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.


The legacy of Experimental Breeder Reactor-I

January 31, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsJeremy Hampshire
On December 20, 1951, EBR-I became the first power plant to produce usable electricity through atomic fission. It powered four 200-watt light bulbs and eventually generated enough electricity to light the entire facility. (Photo: DOE)

At 1:23 p.m. load dissipaters from the generator were connected—electricity flows from atomic energy.” These were the words Walter Zinn wrote in the log after the first four light bulbs were illuminated by nuclear energy. The year was 1951, and the EBR-­I was about to show the world what nuclear energy had to offer.

Framatome, Ultra Safe partner to manufacture TRISO and FCM fuel

January 30, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

Framatome and Ultra Safe Nuclear announced on January 26 that they intend to form a joint venture to manufacture commercial quantities of tristructural isotropic (TRISO) particles and Ultra Safe’s proprietary fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel.

The companies have signed a nonbinding agreement to integrate their resources to bring commercially viable, fourth-generation nuclear fuel to market for Ultra Safe’s micro-modular reactor (MMR) and other advanced reactor designs.

Nuclear energy: enabling production of food, fiber, hydrocarbon biofuels, and negative carbon emissions

January 27, 2023, 3:03PMNuclear NewsCharles W. Forsberg and Bruce E. Dale

In the 1960s, Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory initiated a series of studies on nuclear agro-­industrial complexes1 to address the needs of the world’s growing population. Agriculture was a central component of these studies, as it must be. Much of the emphasis was on desalination of seawater to provide fresh water for irrigation of crops. Remarkable advances have lowered the cost of desalination to make that option viable in countries like Israel. Later studies2 asked the question, are there sufficient minerals (potassium, phosphorous, copper, nickel, etc.) to enable a prosperous global society assuming sufficient nuclear energy? The answer was a qualified “yes,” with the caveat that mineral resources will limit some technological options. These studies were defined by the characteristic of looking across agricultural and industrial sectors to address multiple challenges using nuclear energy.

Contract for Darlington SMR project signed

January 27, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
A rendering of the BWRX-300 small modular reactor. (Image: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy)

Wilmington, N.C.–based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Canadian firms Ontario Power Generation, SNC-Lavalin, and Aecon announced this morning the signing of a contract for the deployment of a BWRX-300 small modular reactor at OPG’s Darlington nuclear site in Canada. According to the announcement, it is the first commercial contract for a grid-scale SMR in North America.

First Light Fusion wants to operate a net gain inertial fusion machine in 2027

January 27, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
Nicholas Hawker of First Light Fusion and Ian Chapman of UKAEA. (Photo: UKAEA)

Ignition and net gain at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) in December 2022 focused global attention on the prospects of inertial fusion energy (IFE). First Light Fusion and the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) acknowledged the achievement as they announced plans on January 25 to design and build a demonstration facility known as Machine 4 at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxford, U.K., using First Light’s “projectile approach” to IFE. Construction is expected to begin in 2024, and operations are “likely to commence” in 2027.

A fateful day for nuclear waste policy: January 31, 1998

January 26, 2023, 3:12PMNuclear News

Next week will mark 25 years since January 31, 1998, a familiar date to most in the nuclear community, and revisited in today’s #ThrowbackThursday post with an article from the March 1998 issue of Nuclear News. “Those in the nuclear power industry are aware of the significance of the date January 31, 1998. ln the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, that date was set as the deadline for the U.S. government—more specifically, the Department of Energy—to begin taking possession of and responsibility for spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants nationwide” (NN, March 1998, p. 59).

NRC announces setback to Diablo Canyon license renewal

January 26, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced January 24 that it will not resume its review of Pacific Gas & Electric’s withdrawn Diablo Canyon license renewal application. This decision is a new setback in the long-running effort to extend the life of the plant.

Reflections on a year in D.C.

