ORNL is able to support aspects of the DOE mission by identifying and then pursuing major activities that build on ORNL’s core strengths and capabilities. The following projects are underway.

International ITER Fusion Project

ITER is an unprecedented global collaboration to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.

The ITER research facility will allow scientists to study reactor-scale burning plasmas--a key step in fusion energy development-- and explore technical challenges relevant to the development of a power-producing fusion reactor. Now under construction in southern France, ITER will be home to the world's largest tokamak and ultimately will demonstrate 500 MW of fusion power for 400 to 600 seconds.

ITER partners are the European Union (host) plus China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. All partners provide in-kind and financial contributions to the project. As an ITER member, the United States receives full access to all ITER-developed technology and scientific data, but bears less than 10% of the total construction cost. Over 80% of US ITER funding for hardware contributions goes to US industry, universities and national laboratories.

US ITER - Subproject 1

US ITER, a Fusion Energy Sciences project funded by the Office of Science, is responsible for delivering 12 essential systems to the ITER project in order to fulfill U.S. commitments to the international ITER project and realize operational and research success. Subproject-1 includes design of all 12 hardware systems plus fabrication and delivery of a subset of hardware for first plasma. This scope includes magnet, electrical, cooling water, vacuum and roughing pumps systems, electron cyclotron transmission lines, and associated instrumentation and controls.

US ITER - Subproject 2

US ITER Subproject-2 includes the fabrication and delivery of hardware systems essential for post-First Plasma research operations leading ultimately to deuterium-tritium operations at 500 megawatts. The scope includes hardware for tokamak exhaust processing, roughing pumps, plasma fueling, and diagnostic systems, plus electron cyclotron and ion cyclotron heating transmission lines and associated instrumentation and controls.

Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility - 5th Gen

OLCF-5 is the Frontier supercomputer at ORNL, which debuted in 2022 as the world’s first exascale system. Frontier is currently ranked the world’s most powerful computer on the TOP500 list with a performance of 1.1 exaflops. With a theoretical peak performance of 2 exaflops—exceeding a quintillion, or 10^18, calculations per second—Frontier will enable researchers to deliver breakthroughs in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and national security.

As a second-generation AI system—following the world-leading Summit system deployed at ORNL in 2018—Frontier will help researchers investigate otherwise inaccessible global problems: from designing new materials, energy sources, and treatments for disease to modeling complex phenomenon related to weather or space to gaining new insights by analyzing gargantuan amounts of data. Built by HPE Cray, Frontier features Cray’s new EX architecture with high-performance AMD EPYC™ CPUs and AMD Instinct™ GPU accelerators.

Translational Research Capability

The Translational Research Capability, or TRC, is a new multipurpose research facility that will provide state-of-the-art laboratory space for expanding scientific activities at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The TRC will be purpose-built for world-leading research in computing and materials science.

The TRC, under construction in the central ORNL campus, will accommodate sensitive equipment, multipurpose labs, heavy equipment and inert environment labs. Approximately 75 percent of the facility will contain large, modularly planned and open laboratory areas with the rest as office and support spaces. Construction of the facility began in 2021 and will be completed in 2023.

Exascale Computing Project

To support the delivery of the nation’s first exascale systems, ORNL plays a primary role in leading the Exascale Computing Project. ECP was launched in 2016 and brings together research, development, and deployment activities as part of a capable exascale computing ecosystem to ensure an enduring exascale computing capability for the nation.

ECP, a 7 year project, is focused on delivering specific applications, software products, and outcomes on DOE computing facilities. Integration across these elements with specific hardware technologies for the manifestation of exascale systems is fundamental to the success of ECP.

The outcome of ECP is the accelerated delivery of a capable exascale computing ecosystem to provide breakthrough solutions that address our most critical challenges in scientific discovery, energy assurance, economic competitiveness, and national security. 

Proton Power Upgrade

The Proton Power Upgrade (PPU) project at ORNL will double the power capability of the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) linear accelerator, from 1.4 to 2.8 megawatts, to facilitate new types of experiments and discoveries. The PPU will:

  • provide up to 40% more power to the SNS First Target Station (FTS) target, delivering more neutrons to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery across a wide range of materials and technologies,
  • enable novel neutron experiments, in more extreme environments, using smaller and less-concentrated samples,
  • leverage existing ORNL facilities and capabilities for maximum cost-effectiveness, and
  • power the Second Target Station (STS) to provide the world’s brightest “cold” neutrons and enable studies of more complex materials. STS, in turn, will provide up to 22 new instruments—8 initially—for unprecedented experiments on complex matter with its high-peak brightness beams of “cold” neutrons at high-repetition rates.

Planned PPU activities for FY 2023 include the start of the power ramp-up with installation and use of the first 4 superconducting radio frequency (RF) cryomodules and supporting RF equipment, which will provide increased proton beam energy. Early project completion is planned for 2025. 

