GAO urges Congress to address spent fuel stalemate

September 28, 2021, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Spent nuclear fuel in dry storage at the decommissioned Zion nuclear power plant in Illinois.

Congress needs to take action to break the impasse over a permanent solution for commercial spent nuclear fuel, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO recommends that Congress amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) to authorize a new consent-based siting process, restructure the Nuclear Waste Fund, and direct the Department of Energy to develop and implement an integrated waste management strategy.

The GAO also recommends that the DOE finalize the consent-based process it began in 2015 for siting consolidated interim storage and permanent geologic repository facilities. The DOE agrees with that recommendation.

Lighting the path for next-generation PRA leaders in nuclear engineering

September 28, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear NewsZahra Mohaghegh
The National Center for Supercomputing Facility at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, supporting integrated PRA computational platforms created by the SoTeRiA lab. (Photo by UI Public Affairs: Stauffer)

Our next-­generation leaders must begin to think more creatively, using risk-­informed solutions to ensure safe, resilient, sustainable, and socially responsible technological advancements to usher in an era void of technological accidents. Probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) research and education provide nuclear engineering students with the scientific expertise and viable skill sets essential for meeting the growing demand for risk analysts in nuclear energy domains.


U.K. reportedly in talks with Westinghouse over nuclear new-build in Wales

September 28, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

In late January, after plans were scrapped for Wylfa Newydd—the Hitachi-led project to build two ABWR units at the site of the decommissioned Wylfa reactors on the Welsh island of Anglesey—the British government stated, “Wylfa remains an important site for potential new projects, and the U.K. government will continue to explore future opportunities for it.”

Industry, IAEA form panel to address global challenges

September 28, 2021, 7:18AMNuclear News

More than a dozen of the world’s leading nuclear industry executives have teamed up with the International Atomic Energy Agency to form the Group of Vienna, with the aim of using nuclear technologies to address global challenges, including climate change, disease, and hunger.

Panel shares tips to empower women to succeed in the nuclear field

September 27, 2021, 3:00PMANS News
The panelists at the September 22 Empowering Women to Succeed webinar. Clockwise from top left: Yeremian, Edwards, Rekola, Kandasamy, Camba Lynn, and Von Ruden.

Six women who shared personal stories and tactics to help others succeed in their careers in the nuclear field hope they have ignited a conversation that will continue far beyond a single webinar.

“Empowering Women to Succeed” was hosted by the American Nuclear Society on September 22, presented by a group of four nuclear organizations—ANS, North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN), U.S. Women in Nuclear (U.S. WIN), and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI)—which have pledged to work together as #AtomicAllies.

Moderated by Rosemary Yeremian, vice president of corporate strategy for X-energy Canada, who recently published a book titled Step Up: The Key to Succeeding in Male-Dominated Businesses, the panel included five other established and emerging nuclear leaders who spoke about their own experiences in the nuclear workforce and the importance of reflection and self-determination.

Yeremian was introduced by Timothy Crook, incoming chair of the ANS Operations and Power Division, who also coordinated the Q&A session that wrapped up the webinar. If you missed it you can watch the recording now, and be sure to check out this Young Members Group Twitter thread.

Nuclear Innovation Alliance publishes report on advanced reactors

September 27, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

With the goal of providing basic information on advanced reactors to help the public and stakeholders understand the technology’s promise, the nonprofit think tank Nuclear Innovation Alliance has published Advanced Nuclear Technology: A Primer.

IAEA and European Union extend nuclear safety agreement

September 27, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
The EU’s Massimo Garribba (left) and the IAEA’s Lydie Evrard met at last week’s 65th IAEA General Conference to extend a 2013 cooperation agreement. (Photo: C./Silva Villareal)

Some of the major achievements of the nuclear safety cooperation agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Union (EU) include more than 100 nuclear safety review missions, environmental remediation at former uranium sites in Central Asia, and more effective radioactive waste management in Africa.

Matthew Denman: On Probabilistic Risk Assessment

September 24, 2021, 3:32PMNuclear News

Matthew Denman

Probabilistic risk assessment is a systematic methodology for evaluating risks associated with a complex engineered technology such as nuclear energy. PRA risk is defined in terms of possible detrimental outcomes of an activity or action, and as such, risk is characterized by three quantities: what can go wrong, the likelihood of the problem, and the resulting consequences of the problem.

Matthew Denman is principal engineer for reliability engineering at Kairos Power and the chair of the American Nuclear Society and American Society of Mechanical Engineers Joint Committee on Nuclear Risk Management’s Subcommittee of Standards Development. As a college student at the University of Florida, Denman took a course on PRA but didn’t enjoy it, because he did not see its connection to the nuclear power industry. Later, during his Ph.D. study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his advisor was Neil Todreas, a well-known thermal hydraulics expert. Todreas was working on a project with George Apostolakis, who would leave MIT to become a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The project, “Risk Informing the Design of the Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor,” was a multi-university effort funded through a Department of Energy Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) grant. Todreas and Apostolakis were joined in this project by a who’s who of nuclear academia, including Andy Kadak (MIT, ANS past president [1999–2000]), Mike Driscoll (MIT), Mike Golay (MIT), Mike Lineberry (Idaho State University, former ANS treasurer), Rich Denning (Ohio State University), and Tunc Aldemir (Ohio State University).

