DOE to fund integrated hydrogen production at LWRs

Two projects intended to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen production technology at existing U.S. light-water reactors received the bulk of the funding announced by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) on October 8 under the ongoing U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Out of three projects with a total value of $26.9 million, the two involving hydrogen production have a total value of $26.2 million.

U.S. replaces China on Romania’s Cernavoda project

Brouillette

Popescu

U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Romania’s Minister of Economy, Energy, and Business Development Virgil Popescu initialed a draft intergovernmental agreement on October 9 to cooperate on the construction of two additional reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, as well as the refurbishment of Unit 1.

According to a Department of Energy news release, the agreement, once formally executed, will “lay the foundation” for Romania to “utilize U.S. expertise and technology.” The deal marks a major change in Romania’s plans for its sole nuclear plant, as up until early this year the source for that expertise and technology was expected to be China.

DOE is ready to announce ARDP demo awards

The Department of Energy has selected the recipients of cost-shared funding for its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) and has notified Congress of the selection, the DOE press staff indicated by tweet on October 8. A public announcement of the recipients is expected this week.

Reactor designers and others looking to invest in advanced nuclear technology had until August 19 to apply through a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) announced in May, which included $160 million in initial funds to build two reactors within the next five to seven years. Applicants were encouraged to connect with other advanced reactor stakeholders—including technology developers, reactor vendors, fuel manufacturers, utilities, supply chain vendors, contractors, and universities—through the ARDP FOA Collaboration Hub and apply as a team. This means that the DOE’s selection of a particular reactor design stands to benefit more than just the team behind the reactor’s initial design.

Uranium recovery facility opens at Framatome’s Richland site

Framatome’s new uranium recovery facility in Richland, Wash. Photo: Framatome

Framatome recently announced the opening of a $20-million scrap uranium recovery facility at its fuel manufacturing site in Richland, Wash., one of the French firm’s 14 North American locations. Construction on the approximately 11,000-square-foot building, which replaces a 35-year-old solvent extraction facility, began in July 2017, and it was declared fully operational on September 21, 2020.

According to Framatome’s October 6 announcement, the facility houses new and upgraded equipment for utilizing the solvent extraction process to separate uranium from feed streams containing non-uranium contaminants such as gadolinium. (Non-uranium contaminants, the company noted, include powders, pellets, and liquids that contain non-uranium impurities, making them unsuitable for other forms of recovery.) The recovered uranium is fed through the ammonium diuranate process to extract uranium dioxide. The extracted UO2 is then processed to make nuclear fuel pellets for fuel rods.

Nuclear cogeneration concept gets royal treatment in new report

The future of nuclear energy is in cogeneration, according to a policy briefing released on October 7 by the United Kingdom’s Royal Society. (The equivalent of the United States’ National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, founded in 1660, is the oldest scientific institution in continuous existence.)

Cogeneration, the briefing explains, occurs when the heat produced by a nuclear power plant is used not only to generate electricity, but also to meet such energy demands as domestic heating and hydrogen production. It also allows a plant to be used more flexibly, switching between electricity generation and cogeneration applications.

Popular Mechanics takes the wind out of renewables study

A wind farm in East Sussex, England, is flanked by 400-kV power lines from the Dungeness nuclear power plant. Photo: David Iliff/Wikimedia Commons

A paper out of the University of Sussex that correlates the carbon output of 123 countries with their nuclear power programs has received a critical look from Popular Mechanics, which takes to task some of the researchers’ premises in an article by Caroline Delbert.

In the paper, the researchers make the claim that nuclear and renewable energy programs do not tend to coexist well together in national low-carbon energy systems but instead crowd each other out and limit effectiveness. Delbert, however, points out that suggesting that nuclear power plants don’t play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions is “wild and baseless.”

Security equipment repository for Asia-Pacific region established

During a virtual meeting between the Atomic Energy Licensing Board of Malaysia, Japan’s Permanent Mission in Vienna, and the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, an agreement was signed to establish a pool of nuclear security equipment, including items pictured here, in Malaysia. Photo: I. Pletukhina/IAEA

The International Atomic Energy Agency has joined with Malaysia’s Atomic Energy Licensing Board (AELB) to establish a pool of radiation detection equipment available for loan to support nuclear security training and detection capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region, the IAEA announced October 7

This is the first such repository facilitated by the IAEA. The equipment was purchased with Japan’s contribution to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund.

