February 25, 2021
Staff Accomplishment

Fuel Cycle Expert Leads DOE Molten Salt Reactor Effort

Patricia Paviet named National Technical Director for the MSR Program

Patricia Paviet

Patricia Paviet, PhD, is a radiochemist and research manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA. In February 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy named Paviet the National Technical Director for the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) Program.

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Patricia Paviet, an internationally recognized subject matter expert of the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, has been named National Technical Director for the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) Program by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE).

“Dr. Paviet brings significant experience in molten salt technologies and NE R&D program leadership, along with strong vision and enthusiasm to advance emerging MSR technologies toward commercialization,” said Tom Sowinski, Director of DOE-NE’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Deployment.

Paviet, a radiochemist and research manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Washington state, is assuming the National Technical Director role for MSR Program from Lou Qualls at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Qualls is the founding director of the MSR Program, serving since 2017. Sowinski lauded Qualls for his strong leadership and technical expertise toward the development and advancement of MSR technologies.

Paviet joined PNNL in October 2018 to lead the CheMSR molten salt research program as well as manage the Radiological Materials Group, which develops advanced glass, ceramics, and cemented waste forms. She is convening a workshop on MSR chemistry in March 2022 with the intent of holding an in-person exchange of ideas. Prior to PNNL, Paviet served as the Director for DOE-NE’s Office of Materials and Chemical Technologies.

“Patricia will do a fantastic job to advance MSRs toward licensing, demonstration, and deployment,” said Mark Nutt, PNNL Nuclear sector manager.

MSR technology is undergoing a revival from the 1950s-1970s, as nuclear energy and the development of advanced reactors are increasingly considered to provide a carbon-free baseload source of electricity.

National and international efforts to develop new sources of carbon-free energy are exploring a nuclear power concept first introduced in the 1950s and 1960s: the molten salt reactor. This design is vastly different from our current light water nuclear power plant and is inspiring a fresh look at the technology. Researchers at PNNL are working on many solutions necessary for the design, construction, and operation of a full-scale molten salt reactor. We have expertise in radiochemistry and real-time online monitoring, as well as materials design and performance testing.

Four years ago, DOE’s MSR Program started by assessing the current status of the technology, pinpointing technology gaps, and gathering experts. DOE’s objective is to facilitate the development and deployment of MSRs in collaboration with industry, academia, and national laboratories. Paviet noted the MSR effort supports the DOE-NE strategic vision of demonstrating at least two additional advanced reactor designs through partnerships with industry by 2035.

“I’m very excited about taking MSR technology to the next level and bringing scientists and engineers together to support the early demonstration of innovative reactor systems such as molten salt reactors that address climate change and the sustainability of the nuclear fuel cycle by closing it,” Paviet said.

Originally from France, Paviet received her PhD in radiochemistry from the University Paris XI. She is chair of the Generation IV International Forum Education and Training Working Group, and was recipient of the American Nuclear Society’s 2019 Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division’s Significant Contribution Award.