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NEXT Lab receives federal funding to partner with Idaho National Lab, MIT, Yale and others on research reactor

By on August 31, 2018 in Campus News with 1 Comment


To date, more than $4.3 million in funding has been awarded to the NEXT Lab at ACU.
To date, more than $4.3 million in funding has been awarded to the NEXT Lab at ACU.

The NEXT Lab at Abilene Christian University has been awarded $150,000 in funding by the Department of Energy to partner with Idaho National Laboratory and several other universities on a new research reactor. The universities include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University, Colorado School of Mines, Georgia Tech University and Illinois Institute of Technology.

Research led by ACU’s NEXT Lab continues to gain support with lead funding from the Robison Excelsior Foundation, as well as additional support from the Development Corporation of Abilene (DCOA) and two local foundations. To date, more than $4.3 million in funding has been awarded, including $3.2 million from the Robison Excelsior Foundation, $300,000 from the DCOA and $600,000 in matching grants from two local foundations.

“We are thrilled to be part of such groundbreaking research, which has the enormous potential to provide for the world’s greatest needs: affordable energy, clean water and medical isotopes,” said Doug Robison, a director of the Robison Excelsior Foundation, in announcing the award. “The NEXT Project has the potential of moving ACU to a new level of research and technology development.”  

NEXT stands for Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing. ACU students and faculty from several academic departments are working together to research the use of molten salt, rather than water, as a coolant for nuclear reactors. The NEXT Lab represents the quest for “the next generation of nuclear power,” said Dr. Kim Pamplin, professor and chairman of the chemistry and biochemistry department at ACU.

The team of NEXT researchers will be working to design the data acquisition system for a test reactor. The NEXT Lab also has hired senior engineer Dr. Dylan Pfeifer as its first full-time researcher. It is expected this work will be funded for multiple years and that the Versatile Test Reactor will be operational in 2026 at Idaho National Laboratory.

For more information about the research, please contact technical coordinator Dr. Tony Hill at For more information about the NEXT Lab, please contact Dr. Rusty Towell, professor of engineering and physics at ACU and director of the lab, at

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  1. Charles Ivey says:

    This initiative is extremely important as we move toward cleaner and safer power plants for our electrical grid. The potential payoff for society is so very great and ACU is on the front lines of moving us all forward. I am very proud of the university for its leadership in this effort.

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