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Nutherm International: Powering nuclear safety innovation from Southern Illinois

May 8, 2024

When you think of Southern Illinois industries, nuclear power generation might not be the first thing that comes to mind simply because the region does not have any nuclear power plants. However, a company in Mt. Vernon, Nutherm International, and its team of mad scientist engineers have been providing some of the nuclear power industry’s highest quality safety-related systems, known as Class 1E components, for 45 years.

“We build systems that protect reactors,” explained Wade Bowlin, Nutherm International owner and vice president. “When you think of backup power, back up cooling, it’s those systems that keep the reactor in control if something goes wrong. Such as fire, flood, equipment failure, or anything like that. That’s really our core business.”

Nutherm’s systems are completely customized, requiring their engineering team to come up with creative solutions that are put under rigorous tests to ensure the equipment continues to function in harsh conditions. Mt. Vernon offers the perfect location for acquiring these specialized engineers, with some of the top engineering universities in the nation, like Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Illinois, less than two hours away.

“A lot of the testing we have to do is pretty unique,” said Bowlin. “We’re testing things for electromagnetic interference/radio-frequency interference. We test equipment that has to work in an environment that could have really high pressure or high temperature steam. Your electrical components still have to work in that environment. It could be a release of radiation and you may have equipment that needs to work in radiation, or maybe an earthquake, which is why we have a seismic testing table.”

Nutherm has worked directly with the U.S. Department of Energy at many of their 17 National Laboratories around the United States. The company has designed, fabricated, and installed equipment around the world such as China, Taiwan, and Slovenia.

Most recently, Nutherm was awarded a HUBZone Certification, a federal program that fuels small business growth in historically underutilized business zones by awarding at least 3% of federal contract dollars to HUBZone-certified companies. This means that companies like Nutherm will be given preferential consideration for certain government contracts. HUBZone-certified businesses also get a 10% price evaluation preference in full and open contract competitions.

As coal power plants are taken offline, there is a renewed interest in nuclear energy, especially in newer technologies like small modular and molten-salt reactors. In addition to newer technologies, older nuclear power plants which originally had a lifespan of 40 years continue to get updates, expanding their lifespan by decades. The future is bright for Nutherm International in Southern Illinois.

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