ABILENE, Texas — Abilene Christian University is making history while trying to build a molten salt research reactor.
This multi-phase project has eight initial steps, and on Aug. 15, the university's Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Lab advanced even further by submitting a construction permit application to build the reactor.
The application was in conjunction with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and it is the first of its kind for a university research reactor, according to ACU.
It is also the first application for a research reactor in 30 years.
If the application is accepted by the NRC, a formal technical review can begin and the reactor will likely be completed by 2025.
"The submission of this application is another step closer toward reaching the goals of NEXT Lab--to provide global solutions to the world's need for energy, water, and medical isotopes," ACU President Dr. Phil Schubert said.
The project is made possible thanks to a $35 million research agreement sponsored by Natura Resources.
The NEXT research alliance includes ACU, Georgia Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin.
The first of the eight application steps occurred in 2021, with the completion of the Science and Engineering Research Center. Other milestones include interacting with the NRC, building the reactor itself and making it functional.
"The forward progress on this project presents incredible opportunities for ACU, NEXTRA and the investors of Natura Resources," Natura Resources founder Doug Robinson said.
The project allows for a hands-on learning experience.