DOE moves to strengthen domestic supply chain of critical minerals

The Department of Energy has issued new guidance for applicants to its Loan Programs Office (LPO), stating a preference for projects related to critical minerals.

The guidance, a notice for which was published in the December 1 Federal Register, aims to boost the domestic supply chain of critical minerals in support of two of President Trump’s executive orders: the September 2020 order regarding the nation’s reliance on foreign sources for critical minerals, and the December 2017 order regarding the implementation of a federal strategy to ensure a domestic supply of those minerals.

DOE funding available for research on high-energy-density plasmas

Photo: Energy.gov

A plan to provide up to $9 million for work related to high-energy-density laboratory plasmas (HEDLP) was announced jointly on December 2 by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

A funding opportunity announcement, “High-Energy-Density Laboratory Plasma Science,” is available on the federal grants website.

Applications are open to domestic universities, industry, and nonprofit research institutions and are due by February 18, 2021. Funding will be awarded based on a competitive peer review.

GE Hitachi SMR reaches U.S. licensing milestone

A cutaway view of the BWRX-300. Image: GE Hitachi Nuclear

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a final safety evaluation report for the first of several licensing topical reports (LTR) submitted by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) for the BWRX-300 small modular reactor, the company announced on December 1.

The initial LTR, titled “BWRX-300 Reactor Pressure Vessel Isolation and Overpressure Protection,” was submitted to the NRC in December 2019, officially beginning the U.S. licensing process. This LTR forms the basis for the “dramatic simplification” of the BWRX-300, according to GEH.

In its announcement, GEH noted that two additional LTRs were submitted in early 2020 and that it anticipates reviews of those reports to be completed in the coming months. A fourth LTR was submitted in September 2020, the company added.

First Hualong One reactor connected to grid

China’s Fuqing nuclear plant. Photo: CNNC

Unit 5 at China National Nuclear Corporation’s (CNNC) Fuqing nuclear plant in southeastern China’s Fujian Province has become the world’s first Hualong One reactor to be connected to the power grid, the company announced on November 27. “It was confirmed on-site that all technical indicators of the unit met the design requirements and that the unit was in good condition,” CNNC said.

Fuel loading at Fuqing-5 began on September 4, following the issuance of the reactor’s operating license by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. The loading of 177 sets of fuel assemblies was completed on September 10, and initial criticality was achieved on October 21. The unit is scheduled to enter commercial operation before the end of the year.

Also known as the HPR1000, the Hualong One is a Chinese-designed and -developed 1,000-MWe Generation III pressurized water reactor, incorporating design elements of CNNC’s ACP1000 and China General Nuclear’s ACPR1000+ reactors. Fuqing-5’s twin HPR1000, Fuqing-6, is scheduled to start contributing power to the grid next year.

World Nuclear Energy Day kicks off on historic date

The inaugural World Nuclear Energy Day, on December 2, will be a celebration of nuclear energy and the people who make it happen. As nuclear power is a leading source of clean energy across the globe, the day aims to remind us that clean energy enables healthy lives.

Click here to find out how some are observing World Nuclear Energy Day 2020.

Nuclear scores point in U.K. green plan

The United Kingdom, the first of the world’s major economies to adopt a legally binding commitment to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, has released a blueprint to help realize that goal—one that includes a substantial role for nuclear energy

The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution will mobilize a total of £12 billion (about $16 billion) of government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly skilled green jobs in the United Kingdom and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030, according to the UK government on November 18.

In addition to nuclear, offshore wind, hydrogen production, carbon capture, and vehicle electrification are also earmarked for significant investment in the 38-page document.

EPA issues permits for Dewey Burdock project

The Dewey Burdock project area, near Edgemont, S.D., in 2014. Photo: Azarga Uranium

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued its final permits for Canada-based Azarga Uranium’s underground injection control (UIC) activities at the Dewey Burdock in situ recovery (ISR) uranium project in South Dakota, the company announced recently.

The EPA’s action includes two permits: a UIC Class III Area Permit for the ISR of uranium and a UIC Class V Area Permit for deep injection wells that will be used to dispose of ISR-process waste fluids after they have been treated to meet radioactive waste and hazardous waste standards.

The EPA is also finalizing an aquifer exemption approval in connection with the Class III permit to allow for resource recovery in the uranium-bearing portions of the Inyan Kara group of aquifers.

Hinkley Point B to be retired earlier than planned

Hinkley Point B, in Somerset, England. Photo: EDF Energy

EDF Energy has made a “proactive decision” to move Britain’s Hinkley Point B power station into its defueling phase no later than July 15, 2022—some eight months earlier than previously scheduled—the company announced on November 19.

The two-unit plant, located in Somerset, England, began generating electricity in 1976 and has since produced more than 300 TWh of power, enough to meet the electricity requirements of every home in the United Kingdom for three years, according to EDF.

NuScale unveils Energy Exploration Center at Oregon State

NuScale Energy Exploration Center at Oregon State University. Photo: Business Wire

Small modular reactor developer NuScale Power has announced the opening of the NuScale Energy Exploration (E2) Center at Oregon State University (OSU).

The E2 Center is designed to offer users a hands-on learning opportunity to apply nuclear science and engineering principles through simulated, real-world nuclear power plant operation scenarios, according to NuScale on November 17. The center employs state-of-the-art computer modeling within a simulator of the NuScale SMR power plant control room, allowing users to take on the role of control room operator at a 12-unit NuScale SMR plant to learn about the features and functionality unique to the company’s SMR technology.

More to come: The E2 Center at OSU is the first of three planned installations of a NuScale power plant control room simulator at U.S. universities. Support for the centers was provided by a grant in 2019 from the Department of Energy. Additional information on the E2 Center is available here.

A day in the life of the nuclear community

The November issue of Nuclear News is focused on the individuals who make up our nuclear community.

We invited a small group of those individuals to tell us about their day-to-day work in some of the many occupations and applications of nuclear science and technology, and they responded generously. They were ready to tell us about the part they play, together with colleagues and team members, in supplying clean energy, advancing technology, protecting safety and health, and exploring fundamental science.

In these pages, we see a community that can celebrate both those workdays that record progress moving at a steady pace and the exceptional days when a goal is reached, a briefing is delivered, a contract goes through, a discovery is made, or an unforeseen challenge is overcome.

The Nuclear News staff hopes that you enjoy meeting these members of our community—or maybe get reacquainted with friends—through their words and photos.

To continue reading, log in or create a free account!

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.

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.

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.

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:

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:

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.