High-Fidelity Digital Twins for BWRX-300 Critical Systems

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Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Term:
10/01/2020 - 09/30/2024

Critical Need:

Close to a third of all U.S. nuclear reactors will be shut down permanently by 2025. Although nuclear power is one pathway to achieving a zero-carbon grid, nuclear power plants are comparatively cost-intensive in some markets. Many industries are employing AI, advanced data analytics, distributed computing, powerful physics simulation tools, and other breakthroughs to advance autonomous, efficient, and low-cost O&M in their processes. O&M is approximately 80% of a reactor’s total generating cost. The nuclear energy industry has not fully explored these innovations, necessitating new designs of effective and low-cost advanced reactor O&M procedures. Knowledge gained from innovating now can lay the groundwork for optimal O&M. GEMINA sets the stage for advanced reactors to operate with a staffing plan and fixed O&M costs more akin to those of a combined cycle natural gas plant than those of the legacy light-water reactor fleet.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation small modular reactor designed by GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) to provide flexible energy generation that is cost-competitive with natural gas-fired plants. GE Research (GER) has 10+ years experience in developing probabilistic machine learning (ML) methods/tools integrated with their domain expertise in thermo-mechanical lifing/durability. GER has applied this industrially proven capability to build digital twins for military and commercial applications. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will assemble, validate, and exercise high-fidelity digital twins of the BWRX-300 systems. MIT’s work will advance and demonstrate predictive maintenance approaches and model-based fault system detection techniques by GEH and GER. The digital twins address mechanical and thermal fatigue failure modes that drive O&M activities well beyond selected BWRX-300 components and extend to all advanced reactors where a flowing fluid is present. The role of high-fidelity resolution is central to the approach, as it addresses the unique challenges of the nuclear industry.

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:
Prof. Emilio Baglietto
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


General Electric

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