Hoping to revive the moribund U.S. nuclear power industry, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week it will help build two radically new nuclear reactors within 7 years. Funded by DOE’s new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, the designs include exotic features such as cooling by sodium or helium instead of water in a bid to be safer and more economical than conventional power reactors.

DOE officials “were trying to do something new and push the technology forward but also to stay within that 7-year time frame,” says Ashley Finan, a nuclear engineer and director of the National Reactor Innovation Center at Idaho National Laboratory who was not involved in the choice. “I think these two [designs] were judged to be ready for demonstration.”

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