Newswire will present coverage of sessions throughout the American Nuclear Society’s 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting. Here are notes on some of the sessions covered on June 8, the opening day of the meeting.
The Virtual Annual Meeting 2020 is the American Nuclear Society's first virtual meeting and largest national meeting in terms of attendance with more than 2,000 participants registered. The Opening Plenary kicked off on June 8 with welcoming comments from Craig Piercy, ANS executive director and chief executive officer, and Marilyn Kray, ANS president. Keynote speakers were U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette; William Magwood, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency director-general; and Kathryn McCarthy, US ITER project director. The keynote speakers were followed by a utility roundtable of speakers on the subject of “U.S. Leadership in Sustaining Clean, Competitive Power and Hydrogen,” which will be the subject of a separate Newswire article to be published on June 9.
What follows immediately below are select comments from Brouillette. The August issue of Nuclear News will feature more from Brouillette’s speech and from the Opening Plenary’s other speakers.
Nuclear energy and technologies have strong allies within the Trump administration, Brouillette said. “As we all know the president remains an extraordinary advocate for this amazing form of energy and for America’s nuclear energy leadership,” he said.
Once the global leader in nuclear technology, the United States has fallen back in recent decades. Brouillette blamed that on a combination of factors, including anti-nuclear advocates that pushed the idea that nuclear energy isn’t safe. “Over time this fear fueled relentless public assaults on the civilian nuclear power industry and led to increased costs for building and maintaining nuclear reactors,” he said.
Brouillette added that the Department of Energy and the Trump administration are working to reverse decades of the nation’s decline in nuclear global leadership. Specifically, he pointed to legislation and initiatives such as the creation of the Nuclear Fuel Working Group, which recently published its report, Restoring America’s Competitive Nuclear Energy Advantage.
"Nearly seven decades ago, America beckoned the world to embrace peaceful nuclear power,” he said. “It’s time for this nation to rise up and recover that vision, to restore its leadership, and to revitalize nuclear energy right here at home.”
Waste Management and Fuel Cycle Innovation
With speakers from the United States and the United Kingdom, this panel session titled "Waste Management and Fuel Cycle Innovation Challenges for Advanced Nuclear Reactors" explored the used fuel and overall fuel cycle challenges that need to be addressed for advanced reactors to be successfully deployed in a timescale that will meet the market demand, as well as national goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A few highlights from the session include:
The fuel cycle chain: Sal Golub, DOE assistant secretary for nuclear fuel cycle and supply chain, told viewers to think about the nuclear fuel cycle, from mining to disposal, as “links in a consecutive chain.” It is essential, he said, that the fuel cycle chain remains robust, with no weak links.
HALEU, Part I: Speaking on the DOE’s efforts to develop high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel, Golub noted that the challenge is that there is no domestic supply of the fuel and that it is difficult to forecast market needs.
HALEU, Part II: Jack Law of Idaho National Laboratory discussed the lab’s work in recovering HALEU fuel from the reprocessing of Idaho’s Experimental Breeder Reactor-II fuel. HALEU recovered from EBR-II used fuel is the “nearest term feedstock available to supply fast spectrum advanced reactor concepts,” Law said, adding that it is INL’s goal is to have 5 metric tons of HALEU available by 2024.
Costs: If nuclear power is to be competitive, the cost of nuclear life cycle must be reduced, said Dan Mathers, senior technology advisor for the U.K.’s Nuclear Innovation and Research Office (NIRO). “In order to do this, we need to exploit commercial technologies and engage international collaborations to deliver those products,” he said.
NIRAB report: Mathers pointed attendees to a recent report by the U.K.’s Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, which in partnership with NIRO, advises the government on nuclear research and innovation. The report, Achieving Net Zero: The role of Nuclear Energy in Decarbonisation, reflects the progress made by NIRAB on formulizing the future role of new nuclear energy as a means to reducing U.K. carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
Advanced fuels: Paul Nevitt, technical director of the advanced fuel cycle program at the U.K. National Nuclear Laboratory, noted that the development of advanced nuclear fuels is crucial if the United Kingdom is to retain an indigenous nuclear fuel manufacturing capability. Nevitt said that the U.K. is investing in research of accident tolerant fuels, fast reactor fuels, and coated particle fuels, as well as nuclear data.