Argonne microreactor designed to charge long-haul trucks of the future

A team of engineers in Argonne National Laboratory’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Division have designed a microreactor called MiFi-DC that could be factory-produced and installed at highway rest stops across the country to power a proposed fleet of electric trucks. The reactors are described in an article, Could Argonne’s mini nuclear reactor solve the e-truck recharging dilemma? and a video released by Argonne on October 6.

Pairing a liquid metal thermal reactor with a thermal energy storage system, each reactor could fuel an average of 17 trucks a day.

U.S., Russia finalize amendment to uranium import agreement

The U.S. Department of Commerce and Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, have signed a final amendment to the Agreement Suspending the Antidumping Investigation on Uranium from the Russian Federation. The amendment extends the 1992 pact through 2040 and reduces U.S. reliance on uranium from Russia during that time period, the DOC announced October 6.

Previously, the agreement was set to expire on December 31 of this year. According to the DOC, the document’s expiration “would have resulted in unchecked imports of Russian uranium, potentially decimating the front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle in the United States.”

The final amendment is unchanged from the draft version, released for public comment on September 11. (For more specifics on the amendment, see our story on the draft here.)

Deadline for proposed Welsh plant extended; third-party interest expressed

Artist's concept of the Wylfa Newydd project. Image: Horizon Nuclear Power

Hopes for the construction of a two-unit nuclear power station in Wales—dashed some three weeks ago when Hitachi Ltd. officially announced its withdrawal from the proposed Wylfa Newydd plant—rose again slightly last week when the United Kingdom’s Planning Inspectorate agreed to delay its decision regarding issuance of a development consent order (DCO) for the project.

The original deadline for the decision had been September 30, but following the receipt of a pair of letters from Horizon Nuclear Power—the Hitachi subsidiary in charge of the project—the inspectorate consented to a December 31 extension.

Nuclear plays key role in new jobs recovery plan

A recently published paper on clean energy policy for economic recovery calls for the preservation of the current U.S. nuclear reactor fleet and the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies.

The paper, Energy Transitions: The Framework for Good Jobs in a Low-Carbon Future, was released last week by the Labor Energy Partnership (LEP), formed earlier this year by the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) and the AFL-CIO. According to a joint press release from the two organizations, the LEP was established to “develop policy solutions for a 21st century energy system that creates and preserves quality jobs while tackling the climate crisis.”

The LEP is jointly chaired by Ernest Moniz, founder and chief executive officer of EFI and former U.S. energy secretary, and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

EIA: Nine of top 10 electricity generators in 2019 were nuclear plants

Graph: EIA

Of the 10 U.S. power plants that generated the most electricity in 2019, nine were nuclear plants, a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration states.

These 10 facilities produced a combined 230 million megawatt hours of electricity last year, accounting for 5.6 percent of all electricity generation in the United States, according to the report. The report also notes a shift in the makeup of the top plants over the past 10 years, from a mix of nuclear and coal-fired generators in 2010 to nearly all nuclear in 2019.

Coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation dropped from 45 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2019, the reports says. Stricter air emission standards and decreased cost competitiveness relative to other generators are given as the key reasons for coal’s decade of decline.

Building radiation-resistant and repairable electronics

CMOS sensors such as this could be made more tolerant to ionizing radiation. Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

High-energy radiation can be detrimental to electronic equipment, necessitating the use of radiation-hardened and -resistant electronics in nuclear energy, decommissioning, and space exploration. The online newsletter Tech Xplore reports on a radiation-hardened and repairable integrated circuit being fabricated by researchers at Peking University, Shanghai Tech University, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The radiation-immune and repairable circuits developed by the researchers are based on field-effect transistors (FET) that use a semiconducting carbon nanotube transistor as a channel, an ion gel as its gate, and a substrate made of polyimide. According to the article, the FETs have a radiation tolerance of up to 15 Mrad, which is notably higher than the 1 Mrad tolerance of silicon-based transistors. The FETs are also capable of being recovered by annealing at moderate temperatures (100 °C for 10 minutes).

PSEG pursues ZEC extensions for Hope Creek, Salem

New Jersey–based Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) has filed applications to extend zero-emission certificates (ZEC) for its Hope Creek and Salem nuclear power plants, co-located in Hancocks Bridge, N.J. Hope Creek is home to one 1,237-MWe boiling water reactor, while Salem houses two pressurized water reactors, with Unit 1 rated at 1,169-MWe and Unit 2 at 1,181-MWe.

