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.

What does the Supreme Court have to do with nuclear waste?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American Nuclear Society.

As if COVID-19 and a rancorous presidential election were not enough, over the next few weeks we will also be dealing with the confirmation of a justice to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. What does that have to do with the American Nuclear Society and nuclear technology? Well, nothing directly, but there is an interesting connection between the Supreme Court and a notable case on nuclear waste decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in August 2013.

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).

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.

Newest Russian icebreaker ready to hit the ice

The Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika. Photo: Rosatom

The Arktika, Russia’s latest nuclear-powered icebreaker, sailed from the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg last week, bound for the Murmansk seaport. The voyage is scheduled to take approximately two weeks, during which time the vessel will be tested “in ice conditions,” according to Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned atomic energy corporation.

Brouillette: Nuclear should be part of California’s energy problem solution

Brouillette

In an op-ed published on September 25 in the Orange County Register, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette decryed the state of California’s handling of its energy crisis.

Brouillette criticized state leaders for championing a 100 percent renewable energy plan that ignores nuclear and natural gas. He also found fault with the plan to prematurely close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Nuclear power: Are we too anxious about the risks of radiation?

Rowlatt

Following U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent restatement of the United Kingdom’s commitment to nuclear power, BBC News chief environment correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, wrote an article aimed at separating fact from fiction regarding the safety and benefits of nuclear energy.

Among his points, Rowlatt defended the use of nuclear power to combat climate change, examined the data behind deaths from radiation exposure directly caused by the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, and explained that exposure to low levels of radiation is not a major health risk.

JPP lays out SPARC fusion physics basis

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

A special issue of the Journal of Plasma Physics gives a glimpse into the physics basis for SPARC, the DT-burning tokamak being designed by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. The special issue was announced in a September 29 post on the Cambridge University Press blog Cambridge Core.

The special JPP issue includes seven peer-reviewed articles on the SPARC concept, which takes advantage of recent breakthroughs in high-temperature superconductor technology to burn plasma in a compact tokamak design.

The Netherlands mulls more nuclear energy

The government of the Netherlands has released a report, Possible Role of Nuclear in the Dutch Energy Mix in the Future, that answers in the affirmative the question of whether nuclear energy can play an important role in the country’s future energy mix.

The report, released this month by Enco, an Austrian energy research group, was commissioned by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.

The Netherlands currently has one nuclear power facility supplying the grid—the Borssele plant, which houses a 482-MWe two-loop pressurized water reactor that entered commercial operation in 1973.

A look back at 1984 U.K. spent fuel flask test

The government of the United Kingdom conducted a series of tests in the 1980s to assess the robustness of spent nuclear fuel packages. One such test involved ramming a 140-ton diesel locomotive into a transportation canister, called a nuclear flask, at 100 miles per hour. The test, according to a recent article published by the online magazine The Drive, was a “smashing” success. Just 0.29 psi of pressure escaped the 50-ton test flask, which had been pressurized to 100 psi.

Labor union leader weighs in on closure of Illinois nuclear plants

Lonnie Stephenson, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, wrote an op-ed published in the September 25 Chicago Sun-Times touting the benefits of nuclear power in Illinois and decrying Exelon’s plan to prematurely shutter the Byron and Dresden plants.

A last look at Fort Belvoir’s SM-1 reactor

A series of photos published by the Washingtonian on September 22 capture rarely seen images of Fort Belvoir’s SM-1 reactor, the U.S. Army’s first nuclear reactor and the first facility in the United States to provide nuclear-generated power to the commercial grid for a sustained period. These images may be some of the last photos of SM-1, as crews are set to begin decommissioning and dismantling the nuclear facility early next year.

Washington State utility says, “No more wind”

An article published over the weekend in the Tacoma News Tribune reports that the Benton Public Utility District in Kennewick, Wash., is saying no to more wind farms. Even though utilities are moving to decarbonize the grid, a report from the Benton PUD says that more wind farms “will contribute very little to keeping the regional power grid reliable and will not help Benton PUD solve our seasonal energy deficit problems.”

The First Nuclear Textbook?

Yesterday, we had one of the nicer yet stranger events during this wholly strange time - that is, the meeting of the American Nuclear Society's Book Publishing Committee, of which yours truly is the Vice Chair.  I say "nicer" because I always look forward to these meetings, given the opportunity they afford to interact with some of ANS' finest people and the fact that these meetings really get things done.  I say "stranger" because it was a Zoom meeting and not face to face, around a table.  What's even more impacting for me is the fact that the BPC meeting usually is the first event I attend at ANS' Annual and Winter meetings and it serves, thus, as the best possible kickoff for me.  November, maybe.  Maybe.

Closer Than We Think

I'm writing this on National Maritime Day 2020, a day in which we think of and thank all those who have worked on the water moving people and things.  Our nation's maritime history isn't as long as that of some other nations but it has been rich and, worldwide, significant.  We've contributed a number of "firsts."