Neutron Electric Dipole Moment Experiment

The goal of the neutron electric dipole moment (nEDM) experiment at the Fundamental Neutron Physics Beamline at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source is to make the world’s most precise measurement of the neutron’s electric dipole moment, improving the current precision by two orders of magnitude. The nEDM project uses a unique approach to measure this quantity; a measurement at the goal sensitivity, regardless of value, will provide a meaningful test of proposed explanations for the existence of matter in the universe.

Materials Plasma Exposure Experiment

The Material Plasma Exposure eXperiment (MPEX) is a next-generation linear plasma device that will support study of the way plasma will interact long term with the components of future fusion reactors—in particular, the divertor, the power and particle “exhaust system” of a fusion reactor. MPEX will support materials research relevant for next-generation fusion devices, such as a fusion pilot plant.

In September 2020, MPEX completed a DOE Critical Decision-3A Independent Project Review, which includes approval for the preparation of the facility and long-lead procurements. In June 2022, MPEX completed a DOE Critical Decision-2 baseline review. The device assembly is projected to begin in the fall of 2023.

Stable Isotope Production Facility

In 2018, the Department of Energy began construction of the Stable Isotope Production Facility (SIPF) to produce stable isotopes that are in short supply and cannot be enriched with current domestic capabilities. These isotopes will benefit medicine, industrial manufacturing, nuclear and physical science research, and homeland security. Scheduled for completion by 2025, the $25.5 million facility on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory campus will be housed in the same space as the Enriched Stable Isotope Prototype Plant (ESIPP). SIPF will establish a full-production cascade for enriched stable isotopes, filling government research and other domestic needs not met by commercial suppliers.

Stable Isotope Production & Research Center

The U.S. Stable Isotope Production and Research Center (SIPRC) will expand the nation’s capability to enrich stable isotopes for medical, industrial, research, and national security uses. The demand for these isotopes has increased significantly over the past decade, and SIPRC will reduce our nation’s dependency on foreign suppliers for critical isotopes. The single-story, 54,000-square-foot building, designed to allow for future expansion, will be on ORNL’s main campus. It will house two types of isotope separation equipment: Electromagnetic Isotope Separators (EMIS), and Gas Centrifuge Isotope Separators (GCIS).

Second Target Station

ORNL is moving forward with plans for a third neutron source: the Second Target Station (STS) at the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), to address emerging science challenges. The STS will complement the Spallation Neutron Source First Target Station (FTS) and High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) by filling gaps in materials research that require the combined use of intense, cold (long-wavelength) neutrons and instruments optimized for exploring more complex materials. Together, the three facilities will ensure long-term US global leadership in neutron science capabilities.

The initial suite of eight instruments will provide new capabilities to study quantum materials, soft matter, energy materials, biology, and structural materials. The US Department of Energy approved Critical Decision 1 (CD-1) in November 2020, which affirmed the project’s conceptual designs, cost and schedule range, and general acquisition plans. This allowed the team to begin work on the preliminary design and next phase of development activities and progress the project towards Critical Decision 2 (CD-2) when the project’s performance baseline would be approved.

Domestic Uranium Enrichment Centrifuge Experiment

Within Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Enrichment Science and Engineering Division, staff are leading the pursuit of the Domestic Uranium Enrichment Centrifuge Experiment Project, or DUECE. The project, which started in 2016, leverages expertise and capabilities from across ORNL. Scientists and engineers are working to develop centrifuge technology to provide the United States a unique domestic production capability for enriched uranium. The goal is to demonstrate the developed technology in time to support the National Nuclear Security Administration mission need for low enriched uranium (LEU) in the 2040s.

Craft Resources Support Facility

The Craft Resources Support Facility, which received CD-1 approval in April 2020, will provide modern office, shop, and storage capabilities for vehicle maintenance, hoisting and rigging, paint and signage, and other key craft support functions that support the entire laboratory. This project enables the deactivation and decommissioning of several 1950s vintage facilities.

Versatile Neutron Spectrometer

VENUS is a state-of-the-art imaging instrument under construction at the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) that will be used to study a wide range of diverse materials such as battery materials, advanced alloys, nuclear materials, plant physiology, biology, and even archaeological artifacts. VENUS will provide time-of-flight imaging capabilities, enabled by the SNS pulsed-source accelerator, used to simultaneously capture information about the structure and behavior of materials at the atomic scale. Physical construction of the beamline began in 2019.

As of summer 2022, much of the concrete has been poured for various shielding blocks and other structures, including the large, two-story walls around the instrument cave where the experiment samples will be staged. Optical components such as the variable aperture system, collimators and flight tubes are designed and some of these components will be installed in the next few months. Likewise, the data acquisition system, data analysis software and novel detectors for VENUS are currently being developed using the SNS SNAP beamline as a testbed site. The fire suppression and detection systems as well as the design for the vacuum systems components, including the chopper vacuum, are also making their way through reviews. The project completion is expected in 2024, when VENUS will enter commissioning.