TerraPower’s Natrium pairs a sodium fast reactor with heat storage

An artist’s rendering of Natrium. Image: TerraPower

The Natrium reactor and energy system architecture, recently introduced by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), offers baseload electricity output from a 345-MWe sodium fast reactor with the load-following flexibility of molten salt thermal storage. Stored heat can be used to boost the system’s output to 500 MWe for more than five and a half hours when needed, according to TerraPower. A company representative told Nuclear News that the company expects a commercial Natrium plant to cost $1 billion or less.

Leningrad II unit reaches first criticality

Rosatom officials and plant staff celebrate in the control room at Leningrad II-2 as the unit achieves first criticality. Photo: Rosatom

Rosenergoatom, the electric power division of Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear power corporation, announced on August 31 that Leningrad II-2 has achieved initial criticality. The unit is one of two Generation III+ VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors at the Leningrad nuclear plant.

Leningrad II-2 is scheduled for commercial start early next year, replacing Leningrad I-2, a 925-MWe RBMK-1000 light-water–cooled graphite-moderated reactor that will permanently cease operation at the end of 2020 after 45 years of service. Fuel loading at Leningrad II-2 began in July.

Hunterston B Unit 3 to restart soon; plant to retire earlier than expected

Workers on the fueling machine at Hunterston B. Photo: EDF Energy

EDF Energy has received approval from the United Kingdom’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to restart the Hunterston B power station’s Unit 3 for a limited run, according to August 27 announcements from both the company and the regulator. EDF has permission to operate the unit for up to 16.425 terawatt days (approximately six months of operation), the ONR said.

EDF also announced that Hunterston B—located in North Ayrshire, along the western coast of Scotland—will begin its defueling phase no later than January 7, 2022, more than a year earlier than the expected retirement date of March 2023. The decision, EDF said, was made following a series of executive board and shareholders meetings.

BAS: Don’t be afraid of nuclear energy

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) is currently featuring on its website a series of five articles by young American and Russian scholars on nuclear safety, with a focus on the industry’s three major accidents: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

In one of those articles, “Don’t let nuclear accidents scare you away from nuclear power,” the authors conclude that “even after accounting for both the immediate and long-term toll of the three accidents, nuclear power has a remarkably safe track record compared to coal, natural gas, and even hydroelectric power.”

NuScale SMR receives NRC design approval

An artist’s rendering of NuScale Power’s SMR plant. Image: NuScale

The final safety evaluation report for NuScale Power’s small modular reactor design has been issued, completing the design’s technical review and approval, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on August 28.

The NRC will now prepare a rulemaking to certify the NuScale design. Full certification, if granted by the commissioners following the staff’s recommendation, will allow a utility to reference the design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a nuclear power plant.

The NuScale design is the first SMR to receive NRC design approval.

INL continues to fine-tune TREAT testing capabilities

Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test Facility, also known as TREAT, returned to service in 2017 after a hiatus of more than two decades. To make full use of TREAT’s capabilities, researchers at INL created the Minimal Activation Retrievable Capsule Holder (MARCH) test vehicle system, which, according to an August 26 Department of Energy press release, can cut years off the development process for nuclear fuels and materials and allow new clients, like NASA, to take advantage of TREAT’s capabilities.

Exelon to close Byron and Dresden plants in 2021

Exelon Generation, operator of the largest nuclear reactor fleet in the United States, intends to downsize that fleet next year by retiring its Byron and Dresden plants. In an announcement released early this morning, Exelon said that the two-unit Byron, located near Byron, Ill., would be permanently closed in September 2021, followed in November by the two-unit Dresden, located in Morris, Ill.

Byron is licensed to operate for another 20 years; Dresden, a much older facility, is licensed for another decade.

NRC proposes six-figure fine to TVA; cites two former execs

In actions related to its rules involving employee protection, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on August 24 issued a proposed civil penalty of $606,942 to the Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as an order prohibiting a senior TVA executive from NRC-licensed activities for five years and a violation notice to a second executive.

Following investigations completed in October 2019 and January 2020, the NRC concluded that two former TVA employees had been subjected to reprisals for raising concerns regarding a chilled work environment.

