White paper shines light on significance of irradiation

With input from the American Nuclear Society and other organizations, the International Irradiation Association has published a white paper summarizing all of the significant uses of radiation processing and the global economic, social, and environmental benefits that arise from the technologies. The nontechnical document, Uses and Applications of Radiation Processing, is aimed at people and organizations that are not familiar with radiation processing, highlighting how irradiation is routinely used in an array of diverse and beneficial applications.

“Though largely unknown by the public, radiation processing, or ‘irradiation,’ touches everyone’s life,” states the paper, which was released on November 24.

The 11-page white paper goes on to summarize the applications of radiation processing, including medical sterilization, food irradiation, wastewater treatment, and other uses. An overview of the different technologies used to irradiate materials, including gamma, electron beam, and X-ray sources, is also provided.

NUREG published on high-burnup spent fuel storage and transportation

A final report on the dry storage and transportation of high-burnup spent nuclear fuel (NUREG-2224) has been issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NUREG-2224 provides a technical basis in support of the NRC’s guidance on adequate fuel conditions as it pertains to hydride reorientation in the cladding of high-burnup spent fuel (over 45 gigawatt-day per metric ton uranium).

NUREG-2224, “Dry Storage and Transportation of High Burnup Spent Nuclear Fuel,” was made publicly available on November 23 on the NRC’s ADAMS website with Accession No. ML20191A321.

OPG resumes planning for new nuclear at Darlington

Darlington nuclear power plant. Photo: OPG

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) recently announced the resumption of planning activities for future nuclear power generation at its Darlington site, with a goal of hosting a grid-size small modular reactor as soon as 2028. Originally, plans for the Darlington new nuclear project were focused on the construction of traditional large reactors.

Located in Clarington, Ontario, Darlington is the only site in Canada currently licensed for new nuclear. OPG was granted a license from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in 2012 to allow site preparation activities for the project. The company has applied to renew the license, which is set to expire in August 2022. The CNSC will hold a public hearing on June 9–10, 2021, to consider the license renewal.

Early last month, OPG announced that it was working with three grid-scale SMR technology developers—GE Hitachi, Terrestrial Energy, and X-energy—to advance engineering and design work, with the goal of identifying options for future deployment.

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Inspecting Hidden Areas of Metal Tanks and Containment Vessels or Liners

Figure 1. The Hanford Site in Washington state stores millions of gallons of high-level radioactive waste in 28 double-shell tanks. The tanks are buried underground to enhance radiation shielding. The space between the primary tank and the steel liner can be used to allow inspection of the inaccessible regions of these vessels.

Nuclear power plant containment vessels have large, inaccessible regions that cannot be inspected by conventional techniques. Inaccessible regions often are encased in concrete, soil or sand, or hidden behind equipment attached to a wall. Similar constraints affect the inspection of double-shell tanks designed to store nuclear waste, illustrated in Figure 1, that have an inaccessible region at the tank bottom where the primary shell is supported by the secondary shell. Present methods to monitor the integrity of these vessels primarily rely on partial inspections of accessible areas or estimation of corrosion rates; however, these approaches cannot account for nonuniform localized corrosion or cracking.

Indian Point licenses to transfer to Holtec for decommissioning

Indian Point’s licenses will transfer to Holtec for decommissioning after the plant shuts down in 2021. Photo: Entergy Nuclear

The transfer of the Indian Point nuclear power plant licenses from Entergy to Holtec International, as owner, and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), as decommissioning operator, has been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The license transfers follow the transfer of the licenses of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant from Exelon and the Pilgrim plant from Entergy to Holtec in mid-2019. As with the Oyster Creek and Pilgrim plants, Holtec and HDI intend to expedite the decommissioning and dismantling of Indian Point.

Indian Point’s three pressurized water reactors are located in Buchanan, N.Y., approximately 24 miles north of New York City. Units 1 and 2 have been permanently shut down, in 1974 and 2020, respectively, and Unit 3 is scheduled to be shut down in April 2021. The license transfer also includes the plant’s independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI).

Why I’ll be getting a COVID-19 vaccine

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American Nuclear Society.

I should state up front that I am not an expert in matters of dealing with communicable diseases, although like most of us, I am much more knowledgeable in the area than I was a year ago.

