ANS Nuclear Cafe

The ANS Nuclear Cafe is a blog owned and edited by the American Nuclear Society. Information contained on the ANS Nuclear Cafe has been provided by numerous sources. Therefore, the American Nuclear Society assumes no responsibility or liability for the accuracy of information contained herein. DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in posted articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Nuclear Society. The views expressed here are those of the individual authors. ANS takes no ownership of their views. The American Nuclear Society assumes no responsibility or liability for any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained on this site.

Nuclear thermal propulsion may finally take off for space flight

January 19, 2023, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

A “resurgence of interest” in nuclear propulsion for space missions is described in a new article authored by science writer Jon Kelvey for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ (AIAA’s) Aerospace America website. The focus of Kelvey’s article is nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP), which, according to the Department of Energy, “could significantly reduce travel times and carry greater payloads than today’s top chemical rockets­—giving humans a great chance of exploring deep space.”

NAC International acquires Philotechnics

January 17, 2023, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

NAC International Inc. has completed its acquisition of Philotechnics Ltd., a health physics, radiological services, and waste management company headquartered in Oak Ridge, Tenn., with a satellite facility in San Diego, Calif. The company, now under NAC International ownership, has been renamed NAC Philotechnics Ltd.

Paragon, Thermo Fisher reach licensing agreement on neutron flux monitoring systems

January 16, 2023, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Paragon Energy Solutions and Thermo Fisher Scientific have entered into a definitive agreement that grants Paragon a long-term license for the product line of Thermo Fisher’s Gamma-Metrics neutron flux monitoring systems (NFMS). The agreement allows the legacy nuclear reactor customers of service provider Thermo Fisher to more easily purchase spare parts, upgrades, services, and new systems from Paragon, a leading supplier of safety-related products and components for the nuclear industry. This enhanced purchasing ability reduces the risk of obsolete products being used in the operating nuclear fleet.

The mystery of the hidden uranium: Elementary, my dear Watson?

January 13, 2023, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The discovery of a small amount of uranium inside a package of scrap metal bars at Heathrow Airport in London has raised a number of puzzling questions that are being investigated by Scotland Yard, headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police (the Met). Investigators said that the uranium, which was found by Border Force staff during routine screening at the airport on December 29, originated in Pakistan, though it arrived at Heathrow on a passenger flight from Oman and, according to a January 11 report in the Guardian, was bound for an Iranian-owned business with offices in the United Kingdom.

Kairos makes list of 100 most promising cleantech companies

January 13, 2023, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Kairos Power, an Alameda, Calif.–based advanced reactor developer, announced yesterday that it has been named to Cleantech Group’s list of the 100 most innovative and promising private companies in the cleantech sector for 2023. Cleantech Group is a research and consulting services firm headquartered in San Francisco.

Southern Company makes executive appointments

January 12, 2023, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
From left: Womack, Greene, and Sena. (Photos: Southern Company)

Southern Company has appointed Chris Womack chief operating officer effective immediately and president as of March 31. Tom Fanning will relinquish the role of president upon Womack's assumption of the role in March and is to assume the role of executive chairman of the board of directors.

Womack has served as president of Georgia Power since 2020 and chairman, president, and CEO since 2021. Prior to his current roles, he served as executive vice president and president of external affairs for Southern Company.

"Chris's leadership, vision, and integrity during his career with Southern Company have uniquely prepared him to guide Southern Company into a new era," said Fanning. "With our recent progress at Plant Vogtle and continued conversion of our operations towards net zero emissions, I believe that now is an ideal time to transition to new leadership."

The moves were announced by the company's board on January 5.

Tokamak Energy and Furukawa Electric sign agreement to advance commercial fusion energy

January 11, 2023, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Tokamak Energy announced today that it has signed an agreement with Furukawa Electric Co., of Tokyo, Japan, and the Furukawa Electric Group's SuperPower Inc, of New York, for supply of several hundred kilometers of specialist high temperature superconducting (HTS) tape for Tokamak's new advanced prototype fusion device, ST80-HTS.

NNSA's minority serving institution program looks to strengthen skilled workforce

January 10, 2023, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program (MSIPP) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) titled "Community and Junior College Trade Occupation Program." The FOA encourages grant applications from tribal and minority serving community and junior colleges that diversify student and faculty populations, enhance training programs in trade and skilled labors, and increase the capacity of the NNSA's nuclear security enterprise workforce.

Eligible tribal and minority serving community and junior colleges have until February 17, 2023, 11:50 p.m. EST to respond to the FOA with proposals.

NEDHO's academic program fact sheets

January 9, 2023, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization has made its members' academic fact sheets available for 2022.

Each year, NEDHO's academic institutions share information about their programs through the use of concise summaries that provide a brief overview of each program and include important statistics such as faculty and student numbers, research expenditures, and more.

National labs targeted in Russia-based phishing scheme, Reuters reports

January 9, 2023, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Reuters broke an “exclusive” story on January 6 that, “according to Internet records reviewed by Reuters and five cyber security experts, a Russian hacking team known as Cold River targeted three Department of Energy laboratoriesArgonne, Brookhaven, and Lawrence Livermore—with a phishing scheme in the summer of 2022.

AI and advanced nuclear reactors

January 3, 2023, 6:55AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Researchers are looking for the ideal characteristics of molten salt, which can serve as both coolant and fuel in advanced nuclear reactors. (Photo: Argonne National Laboratory)

Scientists are searching for new materials to advance the next generation of nuclear power plants. In a recent study, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory showed how artificial intelligence could help pinpoint the right types of molten salts, a key component for advanced nuclear reactors.