Negotiations to build Versatile Test Reactor under way

Artist’s rendering of the Versatile Test Reactor. INL Image

A team led by Bechtel National Inc. (BNI) that includes GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and TerraPower is in contract negotiations with Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) for the design-and-build phase of the Versatile Test Reactor, BEA announced on August 24. As planned, the VTR would support irradiation testing of fuels, materials, and equipment designed for advanced reactors.

Windstorms force early closure of Duane Arnold

High winds that caused damage across central Iowa last week have prompted NextEra Energy to close the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant about two months earlier than originally planned. The plant’s 622-MWe boiling water reactor has been off line since August 10, when a line of intense, fast-moving windstorms, called derechos, caused a loss of off-site power and damaged the plant’s cooling towers. NextEra had planned to permanently shut down Duane Arnold, Iowa’s only nuclear power reactor, on October 30.

WNA: Nuclear generation in 2019 close to record high

Global nuclear power generation in 2019 totaled 2,657 TWh, second only to the 2,661 TWh generated in 2006, according to the World Nuclear Performance Report 2020, released yesterday by the World Nuclear Association. This is the seventh consecutive year that nuclear generation has increased, the WNA noted, with output 311 TWh higher than in 2012.

“In 2020, the world’s nuclear reactors have shown resilience and flexibility, adapting to changes in demand while ensuring stable and reliable electricity supplies,” said WNA Director General Agneta Rising.

Ohio counties oppose repealing H.B. 6 without a replacement bill

All six commissioners from Ohio’s Lake and Ottawa counties—home to the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear plants—joined forces last week to express their opposition to an immediate repeal of the Ohio Clean Air Program Act (H.B. 6), which was tainted by last month’s scandal involving former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder and four associates.

Signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in July last year—rescuing Perry and Davis-Besse from premature closure—H.B. 6 has become the subject of multiple calls for repeal since Householder’s July 21 arrest, including one from DeWine himself.

Federal dollars support AI/machine learning for fusion research

The Department of Energy on August 19 announced several awards to research teams applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to fusion energy. The planned total funding of $21 million is targeted at projects with time frames of up to three years; $8 million in fiscal year 2020 funding has already been committed to the work. Delivery of the balance-of-project funding will depend on future congressional appropriations.

“These awards will enable fusion researchers to take advantage of recent rapid advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said Chris Fall, director of the DOE’s Office of Science. “AI and ML will help us to accelerate progress in fusion and keep American scientists at the forefront of fusion research.”

Generation IV International Forum hosts MSR webinar

The Generation IV International Forum (GIF) is hosting a free webinar on August 26 on the topic of “Molten Salt Reactor Safety Evaluation—A U.S. Perspective.”

The webinar, which is intended for policy makers, managers, regulators, students, and the general public, will start at 8:30 a.m. (EDT). Registration is required.

Kazatomprom to continue reduced uranium production through 2022

Kazatomprom is extending uranium production cuts. Photo: Kazatomprom

Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium production company, will continue “flexing down” production by 20 percent through 2022, compared to the planned levels under subsoil use contracts, the company announced last week. It will also maintain its 20 percent reduction against subsoil use contracts in 2021, with no additional production planned to replace volumes lost in 2020 due to measures taken to combat COVID-19.

Kazatomprom does not expect to return to full subsoil use contract production levels until a sustained market recovery is evident and demand and supply conditions signal a need for more uranium, the company noted.

After decades, Democrats' platform endorses nuclear energy

In its recently released party platform, the Democratic Party says it favors a “technology-neutral” approach to energy that includes “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage,” Robert Bryce writes in an article published Sunday on the Forbes blog. The statement marks the first time since 1972 that the Democratic Party has said anything positive in its platform about nuclear energy, according to Bryce.

NNSA site tour continues for administrator

NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty spoke during the agency's 20th Anniversary Celebration event that recognized milestones at the Pantex Plant. Source: NNSA

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty is continuing with her trip to visit NNSA’s eight laboratories, plants, and sites.

Last week, Gordon-Hagerty was at the Pantex Plant, in Amarillo, Texas, for a 20th Anniversary Celebration of the NNSA.

So far, the tour of sites, which began in July, has taken Gordon-Hagerty to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.; Sandia National Laboratories and the NNSA Albuquerque Complex in Albuquerque, N.M.; and Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M., in addition to the Pantex Plant. She is expected to complete the tour by year’s end.