In COVID-19, the world is dealing with a disease that has killed more than a quarter-million Americans in less than a year and, when all is said and done, will have led to the deaths of millions worldwide. Beyond the immediate fatalities, there are the aftereffects on the health of survivors and immensely adverse economic, psychological, and social impacts on the human race. It doesn’t even stop there—other species on our planet are similarly impacted. It’s not quite Stephen King’s The Stand or a zombie apocalypse, but “it could be worse” is cold comfort when you look at the reality of the situation. Like everyone, I have experienced indirectly the effects of COVID-19. I have lost friends and colleagues to the disease, but fortunately, so far, no close family members.

Senate bill introduced to reestablish U.S. leadership in nuclear energy

Barrasso

Whitehouse

The American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA), S. 4897, released as draft legislation in July and supported by a panel of energy experts at a Senate hearing in August, has been introduced in the Senate.

The bipartisan bill—sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and cosponsored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), and Cory Booker (D., N.J.)—was introduced on November 16.

Baranwal reviews virtual STEM lessons for U.S. tribal communities

Baranwal

In a blog post to the Department of Energy’s website on November 23, Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy, commended recent virtual lesson projects from the Office of Nuclear Energy and the Nuclear Energy Tribal Working Group to increase STEM opportunities for Native American tribes.

The spotlighted lesson discussed in the article focused on a 3D-printed clip that turns a smartphone or tablet into a microscope with the ability to magnify items by 100 times. The Office of Nuclear Energy shipped nearly 1,000 of these microscope clips to students across the country, many of them going to U.S. tribal communities.

ANS Board of Directors votes to retire outdated position statements

The American Nuclear Society’s Board of Directors on November 19 voted to retire several outdated position statements, as requested by the Public Policy Committee. Among them are Position Statements #37 and #63, dating from 2010, which have been retired for lacking policy recommendations and for being redundant, as other position statements exist with language that better articulates the Society’s stance on those topics.

Second license renewal sought for Wisconsin plant

Point Beach nuclear plant. Photo: NRC

NextEra Energy submitted a license renewal (SLR) application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking to add 20 years to the licenses of the two units at the Point Beach plant. The plant is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, in Two Rivers, Wis.

The application, submitted November 16, is the first SLR application for a Midwestern nuclear plant, according to NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng.

Point Beach’s initial license renewal was issued in 2005.

For more on the story, see this Wisconsin State Journal report.

New research planned for high-energy physics

The DOE is expected to fund high-energy physics research at its Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, shown in this rendering. Image: Fermilab

The Department of Energy plans to provide $100 million over the next four years for new research in high-energy physics. The research is expected to focus on topics such as the Higgs boson, neutrinos, dark matter, and dark energy in an effort to advance understanding of the universe at the most fundamental level. The Office of High Energy Physics (HEP) within the DOE’s Office of Science is sponsoring the research funding opportunity.

The DOE’s funding opportunity announcement, “FY 2021 Research Opportunities in High Energy Physics,” can be found on the HEP funding opportunities page.

High-energy physics serves as a cornerstone of America’s science efforts, the DOE said on November 17, adding that it plays a major role in nurturing top scientific talent and building and sustaining the nation’s scientific workforce. Applications will be open to universities, industry, and nonprofit institutions, with awards selected by competitive peer review and contingent on congressional appropriations.

Palo Verde settles with NRC over apparent spent fuel storage violations

The Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona.

A confirmatory order issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Arizona Public Service Company documents the commitments the company has made as part of a settlement agreement with the agency. The settlement agreement stems from two apparent violations of NRC regulations involving spent nuclear fuel at APS’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Tonopah, Ariz.

The apparent violations involved APS’s failure to (1) perform a written evaluation for a change to the NAC MAGNASTOR dry cask storage system for spent fuel and obtain a license amendment for a change in methodology for performing tip-over calculations and (2) adequately analyze the consequences of a hypothetical MAGNASTOR CC5 spent fuel cask tip-over accident on the plant’s independent spent fuel storage installation pad.

The confirmatory order was issued on November 17. The apparent violations are described in a July 6 NRC inspection report.

2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: More on advanced nuclear reactors and power systems

The third part of the“Advanced Nuclear Reactors and Power Systems” sessions during the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting featured an examination of the status of various advanced reactors. The sessions were sponsored by the Operations and Power Division and chaired by Piyush Sabharwall of Idaho National Laboratory.

Here is an article on the first "Advanced Nuclear Reactors and Power Systems” session.

