Reactivity Control Device for Advanced Reactors

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Knoxville, Tennessee
Project Term:
08/01/2018 - 02/28/2021

Technology Description:

Yellowstone Energy will develop a new passive control technology to enhance safety and reduce nuclear power plant costs. The team's Reactivity Control Device (RCD) will integrate with the Yellowstone Energy Molten Nitrate Salt Reactor and other advanced reactor designs. The RCD will use fluid embedded in the reactor’s control rods to control reaction rates at elevated temperatures, even in the absence of external controls. As the heating from fission increases or decreases, the fluid density will automatically and passively respond to control the system. The RCD’s passive control is highly beneficial for ensuring reactor safety and stability under normal operation and accident scenarios. The team will use simulation tools to determine the effectiveness of the control device and conduct a techno-economic analysis at the plant level to determine cost effectiveness. If successful, the system will provide a high level of resiliency and reliability while significantly improving the economics and safety of many advanced reactor designs. The RCD may also serve as the basis for additional innovations in reactor designs including a broader range of coolant salts in solid fueled, salt-cooled reactors and further advanced reactor defense against cybersecurity threats.

Potential Impact:

If successful, developments from MEITNER projects will inform the development of lower cost, safe, and secure advanced nuclear power plants.


Nuclear power plants contribute to grid stability by providing reliable baseload power.


Nuclear power has low life cycle emissions, making it a key source of clean electricity.


Nuclear power provides high-efficiency electrical generation for the U.S. grid. Reducing plant costs reduces exposure to price volatility.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Rachel Slaybaugh
Project Contact:
Dr. Samuel Shaner
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Jensen Hughes
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tennessee Valley Authority

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