Barrasso: The future of nuclear energy is American

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) authored an op-ed that was published in the Casper Star Tribune this week on the importance of rebuilding domestic uranium production. The article was published on the heels of a draft Senate bill, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020, that was released on July 29.

UAE’s Barakah-1 achieves first criticality

Initial criticality is achieved at Barakah-1. Photo: ENEC

Nawah Energy Company has successfully started up Unit 1 of the United Arab Emirates’ Barakah nuclear power plant, according to an announcement from Nawah’s parent company, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). One of four 1,345-MWe APR-1400 pressurized water reactors at the plant, Unit 1 achieved initial criticality on August 1.

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Metal frameworks could capture krypton-85 during reprocessing

Separation of Kr-85 from spent nuclear fuel by a highly selective metal organic framework. Image: Mike Gipple/National Energy Technology Laboratory

According to a story published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on July 24, the capture of gaseous fission products such as krypton-85 during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel could be aided by the adsorption of gasses into an advanced type of soft crystalline material, metal organic frameworks(MOF), which feature high porosity and large internal surface areas that can trap an array of organic and inorganic compounds.

Court upholds Virginia ban on uranium mining

A Virginia circuit court judge has upheld the state’s 38-year-old moratorium on uranium mining, rejecting Virginia Uranium Inc.’s (VUI) argument that the ban was an unconstitutional violation of the company’s rights regarding its Coles Hill property. On July 27, Judge Chadwick Dotson ruled in the state’s favor, declaring that while the mining prohibition does amount to a taking or damaging of private property within the meaning of the state constitution, Virginia had a compelling interest to do so.

62 years ago today: The USS Nautilus passes under the North Pole

USS Nautilus, circa 1965. Photo: U.S. Navy

Being stuck under the ice with no obvious exit route is a classic movie scene that is guaranteed to instill fear in any audience. There is no doubt that Cmdr. William R. Anderson and the crew of the USS Nautilus must have felt some of this fear when they circumvented the polar ice cap 62 years ago, reaching the North Pole on August 3, 1958.

Although it was already known that the Nautilus could operate almost indefinitely underwater, there were many unknowns for such a trip. There was uncertainty in the relative ice thickness to water depth, and the magnetic pole required the use of new navigation technology. Being trapped or lost under the ice was a very real possibility, and there would be no rescue.

Input sought on environmental review of Westinghouse fuel plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requesting public comment on the scope of the environmental impact statement (EIS) it intends to prepare for Westinghouse Electric Company’s application to renew the operating license for its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF), according to a notice published in the July 31 Federal Register. Comments must be filed by August 31 and can be submitted by email to WEC_CFFF_EIS.resource@nrc.gov; by regular mail to Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN–7– A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001; or by visiting the federal rulemaking website and searching for Docket ID NRC-2015-0039.

The CFFF, located in Columbia, S.C., produces fuel assemblies for use in commercial nuclear power reactors.

NNSA funding opportunity looks to boost U.S. production of Mo-99 by 2023

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration on July 30 issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to foster commercial-scale domestic production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 without the use of high-enriched uranium. Mo-99 is used in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States every day.

Through the FOA (DE-FOA-0002303), the NNSA is soliciting applications from U.S. companies to help achieve commercial-scale Mo-99 production by December 31, 2023. Companies have until September 30 this year to respond to the FOA with proposals.

Feature Article

The race for outage efficiency

Working in INL’s Human Systems Simulation Laboratory, senior R&D scientist Ahmed Al Rashdan co-developed the Advanced Remote Monitoring project for the LWRS Program.

There are numerous similarities between auto racing pit crews and the people in the nuclear power industry who get us through outages: Pace. Efficiency. Diagnostics. Teamwork. Skill. And safety above all else.

To Paul Hunton, a research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory, the keys to successfully navigating a nuclear plant outage are planning and preparation. “When you go into an outage, you are ready,” Hunton said. “You need to manage outage time. You want to avoid adding delays to the scheduled outage work because if you do, it can add a couple million dollars to the cost.”