Presentation topics in the third and final session included using Modelica for system-level modeling and simulation of advanced reactors; the testing of fast-spectrum reactors’ gears and bearings in liquid sodium; and the creation of a simple core analysis tool called the Thermal hydrAulic COre Calculations using the single heAted channel meThod (TACOCAT) code.

Here are some of the highlights:

Feature Article

Robotics for Plant Maintenance: Now and in the Future

Diakont technicians prepare an NDE inspection robot for deployment into a diesel tank. Photos: Diakont

Robotics and remote systems have been used for supporting nuclear facilities since the dawn of the atomic age. Early commercial nuclear plants implemented varying levels of automation and remote operation, such as maintenance activities performed on the reactor pressure vessel and steam generators. Over the past several decades, there has been a steady progression toward incorporating more advanced remote operations into nuclear plants to improve their efficiency and safety. One of the primary forces driving the adoption of robotic tooling in U.S. nuclear power plants is money.

The economic model for the U.S. operating fleet has changed considerably over the past 10 to 12 years. Regulations in the nuclear industry have rarely decreased and, more often than not, have increased. This has led to nuclear plants in certain energy markets being hindered financially and thus needing to find ways to optimize their operations to do more with the resources they have. At the same time, the reliability and flexibility of robotics and automated systems have been increasing while their costs have been decreasing, making robotic systems much safer and more available to use. This has helped drive utilities to explore new ways of using robotics to overcome the obstacles they are facing. One of the obstacles that power plants have been tackling has been shortening the duration of their refueling outages to decrease their costs and increase their revenue.

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2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: Advanced nuclear reactors and power systems

“Advanced Nuclear Reactors and Power Systems-I” on November 18 during the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting was the first of a three-session set examining the status of various advanced reactors. The sessions were sponsored by the Operations and Power Division and chaired by Piyush Sabharwall of Idaho National Laboratory.

Presentation topics in the first session included the core design and helium Brayton cycle design of the Holos-Quad microreactor, a microreactor design for a truck charging station, and a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) estimation on HALEU (high-assay low-enriched uranium) fuels for small modular reactors.

Here are some highlights:

2021 WM Symposia conference to go virtual

Citing ongoing developments with COVID-19, Waste Management Symposia has announced that it has decided to make its 2021 Waste Management Conference a virtual event. WM Symposia has been holding its annual conference for the management of radioactive waste, nuclear decommissioning, and related topics since 1974. The conference is typically held in early March in Phoenix, Ariz.

2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: President’s Special Session

ANS President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar took to the video screen on November 18 during the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting for the President’s Special Session on radiation risk, echoing a comment by Exelon Nuclear’s Bryan Hanson, the Winter Meeting’s general cochair, who earlier in the week characterized radiation as one of the most misunderstood aspects of nuclear.

“I think that’s very true,” Dunzik-Gougar said. “So much misconception and misunderstanding. I have always had a passion for communicating about such things as radiation, helping people understand the nature of radiation and the relative risks of nuclear, but mostly about its benefits. But I think we in the industry can better prepare ourselves with knowledge about radiation and its impacts and also educate ourselves on how to talk about the risks of radiation with people not in our own echo chambers to help change the perception among a broader scope of people.”

The panel of experts assembled to help impart some of that knowledge to session attendees included Amir A. Bahadori, assistant professor at Kansas State University; Donald A. Cool, a technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute and a former senior executive at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Paul Locke, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Shaheen Dewji, assistant professor at Texas A&M University.

Savannah River's Ford Building comes down

Demolition of the Ford Building at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina has been completed, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) announced on November 18. The large metal storage building formerly contained mechanical systems used during the Cold War to remotely raise and lower control rods within nuclear reactor vessels.

Workers have also sealed the Ford Building’s original concrete flooring with six inches of new concrete. Teardown of the facility brings the number of structures that have been deactivated and decommissioned at the site to 292.

DOE tags INL as “preferred alternative” to host the Versatile Test Reactor

Rendering of the proposed Versatile Test Reactor. Image: Idaho National Laboratory

The Department of Energy won’t publish its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) until mid-December. In a November 19 announcement on Twitter, however, the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy said that the yet-to-be-released EIS lists Idaho National Laboratory as the preferred alternative to site the VTR.

The DOE plans to submit the draft EIS for public comments early next month. The DOE won’t make a final decision on the design, technology selection, and location for the VTR until the completion of the EIS and record of decision in late 2021.