Framatome declares ATF test at Vogtle a success

The $111.2 million in financial assistance awarded by the Department of Energy in late 2018 to nuclear fuel developers Framatome, General Electric, and Westinghouse for the development of accident tolerant fuel has yielded some encouraging results.

Framatome reports that the first 18-month fuel cycle test of its GAIA Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) technology, conducted at Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle-2, has “demonstrated expected results and excellent performance.”

And last month, Westinghouse announced that the topical report on its Advanced Doped Pellet Technology fuel has been accepted for review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, calling the decision “a major achievement for the advanced fuel portfolio Westinghouse is developing.”

NRC opens Palisades license proceedings to public comment

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has opened for public comment the license transfer proceedings for the Palisades nuclear power plant, with the opportunity to request a hearing and petition for leave to intervene. Notice of the open proceedings was published in the February 4 Federal Register. Deadlines are February 24 for requests for a hearing and March 8 for comments.

In December, Entergy Corporation and Holtec International jointly submitted an application to the NRC for approval of the transfer of the licenses for the Palisades nuclear plant–located in Covert, Mich.—to Holtec, following the plant’s permanent shutdown and defueling in the spring of 2022. The application also requests approval of the license transfer of Entergy’s decommissioned Big Rock Point facility near Charlevoix, Mich., where only the independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) remains.

Proposed Czech unit won’t be built by China

Czech Republic political parties have agreed to exclude China from participating in a tender to build an additional reactor at the Dukovany nuclear plant but have yet to decide whether to allow Russian participation, according to a report last week from Reuters.

Other bidders on the project, estimated to be worth some €6 billion (about $7.2 billion), include Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power of South Korea, EDF of France, and Westinghouse of the United States.

Polish energy policy for next two decades adopted

Poland’s Council of Ministers has approved a long-term energy policy that emphasizes clean forms of energy, including nuclear.

On February 2, the country’s Ministry of Climate and Environment announced the official adoption of Energy Policy of Poland until 2040 (PEP2040), originally published in draft form in November 2018 and revised the following year. The full text of PEP2040 has not been published at this writing, but an 18-page abstract can be accessed online.

In its announcement, the ministry described PEP2040 as “a clear vision of Poland’s energy transformation strategy” and “a compass for entrepreneurs, local governments, and citizens in the transformation of the Polish economy toward low emission.” By 2040, the document states, more than half of Poland’s installed capacity will be zero-emission sources, adding that both offshore wind energy and nuclear energy “will play a special role” in reaching that goal.

Power uprates for Oconee units okayed

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved Duke Energy’s February 2020 request to increase the capacity of the Oconee nuclear power plant’s three reactors by approximately 1.64 percent, the agency announced February 3. The agency added that the boost to the units’ heat output could be accomplished largely through more accurate means of measuring feedwater flow. The license amendments authorizing the uprates were issued to Duke on January 26.

Specifics: Located in Seneca, S.C., Oconee houses three two-loop pressurized water reactors. The power uprates will raise the generating capacities of the units as follows:

  • Unit 1, from about 909 MWe to 923 MWe
  • Unit 2, from about 919 MWe to 933 MWe
  • Unit 3, from about 922 MWe to 936 MWe

Duke intends to implement each reactor’s uprate in a phased approach based on refueling schedules, the NRC said.

TVA invites input on Clinch River plans

An advanced nuclear reactor technology park is hoped for the 935-acre Clinch River site. Image: TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking public comment on its notice of intent to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on proposed actions for an advanced nuclear reactor technology park at the 935-acre Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. The notice, published yesterday, is also expected to appear in this Friday’s Federal Register.

The consideration of a new nuclear facility at the Clinch River site “supports TVA’s mission statement and is another way to assess how to serve the people of the Tennessee Valley,” according to TVA.

Your turn: TVA is requesting comments on the scope of the PEIS, alternatives being considered (including a no-action alternative), and environmental issues. Comments are due by March 19 and can be submitted online, via email, or by mail to J. Taylor Cates, NEPA Specialist, 1101 Market Street, BR 2C-C, Chattanooga, TN 37402.

TVA recommends giving feedback electronically, due to COVID-19 teleworking restrictions.

Prospects for nuclear in 2021 looking up, says NEI

Korsnick

Nuclear Energy Institute president and chief executive officer Maria Korsnick struck a decidedly optimistic tone last week in remarks on nuclear’s future delivered at the United States Energy Association’s 17th annual State of the Energy Industry Forum.

