The US’ Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project took another step forward recently when the US Department of Energy (DoE) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) submitted a joint licensing plan for the advanced reactor.

According to reports, it’s suggested that the anticipated NGNP gas-cooled reactor would be located at the Idaho National Laboratory and the 15th August submission of plans is likely to be seen as a huge stride forward for the project.

The NGNP would feature a high temperature gas-cooled reactor configured to provide high-temperature heat (up to 950°C) for a range of industrial uses such as fertiliser production, shale-oil recovery and coal-to-liquids, as well as hydrogen or electricity production.

To be built at Idaho National Laboratory, it’s thought that the plant could be operational by 2021 and the design would be very different from the majority of reactors currently in use.

The submitted plan explains to Congressmen how the DoE, the NRC and potential builders of the plant would cooperate to license the new-design reactor for operation, in time for construction to start in 2017.

Three reactor designs are closely linked to NGNP through previous research and development deals with the DoE. These consist of General Atomics’ GT-MHR; Areva’s similar Antares design; and the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), backed by a number of parties such as Westinghouse, and South Africa’s PBMR Pty.

A return to nuclear power, though under cleaner and safer guidelines, appears to find favour in some quarters as the search for future energy sources intensifies. Industrial gas-utilising PBMR reactors and helium gas-cooled plants are possible options and also provide an example of the involvement of industrial gases in future energy production.

Read more about the Energy sector, the dilemma ahead, and Gases in Energy Production in the forthcoming September issue of gasworld magazine.