Hydrogen: The best shot for nuclear sustainability?

December 3, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

Nuclear power plants are not quick to change. So when four utilities announce they will make room for shiny new electrolyzers and consider tweaking their business model, that’s news.

Nuclear power plants can leverage the energy stored in some of the world’s heaviest elements to generate the lightest: hydrogen. That is not news, but it casts an aura of alchemy over straightforward engineering. Amid the hype, and the hope of significant federal funding, it’s worth acknowledging that hydrogen has an industrial history over 100 years old. In the potential matchup of hydrogen and nuclear power, it’s nuclear that would be the newcomer.

ANS Winter Meeting: Addressing the spent fuel dilemma

December 3, 2021, 11:59AMRadwaste Solutions

The President’s Special Session at the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo, held Thursday morning, explored the current impasse over the management of spent nuclear fuel in the United States, with leaders from Congress and representatives from the Department of Energy and the U.S. Government Accountability Office sharing the work they are doing in an effort to break that impasse.

First Hunterston reactor shuttered

December 3, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
The Hunterston B nuclear power station in 2018. (Photo: Thomas Nugent/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Unit B1 at Scotland’s two-unit Hunterston B nuclear power plant was taken off line for good on November 26 after nearly 46 years of operation. A 490-MWe advanced gas-cooled reactor, the unit entered commercial operation in June 1976. Its companion AGR, Unit B2, which entered operation in March 1977, is scheduled for retirement in January.

GE Hitachi SMR chosen for Darlington project

December 3, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of a BWRX-300 plant. (Photo: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy)

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) as its technology partner for the Darlington nuclear new-build project. The companies will work to deploy GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor at OPG’s Darlington nuclear plant, located in Clarington, Ontario.

AccAPP’21: The value of accelerators

December 2, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

AccApp'21, the 14th International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Applications of Accelerators, runs through December 4 and is being held as an embedded topical at the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. The meeting was to be held April 5-9, 2020, at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria—and it was to be known as AccApp’20—but it was postponed because of COVID-19.

AccApp'21 is organized by ANS’s Accelerator Applications Division and cosponsored by Texas A&M University, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and the IAEA. The meeting’s focus is on the following areas:

  • The production and use of accelerator-produced neutrons, photons, electrons, and other particles for scientific and industrial purposes.
  • The production or destruction of radionuclides significant for energy, medicine, cultural heritage, or other endeavors.
  • Safety and security applications.
  • Medical imaging, diagnostics, and therapeutic treatment.

Neutron depth profiling technique nurtured at NIST can improve battery technology

December 2, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Jamie Weaver with the neutron depth profiling instrument. (Photo: T. Barvitskie/NIST)

The newest generation of lithium-ion batteries now being developed uses thin-film, solid-state technology and could soon safely power cell phones, electric vehicles, laptops, and other devices. However, like all batteries, solid-state lithium-ion batteries have a drawback: Impedance—electrical resistance—can build up as batteries are discharged and recharged, limiting the flow of electric current.

USS Enterprise named an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark

December 2, 2021, 9:30AMANS News
The USS Enterprise was officially decommissioned in February 2017.

The USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, has been named an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark. The designation was officially recognized on December 1 during the ANS Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The inscription on the plaque presented by ANS reads, “In recognition of the most advanced nuclear engineering technology of the 1950s and for her 51 years of service to our nation, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) is designated as an ANS Nuclear Historic Landmark.”

Students: Apply online now for 2022–2023 ANS scholarships

December 2, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The American Nuclear Society supports more than 50 college students each year through its Scholarship Program, awarding more than $140,000 annually. Applications for the 2022–2023 academic year are now available, and all ANS student members are encouraged to apply. Recipients will be awarded between $1,000 and $5,000, based on merit and financial need.

ANS Winter Meeting: What it will take to “Fuel our Nuclear Future"

December 1, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo began this morning with a Opening Plenary Session chaired by Winter Meeting general chair Amir Vexler, president and chief executive officer of Orano USA. It was an opportunity to both celebrate achievements that are already building a “Nuclear Future” and to identify needs and challenges ahead.

Influential speakers from the U.S. Congress, the Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Energy Institute joined ANS president Steven Nesbit and ANS CEO/executive director Craig Piercy to explore key issues associated with the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including supply and demand for high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU). They didn’t stop there, however. They took questions from an in-person and virtual audience that probed other requirements of a sustainable nuclear future, including fueling a human resources pipeline.

DOE resumes consent-based siting process for spent fuel storage

December 1, 2021, 12:03PMRadwaste Solutions
Spent fuel in dry cask storage at the closed Kewaunee nuclear power plant. (Photo: NAC International)

The Department of Energy has restarted its consent-based siting process for identifying sites to store the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. Yesterday, the DOE issued a request for information that “will be used to further develop DOE’s consent-based siting process and overall waste management strategy in an equitable way.”

Save the VTR!

December 1, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Artist's rendition of the Versatile Test Reactor. (Source: DOE)

What is the role of a control room supervisor during a refueling outage?

December 1, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear NewsGuest Contributor

Outage time at a nuclear power plant comes with a unique set of challenges for licensed personnel. A primary responsibility for control room supervisors in any mode of operation is to maintain control of the plant configuration, which during an outage requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. Considering what is involved in taking the plant apart, upgrading plant equipment, performing once-per-cycle inspections and preventative maintenance, testing safety system functionality, and loading the next core, it’s clear why so much emphasis is placed on outage performance.

Are we good enough for nuclear?