January 26, 2023, 7:14AMNuclear NewsMatt Marzano

Matt Marzano
2022 ANS Congressional Fellow

Each year, the American Nuclear Society Congressional Fellow enters the halls of the Congress bringing with him or her a unique background and perspective, but also a common interest in shaping policy by drawing on his or her expertise to inform decision makers. For me, crossing that threshold had to wait, as I started my fellowship term amidst a surge in the pandemic. Awaiting the return to in-­person work and drinking from the proverbial firehose in this new role, I quickly realized that effective congressional staffers are those who are able to communicate accurately and concisely, adeptly navigate complex policy issues, and exhibit selflessness and dedication in service of their members’ priorities. As part of the clean air, climate, and energy team for the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, chaired by Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.), I was fortunate to be surrounded by staffers who demonstrated these qualities and helped smooth a steep learning curve.

National laboratories: Open for business like never before

January 25, 2023, 7:03AMNuclear NewsCorey McDaniel
Industry professionals visit INL as part of a U.S. Nuclear Industry Council Conference. (Photo: INL)

The Department of Energy’s commitment to breaking down market barriers with initiatives, programs, and access to facilities is making it simpler and more efficient than ever for industry to partner with national laboratories. It is especially timely, as the country continues to face evolving security, economic, and clean energy challenges. Partnering opportunities via the DOE’s Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and Strategic Partnership Projects (SPPs) are particularly prevalent in the commercial nuclear community and have seen a tremendous amount of funding and support dedicated to advancing the development, demonstration, and deployment of new reactor technologies.

DARPA’s nuclear rocket demo gets a boost from NASA’s Mars ambitions

January 24, 2023, 3:02PMNuclear News
Artist’s concept of the DRACO spacecraft, which will demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine. (Image: DARPA)

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have announced they will collaborate on plans to launch and test DARPA’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO). DARPA has already worked with private companies on the baseline design for a fission reactor and rocket engine—and the spacecraft that will serve as an in-orbit test stand—and has solicited proposals for the next phase of work. Now NASA is climbing on board, deepening its existing ties to DRACO’s work in nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) technology—an “enabling capability” required for NASA to meet its Moon to Mars Objectives and send crewed missions to Mars. NASA and DARPA representatives announced the development at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum in National Harbor, Md., on January 24.

NRC proposes GEIS revision for renewing reactor licenses

January 24, 2023, 12:01PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on January 24 that it has directed staff to publish a proposed rule that includes an update to the license renewal generic environmental impact statement (GEIS), which is used by the agency when considering applications to renew operating reactor licenses.

The proposed rule, to appear in the Federal Register in the near future, is a response to an NRC order that concluded the license renewal GEIS did not analyze the environmental impacts of a subsequent license renewal term (from 60 to 80 years of operation).

From “never” to now: NIF through the lens of 60 Minutes

January 23, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
NIF in winter (Photo: LLNL)

“Star Power” is the name 60 Minutes producers gave their interpretation of the recent experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) that achieved fusion ignition and net gain. Views from inside Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory captured by TV cameras and aired Sunday, January 15—of some of NIF’s 192 lasers, banks of capacitors, target assembly labs, and even the remains of the target assembly blasted in the December 5 breakthrough—are well worth the watch for those of us who are unlikely to visit the site in person.

Beyond electricity

January 20, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear NewsMatt Wald

Say “decarbonize” and people think about electricity. But the U.S. industrial sector emits nearly as much carbon dioxide and other global warming gases as the electric sector, which rank at 25 and 24 percent of the problem, respectively, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The commercial and residential sectors account for another 13 percent, the EPA says, most of it for space heating. How do we decarbonize that? More specifically, how do nuclear reactors decarbonize that?

Final rule certifying NuScale SMR design published

January 20, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

A rendering of a NuScale VOYGR plant. (Image: NuScale Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its final rule certifying NuScale Power’s small modular reactor design, making the Portland, Ore.–based company’s power module the first SMR design to be certified by the agency (and only the seventh reactor design okayed for use in the United States).

