SAFARI: Secure Automation For Advanced Reactor Innovation

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Ann Arbor, Michigan
Project Term:
03/15/2021 - 03/14/2024

Critical Need:

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 University of Michigan will develop physics-based, model-centric, and scalable capabilities, data-enabled via AI-enhanced algorithms, to achieve unprecedented integrated state awareness for advanced reactor power plants. Individual modules include (1) a scalable digital twin that combines different scales and different fidelities as needed; (2) a maintenance proactive evaluator to monitor usage and assess the health conditions and maintenance needs of advanced reactors; (3) an operations intelligent controller to achieve autonomous control during normal and accident conditions; and (4) an O&M deep supervisor to supervise O&M conditions. The team will first validate the product using a molten salt loop operating at the University of Michigan and apply it to the Kairos Power fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor design to demonstrate how the proposed capability can be used to aid and optimize the plant design; optimize sensor location; provide autonomous control, including load following; and allow for predictive maintenance.

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. Annalisa Manera
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Argonne National Laboratory
Idaho National Laboratory

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