Gates highlights nuclear’s role in fighting climate change

Gates

Bill Gates is making the media rounds to promote his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, which was released on Tuesday. Along the way, he’s been touting nuclear energy as part of his master plan for battling climate change.

60 Minutes: Gates kicked off the week with an appearance on 60 Minutes on Sunday. During the nearly 15-minute segment with correspondent Anderson Cooper, Gates discussed TerraPower, the company he founded in 2006 that is dedicated to nuclear innovation. “Nuclear power can be done in a way that none of those failures of the past would recur, because just the physics of how it's built,” Gates said, referring to TerraPower’s Natrium reactor. “I admit, convincing people of that will be almost as hard as actually building it. But since it may be necessary to avoid climate change, we shouldn't give up.”

Restart of work on Angra-3 questioned by the Bulletin

Aerial view of Angra 3 nuclear reactor construction site in 2017. Source: Agency Brazil

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published on February 16 an article questioning the logic of completing construction on Brazil’s long-dormant Angra-3 nuclear power plant.

The Brazilian government in 2019 decided to resume construction of Angra-3, after 35 years on hold. The article, Brazil’s Angra 3 nuclear reactor: A political undertaking, not a common good, states that “the work was supposed to restart last year, with the reactor entering commercial service by late 2026, but COVID-19 and the quest for private partners to invest in the project have pushed back the schedule.”

Energy Harbor may decline Ohio plant subsidies

The Associated Press is reporting that Energy Harbor (formerly FirstEnergy Solutions), owner of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, may decline the subsidies provided for those facilities by HB6—the scandal-tainted Ohio bill that was signed into law in 2019. (In late December of last year, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a temporary stay to stop collection of the HB6-mandated fee from Ohio ratepayers that was set to begin January 1.)

Former secretary of state George Shultz dies at 100

Schultz

George P. Shultz, a former U.S. secretary of state who played a central role in helping bring the Cold War to an end, died Saturday at 100, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University announced.

ANS connection: Shultz, an ANS member, was honored during the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting with a celebration of his 100th birthday. He provided recorded comments on the increasing challenges facing policy decisions related to climate change, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing/3D printing. Former senator Sam Nunn reviewed Shultz’s “500 years' worth” of accomplishments and service to the United States.

ANS has issued a statement on the passing of George Schultz.

The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima kicks off an online documentary series

A film titled The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima gets top billing as part of The Short List with Suroosh Alvi, an online documentary series curated by the founder of the media company Vice. The film, which first aired on Vice TV on January 31, follows local hunters who have been enlisted to dispose of radiated wild boars that now roam abandoned streets and buildings in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused the nuclear accident there.

NASA names ANS member Bhavya Lal as acting chief of staff

Lal

NASA has appointed ANS member Bhavya Lal as the space agency's acting chief of staff. She served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for the agency, NASA said.

ANS contribution: Lal cofounded and is cochair of the policy track of the ANS annual conference on Nuclear and Emerging Technologies in Space (NETS). She has contributed as an author and guest editor for the upcoming NETS 2020 special issue of ANS technical journal Nuclear Technology.

In addition, she helps organize a seminar series on space history and policy with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Renewable technologies can’t escape the issue of waste management

A recent article from Deseret News looks at the stark reality of hazardous waste piling up from the green energy revolution. The lengthy article, "The dark side of ‘green energy’ and its threat to the nation’s environment," was written by News reporter Amy Joi O’Donoghue and is based on an Environmental Protection Agency briefing from the Trump administration. The briefing, issued in January, outlines the difficulties the United States will face in recycling and safely disposing of the materials used for green energy technologies.