Published in yesterday’s Federal Register, the rule goes into effect on February 21, allowing utilities to reference the NuScale design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a reactor. The design will be incorporated as Appendix G to 10 CFR Part 52, Licenses, Certifications, and Approvals for Nuclear Power Plants.

As noted last July—when the commission voted unanimously to approve the design certification and directed staff to issue the final rule—an application for a nuclear power plant combined license that references a certified design does not need to address any of the issues resolved by the design certification rule. Instead, the combined license application and the NRC’s safety review would address any remaining safety and environmental issues for the proposed plant.

EDF, Respect Energy to collaborate on nuclear projects in Poland

January 20, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
An illustration of EDF’s NUWARD small modular reactor technology. (Image: EDF)

France’s Électricité de France and Polish renewable energy trader Respect Energy have signed a cooperation agreement to develop nuclear power projects in Poland based on EDF’s NUWARD small modular reactor technology, the companies jointly announced last Friday.

California PUC opens vote on Diablo Canyon extension

January 20, 2023, 7:14AMNuclear News
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has voted to open a rulemaking to consider extending the lifetime of the 2,289-MW two-unit Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. The plant, which turns 50 this year, is the only remaining operational nuclear power facility in California. It generates nearly 10 percent of the state’s electricity needs.

New head of House Appropriations’ energy panel talks nuclear

January 19, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Fleischmann

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R., Tenn.), a strong nuclear energy advocate (his district includes Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex), was named chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s Energy and Water Development Subcommittee on Monday.

“The work of the Energy and Water Subcommittee is incredibly important to our nation’s long-term energy security and national security,” Fleischmann said in a statement following his selection for the job by Appropriation’s new chairperson, Rep. Kay Granger (R., Texas). “I am excited to find bipartisan common ground to advance important initiatives like modernizing our nation’s nuclear stockpile and advancing groundbreaking nuclear fusion research.”

For more on the congressman’s views on nuclear, check out this interview published yesterday on the Knoxville News Sentinel’s website.

DOE awards cost-shared fusion energy research funds to seven companies

January 19, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science announced $2.3 million in funding on January 17 for 10 fusion energy projects that will allow private companies to work with national laboratories to address specific challenges in fusion energy development. Seven private companies and seven national laboratories are represented in the 10 projects selected for funding, provided through the INFUSE (Innovation Network for Fusion Energy) program. The second-round fiscal year 2022 awards follow a first round of 18 project awards announced in July 2022.

IAEA support teams sent to bolster Ukrainian power plants

January 18, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Rivne nuclear power plant in western Ukraine, home to four VVER pressurized water reactors. (Photo: Victor Korniyenko/Wikipedia)

In what it is calling a “major expansion” of its efforts to prevent a severe nuclear accident befalling Ukraine, the International Atomic Energy Agency yesterday announced that it is deploying teams of nuclear security and safety experts this week to the beleaguered nation’s nuclear power plants and the Chernobyl site. (The agency has already stationed a team of experts at Ukraine’s largest nuclear facility, the six-unit Zaporizhzhia plant, which has been under Russian military occupation since last March.)

National lab veteran Goff named to position at DOE-NE

January 18, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Goff

Michael Goff, a renowned nuclear engineer with decades of management and research experience in national laboratories and the Department of Energy, has been named as the principal deputy assistant secretary for the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). The DOE announced the appointment on January 17 after a competitive, nationwide selection process.

NE, White House, national labs: Goff, an American Nuclear Society member, had been serving his third term at NE as a senior advisor to the assistant secretary. He had also previously served as the assistant director for nuclear energy and as a senior policy advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He spent more than 30 years at Idaho National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory in a number of management and research positions. His research interests have focused on the nuclear fuel cycle, including separations technology, high-level waste development, and safeguards. He has had more than 70 papers published on these and other research topics.