"In 2020, nuclear energy was highlighted in both House and Senate climate reports," she noted. "Congress significantly increased appropriations to accelerate research and development of new nuclear technologies. And we’ve seen the introduction of bipartisan legislation that recognizes nuclear’s contributions to today’s economy and our clean energy future.”

Thailand inks agreement with nuclear security organization

The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) and Thailand’s Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP) have signed a memorandum of understanding, WINS announced last week. WINS is a nongovernmental organization based in Vienna that works with the International Atomic Energy Agency on nuclear security–related issues. OAP is Thailand's nuclear regulatory body.

Centered on security: Under the MOU, WINS is supporting the establishment and operation of an IAEA nuclear security support center at OAP. The main functions of the center will include human resource development, technical support services for nuclear security equipment lifecycle management, and scientific support services for the provision of nuclear security expertise, analysis, and research and development, according to the IAEA.

A key aspect of the OAP project will be to support the development of Thailand’s national nuclear security training strategy, as well as to provide professional development activities to Thai nuclear stakeholders, WINS said. The project is funded by Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program.

First reactor designed, developed by China begins service

Unit 5 at the Fuqing nuclear plant in China’s Fujian Province has entered commercial operation, becoming the world’s first Hualong One reactor to do so, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced on January 30.

The unit was connected to the power grid in late November of last year, after having achieved initial criticality the previous month.

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.

There’s more: Fuqing-5’s twin HPR1000, Fuqing-6, is scheduled for commercial startup later this year. In addition, CNNC is building two Hualong One reactors at the Zhangzhou site in Fujian Province (construction of Unit 1 began in October 2019, while Unit 2’s construction commenced last September) and one at Taipingling in Guangdong Province, with another planned for the site.

Also, China General Nuclear is building two Hualong One reactors (Units 3 and 4) at its Fangchenggang plant in Guangxi Province (2022 planned startup), while two CNNC units are under construction at Pakistan’s Karachi plant (commercial start dates of 2021 and 2022).

Nuclear techniques help Pakistan's textile industry

IAEA support, including trainings, workshops and fellowships as well as practical lectures such as this one in Pakistan, have contributed to building the national capacity in cotton breeding techniques. (Photo: L. Jankuloski/Joint FAO/IAEA)

In a story published last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency described a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations working with local experts in Pakistan to develop and introduce new varieties of cotton that are more resilient and better adapted to the increasingly negative effects of climate change. The new varieties are developed through mutation breeding techniques, wherein seeds, cuttings, or tissue-culture material is exposed to radiation or other mutagen sources, like an X-ray or gamma ray source.

Wylfa Newydd new-build project scrapped

The loosely connected plug keeping the United Kingdom’s Wylfa Newydd nuclear new-build project alive has been officially pulled.

Horizon Nuclear Power, the Hitachi subsidiary that remained involved in the project following its parent company’s pullout in September 2020, has formally withdrawn its application for a development consent order (DCO) regarding the proposed nuclear plant. (DCOs are required for large infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom to move forward.) The facility was to be sited adjacent to the decommissioned Wylfa reactors, on the island of Anglesey, off the northwest coast of Wales.

A decision on the DCO application, under review by the U.K. Planning Inspectorate since 2018, was expected by April 30, after a series of successful requests for extensions from Duncan Hawthorne, Horizon’s chief executive officer, who had cited “discussions with third parties that have expressed an interest in progressing with the development” of Wylfa Newydd.

North Anna license renewal arguments to be aired

An aerial view of the North Anna nuclear plant. Photo: Dominion Energy

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will conduct an “oral argument” via WebEx early next month regarding a petition to hold a hearing on North Anna’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application, the agency announced yesterday.

ASLBs conduct adjudicatory hearings on major licensing actions by the NRC. Their rulings may be appealed to the commission.

The SLR application, submitted by Dominion Energy last August, was docketed by the NRC in October. The petition objecting to it was filed in December by three antinuclear organizations—Beyond Nuclear, Sierra Club, and Alliance for Progressive Virginia.

On February 4, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern time, the ASLB will address a rule waiver request from the groups, as well as the admissibility of their proposed contention. The board will entertain comments from representatives for the petitioners, Dominion, and NRC staff.

Energy Secretary nominee Granholm comments on Yucca Mountain

Granholm. Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Jennifer Granholm, President Joe Biden’s nominee for energy secretary, told a Congressional panel that the administration disapproves of Yucca Mountain as the country’s nuclear waste repository, preferring a consent-based strategy as proposed by President Barack Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

“The administration opposes the use of Yucca Mountain for the storage of nuclear waste,” Granholm told Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.), during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on January 27.

