Energy Secretary calls for changes to Texas grid

Granholm

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Wednesday during the CERAWeek energy conference commented that Texas should look beyond its borders to join other grids following last month's winter storm that left millions without power, according to an article from The Hill.

“It would be great for Texas to consider connecting ... to its neighbors,” she said. “I understand the go-it-alone sort of ethos, but there’s also an ethos of helping your neighbor too and I think connecting could benefit Texas in times of emergency, but it could also benefit Texas and the rest of the country in good times when Texas is generating all sorts of clean energy."

Hanford Site to restore wildland after grass fire

A worker readies a hanging bucket for a helicopter used to drop native grass and shrub seed on thousands of acres of the Hanford Site that burned in 2020. Source: DOE

An aerial seeding project on the Hanford Site’s Gable Mountain will help restore lost habitat following a wildland fire in June of last year, according a March 3 announcement from the Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office (RL). The wildfire burned more than 5,500 acres on the mountain at Hanford, in Washington state.

Outgoing DOE contractor Mission Support Alliance coordinated the effort to drop 75,000 pounds of native grass and shrub seed from a helicopter during the rainy winter season. The project will continue under the new contractor, Hanford Mission Integration Solutions. Biologists expect the seeds to germinate by spring.

“Remediating environmental damage from the Gable Mountain fire is a priority, and the use of harvested native seeds will offer the best chance at future restoration of this critical habitat,” said So Yon Bedlington, RL program manager.

Manchin voices strong support for nuclear energy

Manchin

Speaking at a U.S. Senate committee meeting this week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) said that continuing support for nuclear energy would be essential in meeting the country’s goals of reducing the emissions that fuel climate change, according to the Politico Pro newsletter.

Details: Manchin, who heads the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was highly critical of anyone suggesting that climate change can be addressed without nuclear energy being in the mix.

Researchers report fastest purification of astatine-211 needed for targeted cancer therapy

Astatine-211 recovery from bismuth metal using a chromatography system. Unlike bismuth, astatine-211 forms chemical bonds with ketones.

In a recent study, Texas A&M University researchers have described a new process to purify astatine-211, a promising radioactive isotope for targeted cancer treatment. Unlike other elaborate purification methods, their technique can extract astatine-211 from bismuth in minutes rather than hours, which can greatly reduce the time between production and delivery to the patient.

“Astatine-211 is currently under evaluation as a cancer therapeutic in clinical trials. But the problem is that the supply chain for this element is very limited because only a few places worldwide can make it,” said Jonathan Burns, research scientist in the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Nuclear Engineering and Science Center. “Texas A&M University is one of a handful of places in the world that can make astatine-211, and we have delineated a rapid astatine-211 separation process that increases the usable quantity of this isotope for research and therapeutic purposes.”

The researchers added that this separation method will bring Texas A&M one step closer to being able to provide astatine-211 for distribution through the Department of Energy’s Isotope Program’s National Isotope Development Center as part of the University Isotope Network.

Details on the chemical reaction to purify astatine-211 are in the journal Separation and Purification Technology.

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.”

Farming in Fukushima

Screenshot of the video from Vice.

Vice News has published a video on YouTube that follows two farmers from the Fukushima Prefecture, Noboru Saito and Koji Furuyama. Saito, who grows many different crops on his farm, says that the rice grown in the area is consistently rated as the best. Furuyama specializes in peaches and explains his strategy to deal with the stigma of selling fruit from Fukushima: grow the best peaches in the world.

Young Members Group focuses on Remote Sensing Lab in ANS webinar

The ANS Young Members Group is hosting a free webinar, on Thursday, February 11, featuring the Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) as part of its ongoing "Spotlight on National Labs" series. The broadcast runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. (ET) and will cover RSL’s current and future initiatives. Registration is free and open to all.

Details: As part of the Global Security Mission Directorate, RSL is a center for creating and using advanced technologies that provide a broad range of scientific, technological, and operational disciplines with core competencies in emergency response operations and support, remote sensing, and applied science and technologies in support of counterterrorism and radiological and nuclear incident response.

Located at the Nevada National Security Site, RSL is composed of scientists, engineers, technologists, pilots, operations specialists, and administrators, many of whom hold doctorate degrees, providing the lab with a wide diversity of education and experience. Working in sophisticated laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment, these personnel work to advance the technological and operational capabilities of the emergency response teams and other RSL customers and stakeholders.

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.

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.)