November 30, 2021, 2:55PMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

The November 2021 issue of Nuclear News is dedicated to the people who provide “end of life” care for our nuclear reactors and facilities. Yes, D&D work may not get the same headlines as the development of advanced reactor designs. But if you look closely, you will find yet another segment of the nuclear professional community quietly driving advancements in technology and practice that lower costs, speed up time frames, and improve overall results.

Many of our former nuclear plants are now essentially greenfield sites, with the on-site storage of spent fuel remaining as the only outward reminder of the land’s history. Clearly, our professionals have done their work well. Now, if only our elected leaders would do theirs.

Which brings me to a larger observation that has seeped into my thinking over the past few months. As a community, we spend a lot of time trying to convince people of the societal value of nuclear technology. In those discussions, we almost always start from a defensive position.

When the Science Channel is light on science

November 30, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear NewsSteve Redeker

In September, cable television’s Science Channel aired an episode on power plant catastrophes as part of its series Deadly Engineering, with one principal segment on the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The episode contains several inaccuracies and distortions—perhaps the biggest mistake being that the TMI accident was featured in Deadly Engineering at all, since no deaths or long-term adverse health trends resulted from the accident.

Leaving that aside, the episode includes other errors that executives at Science Channel should have caught and corrected before airing. They also should have made sure to include knowledgeable scientific reviewers from both sides of the nuclear issue, which they did not.

The biggest falsehood in the episode comes very near the beginning, with the horribly erroneous claim that most of eastern Pennsylvania was made permanently uninhabitable by the accident. Incredibly wrong, and likely believable and very frightening to some viewers.

Study: New U.K. nuclear likely to be lower carbon source than solar or wind

November 30, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A recent study of life cycle carbon emissions at the United Kingdom’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant finds that the facility, now under construction in Somerset, England, is likely to produce less CO2 over its lifetime than either solar or wind power.

According to the 70-page analysis—prepared by environmental consultancy Ricardo Energy & Environment for NNB Generation Company HPC Limited, the holding company for the Hinkley Point project—lifetime emissions from Hinkley Point C are likely to be about 5.5g CO2e per kWh. That amount also holds for the proposed Sizewell C plant, the study concludes. (The two 1,630-MWe EPRs at Hinkley Point C are currently scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2026 and 2027.)

DOE begins commissioning of Hanford’s WTP

November 30, 2021, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
Electrician Ralph Bisla conducts tests of the finishing line inside Hanford’s WTP Low-Activity Waste Facility. (Photo: DOE)

Having completed all startup testing of components and systems, the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) at the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash., has moved to the commissioning phase, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced last week. During the commissioning phase, the final steps will be taken to prepare for the vitrification of radioactive and chemical waste as part of Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) program.

DOE awards $8.5 million to fund advanced nuclear projects

November 29, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

In its latest financial nod of encouragement to the U.S. nuclear industry, the Department of Energy has announced awards totaling $8.5 million to five industry-led projects, with the aim of accelerating the commercial deployment of advanced reactors and fuels.

The awards are funded via the Office of Nuclear Energy’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity, which, since 2017, has invested more than $215 million in advanced nuclear technologies. Solicitations are broken down into three pathways: first-of-a-kind nuclear demonstration readiness projects, advanced reactor development projects, and direct regulatory assistance.

NRC heightens oversight at Vogtle-3 project

November 29, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The Vogtle-3 turbine building (left) and containment (right) in October. (Photo: Georgia Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will increase its oversight of Vogtle-3—one of the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors under construction at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Ga.—after finalizing two inspection findings involving the unit’s safety-related electrical cable raceway system. Vogtle’s operator, Southern Nuclear, was informed of the decision in a November 17 letter.

The agency had launched a special inspection at Vogtle-3 in June of this year to determine the cause and extent of construction quality issues in the raceway system, which consists primarily of conduits and cable trays designed to prevent a single event from disabling redundant safety-related equipment.

SwRI demonstrates drone autonomy technology

November 29, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
SwRI engineers used LIDAR point cloud data to reconstruct a high-resolution image of a facility that houses electric turbines at the nuclear power plant. 3D cubes, or voxels, on the left provide spatial information on the turbine facility. Point clouds were reconstructed to create the high-resolution image of the turbines on the right. SwRI specializes in data visualizations to identify damage and potential hazards following accidents at nuclear power plants and other hazardous facilities. (Graphic: SwRI)

During the EnRicH 2021 European Robotics Hackathon, Southwest Research Institute’s unmanned aircraft system (UAS or drone) explored and mapped the interior of a nuclear power plant, detecting radiation sources autonomously, without the aid of a human pilot.

SwRI’s UAS technology can potentially assist in life-saving search-and-rescue missions and hazardous inspections at industrial facilities and infrastructure following natural disasters and other incidents.

Becoming agile and innovative in an evolving nuclear landscape: Changing the industry narrative for a strong future

November 29, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear NewsGleb Tsipursky
Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. (Photo: PG&E)

Last April, Entergy had to close its Indian Point nuclear plant. That’s despite the plant’s being recognized as one of the best-run U.S. nuclear plants. That’s also despite its 20-year license extension process having been nearly completed, with full support from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

This closure was due in large part to opposition by antinuclear environmental groups. These groups also mobilized existing negative public opinion on nuclear energy to get politicians to oppose the plant’s license extension. Another factor is unfair market conditions. Nuclear energy doesn’t get due government support—unlike solar, wind, and hydro—despite delivering clean, zero-emissions energy.