Nuclear News

Published since 1959, Nuclear News is recognized worldwide as the flagship trade publication for the nuclear community. News reports cover plant operations, maintenance and security; policy and legislation; international developments; waste management and fuel; and business and contract award news.

Artificial intelligence could yield real advances for the nuclear reactors of tomorrow

April 9, 2021, 9:23AMNuclear NewsRichard Vilim

To build a next-generation nuclear reactor, you can teach it how to build itself

The nuclear reactors currently in operation in the United States are beginning to gray around the temples. Built decades ago using technology developed during the middle of the 20th century, these reactors have safely and reliably powered homes and businesses, but they produce waste that must be disposed of properly.

NRC proposes $150,000 fine to FPL

April 9, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Florida’s Turkey Point nuclear plant. Photo: FPL

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on April 6 issued a violation notice and proposed a $150,000 civil penalty to Florida Power & Light Company for falsifying plant records and recording inaccurate data in maintenance records at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Homestead, Fla.

ASLB to hear argument against Point Beach license renewal

April 8, 2021, 3:27PMNuclear News
Point Beach Units 1 and 2. Photo: NRC

An atomic safety and licensing board has been established to address a hearing request filed on behalf of an antinuclear group regarding the subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for NextEra Energy’s Point Beach reactors, located near Two Rivers, Wis. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission published notice of the panel’s formation in the April 2 Federal Register.

Upgrades completed at world’s only TRIGA fuel fabrication facility

April 8, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The Maryland University Training Reactor, one of 12 TRIGA reactors currently operating at universities in the United States. Photo: University of Maryland

TRIGA International, the only supplier of TRIGA reactor fuel in the world, recently completed a major renovation project at its fuel fabrication facility in Romans, France. The Department of Energy, which provided both technical and financial support for the project, said the upgrades ensure the continued operation of 36 TRIGA reactors around the world, including 18 in the United States.

First UAE unit begins commercial operation

April 6, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News
Barakah-1 (right) is now providing reliable and sustainable electricity around the clock. Photo: ENEC

Unit 1 at the United Arab Emirates’ Barakah nuclear power plant has entered commercial operation and is now providing “constant, reliable, and sustainable electricity around the clock,” the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced this morning. ENEC added that, as a result of the event, the company now leads the largest decarbonization effort of any industry in the UAE.

General Atomics’ compact fusion design shows net-electric potential

April 6, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
The outside of the DIII-D tokamak, where testing that supports the development of the Compact Advanced Tokamak has been performed. Photo: General Atomics

Scientists at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility have published research on a compact fusion reactor design they say could be used to develop a pilot-scale fusion power plant. According to General Atomics (GA), which operates DIII-D as a national user facility for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Compact Advanced Tokamak (CAT) concept uses a self-sustaining configuration that can hold energy more efficiently than in typical pulsed configurations, allowing the plant to be built at a reduced scale and cost.

Niger’s Akouta uranium mine ceases operations

April 5, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Miners depart Niger’s Akouta uranium mine for the last time after production ended for good. Photo: Cominak

The Akouta mine in Niger stopped production on March 31 after 43 years of service and 75,000 metric tons of uranium extracted. Akouta, the largest underground uranium mine in the world, was operated by Cominak, a subsidiary of Orano. The shutdown was decided by Cominak’s board of directors on October 23, 2019, in response to the depletion of the mine’s deposit.

Post-Fukushima safety enhancements

April 2, 2021, 2:47PMNuclear NewsLeah Parks, Carl Mazzola, Jim Xu, and Brent Gutierrez
A map of Japan highlighting the Fukushima prefecture.

March 11 will mark the 10-­year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi event, when a 45-­foot tsunami, caused by the 9.0-­magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, significantly damaged the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In response to this event, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission took actions to evaluate and mitigate beyond-­design-­basis events, including a new requirement for the staging of so-­called Flex equipment, as well as changes to containment venting and improvements to emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Energy also addressed beyond-­design-­basis events in its documented safety analyses.

Road to advanced nuclear: How DOE and industry collaborations are paving the way for advanced nuclear reactors

April 2, 2021, 8:58AMNuclear NewsCory Hatch

As electric utilities rush to reduce carbon emissions by investing in intermittent renewables such as wind and solar, they often rely heavily on fossil fuels to provide steady baseload power.

