NSE - Nuclear Science & Engineering at MIT


$1M Sloan Foundation grant supports NSE-led Future of Nuclear Energy Technologies study

Buongiorno, Whyte

NSE Professors Jacopo Buongiorno and Dennis Whyte were awarded a grant from the Sloan Foundation of $1M to launch a new Future of Nuclear Energy Technologies study.

Buongiorno and Whyte will work with seven MIT faculty from across the Institute, as well as two Harvard faculty and two external consultants in a multi-disciplinary effort (see below). The goal of the study will be to conduct an objective assessment of the opportunities and challenges affecting the ability of nuclear energy technologies in meeting U.S. and global energy needs in a carbon-constrained world.

This study is particularly timely as the landscape and boundary conditions for nuclear have drastically changed in the past 6-8 years due to a number of contributing factors. The study will be conducted over two years and will assess the prospects for innovative nuclear technologies, business models, and governance mechanisms to accelerate the transition to a lower-carbon energy system. It also comes as the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) is launching eight Low-Carbon Energy Centers to advance specific technology areas crucial to addressing climate change, two of which are focused on nuclear energy: the MIT Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES), led by Buongiorno, and the Center for Fusion Research, led by Whyte. The Centers bring together faculty from across the Institute and employ an innovative model that allows multiple sponsors to collaborate on high-risk, high-reward research programs while also developing their own individual research portfolios. Multidisciplinary research projects will be key components of the new Centers.

This study is the next of MITEI’s “Future of…” series of studies—in-depth overviews of specific energy sources contain detailed recommendations meant to shape and influence policy debates and development, technology choices, and future research. Past “Future of…” studies, the most recent of which was The Future of Solar Energy, have proved useful to members in Congress and the executive branch, industry leaders, and the informed public.

The multidisciplinary team includes Jacopo Buongiorno (MIT-NSE), Michael Corradini (UW/MIT), Dennis Whyte (MIT-NSE), David Petti (INL/MIT) — with expertise in nuclear technology (fission and fusion), safety, and regulations; Jessika Trancik (MIT-IDSS), Jessica Lovering (Breakthrough Institute), Robert Varrin (Dominion Engineering) — with expertise in cost estimates of nuclear power plant systems and other energy systems; Richard Lester (MIT-NSE), Joe Lassiter (Harvard-Business) — with expertise in innovation finance, policy and management; John Parsons (MIT-Sloan School) an expert in energy/electricity markets; Charles Forsberg (MIT-NSE), Bilge Yildiz (MIT-NSE) — with expertise in energy storage, syn fuels and nuclear hydrogen; and Steven Ansolabehere (Harvard-Dept. Government) – with expertise in public opinion.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation gives endowment-funded grants primarily to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology, economic performance and the quality of American life. The foundation is unique based in its focus on science, technology, and economic institutions. It believes the scholars and practitioners who work in these fields are chief drivers of the nation’s health and prosperity.