NEXT Lab holds town hall meeting

the Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Laboratory held a town hall meeting Tuesday. The main speaker was professor and director of the NEXT Lab Dr. Rusty Towell and the town hall outlined NEXT’s plans for their future, new facility and included a Q&A session.

The NEXT Lab is currently building the Gayle and Max Dillard Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) on the south border of ACU’s main campus. The facility will house NEXT’s molten salt reactor, which will be used for research.

Molten salt reactors are just a next generation reactor that takes all of the good stuff from nuclear power and makes it better,” Towell said.

The concerns surrounding regular nuclear power plants are abundant: high expenses, radioactivity and impact on the environment, just to name a few. However, molten salt reactors are capable of minimizing, if not eliminating, most of these worries while still producing clean energy. The key to these benefits is in the coolant, molten salt.

“Having a molten salt allows us to operate at high temperatures but low pressure – that allows us to be more efficient but also less expensive,” Dr. Towel said.

Molten salt reactors also produce medical isotopes that can fight cancer and Crohn’s disease, all while generating less waste, being safer for the environment and aiding in producing clean water. VP for Research Dr. Rusty Kruzelock recognizes how these characteristics of molten salt reactors align with the mission of ACU’s undergraduate research.

“Most universities focus on research that is new knowledge for knowledge’s sake,” Dr. Kruzelock said. “We tend to take that new knowledge that we discovered and move it forward to benefit mankind.”

The NEXT Lab team hopes that this mission will not end in Abilene. Based on the findings from the SERC research reactor, the NEXT Lab hopes to patent molten salt reactors that can be sent to the corners of the world that need them most.

“If we can provide clean, safe, affordable energy to people, we can change their lives,” Dr. Towel said.

July 2023 is the estimated completion date for the SERC. The NEXT Lab’s plans to build the molten salt reactor are currently being reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. For more information and updates, visit

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