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.


New U.K. finance model expected to cut cost of new nuclear

October 28, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

A new funding model has been introduced by the U.K. government to attract a wider range of private investment into new nuclear power projects, cutting the cost of financing them and reducing the cost to consumers.

The Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill, announced by the government on October 26, will use a model known as the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) to fund future nuclear power plants in Britain. The model is tried and tested, according to the government, and has successfully financed other infrastructure projects, such as the U.K.’s Thames Tideway Tunnel and Heathrow Terminal 5.

Learn more about the RAB model.

INL captures one dramatic second of a fuel rod test in slow motion

October 27, 2021, 3:13PMNuclear News

Idaho National Laboratory recently released footage of a new experiment at its Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) that simulates what happens to a nuclear fuel pin when it starts to overheat. Go to Twitter for the original post, or cut to the chase and watch a 14-second clip on YouTube.

How should PRA adapt to a changing landscape?

October 27, 2021, 12:10PMNuclear NewsKatrina Groth

Probabilistic risk assessment has been around for over 40 years, helping us understand the amazing, complex engineering systems we design, build, and operate. It’s a powerful tool, but the time has come to consider how we can modernize it. There are important gaps in PRA, including in areas such as human reliability, dynamics, natural hazards, and cybersecurity. However, there are three things that are even more important to do:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission

October 26, 2021, 12:06PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

Depending on where you reside on this nuclear technology world of ours, you may care a great deal, or not at all, about who happens to be sitting on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at any given point in time. If you live on the Department of Energy continent or the Academia continent, it’s probably not a big deal. If you are on the Nuclear Power Plant Operator continent or the Vendor continent (which are actually part of the same landmass), it is quite important. If you are on the NRC island, it’s huge.

The NRC comprises five presidentially appointed, U.S. Senate–confirmed commissioners who are commonly referred to as “the Commission,” and approximately 3,000 federal employees referred to as the staff. The Commission oversees the NRC staff; together, they license and regulate the nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety. The president of the United States designates one of the commissioners to serve as chairman, the principal executive officer of and the official spokesperson for the agency.

Germany could save 1 billion tons of CO2 by 2045, says study

October 26, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News

“The price of anti-nuclear psychosis (for that is what it is) will be paid by vulnerable countries and future generations who suffer the escalating damages of climate breakdown,” writes environmentalist and author Mark Lynas in the foreword to a new study, One Billion Tons: CO2 Reductions and a Faster Coal Exit in Germany. “This report puts numbers on this price to be paid for the first time—a nice round number of a billion tons.”

According to Lynas, the billion tons is the “opportunity cost” of the German government’s plan to shutter its remaining nuclear power plants by 2022 while keeping its coal plants going until 2038. (Three of those plants, Brokdorf, Grohnde, and Gundremmingen, are scheduled to close later this year.)

Protein shows potential to accelerate cancer therapy research and application

October 25, 2021, 3:05PMNuclear News
LLNL and Penn State researchers developed a new approach to study and purify medical isotopes, including actinium. (Image: Thomas Reason/LLNL)

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Pennsylvania State University have demonstrated that a natural protein found bonded to rare earth elements can be recovered and used as a tool to purify and effectively manage radioactive metals that show promise for cancer therapy and the detection of illicit nuclear activities.

Georgia Power again pushes back Vogtle project start dates

October 25, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
Vogtle-4 containment as it appeared last month. Photo: Georgia Power

In what has become for nuclear advocates an all-too-familiar refrain, Georgia Power has made another revision to the Vogtle nuclear expansion project schedule. The company now predicts a Unit 3 in-service date in the third quarter of 2022 and a Unit 4 in-service date in the second quarter of 2023, representing a three-month shift for each unit.

Microreactor planned for U.S. Air Force base in Alaska

October 25, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
An F-35A Lightning II takes off from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska on July 1, 2021. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

The Department of the Air Force has selected Eielson Air Force Base as the site of a stationary microreactor that “will provide the installation with a clean, reliable, and resilient nuclear energy supply technology for critical national security infrastructure,” the department announced on October 15.

Inspecting nuclear facilities with unmanned aerial systems

October 22, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear NewsMonica Rivera Garcia

Over the past decade, unmanned aerial systems (UASs), more commonly referred to as drones, have played an increasing role in the day-to-day activities of the energy sector. Applications range from visually inspecting wind turbines, flare stacks, pipelines, and facilities to evaluating vegetation encroachment near power lines. Although the benefits of UASs have been reported in these industries, their use in the nuclear community has only recently been explored. For instance, a drone was sent into a waterbox at a Duke Energy facility to inspect for leaks.1 And at Fukushima Daiichi, a drone was used to conduct a post-accident radiation survey inside Unit 3, and drones are being investigated for use inside the damaged containments.2

New model improves understanding of how heat moves through fusion plasmas

October 22, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Physicist Suying Jin with computer-generated images showing the properties of heat pulse propagation in plasma (Image: PPPL/Jin/Kiran Sudarsanan)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have developed a new model of how heat flows within plasmas. According to PPPL, the model could improve insights into the behavior of plasmas and may help engineers avoid the conditions that could lead to heat loss in future fusion facilities.

