The ARPA-E project will use state-of-the-art machine learning to develop next generation nuclear waste processes and storage materials in an accelerated timeline

March 10, 2022

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.—Citrine Informatics reported that it was recently selected for a $3.1 million award from the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) to develop safe, efficient nuclear waste storage materials. The company, a provider of AI and smart data management software for materials and chemicals development, was one of three organizations—including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of North Texas—selected for the award.

As a recipient of the award from ARPA-E’s Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems (ONWARDS) program, Citrine Informatics will apply state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and physics-based-simulation techniques to rapidly develop next-generation nuclear energy waste storage materials. The project is expected to result in the development of safe, efficient materials to usher in the next generation of nuclear reactors for clean power generation, according to a release from Citrine Informatics.

Citrine will collaborate with Brian Riley, Ph.D., and John Vienna, Ph.D., both of Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) and experts in nuclear waste management technologies, and Prof. Jincheng Du of the University of North Texas. Professor Jincheng Du will contribute ceramic and glass simulation and modeling expertise to design novel, safer nuclear waste storage materials.

“By combining the knowledge and capability of the top experts in nuclear waste manufacturing and glass and ceramic simulation with our data-driven methods, our ARPA-E program promises to disrupt the nuclear waste industry by designing more efficient, less expensive, and safer waste forms in only three years,” said James Saal, Ph.D., Citrine’s director of external research programs and the principal investigator of the program, in the release.

The ARPA-E ONWARDS Program exists to fund the development of the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors (AR) to enhance the safety, reduce the cost, and increase the efficiency of nuclear power generation. The future deployment of ARs will ensure that the United States meets its goals of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and facilitates U.S. energy security and global thought leadership in advanced nuclear energy, according to the release.

To enable the growth of advanced nuclear energy, ONWARDS seeks to develop and demonstrate breakthrough technologies that will facilitate a 10-fold reduction in AR waste volume generation or repository footprint. In addition, ONWARDS aims to advance development of high-performance AR waste forms while maintaining exemplary safeguard standards and global back-end costs in the accepted range of $1/megawatt-hour, Citrine said in the release.

“Safe, efficient nuclear power generation will play a critical role in reducing U.S. and global CO2 emissions,” said Citrine Informatics Chief Science Officer Bryce Meredig, Ph.D., in the release. “This program aligns perfectly with Citrine’s mission to enable a greener, more efficient world by accelerating the development and deployment of next-generation materials. The nuclear industry urgently needs a reliable, predictable path to faster materials innovation, and we plan to demonstrate such a path in ONWARDS with our AI-guided approach and a team of world-class collaborators.”

The Citrine Platform combines smart materials data infrastructure and AI, which is said to  accelerate development of cutting-edge materials, facilitate optimization of product portfolios, and codify research IP, enabling its reuse and preventing its loss. Citrine said it counts Panasonic, Michelin, and LANXESS among its customers.

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