanced safety, improved economics, quicker construction, and greater quality control. EPRI research addresses an array of issues that could impact the ability to license, construct, start up and efficiently operate these plants worldwide.

  • Advanced Plant Designs: A number of advanced plant designs have been proposed that could further enhance safety, accommodate a more diverse fuel supply, and enable more effective management of used fuel and waste. EPRI conducts exploratory research supporting design and demonstration of next-generation nuclear plants, including various fusion designs and high-temperature gas reactors.


Equipment Reliability

Nuclear plants rely on a large number of pumps, valves, cables, circuit breakers, and other mechanical, electrical, and instrumentation and control equipment to operate safely, reliably and cost-effectively. Keeping this equipment operating at high reliability depends on the successful implementation of carefully designed operations, maintenance, repair, and replacement practices by properly trained plant personnel. EPRI’s equipment reliability research develops various tools and techniques that nuclear plant and engineering personnel can apply to increase overall plant reliability and safety.

Inspection Techniques

A variety of techniques are employed in the nuclear power industry to inspect materials for potential indications of cracking or degradation. For example, the same basic ultrasound technologies that are used to monitor a baby’s health during pregnancy are deployed in the nuclear power industry by experienced practitioners to assess the health of plant components and welds. EPRI develops, tests, and evaluates new inspection technologies and practices for use in challenging applications, such as underground piping and complex geometries. Information from these inspections is then used to inform strategic decisions on whether and when to replace components, repair them, or continue their operation.

Mobile Work Management

Competitive pressures are driving nuclear plant owners to evaluate new technologies and techniques that can optimize operations and maintenance and help keep electricity production costs as low as possible. Mobile work management encompasses a suite of tools – from electronic work packages to virtual reality “apps” – that EPRI is developing to support more effective plant maintenance.


The materials used in an operating power plant are exposed to conditions that can potentially impact their structural integrity, particularly as the plant ages. Understanding how such degradation may occur in various materials – at what rate and under what conditions – helps inform nuclear plant design and operation. EPRI develops inspection and evaluation guidelines for identifying potential degradation, assesses mitigation technologies for preventing further degradation, and conducts fundamental research on new materials with enhanced properties for maximizing useful plant life.

Risk Management

An informed, rational assessment of risk can contribute to safer and more cost-effective nuclear plant operation. By focusing attention on those plant systems and equipment with the highest risk to plant and personnel safety, nuclear plant operators can fully incorporate the relevant technical factors into decisions about plant maintenance, modifications and procedures. EPRI risk and safety research helps quantify risks from within the plant’s systems and from external hazards, including earthquakes, floods, fires, tornadoes, and security threats. Continuous refinement of the models used to analyze risk is necessary to ensure that decisions based on these models reflect industry operating experience and current computational advances.