DOE awards $50 million cost share for Limerick I&C modernization

October 22, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
Limerick nuclear power plant. (Photo: Arturo Ramos)

The Department of Energy is providing $50 million in a cost-sharing project with Exelon Generation to digitalize the control room at the company’s Limerick nuclear power plant, the department announced yesterday. Once implemented, the facility will house the first fully digital safety system upgrade at a U.S. nuclear power plant.

Former NRC chairman joins Southern Company board

October 21, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Svinicki

Kristine Svinicki, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has joined the board of directors of Southern Company. Southern announced her election as an independent director on Monday. She joins the board’s Business Security and Resiliency Committee, as well as its Operations, Environmental, and Safety Committee.

“As the longest-serving member in the history of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Kristine brings to Southern Company a wealth of experience advising energy policy at the federal and state levels,” said Southern chairman, president, and chief executive officer Tom Fanning. “Kristine’s knowledge of and expertise in nuclear technologies will be invaluable as we pursue the full range of energy resources. Moreover, Kristine’s insight into the energy challenges of tomorrow places Southern Company in a prime position to serve customers, communities, employees, and stockholders well into the future.”

Colorado county looking at SMRs to replace coal

October 21, 2021, 7:16AMNuclear News

The expected early retirement of a massive coal plant in Pueblo County, Colo., has the county commissioners mulling small modular reactors as a power source replacement.

The plant in question is Xcel Energy’s three-unit Comanche Generating Station, Colorado’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, Xcel received approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to retire Units 1 and 2 in 2023 and 2025, respectively. And earlier this year, the company filed a proposal to close the much newer Unit 3 in 2039—three decades earlier than expected. (Xcel also plans to run the unit at only 33 percent, beginning in 2030.) Meanwhile, environmental groups have been pushing for the closure of Unit 3 by the end of the decade.

Ensuring a role for nuclear in the response to climate change

October 20, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsRichard Meserve

Richard Meserve

Nuclear power is an important tool in the response to climate change, and advanced reactors may offer advantages over existing plants in providing carbon-free generation at the scale necessary to respond to the existential challenge that climate change presents. The International Atomic Energy Agency is aggressively addressing issues related to the possible transition to advanced reactors. This letter is to urge a redoubling of effort by Member States to put in place the necessary capabilities to deal with the challenges that they present.

NNSA awards SHINE $35 million for Mo-99 production

October 19, 2021, 2:34PMNuclear News
SHINE Technologies’ headquarters building in Janesville, Wis. (Photo: SHINE)

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has issued a cooperative agreement worth $35 million to SHINE Technologies, based in Janesville, Wis., to support the commercial production of molybdenum-99, a critical isotope used in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States each day, including the diagnosis of heart disease and cancer.

ORNL researchers employ extraction probe for rapid safeguards analysis

October 19, 2021, 7:29AMNuclear News
ORNL’s Benjamin Manard places a swipe on the extraction stage of Advion’s Plate Express, a microextraction tool that has been paired with a mass spectrometer. (Photo: Carlos Jones/ORNL, DOE)

International nuclear safeguards verification relies on a precise count of isotope particles collected on swipes during International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of nuclear facilities and isolated through a series of lengthy chemical separations that can take about 30 days to complete. On October 15, Oak Ridge National Laboratory—a member of the IAEA’s Network of Analytical Laboratories (NWAL)—announced that analytical chemists at the site have developed a faster way to measure isotopic ratios of uranium and plutonium collected on swipes, which could help IAEA analysts detect the presence of undeclared nuclear activities or material.

ARTMS submits Ga-68 radioisotope production paperwork with Health Canada

October 18, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
A PET imaging machine. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ARTMS, a Canadian producer of medical isotopes, announced that it has registered the cyclotron production of gallium-68 with the government of Canada, filing a Type 1 Master File with the Health Products & Food Branch of Health Canada. The Ga-68 radioisotope is used in nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures utilizing positron emission tomography (PET) imaging.

Life in three dimensions

October 18, 2021, 9:01AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

This month’s Nuclear News is dedicated to the people and technology that keep our nuclear energy facilities running. It’s one of the great untold stories of the modern industrial world: how a band of highly trained people have repeatedly and skillfully applied novel technology to keep decades-old nuclear plants running at peak performance. The feat itself can be hard for the uninitiated to fathom. It’s as if a 30-year-old pickup truck was still on the retail auto market and beating out brand-new models in Consumer Reports’ vehicle safety and reliability ratings.

Nuclear sustainability was the marquee topic at the 2021 ANS Utility Working Conference, held at Marco Island, Fla., in August. It was the first in-person meeting ANS has held since COVID emerged in early 2020. It was also my first UWC, so admittedly I have only a secondhand understanding of the “before” times.

World Energy Outlook 2021: Nuclear innovation needs to accelerate

October 18, 2021, 6:43AMNuclear News
Nuclear power capacity by scenario, 2020–2050 (STEPS: stated policies scenario, APS: announced pledges scenario, NZE: net-zero emissions by 2050 scenario). (Graphic: IEA World Energy Outlook 2021)

The International Energy Agency released its flagship report, World Energy Outlook 2021, on October 13, “at a time when policymakers are contending with the impacts of both climate change and volatile energy markets” and ahead of the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which begins October 31. With a net-zero emissions by 2050 (NZE) scenario that calls for nuclear power capacity to almost double by 2050, the report acknowledges that rapid development of advanced nuclear technologies could expand opportunities for nuclear energy to provide low-carbon electricity, heat, and hydrogen.