Hunton was the principal investigator for the September 2019 report Addressing Nuclear Instrumentation and Control (I&C) Modernization Through Application of Techniques Employed in Other Industries, produced for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability (LWRS) Program, led by INL. Hunton drew on his experience outside the nuclear industry, including a decade at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Philippines to take another look at nuclear power

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on July 24 signed an executive order that calls for a study to determine the feasibility of introducing nuclear energy into the country’s power generation mix. Citing “the experience of a number of countries” showing nuclear power to be “a reliable, cost-competitive, and environment-friendly energy source,” the order creates the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC) to carry out the work.

Senate bill aims to recharge U.S. nuclear industry

Barrasso

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) on July 29 released a draft bill to revitalize the United States’ nuclear sector—the same day that GOP colleagues in the House introduced similar legislation. According to the senator, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020 (ANIA) would enable U.S. international leadership, preserve America’s uranium supply chain, reduce carbon emissions, and strengthen the nation’s economic, energy, and national security. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, of which Barrasso is chairman, is scheduled to hold a legislative hearing on the draft on August 5.

Opening plenary session will be among the highlights at UWC Virtual Summit

The 2020 Utility Working Conference Virtual Summit promises to be a valuable experience for all attendees—and may exceed previous in-person UWC meetings in some ways.

“This program overall is the most aggressive and complex that we have ever put together,” said Vince Gilbert, this year’s technical program chair, who has been actively involved with the UWC since 1998.

The normally three-day event is being shortened to a one-day online meeting—August 11—due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Discount rates for registration end today! Register here.

Nuclear-powered Perseverance begins seven-month journey to Mars

An Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard launches on July 30 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover went ahead as scheduled on July 30, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:50 a.m. (EDT) . The rover was onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket.

Minutes later, NASA reported that all flight milestones were being met as planned. There are several more milestones to reach before Perseverance—the fifth rover that NASA has sent to Mars—lands on the Red Planet in seven months.

Assembly of ITER begins in Southern France

Those attending the livestreamed July 28 celebration in person (shown here from above) followed recommended social distancing measures.

First-of-a-kind components have been arriving in recent months at the ITER construction site in Cadarache, France, from some of the 35 ITER member countries around the world. The arrival on July 21 of the first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel from South Korea marks the beginning of a four-and-a-half year machine assembly process for the world’s largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as an energy source.

Fuel supply and reactor licensing bills debut in House

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 29 continued their push for nuclear with the introduction of the Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act (H.R. 7814) and the Modernize Nuclear Reactor Environmental Reviews Act (H.R. 7817). Last month, GOP members of the committee introduced the Strengthening American Nuclear Competitiveness Act and the Nuclear Licensing Efficiency Act.

Trump picks two for spots on FERC

Clements

Christie

The White House earlier this week announced its intention to nominate Allison Clements, a Democrat, and Mark C. Christie, a Republican, to seats on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If both are confirmed by the Senate, FERC will have a full complement of five commissioners—three Republicans and two Democrats—for the first time since before Cheryl LaFleur departed in August last year.

The National Atomic Testing Museum presents Distinguished Lecture Series webinar

Brent Park, NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Photo: NNSA

The National Atomic Testing Museum is hosting a free webinar on July 30 at 9 p.m. (EDT) featuring Brent Park, the National Nuclear Security Administration's deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Registration is required.

The webinar is part of the museum’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Park, a nuclear physicist with 30 years of experience at Department of Energy national laboratories, currently leads the NNSA's efforts to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and reduce the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism around the world.

Demolition under way on last remaining building at ETTP in Oak Ridge

Demolition begins on Building K-1600 at ETTP. The 42,000-square-foot structure was formerly used as a test and demonstration facility for uranium enrichment centrifuges. Graphics: OREM

Demolition has begun on Building K-1600 at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) reported on July 28. The work is being done by OREM and its contractor UCOR.