The Nuclear Energy Experimental Testing Lab (NEXT) hosted its first open house, showcasing the near-completion of the first phase of their three-phased mission.
Professor of Engineering and Physics, and Director of the NEXT Lab, Rusty Towell, said the NEXT Lab focuses on hands on practical testing to develop advanced nuclear reactors.
“The big picture goals, the motivation behind the whole project is the ability to solve some of the world’s most critical needs,” Towell said. “Those are to raise people out of poverty by providing them with clean, inexpensive, safe power, pure abundant water and also medical isotopes that are necessary to treat, diagnose and cure cancer.”
The inspiration behind the project largely came from local supporters of ACU who also believe in the goal, most of which helped fund the initial phase.
In a non-nuclear environment with no nuclear reactor, students and faculty studying in the lab are question how to advance the Liquid-Fueled
Molten Salt Reactors (LFMSR) and get a license for an advanced reactor. Currently, their main focus is instrumentation development.
About a year ago, the NEXT Lab shipped from being an idea to a funded project. Over the summer, equipment was put in place with the help of 8-10 students and 8-10 faculty and staff. Students from majors across four departments, engineering and physics, chemistry and computer science assisted in putting the lab together.
There are three phases of the NEXT Lab. First, to initiate an on-campus research program demonstrating the understanding and abilities to safely prepare, heat, flow and study salt mixtures. Second, to build a basic molten salt test loop for advanced testing. Lastly, to build a full-sized, non-nuclear molten salt loop.
Not only does the NEXT Lab work toward global goals, Towell said it is also training the next generation of scientists and engineers.
“I think what really engages students and what helps train and shape students in a powerful way is when you can give them real world problems and you can work with them in the lab in sort of a mentoring relationship,” Towell said. “That’s where students engage, where they can take their classroom learning and put it into practice, and that’s what is really powerful about this project, is that were able to engage students doing that.”
The NEXT Lab hosted their first open house last Saturday, but currently does not have more planned for the future.
For more information, visit acunextlab.org