According to an October 1 announcement from PSEG, Hope Creek and Salem deliver more than 90 percent of all of New Jersey’s carbon-free energy and are essential to the state’s ability to achieve its goal of a 100 percent carbon-free energy supply by 2050, as outlined in the state’s Energy Master Plan.

More: An addendum to PSEG’s announcement, with information and documentation in support of the ZEC applications, can be found here.

A closer look at SPARC’s burning plasma ambitions

Cutaway of the SPARC engineering design. Image: CFS/MIT-PSFC, CAD rendering by T. Henderson

Seven open-access, peer-reviewed papers on the design of SPARC, Commonwealth Fusion Systems’ (CFS) fusion tokamak, written in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, were published on September 29 in a special edition of the Journal of Plasma Physics.

The papers describe a compact fusion device that will achieve net energy where the plasma generates more fusion power than used to start and sustain the process, which is the requirement for a fusion power plant, according to CFS.

The timeline for this planned device sets it apart from other magnetic confinement fusion tokamaks: Construction is to begin in 2021, with the device coming on line in 2025.

CFS expects the device to achieve a burning plasma—a self-sustaining fusion reaction—and become the world’s first net energy (Q>1) fusion system. The newly released papers reflect more than two years of work by CFS and the Plasma Science and Fusion Center to refine their design. According to CFS, the papers apply the same physics rules and simulations used to design ITER, now under construction in France, and predict, based on results from existing experiments, that SPARC will achieve its goal of Q>2. In fact, the papers describe how, under certain parameters, SPARC could achieve a Q ratio of 10 or more.

Reactor pressure vessel for Akkuyu-1 shipped, steam generators delivered

The reactor pressure vessel for Akkuyu-1. Photo: Rosatom

Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, announced last week that the reactor pressure vessel for Unit 1 of Turkey’s Akkuyu plant has been shipped from the Atommash plant in Volgodonsk, Russia. Also, the four steam generators for the reactor have arrived at the Vostochny Cargo Terminal, near the port of Mersin in southern Turkey. Atommash has shipped all the most important large-sized equipment for the primary circuit of the reactor for Akkuyu-1, Rosatom said.

Atommash is a branch of AEM Technologies, which is part of Atomenergomash, the equipment-building division of Rosatom.

Report weighs prospects for aging High Flux Isotope Reactor

Routine refueling of the HFIR in July 2015. Photo: Genevieve Martin/ORNL

This summer, the Department of Energy’s Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) completed a report, The Scientific Justification for a U.S. Domestic High-Performance Reactor-Based Research Facility, that recommends the DOE begin preparing to replace the pressure vessel of the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and to convert the facility to use low-enriched uranium fuel. It also recommends that work begin that could lead to a new research reactor. An article published on the American Institute of Physics website summarizes the report, which was requested by the DOE in 2019.

Foratom sounds alarm over nuclear skills shortage in Europe

The European Union’s education and training policy must do more to ensure that the nuclear sector has a sufficient number of people with the right skills, according Nuclear: Investing in a Competent Workforce for the Benefit of Society, a new position paper from Foratom. The Brussels-based Foratom is the trade association for the nuclear energy industry in Europe.

Stressing the vital roles that nuclear plays in low-carbon power generation and medical diagnosis and treatment, Foratom warns of a growing skills shortage, stemming in part from the significant portion of the nuclear workforce approaching retirement age.

In addition, the report states that “adapting to digitalization and automatization (which are important skill shifts for the decommissioning sector, as well as for new build) will be a challenge faced by the industry. This will require the reskilling and upskilling of workers, as well as ensuring an adequate transfer of knowledge between generations through apprenticeship schemes, for instance.”

Entergy takes net-zero pledge, teams with Mitsubishi to decarbonize with hydrogen

Paul Browning, Mitsubishi Power, and Paul Hinnenkamp, Entergy, sign the joint agreement on September 23. Photo: Entergy

New Orleans–based Entergy Corporation last week announced a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, joining a growing list of major energy companies to make that promise—including Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Southern Company, Xcel Energy, and Public Service Enterprise Group. And, like those companies, Entergy says that it sees nuclear playing an important role in the realization of that goal.