Texas congressman weighs in on Yucca Mountain

Burgess

The U.S. Congress has failed to uphold its promise to fully fund Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, as a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel, Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R., Texas) writes in an op-ed article published on December 8 in the Dallas Morning News.

More than three decades after passing the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, Congress has yet to fully fund the Yucca Mountain Project. Burgess points out that while some countries have found success with reprocessing spent fuels, the fission process will always produce some amount of material that must be safely disposed, making it necessary to find a permanent solution.

Local leader speaks out to keep Byron nuclear plant open

Chesney

An Illinois lawmaker is hopeful that legislation is coming in the state that would benefit nuclear power plants. “I believe we’re going to have an incentive program that will be in partisan legislation,” said Andrew Chesney, Illinois state representative for the 89th District.

Chesney’s comment was included in a video story that aired on a TV news channel in Rockford, Ill. The news story focused on the negative financial impact that would result if the Byron nuclear power plant were to close in 2021.

Siphoning D&D lessons from the oil and gas industry

The Deepsea Delta oil-drilling platform in the North Sea. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Nuclear decommissioning projects can benefit from the lessons learned in the fossil fuel industry, according to a December 8 Reuters Events post that draws heavily from an article published in the ANS magazine Radwaste Solutions.

Reuters reporter Paul Day interviewed the authors of “Tapping Nonnuclear Knowledge,” which appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of RS and examines research being done on cross-sector learning between nuclear and oil and gas decommissioning projects, particularly the mega projects of decommissioning nuclear power plants and offshore oil rigs.

New Brunswick debates investing in SMRs

In an article published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on December 7, politicians representing New Brunswick, Canada, debate the benefits and potential risks of investing in small modular reactor development. Two major parties in the province support SMR development, while the Green Party sees “danger signs.”

Idaho National Laboratory: Breaking new ground with the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

A renewed U.S. interest in advanced nuclear technology is making headlines around the world. Growing energy needs and an increased desire to limit carbon emissions are driving a flurry of activity among education institutions, national laboratories, and private companies. New nuclear technologies are rapidly maturing toward commercialization with the aim of deploying a new generation of advanced reactors. These advanced nuclear energy systems have the potential to provide cost-effective, carbon-free energy; create new jobs; and expand nuclear energy’s outputs beyond electricity generation alone.

“DOE and U.S. industry are extremely well-equipped to develop and demonstrate nuclear reactors with the requisite sense of urgency, which is important not only to our economy, but to our environment, because nuclear energy is clean energy,” Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy, recently noted in a Department of Energy news release.

The DOE anticipates significant global demand for advanced reactors, and with support from Congress, intends to invest $3.2 billion over the next seven years in the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The initial funding opportunity was announced in May 2020. The call specified the need for reactor technologies that improve on the safety, security, economics and/or environmental impact of currently operating reactor designs. The goal of the program is to maintain the nation’s leadership in the global nuclear energy industry through the successful research, design, and deployment of advanced reactors in the United States and international marketplaces.

The ARDP will provide funds for three phases of public-private technology development partnerships over the next decade and a half:

  1. Advanced Reactor Demonstrations: The initial $160 million funding allocation, announced in October 2020, will support two companies that can license, construct, and operate an advanced reactor design in the next five to seven years.
  2. Risk Reduction for Future Demonstration: The second phase of funding availability will support an additional two to five reactor designs that could be commercialized approximately five years after the Advanced Reactor Demonstrations. Awards are expected to be announced by the end of 2020.
  3. Advanced Reactor Concepts-20 (ARC-20): The third pathway to meet the advanced reactor demonstration goals will support up to two less mature reactor designs that will take a further five years to develop beyond the Risk Reduction phase.

Bloomberg: How nuclear power could help industry decarbonize

Half of the world’s energy goes into producing heat for industries that make steel, cement, glass, and chemicals, according to the Bloomberg article, Atomic Heat in Small Packages Gives Big Industry a Climate Option. That heat, sometimes reaching temperatures above 1,000 oC, accounts for two-fifths of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Japan should revive its nuclear industry, says new report

The Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center has issued a report, Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Fleet: The Geopolitical and Climate Implications of Accelerated Decommissioning, contending that Japan’s reaction to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident has led to an increased dependence on carbon-emitting energy sources that ultimately undermine the country’s recently announced climate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Recommendations: Released just a few months prior to the 10-year anniversary of the accident on March 11, 2011, the report recommends that Japan:

  • Use its existing nuclear fleet in the near and long term to 2050,
  • remain involved in global civil nuclear trade,
  • develop a role for advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, which it should deploy as soon as feasible,
  • rebuild its nuclear energy workforce and public trust in nuclear power, and
  • regain its leadership position in the climate battle.

IAEA awards fellowships to 100 female students in nuclear

The International Atomic Energy Agency has awarded fellowships to the first group of 100 female students from around the world under a new initiative to help close the gender gap in nuclear science and technology.

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Program, named after the pioneering physicist, was launched by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in March to support women pursuing nuclear-related careers.

U.K. seeks site for STEP fusion reactor

The United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has asked local governments to submit bids to host the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production project, or STEP, according to an article published by Bloomberg on December 1.

The STEP plant will be developed by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, which says that construction could begin as soon as 2032, with operations by 2040, and “will prove that fusion is not a far-off dream.”

LA Times asks, “How safe is the water off SONGS?”

A California surfer. Photo: Brocken Inaglory/Wikicommons

The Los Angeles Times published an article on December 1 about a recent collaboration between the Surfrider Foundation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to determine how safe the water is off the coast of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).


