Berkeley Nuclear Research Center

... energy for tomorrow

About BNRC

The University of California at Berkeley Nuclear Research Center

Nuclear energy offers the potential for creating reliable, carbon-free, domestically produced base electricity to meet rising energy demands. A dramatic expansion of nuclear power is already underway internationally, and U.S. domestic expansion of nuclear power is on the verge of becoming a reality. However, longer-term challenges remain in the areas of waste disposition, proliferation of nuclear technologies and materials, fuel resource management and fuel cycle economics. Left unaddressed, these challenges will prevent realization of the full potential of nuclear energy. The degree to which nuclear energy can sustainably meet long-term energy needs will depend on the development of advanced methods and technologies, together with implementation of sound domestic and international policies.

The University of California Berkeley Nuclear Research Center (BNRC) was formed in January 2009 with financial support through the UC Office of the President. The principal focus of the center is to address critical sustainability issues for the nuclear fuel cycle with the specific objectives of:

  • Enabling Human Capital Development. In light of the relative hibernation of nuclear energy basic and applied research in the U.S. in the last 25 years, it is essential to rebuild the nuclear energy technology and science base. The U.S. nuclear workforce is aging and key legacy expertise is being lost at an alarming rate. Sustainability of any nuclear enterprise will require development of the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers. Combined, the UC and its Laboratories uniquely posses the expertise to address all waste, safety, proliferation, security and economic considerations of the nuclear fuel cycle. The BNRC will foster an educational environment and, in close collaboration with the three UC National Laboratories, financially support unique research opportunities for the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers.
  • Creating Knowledge and Information to Inform National Policy Decisions. There are many diverse advanced fuel cycle concepts which have been proposed for achieving sustainability (enhanced waste disposition, safety, security, proliferation risk reduction and economic viability) of the nuclear energy enterprise. The complexities of interconnected environmental, safety and security considerations often make it difficult to develop policy consensus on the appropriate path forward. Through supported research and technical engagements, the BNRC will strive to disseminate clear science-based information and transparent insight into both the benefits and the challenges of proposed advanced concepts, and thus serve as a reliable resource for national policy makers faced with decisions on future nuclear research and development directions.
  • Fostering International Collaborations. The U.S. and other developed nations have a shared responsibility to ensure nuclear energy expansion world-wide is done safely and securely, and cooperation on international design concepts and regulatory requirements is essential. Situated at the doorway to the Pacific Rim, and drawing upon close cultural ties and the long tradition of UCBÕs Asia-Pacific contacts, the BNRC will promote effective engagement with the Asian nations where international nuclear power expansion is most prolific. International engagements will be supported through continuation of the thematically focused UC Office of the President Nuclear Technology Forums, and the sponsorship of a major, annual Pacific-Rim Conference on Nuclear Technology Challenges and Opportunities at UC Berkeley.
  • Fostering Campus - National Laboratory Collaborations. The BNRC will provide a mechanism for research and teaching engagements of National Laboratory scientists and engineers with the students and faculty in the UC Berkeley Department of Nuclear Engineering. This will enable the synergistic sharing of knowledge essential for spanning all aspects of nuclear fuel cycle development (e.g. NNSA laboratory scientists instructing on the fundamentals of international nuclear safeguards), and bring to bear diverse perspectives on the research and evaluation of advanced nuclear fuel cycle concepts.
  • Attracting Resources and Building R&D Capabilities. Reenergizing the nuclear research and development necessary to address nuclear sustainability concerns will require the commitment of resources for computational and experimental efforts, and resources for vigorous continued engagements with international collaborators. Only through such efforts can U.S. policy makers obtain the basis for informed decision-making. The BNRC will work to identify sponsorship from federal agencies, industry and international community in order to extend its size and scope, and bring more researchers, scientists and international collaborators to Berkeley. The BNRC will identify the correct high-impact research efforts necessary to clearly answer compelling sustainability issues and provide advocacy for resourcing these key efforts.

The tremendous energy and environmental stewardship demands facing the world will require multiple, contributing energy solutions. Nuclear energy can play a very significant long-term role if sustainability issues are appropriately studied, addressed and resolved. The BNRC will focus on development of the future generations of nuclear experts, new knowledge base, and requisite international collaborations and cooperation in order to promote the best sustainability solutions for the international nuclear energy enterprise.

Center Contacts:

Dr. David McCallen

Deputy Principal Associate Director,National Security, Global Security Principal Directorate, LLNL

Director, Berkeley Nuclear Research Center

Professor Jasmina Vujic,

Department of Nuclear Engineering
Co-Director, Berkeley Nuclear Research Center

 

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