Build-to-Replace: A New Paradigm for Reducing Advanced Reactor O&M Costs

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Palo Alto, California
Project Term:
10/01/2020 - 09/30/2023

Technology Description:

The current O&M paradigm for operating light-water reactors (LWRs) generally seeks to maximize lifetimes for major structures, systems, and components (SSCs). The consequences are profound as key SSCs can become life-limiting or require costly monitoring, inspection, maintenance, and repair. Unless questioned, the underlying assumption of multi-decadal design life for major plant SSCs could become embedded in the next generation of plants. The Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) proof-of-concept study will explore moving from the traditional “maintain and repair” to a “replace and refurbish” approach in which components are intentionally designed and tested for shorter and more predictable lifetimes with the potential for game-changing O&M cost savings. EPRI’s approach is similar to that adopted by the commercial airline industry, in which multiple refurbishments, including engine and interior replacement, can keep a jet aircraft flying economically over many decades even as fuel prices and other factors change dramatically. The study will evaluate several advance reactor designs with respect to cost savings and other important economic benefits, such as increased sustainability for suppliers.

Potential Impact:

The program goal is to reduce fixed O&M costs from ~13 $/MWh in the current fleet to ~2 $/MWh in the advanced fleet. Benefits include:


Establishing U.S. advanced reactor technological leadership and improving U.S. energy security with safe, reliable, dispatchable power for a robust and resilient electric power system;


Reducing energy-related emissions with a competitive, carbon-free electricity source; and


Increasing productivity and creating a competitive edge for advanced reactors.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jenifer Shafer
Project Contact:
Dr. Andrew Sowder
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Idaho National Laboratory

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