Granholm, a Democrat, served two terms as Michigan governor from 2003 to 2011. According to reports, Granholm was twice considered a candidate to be energy secretary under President Obama, but ultimately was not picked.

Canada and Europe team up to drive new nuclear

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) and the European Atomic Forum (FORATOM) have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in the promotion of advanced nuclear technologies. The agreement, announced on January 27, aims to boost the organizations’ efforts to advance the development, application, and deployment of nuclear energy to meet climate change goals, according to the announcement.

Delay, cost increase announced for U.K. nuclear project

Perspex screens and reduced seating capacity in the Hinkley Point canteens help protect the workforce during breaks, EDF Energy said. Photo: EDF Energy

The unfortunate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nuclear new-build projects haven’t stopped with Vogtle: EDF Energy this morning reported that the expected startup date for Unit 1 at its Hinkley Point C site is being pushed from late 2025 to June 2026.

In addition, the project’s completion costs are now estimated to be in the range of £22 billion to £23 billion (about $30.2 billion to $31.5 billion), some £500 million (about $686 million) more than the 2019 estimate, EDF said, adding the caveat that these revisions assume an ability to begin a return to normal site conditions by the second quarter of 2021.

NRC agrees to review Westinghouse ATF topical report

Westinghouse last week announced via blog post that a topical report on its Advanced Doped Pellet Technology (ADOPT) fuel has been accepted for review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, calling the decision a “major achievement for the advanced fuel portfolio Westinghouse is developing as part of our EnCore fuel program.”

The company submitted the report in May of last year, requesting approval by February 2022. According to Westinghouse, a draft safety evaluation from the agency is expected this summer.

NRC accepts Point Beach SLR application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review NextEra Energy’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for its Point Beach reactors, making them the fifth and sixth units currently under consideration for a second 20-year license renewal. (SLR applications for Dominion Energy’s North Anna-1 and -2 and Surry-1 and -2 are also being reviewed, while SLR approval has been granted for Exelon’s Peach Bottom and NextEra’s Turkey Point units.)

NextEra submitted the SLR application in November of last year—the first such application involving a Midwestern nuclear plant. The NRC approved the plant’s initial license renewal in December 2005, allowing Unit 1 to operate through October 5, 2030, and Unit 2 through March 8, 2033.

Armenia to extend operation of Metsamor-2

Cooling towers at the Metsamor nuclear plant. Photo: ANPP

Armenia plans to extend the operational life of Unit 2 at Metsamor (also matter-of-factly known as the Armenian nuclear power plant) beyond 2026 and has not abandoned plans to construct a new reactor, the Armenian news agency ARKA reported on January 14, citing the country’s new cabinet-approved strategy for energy sector development through 2040. (The Armenian government in 2014 decided to extend Unit 2’s service life to 2026.)

The nuclear advantage: “Having a nuclear power plant in the energy system will allow Armenia to diversify its energy resources, avoid increasing the country’s dependence on imported natural gas, as well as cut the volume of emissions,” the strategy document states, according to ARKA. “The government remains committed to its policy of having a nuclear power plant in the country’s generating capacity. In this context, it should be noted that the option of maximally extending the operating life of the nuclear power plant is a guarantee of the development of the system at the lowest cost.”

ANS member Joyce Connery appointed as DNFSB chair

President Biden has appointed Joyce Connery as chair of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB). Connery, an ANS member since 2012, was appointed to the board in August 2015 for a term ending in October 2019. She was confirmed again by the Senate as a DNFSB member on July 2, 2020, for a term expiring on October 18, 2024. Connery previously held the chairmanship from August 2015 until January 2017.

Biden designates Hanson as the 18th NRC chairman

NRC commissioner Christopher T. Hanson participates in the commission briefing on the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: NRC

President Biden designated Christopher T. Hanson as the 18th chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the weekend. Hanson replaces Kristine Svincki who resigned from the NRC as chairman on January 20. Svinicki was the longest-serving commissioner in the agency's history (2008-2021).

“I am honored to have been selected by President Biden to serve as the next NRC chairman and to lead the talented women and men who oversee the licensing and regulation of our nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials,” said Hanson. “I look forward to building on Chairman Svinicki’s many accomplishments as the commission takes on new challenges and faces new opportunities as nuclear energy technologies continue to evolve and uses of nuclear materials expand in the future.”