More than 60 percent of the nation’s electricity is still generated with fossil fuels, especially coal-fired and gas-fired power plants that have the ability to quickly ramp up or ramp down power to follow loads on the electric grid. Most experts agree that even with a radical advancement in energy storage technology, relying exclusively on wind and solar to replace fossil fuels won’t be enough to maintain a stable electric grid and avoid the major impacts of climate change.

To complete the transition to a carbon-free energy future, one key piece of the puzzle remains: nuclear power.

Partnership supports siting Xe-100 demo in Washington state

April 1, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) observes as (from left) Energy Northwest CEO Brad Sawatzke, X-energy CEO Clay Sell, and Grant PUD CEO Kevin Nordt sign the TRi Energy Partnership MOU on April 1 at the Port of Benton in Richland, Wash. Photo: Energy Northwest

Building the nation’s first advanced reactor is the goal of a partnership formed between X-energy, Energy Northwest, and the Grant County (Washington) Public Utility District (PUD).

The TRi Energy Partnership will support the development and demonstration of X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor, which was selected by the Department of Energy for a cost-shared commercial demonstration by 2027 through the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The new partnership was announced on April 1, when Clay Sell, X-energy’s chief executive officer; Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s CEO; and Kevin Nordt, the Grant County PUD’s CEO, met in Richland, Wash., to sign a memorandum of understanding.

NCSU to host SMR technical library with support from endowment

April 1, 2021, 9:32AMNuclear News

The North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries Department and the Department of Nuclear Engineering are collaborating to build a small modular reactor technical library at NCSU. The library resources will be available to the NCSU research community and to TerraPower/GE Hitachi and X-energy, both of which have signed teaming agreements with NCSU researchers to support planned advanced reactor demonstrations within the next seven years.

Making the new library collection possible: a generous donation from NCSU alumnus Stephen Rea, who together with his wife, Phyllis, formed the Stephen and Phyllis Rea Endowment for Mechanical Engineering Collections in 2015.

“We wanted to seed the endowment and grow it through donations to pursue research and development of green advanced power generation technologies,” Rea explained. “Supporting the advancement of SMR technology development fits our mission statement perfectly.”

OPG and Moltex join forces on recycled fuel project

April 1, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

Ontario Power Generation’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability (CCNS) will collaborate with nuclear technology firm Moltex Energy on a project aimed at recycling used fuel from CANDU reactors, the electricity generator announced March 30.

The CCNS will provide C$1 million (about $800,000) in funding to assist Moltex in demonstrating the technical viability of its process to recycle used CANDU fuel. That process, known as WAste to Stable Salt (WATSS), has the potential to reduce storage needs for used fuel, according to Moltex.

Ohio bill repealing nuclear subsidies signed by governor

March 31, 2021, 12:03PMNuclear News

The final nail in the coffin of Ohio’s nuclear subsidies occurred on March 31 when Gov. Mike DeWine signed H.B. 128, a bill passed unanimously by the state’s Senate last Thursday.

Approved 86-7 by the Ohio House on March 10, H.B. 128 strips the nuclear subsidy provisions from H.B. 6, the controversial and, since last July, scandal-scarred piece of legislation signed into law in 2019 to aid Ohio’s economically challenged nuclear facilities, Davis-Besse and Perry.

H.B. 128 also removes the earlier bill’s “decoupling” provision, which would have been of substantial financial benefit to FirstEnergy Corporation, the former parent company of Energy Harbor, owner and operator of Davis-Besse and Perry. The new bill retains H.B. 6’s subsidies for utility-scale solar projects, however, and for two coal plants (one in Ohio, one in Indiana).

H.B. 128 was sponsored by Reps. James Hoops (R., 81st Dist.) and Dick Stein (R., 57th Dist.).

Bill to preserve Illinois nuclear fleet debuts

March 31, 2021, 5:00AMNuclear News
Exelon's Byron Nuclear Generating Station.

A group of Illinois lawmakers joined Joe Duffy, executive director of the labor coalition Climate Jobs Illinois (CJI), at a virtual news conference on March 29 to unveil a union-focused, clean energy legislative proposal that includes help for the state’s struggling nuclear power plants.