Collaboration: Andrew Worrall from Oak Ridge National Laboratory noted that international collaboration and being able to leverage opportunities with partners is critical to the development of a sustainable fuel cycle. “Budgets aren’t as large as they used to be, therefore programs can’t really stand on their own in the way they used to,” said Worrall, who is the DOE’s U.K. Country Coordinator.
Training, Human Performance, and Workforce Development
An early afternoon session titled "Training, Human Performance and Workforce Development" looked at three separate issues, as follows:
A program supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency is training secondary school teachers from the Asia-Pacific region on the topic of nuclear science and technology so that they may then educate their classroom students, David Grabaskas, of Argonne National Laboratory, explained during the opening presentation of this session.
Grabaskas said that the IAEA program holds two-week workshops at international sites where secondary school teachers from IAEA member states are taught about nuclear’s many applications, including health care, agriculture, sterilization, nondestructive evaluation, and chemical processing, in addition to power generation. The program’s purpose is to build a pipeline to ensure the future of nuclear.
The workshops offer training on the basics of nuclear science and its applications and include tours of nuclear facilities. “Past workshops have been held in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Tokyo, Austria, and at ANL,” Grabaskas said. He added that a goal of the program by 2021 is to reach 1 million secondary school students, a number that is very likely to be exceeded.
Emma Wong, of the Electric Power Research Institute, said that EPRI is in the process of developing a digital knowledge-transfer tool that would be used for training purposes at a nuclear plant. “Those entering the workforce today are more accustomed to having digital information such as maps and reference information in a smart device instead of paper versions,” she said.
The knowledge-transfer tool is an app that can be downloaded to a phone or other device and then used for training purposes. The user could, for example, call up the “electrical cables” part of the app, which would show drawings, specs, and other information about the part being studied.
Gary Cavanaugh, senior vice president of Marathon Consulting Group, talked about the cost of a nuclear plant’s landing in Column 4 of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Reactor Oversight Process (ROP).
Cavanaugh said that the average amount of time a plant remains in Column 4 is 39 months, which means no power generation, because the plant is shut down during that period. The cost, depending on the duration of the shutdown, can be $50 million to $250 million, he said.
Cavanaugh said that there are shared weaknesses for plants that are placed in Column 4. These include common deficiencies, problems in identification and resolution of deficiencies, management and/or organization ineffectiveness, poor operational focus and decision making, and training deficiencies.
A database developed by Marathon assesses performance and can help a plant to get out of Column 4, he said. The database reviews the following items: corrective action program data, regulatory inspection reports, quality assurance reports/surveillances, self-assessment reports, off-site review committee reports, nuclear safety culture evaluation reports, and recent industry evaluation reports.
The database produces a list of negative observations, which are compared to problems at troubled plants of the past 19 years. Only the most serious issues are identified as either fundamental problems or problem areas. The database is able to offer tried and proven improvement plans, Cavanaugh said.
Coming up on June 9:
10:00-11:30 a.m. (EDT)
ANS President’s Special Session: 2030: US Global Leadership in Nuclear Energy and National Security
12:00-2:10 p.m. (EDT)
Nuclear Installations Safety: General—II
Communicating Safety and Risk to the Public–Panel
Isotopes and Radiation: General
Computational Thermal Hydraulics—I
Radiation Protection and Shielding: General
In-Pile Testing of Nuclear Fuels and Materials
Sharing of Good Industry Practices and/or Lessons Learned in Nuclear Criticality Safety-Panel
2:30-4:15 p.m. (EDT)
Cyber Security for Nuclear Power Installations—I
Cutting Edge Techniques in Education, Training and Distance Education
Thermal Hydraulics Activities for the Versatile Test Reactor
Computational Methods for Radiation Protection and Shielding
Advanced Manufacturing/Additive Manufacturing—I
Monte Carlo and Multiphysics
Reactor Analysis Methods—I
Uranium Mine Remediation–Panel
4:35-6:20 p.m. (EDT)
Cyber Security for Nuclear Power Installations—II
Waste Disposal Solutions in a Country with No HLW Repository-Panel
From CAD to Transport for Radiation Protection and Shielding Calculations
Advanced Manufacturing/Additive Manufacturing—II
Radiation Transport Software
Reactor Physics of Micro Reactors for Terrestrial and Space Applications—I
Focus on Communications–Panel
Pitch Your Job–Panel