Green energy’s looming waste problem: While the current fervor around the globe is to decarbonize as quickly as possible using wind and solar, the energy industry has yet to fully tackle the long-term waste stream for these systems. Many supporters think that renewable energy equals no waste, when in reality all energy-producing technologies produce waste that should be managed responsibly. That includes solar panels and wind turbines, which have their own environmental hazards such as toxic metals, oil, fiberglass, and other materials. Andrew Wheeler, EPA administrator at the time, said, “Without a strategy for their end-of-life management, so-called green technologies like solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, and windmills will ultimately place [an] unintended burden on our planet and economy.”

The role of digital insight in a safer nuclear industry

The impact of COVID-19 has placed a sharp focus on not only the importance of keeping key personnel safe but also how to better manage risk with fewer resources on site, writes Ola Bäckström, a product manager for risk at Lloyd’s Register, for Power magazine.

One unexpected result is the acceleration of interest in digitization initiatives. Ten years of digital innovation since the Fukushima accident in March 2011 have brought new ways of modeling and managing risk, and new solutions have been brought to market that are allowing for the safe operation of nuclear power plants.

The digitalization of plant designs is one area of risk assessment that can now be completed automatically. The latest technologies consider more than just schematics and equations, much to the benefit of this new era of nuclear. For instance, digital data combined with international best practices, site-specific data, and an engineer’s own experience can provide a deeper level of insight and analysis than ever before—and faster. Bäckström adds that not just new projects but aging assets can also benefit from digitalization. As more data are input, risk managers can run more accurate simulations and better model existing plants.

Nearly 22,000 completed IAEA courses in nuclear security

The IAEA's In Young Suh (center) demonstrates nuclear security e-learning modules to participants of the International Conference on Nuclear Security. Photo: C. Mitchell/U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory

An International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear security e-learning program is celebrating its 10 years of existence by marking a milestone with nearly 22,000 course completions by nuclear operators, regulators, policy professionals, academics, and students from 170 countries

The IAEA launched the first nuclear security e-learning course, "Use of Radiation Detection Instruments for Front Line Officers," in 2010. Since then, the agency has developed a suite of 17 nuclear security e-learning courses, which are available online at no cost.

The courses include:

  • Overview of nuclear security threats and risks
  • Physical protection
  • Insider threat and information
  • Computer security
  • Other areas of nuclear security

The online courses combine self-paced e-learning with virtual and face-to-face classroom learning. They are frequently prerequisites to instructor-led and classroom-based nuclear security education, training, and capacity building activities, according to the IAEA.

Big fusion moment coming soon, Popular Mechanics says

Rendering of SPARC, a compact, high-field, DT burning tokamak, currently under design by a team from MIT and CFS. Source: CFS/MIT-PSFC - CAD Rendering by T. Henderson

The fusion community is reaching a "Kitty Hawk moment" as early as 2025, according to the Popular Mechanics story, "Jeff Bezos Is Backing an Ancient Kind of Nuclear Fusion."

That moment will come from magnetized target fusion (MTF), the January 25 story notes, a technology that dates back to the 1970s when the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory first proposed it. Now, however, MTF’s proponents say that the technology is bearing down to reach the commercial power market. The question is, Will it be viable before the competing fusion model of tokamaks, such as ITER, start operations?

Kim Budil selected as director of Lawrence Livermore Lab

Budil

Kim Budil has been named director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The announcement was made to laboratory employees today by Charlene Zettel, chair of Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), which manages the laboratory for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Budil will begin her new role on March 2.

Details: Budil is the 13th director of LLNL since it was established in 1952 and its first woman director. She will also serve as president of LLNS, replacing Bill Goldstein, who announced his plans to step down last July, pending the successful search for his successor.

COVID-19 wake-up call: Doomsday Clock remains at 100 seconds to midnight

Bulletin members reveal the 2021 setting of the Doomsday Clock. Photo: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists/Thomas Gaulkin

Citing the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board kept the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, remaining as near to midnight as it has ever been.