Russia building protection over Zaporizhzhia spent fuel tanks, according to Russian news source

December 21, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
This image from a video reportedly shows the start of installation of a protective covering over spent fuel storage tanks at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Image: Telegram/Vladimir Rogov)

Russia has begun construction of protected covering at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to a December 17 report from Russian news outlet RT. The story has been picked up in the West by some news agencies but has not been widely circulated.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, said, “Russia is constructing a protective dome over spent radioactive fuel stores at the [Zaporizhzhia] nuclear power plant as Ukrainian forces continue to target the facility.”

PIMA Nuclear Alliance seeks “revolutionary” change in nuclear industry

December 20, 2022, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Post-Industrial Midwest and Appalachia (PIMA) Nuclear Alliance hosted its third workshop December 8—9 at Pennsylvania State University’s Digital Foundry at New Kensington. The alliance, which consists of Penn State and several academic, industrial, and national lab partners, was formed in May 2022 to harness carbon-free energy while educating and training the future energy workforce. Previous workshops were held in June and October this year.

Microreactor technology: The major focus of the alliance is innovation in microreactor technology and other advanced nuclear reactor technologies in the Midwest and Appalachia regions, with the overall goal of furthering the decarbonization of industries.

Breakthrough Institute tells NRC to “go back to the drawing board” with Part 53 rule

December 19, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Breakthrough Institute’s analysis of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s draft proposal to modernize licensing regulations for advanced reactors has concluded that the latest proposed 10 CFR Part 53 rule language ”largely replicates the failed licensing rules that have hobbled the legacy nuclear industry for decades.”

A summary of the analysis, written by Ted Nordhaus, the Breakthrough Institute’s founder and executive director, and Adam Stein, the institute’s director for nuclear energy innovation, observes that the “draft framework is twice as long as either of the legacy, prescriptive licensing frameworks, Part 50 and 52, that it is intended to supplant. That is because the staff largely cut and pasted the old rules into the new framework, then added further burdensome regulations, including qualitative health objectives that cannot be complied with and expanded requirements for the notorious ‘as low as reasonably achievable’ radiation standard, a further invitation to endlessly ratchet regulatory requirements.”

NRC proposes fine on Connecticut medical center

December 16, 2022, 9:21AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed an $8,000 fine for a Connecticut hospital for violations involving the temporary loss of a radioactive source used to calibrate nuclear medicine dosage-measuring equipment.

Conversation advancing in U.S. on fusion energy regulation

December 15, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear CafeTim Peckinpaugh, Michael L. O’Neill, and Molly K. Barker

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently convened a briefing with its staff and a range of stakeholders to discuss different approaches to regulating commercial fusion energy activities in the United States. This briefing represented the culmination of more than two years of public engagement by NRC staff on fusion regulation, inviting input from public, private, and international parties.


Rep. Donalds calls for end to regulations hampering microreactor development

December 12, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe


“I wholeheartedly believe that utilizing nuclear energy—specifically advanced nuclear microreactors—could have made a positive difference for Florida’s 19th District in many ways,” wrote Rep. Byron Donalds (R., Fla.) in an op-ed about Hurricane Ian that appeared in the Floridian on December 5. Donalds noted that Ian, which struck southwest Florida (the location of his congressional district) on September 28, 2022, was an “unforgettable storm” that caused “heart-wrenching devastation” to the area but that “the deployment of microreactors throughout Southwest Florida could have: (1) reduced disaster-related mortality; (2) reduced direct disaster-related economic loss; and (3) reduced the overall disruption of basic services stemming from Hurricane Ian’s devastation.”

Microreactor technology and benefits: Donalds offered his readers a brief lesson on nuclear microreactors, explaining that they are “small, versatile, and extremely reliable pieces of innovative technology” that put to rest common public concerns about nuclear energy related to “large smokestacks, nuclear waste, and nuclear meltdowns.”

X-energy to become publicly traded company

December 12, 2022, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

X-energy, a developer of small modular reactors and nuclear fuel technology, has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Ares Acquisition Corporation (AAC). As a result of the agreement, X-energy will become a publicly traded company, a status that is expected to boost its growth strategy, investment opportunities, and financial flexibility. In addition, X-energy will receive differentiated sponsorship by Ares Management Corporation, which describes itself as a “leading global alternative investment manager.” The transaction is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2023.

“Nuclear popcorn” study gives insights into strong nuclear force

December 9, 2022, 12:13PMANS Nuclear Cafe
A figure from the “Multistep Coulomb excitation of 64Ni” that shows the time-of-flight difference between the projectile and target recoils as a function of scattering angle measured with the CHICO2 detector. A clear separation between the Ni-64 (bottom) and Pb-208 (top) ions is observed. (Credit: Physical Review C/American Physical Society)

A study published recently in the American Physical Society journal Physical Review C reveals new findings about the strong nuclear force, the mysterious fundamental force that holds together the protons and neutrons of the atomic nucleus. Experiments conducted at Argonne National Laboratory have shown how the round, heavy nuclei of the nickel-64 isotope (containing 28 protons and 36 neutrons, making it the heaviest stable Ni isotope) changed into one of two shapes—either like a doorknob or a football—depending on the amount of energy exerted on it. A summary of the research on the website compares the nuclei shape change to popcorn kernels changing shape when heated in a microwave.