ORNL and TVA to collaborate on advanced reactor technologies

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have signed an agreement to explore a new generation of flexible, cost effective advanced nuclear reactors. According to the agreement, the two organizations will work to boost the economic feasibility of possibly licensing, building, operating, and maintaining one or more advanced nuclear reactors, such as a small modular reactor.

These reactors offer the potential for lower-cost, carbon-free energy due to shorter construction times and increased operational flexibility. Recently, federal regulators approved an early site permit for TVA’s small modular reactor capable of generating 800 megawatts on the Clinch River in Oak Ridge.

This partnership continues decades of collaboration between ORNL and TVA. Speaking about this new partnership, TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash remarked that it “supports TVA’s mission for innovation and will allow us to better explore potential future nuclear technologies that benefit the 10 million people across seven states and help lead nuclear energy’s future in the United States.” 

ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia emphasized that nuclear energy has long been a “key component” of the country’s energy portfolio and that “growing demand for emission-free electricity requires that we innovate to ensure safe, affordable and efficient nuclear power for generations to come.”

According to the memorandum of understanding, specific areas of importance that will be evaluated by the two entities include, but are not limited to:

  • Development of advanced construction techniques
  • Evaluation of integrated development activities for site infrastructure support
  • Development of various economic deployment catalysts
  • Innovation of advanced manufacturing technologies
  • Use of technology deployment to meet regulatory and safety requirements more efficiently

TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy in Tennessee. This collaboration allows both organizations to help nuclear generation play a stronger role in providing clean, reliable energy for TVA’s customers.

ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia gives testimony to House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee

Dr. Thomas Zacharia, Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy in January.

Alongside DOE Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette, DOE Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes, DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar, DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Frank Klotz, and others Zacharia presented testimony during a hearing discussing the importance of advancing DOE’s mission for national, economic, and energy security as well as the relationship between DOE and its contractors.

The Energy Subcommittee created the ‘DOE Modernization’ series in which members explored what is necessary to ensure effective execution of DOE’s core security missions. The hearing was the first of several on this topic.

Below is an excerpt from the witness statement in verbatim:

My name is Thomas Zacharia, and I am Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I am also a member of the National Laboratory Directors Council (NLDC), an organization formed by the directors of the 17 DOE labs. In my previous position as ORNL Deputy for Science and Technology, I was a member of the NLDC Chief Research Officers Working Group, which advises DOE senior leadership and the NLDC on scientific, programmatic, and operational issues at the national laboratories.

While I am speaking today on my own behalf, my participation in these groups has provided me with a perspective on the national laboratories that extends beyond ORNL. That perspective informs my views on the topics that you are considering today. I will begin with an overview of ORNL and its programs in science, energy, and national security and provide some examples of how the national laboratories support the execution of DOE’s missions in these vital areas. I will briefly discuss the governance of the national laboratories, and I will describe actions that DOE is taking in partnership with the contractors who manage and operate these laboratories to implement regulatory and policy reforms that are designed to make the national laboratories as efficient and effective as possible.

Click here for the full statement.

Click here to watch a video of the hearing.

July marks beginning of Thomas Zacharia’s new role as ORNL director

Thomas Zacharia, who built Oak Ridge National Laboratory into a global supercomputing power, has been selected as the laboratory’s next director by UT-Battelle, the partnership that operates ORNL for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The UT-Battelle board conducted an open, competitive search for a new director after Thom Mason announced he would be leaving to join Battelle after 10 years leading ORNL. Among the goals Zacharia outlined if he were chosen as director: leading ORNL to be the world’s premier research institution; building on the lab’s original sense of mission – winning World War II while pushing the boundaries of research – to reshape its creative energy for the future; celebrating a science and technology culture that encourages individuals to be the best in their fields; and pursuing institutional excellence that advances US leadership in neutron science, computing, materials, and nuclear science and engineering.

Thomas Zacharia (Credit: ORNL)

Zacharia’s appointment as director became effective July 1, after Mason was appointed senior vice president for laboratory operations at Battelle in Columbus, Ohio.

“Thomas has a compelling vision for the future of ORNL that is directly aligned with the U.S. Department of Energy’s strategic priorities,” said Joe DiPietro, chair of the UT-Battelle Board of Governors and president of the University of Tennessee.

Zacharia came to ORNL in 1987 as a postdoctoral researcher after receiving his Ph.D. in engineering science from Clarkson University in New York. He also holds a master’s in materials science from the University of Mississippi and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology in Karnataka, India.

When UT-Battelle became ORNL’s management and operating contractor in April 2000, Zacharia was director of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division. In 2001, he was named associate laboratory director for the new Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate, and over the next eight years he built a scientific enterprise that brought more than 500 new staff to Oak Ridge and opened the nation’s largest unclassified scientific computing center, the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a user facility of DOE’s Office of Science.

Zacharia was named ORNL’s deputy for science and technology in 2009, responsible for the lab’s entire research and development portfolio. During his tenure, the lab has strengthened its translational energy programs, establishing the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate and the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate.

In 2012, Zacharia took a leave to serve as executive vice president of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, overseeing research in energy and the environment, information and computing technology, life sciences and biomedical research, and social sciences, as well as leading the country’s science and technology park, which is home to more than 40 multi-national companies including GE, Microsoft and Siemens. He returned to ORNL in 2015, where he previously served as Deputy Lab Director for Science and Technology.