“The mishandling of this grave global health crisis is a ‘wake-up call’ that governments, institutions, and a misled public remain unprepared to handle the even greater threats posed by nuclear war and climate change,” a press release from the Bulletin stated. The group also cited a lack of progress in 2020 in dealing with nuclear and climate perils as the reason for not moving the Doomsday Clock from its 2020 position.

House committee spearheading “Scientific Solutions” tweetstorm today

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is leading a one-day social media campaign today to highlight the importance of leading with science and scientific solutions as the committee works to provide support for science and the scientific community. The “tweetstorm” will run from noon to 5 p.m. (EST) and will involve a variety of science-related organizations, including the American Nuclear Society.

Organizations are being asked to post messages on their social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) related to five categories:

  • American leadership in STEM
  • Environmental justice
  • Combating the climate crisis
  • Scientific integrity
  • COVID-19

Three hashtags have been created for the campaign: #ScientificSolutions, #SolvingtheClimateCrisis, and #EnvironmentalJusticeforAll.

Machine learning can help expose illicit nuclear trade, says new report

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) last week released Signals in the Noise: Preventing Nuclear Proliferation with Machine Learning & Publicly Available Information, a 22-page report that provides a blueprint for identifying high-risk or illicit nuclear trade. (Machine learning can be defined as a branch of artificial intelligence focused on building applications that learn from data and improve their accuracy over time without being programmed to do so.)

ANS webinar to focus on low-dose radiation risk

Join ANS on Thursday, January 21, at noon (ET) for a Q&A with an expert panel as they discuss how to communicate about the risk of low-dose radiation. “Talking About Low-dose Radiation Risk” is a free members-only event that serves as a follow-up to the “Risky Business” President’s Session that took place during the ANS Virtual Winter Meeting last November. The session will take a deeper dive into the many questions generated from the thought-provoking discussion.

Register now to attend the webinar.

Nuclear law experts offer reasons for optimism

In a January 14 "Nuclear Industry Recap of 2020" blog post, attorneys Sachin Desai and Amy C. Roma list some of the actions taken by the federal government over the past 12 months to improve the status of the U.S. nuclear community.

Desai and Roma, both of whom practice nuclear and radioactive materials law at Hogan Lovells, look at actions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and Congress and find much to be optimistic about.

Slaybaugh named to lead Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road

Slaybaugh

The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently named Rachel Slaybaugh, ANS member since 2003 and associate professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California–Berkeley, to lead the lab’s Cyclotron Road Division.

Get to know her: Prior to coming to Berkeley, Slaybaugh served as a program director for the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), whose mission is to advance high-potential and high-impact energy technologies. From 2017 through 2020 at ARPA-E, Slaybaugh led programs supporting research in advanced nuclear fission reactors, agriculture technologies, and sensing and data analytics for four years.

Wisconsin professor hosts podcast series on nuclear science

Lesher

Shelly Lesher, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse professor, is hosting the My Nuclear Life podcast series centered on how nuclear science is perceived in the community, La Crosse television station WXOW reported.

My Nuclear Life explores the intersection of nuclear science and society. Lesher, a 2020 American Physical Society Fellow, covers a range of topics, from the use of radium therapy for treating cancer to the U.S. environmental movement.

NNSA releases contractor performance evaluations

The National Nuclear Security Administration last week released performance evaluation summaries on the effectiveness of its management and operating (M&O) contractors in meeting the agency’s expectations during fiscal year 2020.

The summaries feature assessment “scorecards,” as well as links to M&O contractor performance evaluation and measurement plans. Also included are specific contractor accomplishments, plus issues requiring attention.

NuScale SMR chosen for U.K. wind-nuclear hybrid

British hybrid clean energy company Shearwater Energy announced on January 15 that it is joining with U.S.-based NuScale Power to develop a hybrid project using wind energy and small modular reactor technology to produce power and green hydrogen.

According to news reports, the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on an initial project, which could be sited at the now-decommissioned Wylfa nuclear power station on the island of Anglesey, off the northwestern coast of Wales. No land agreements have been reached, however.