ANS leaders’ op-ed urges New York Gov. Cuomo to keep Indian Point-3 operating

Dunzik-Gougar

Piercy

The scheduled premature shutdown of Indian Point-3 will all but guarantee a massive increase in fossil fuel use, according to an op-ed written by American Nuclear Society President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar and Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy that was published in the New York Daily News on November 30.

Indian Point-3 is slated to be shut down in April 2021, four years before its operating license expires.

Why I’ll be getting a COVID-19 vaccine

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.

I should state up front that I am not an expert in matters of dealing with communicable diseases, although like most of us, I am much more knowledgeable in the area than I was a year ago.

In COVID-19, the world is dealing with a disease that has killed more than a quarter-million Americans in less than a year and, when all is said and done, will have led to the deaths of millions worldwide. Beyond the immediate fatalities, there are the aftereffects on the health of survivors and immensely adverse economic, psychological, and social impacts on the human race. It doesn’t even stop there—other species on our planet are similarly impacted. It’s not quite Stephen King’s The Stand or a zombie apocalypse, but “it could be worse” is cold comfort when you look at the reality of the situation. Like everyone, I have experienced indirectly the effects of COVID-19. I have lost friends and colleagues to the disease, but fortunately, so far, no close family members.

Baranwal reviews virtual STEM lessons for U.S. tribal communities

Baranwal

In a blog post to the Department of Energy’s website on November 23, Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy, commended recent virtual lesson projects from the Office of Nuclear Energy and the Nuclear Energy Tribal Working Group to increase STEM opportunities for Native American tribes.

The spotlighted lesson discussed in the article focused on a 3D-printed clip that turns a smartphone or tablet into a microscope with the ability to magnify items by 100 times. The Office of Nuclear Energy shipped nearly 1,000 of these microscope clips to students across the country, many of them going to U.S. tribal communities.

Is proximity key to understanding interactions on the nuclear scale?

An MIT-led team found that the formulas describing how atoms behave in a gas can be generalized to predict how protons and neutrons interact at close range. Image: Collage by MIT News. Neutron star image: X-ray (NASA/CXC/ESO/F.Vogt et al); Optical (ESO/VLT/MUSE & NASA/STScI)

In an MIT News article playfully titled “No matter the size of a nuclear party, some protons and neutrons will always pair up and dance,” author Jennifer Chu explains that findings on the interactions of protons and neutrons recently published in the journal Nature Physics show that the nucleons may behave like atoms in a gas.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology–led team simulated the behavior of nucleons in several types of atomic nuclei using supercomputers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. The team investigated a range of nuclear interaction models and found that formulas describing a concept known as contact formalism can be generalized to predict how protons and neutrons interact at close range.

Bloomberg: Stanford prof a front runner to lead Biden DOE

Majumdar

Arun Majumdar, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University and former vice president for energy at Google, is a leading contender for secretary of energy in a Biden administration, according to a November 12 Bloomberg story.

Chosen on November 10 to lead Biden’s Department of Energy transition team, Majumdar was also the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-–Energy (ARPA-E), serving in that role from 2009 to 2012. Bloomberg quotes Jeff Navin, director of external affairs at TerraPower, as saying, “He had as good relationships with Republicans as he did with Democrats as the first director of ARPA-E, and he took the time to get to know key legislators personally.”

Opinion: U.K. power stations could make hydrogen, heat homes, and decarbonize industry

Nuclear reactors have evolved to achieve more than just electricity generation and should be part of the U.K.’s plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Photo: Royal Society, authors provided

The United Kingdom needs to start rebuilding its capacity to generate nuclear power, according to an opinion article published Wednesday on The Conversation by two members of the U.K.-based Bangor University faculty.

Bill Lee, a professor of materials in extreme environments, and Michael Rushton, a senior lecturer in nuclear energy, argue that the plan by the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the U.K. government on the effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, is “strangely silent on nuclear power.”

BBC: U.K. government may be close to greenlighting Sizewell C

Artist’s rendering of the Sizewell site, with Sizewell C at right. Image: EDF Energy

A BBC News story from late last week states that the U.K. government “is close to giving the green light” to EDF Energy’s proposed Sizewell C nuclear new build project in Suffolk, adding that details surrounding the project’s financing “are still being hammered out.”

The Sizewell C station, consisting of twin European pressurized reactors (EPRs), would be built next to Sizewell B, a 1,198-MWe pressurized water reactor that began operation in 1995. (The Sizewell site also houses Sizewell A, a 290-MWe Magnox gas-cooled reactor, but that unit was permanently shuttered in 2006.) Sizewell C would be a near copy of the two-unit Hinkley Point C station, currently under construction in Somerset.

A life in nuclear reactor physics and design

You may have read the abbreviated version of this article in the November 2020 issue of Nuclear News. Now here's the full article—enjoy!

I have enjoyed a long and stimulating career in applied nuclear physics—specifically nuclear reactor physics, nuclear fusion plasma physics, and nuclear fission and fusion reactor design—which has enabled me to know and interact with many of the scientists and engineers who have brought the field of nuclear energy forward over the past half-century. In this time I have had the fortune to interact with and contribute (directly and indirectly) to the education of many of the people who will carry the field forward over the next half-century.

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Outgoing WNA leader: Cross bridges that divide us

Rising

Agneta Rising, outgoing director general of the World Nuclear Association, wrote in an October 27 World Nuclear News article that nuclear power is an essential part of the climate change solution, even if it is not part of the conversation in the European Union. “In many ways, the future of nuclear energy is much brighter than it has been for many years. We are evermore recognized and valued for the unique services that nuclear energy offers humanity, and I am immensely proud to have served and led our industry through these exciting times," said Rising in a farewell message that recapped her time as WNA director general.