Agencies assess power system performance during February freeze

September 24, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Snow covering grounds of the Texas Capitol on February 15, 2021.

To prevent future winter storms from causing the kind of widespread, lethal power outages wrought by February’s frigid blast through Texas and other states, the electric and natural gas industries need to bolster their winterization and cold weather preparedness and coordination, a just-released preliminary report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corporation concludes.

The two agencies had announced on February 16 that they planned to open a joint inquiry to identify problems with the performance of the bulk power system during the storm and to offer solutions. A team of FERC and NERC staff members presented the report at a FERC meeting on September 23.

A presentation of the report, February 2021 Cold Weather Grid Operations: Preliminary Findings and Recommendations, is available.

Kairos Power to hold virtual information session

September 24, 2021, 9:34AMANS Nuclear Cafe
An aerial view of the ETTP site. Photo: Heritage Center, LLC

Back in July, officials from the state of Tennessee and Kairos Power met in Nashville to celebrate Kairos’s plans to construct a low-power demonstration reactor in the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The demonstration facility is a scaled-down version of Kairos’s Fluoride Salt–Cooled High Temperature Reactor (KP-FHR), dubbed Hermes. The company first announced plans in December 2020 to redevelop the ETTP’s former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site for construction of Hermes.

NRC brainstorms ways to simplify microreactor licensing

September 24, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News
The U.S. NRC headquarters.

The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently released a draft white paper outlining strategies for streamlining microreactor licensing. The paper is to be used to facilitate discussion at an upcoming advanced reactor stakeholder public meeting.

“This paper,” the document emphasizes, “has not been subject to NRC management and legal reviews and approvals, and its contents are subject to change and should not be interpreted as official agency positions.”

Eleven countries newly elected to IAEA board

September 23, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Eleven countries have been newly elected to serve on the 35-member board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency for the period 2021–2022. The election took place on September 23 during the plenary session of the 65th IAEA General Conference, in Vienna, Austria. The conference started on September 20 and will run through September 24.

Pine forest helps safely disperse tritium at Savannah River Site

September 23, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
U.S. Forest Service employees Secunda Hughes (left) and Andrew Thompson inspect irrigation piping and sprinkler heads, part of a 62-acre pine plantation used to safely disperse tritium at the Savannah River Site.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is managing the release of tritiated water using a 62-acre plantation of pine trees and other natural resources to limit radioactively contaminated groundwater from reaching waterways on the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Germany: Coal tops wind energy in 2021, but there’s more to the story

September 23, 2021, 7:02AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Coal-fired plants fed the most power to Germany's electricity grid in the first half of 2021, while wind power dropped to its lowest level since 2018. As a September 13 article published on the German news site explained, the situation was blamed in part on a wind energy shortfall that is causing power price spikes across Europe.

Hot U market and simmering interest in HALEU: It boils down to demand

September 22, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
(Click photo to enlarge) One of 16 AC100M gas centrifuges built by Centrus Energy for HALEU production in Piketon, Ohio. (Photo: Centrus Energy)

For years, pressure has been building for a commercial path to a stable supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)—deemed essential for the deployment of advanced power reactors—but advanced reactor developers and enrichment companies are still watching and waiting. In contrast, the uranium spot price soared after Sprott Physical Uranium Trust, a Canadian investment fund formed in July, began buying up U3O8 supplies, causing the price to increase over 60 percent, topping $50 per pound for the first time since 2012. Fueled by growing acknowledgment that nuclear power is a necessary part of a clean energy future, uranium is the focus of attention from Wall Street to Capitol Hill.

Granholm, Grossi prepare for 2022 nuclear ministerial conference

September 22, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi pose for a photo before their September 21 meeting announcing the next International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi met in Vienna yesterday during the agency’s 65th General Conference to launch preparations for the next IAEA International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, slated for October 26–28, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Biochemistry research could have implications in nuclear waste remediation

September 22, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
During a fluorescence spectroscopy experiment at LLNL, the protein lanmodulin makes radioactive curium glow when exposed to UV light in the sample to the right. The schematic (left) represents the structure of the curium-protein complex, with three curium atoms bound per molecule of protein. (Photo: LLNL)

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, working in collaboration with researchers at Penn State University and Harvard Medical School, have discovered a new mechanism by which radionuclides could spread in the environment.

The research, which has implications for nuclear waste management and environmental chemistry, was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society on September 20.

TVA gives up construction permits for Bellefonte units

September 22, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News

Nearly 47 years after being issued construction permits for two reactors at the Bellefonte site in northeast Alabama, the Tennessee Valley Authority has decided against renewing them, essentially extinguishing any remaining hope for the project, on which the utility has reportedly spent more than $5 billion.