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NEXT Lab leaders answer community questions about plans for nuclear reactor

Officials of ACU’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing Laboratory or NEXT Lab hosted a town hall meeting last night to explain their research project to the public.

The goal of the NEXT Lab is to build an experimental molten salt nuclear reactor. Researchers hope the experimental reactor will prove the technology is capable of generating affordable electricity, purifying water and even providing a cure for cancer.

The processes require radioactive material, but, Rusty Towell, Director of NEXT, says this reactor will be able to produce energy without the risk of radioactive leaks like traditional nuclear reactors, “The things that are in your mind of other nuclear disasters, whatever those are, none of those apply here because it’s 100% different technology. There is nothing to explode.”

Towell says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would not allow the university to build a reactor on campus if there was any potential threat to students or the community.

Ultimately lab administrators hope the experimental reactor will be able to be replicated into industrial-sized models to be deployed around the world.

For now, lab administrators will continue to wait for the NRC’s approval, expected by May 2024, to begin building the reactor.