Leaked report says EU can tag nuclear investments as sustainable

March 30, 2021, 6:57AMNuclear News

Within the European Union, recognizing nuclear energy as green, sustainable, and worthy of investment depends on nuclear being added to the EU taxonomy of “sustainable investments that have been found to ‘do no significant harm’ to human health and to the environment.” The EU will issue a final taxonomy this year, and a decision to include nuclear power—which was excluded from a draft released in late 2020—could raise prospects for public and private nuclear investments both inside and outside the EU.

The decision rests with the European Commission (EC), which will take into consideration expert opinions, including those in a scientific report of the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) that was requested last summer. The JRC's 387-page report, Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‘do no significant harm’ criteria of Regulation (EU) 2020/852 (‘Taxonomy Regulation’), was leaked to the media and made available online on March 26. The report supports adding nuclear to the taxonomy.

Safe operation of Catawba, McGuire, and Oconee plants subject of NRC virtual meeting

March 29, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will discuss the 2020 safety performance of Duke Energy’s Catawba, McGuire, and Oconee nuclear power plants during a virtual meeting to be held on April 1.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m., eastern time, with a presentation by the NRC staff responsible for plant inspections. Following the discussion with Duke Energy, questions will be answered by the NRC, including by the resident inspectors.

The public and media can access the meeting via Teams. For those without access to Teams, the telephone conference number is 301-576-2978, passcode 71391471#.

The annual assessment letters for the Catawba plant, the McGuire plant, and the Oconee plant, which include upcoming inspection plans for the plants, are available on the NRC website.

Current performance information for Catawba-1, Catawba-2, McGuire-1, McGuire-2, Oconee-1, Oconee-2, and Oconee-3 is available and updated quarterly.

Senate bill introduced to combat global energy poverty

March 29, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News


Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the ranking member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, earlier this month introduced legislation, the Combating Global Poverty Through Energy Development Act (S. 758), which aims at removing barriers put up by international financial institutions that limit support for both fossil fuel and nuclear energy projects.

“Developing countries desperately need affordable and reliable energy,” said Barrasso. “Instead of using all available energy options, the World Bank would rather score political points by boycotting critical coal, oil and gas projects. The solution to ending energy poverty does not lie in limiting options. Our bill will encourage the World Bank to eliminate barriers to traditional energy resources, or risk losing American taxpayer funding.”

The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R., Miss.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), John Hoeven (R., N.D.), Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.), John Cornyn (R., Texas), and Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.).

Seismic preparation for nuclear plants: Lowering costs without compromising safety

March 26, 2021, 4:02PMNuclear NewsCory Hatch

Nuclear power plants not only provide the nation’s largest source of carbon-­free electricity, they also can operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to augment intermittent renewables such as wind and solar. Further, studies show that nuclear energy is among the safest forms of energy production, especially when considering factors such as industrial accidents and disease associated with fossil fuel emissions. All said, nuclear has the potential to play a key role in the world’s energy future. Before nuclear can realize that potential, however, researchers and industry must overcome one big challenge: cost.

A team at Idaho National Laboratory is collaborating with experts around the nation to tackle a major piece of the infrastructure equation: earthquake resilience. INL’s Facility Risk Group is taking a multipronged approach to reduce the amount of concrete, rebar, and other infrastructure needed to improve the seismic safety of advanced reactors while also substantially reducing capital costs. The effort is part of a collaboration between INL, industry, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-­E), and the State University of New York–Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo).

GAIN vouchers connect three companies with national lab experts

March 26, 2021, 12:15PMNuclear News

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced that three nuclear technology companies—Radiant, Oklo, and Lightbridge—will receive GAIN nuclear energy vouchers to accelerate the innovation and application of advanced nuclear technologies. The second set of Fiscal Year 2021 awards was announced March 25.

U.S. nuclear in spotlight at Senate hearing

March 26, 2021, 9:32AMNuclear News
Sen Joe Manchin gives his opening statement at the March 25 hearing.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday held a hearing to examine the latest developments in the U.S. nuclear energy sector, with a focus on ways to maintain and expand the use of nuclear in the United States and abroad.

Testifying before the committee were Jeffrey Lyash, president and chief executive officer of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, Scott Melbye, president of Uranium Producers of America (UPA); Amy Roma, founding member of the Atlantic Council’s Nuclear Energy and National Security Coalition and a partner with the law firm Hogan Lovells; and J. Clay Sell, CEO of X-energy.