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.


Matthew Denman: On Probabilistic Risk Assessment

September 24, 2021, 3:32PMNuclear News

Matthew Denman

Probabilistic risk assessment is a systematic methodology for evaluating risks associated with a complex engineered technology such as nuclear energy. PRA risk is defined in terms of possible detrimental outcomes of an activity or action, and as such, risk is characterized by three quantities: what can go wrong, the likelihood of the problem, and the resulting consequences of the problem.

Matthew Denman is principal engineer for reliability engineering at Kairos Power and the chair of the American Nuclear Society and American Society of Mechanical Engineers Joint Committee on Nuclear Risk Management’s Subcommittee of Standards Development. As a college student at the University of Florida, Denman took a course on PRA but didn’t enjoy it, because he did not see its connection to the nuclear power industry. Later, during his Ph.D. study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his advisor was Neil Todreas, a well-known thermal hydraulics expert. Todreas was working on a project with George Apostolakis, who would leave MIT to become a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The project, “Risk Informing the Design of the Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor,” was a multi-university effort funded through a Department of Energy Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) grant. Todreas and Apostolakis were joined in this project by a who’s who of nuclear academia, including Andy Kadak (MIT, ANS past president [1999–2000]), Mike Driscoll (MIT), Mike Golay (MIT), Mike Lineberry (Idaho State University, former ANS treasurer), Rich Denning (Ohio State University), and Tunc Aldemir (Ohio State University).

Agencies assess power system performance during February freeze

September 24, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Snow covering grounds of the Texas Capitol on February 15, 2021.

To prevent future winter storms from causing the kind of widespread, lethal power outages wrought by February’s frigid blast through Texas and other states, the electric and natural gas industries need to bolster their winterization and cold weather preparedness and coordination, a just-released preliminary report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corporation concludes.

The two agencies had announced on February 16 that they planned to open a joint inquiry to identify problems with the performance of the bulk power system during the storm and to offer solutions. A team of FERC and NERC staff members presented the report at a FERC meeting on September 23.

A presentation of the report, February 2021 Cold Weather Grid Operations: Preliminary Findings and Recommendations, is available.

NRC brainstorms ways to simplify microreactor licensing

September 24, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News
The U.S. NRC headquarters.

The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently released a draft white paper outlining strategies for streamlining microreactor licensing. The paper is to be used to facilitate discussion at an upcoming advanced reactor stakeholder public meeting.

“This paper,” the document emphasizes, “has not been subject to NRC management and legal reviews and approvals, and its contents are subject to change and should not be interpreted as official agency positions.”

Hot U market and simmering interest in HALEU: It boils down to demand

September 22, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
(Click photo to enlarge) One of 16 AC100M gas centrifuges built by Centrus Energy for HALEU production in Piketon, Ohio. (Photo: Centrus Energy)

For years, pressure has been building for a commercial path to a stable supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)—deemed essential for the deployment of advanced power reactors—but advanced reactor developers and enrichment companies are still watching and waiting. In contrast, the uranium spot price soared after Sprott Physical Uranium Trust, a Canadian investment fund formed in July, began buying up U3O8 supplies, causing the price to increase over 60 percent, topping $50 per pound for the first time since 2012. Fueled by growing acknowledgment that nuclear power is a necessary part of a clean energy future, uranium is the focus of attention from Wall Street to Capitol Hill.

Granholm, Grossi prepare for 2022 nuclear ministerial conference

September 22, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi pose for a photo before their September 21 meeting announcing the next International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi met in Vienna yesterday during the agency’s 65th General Conference to launch preparations for the next IAEA International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, slated for October 26–28, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

TVA gives up construction permits for Bellefonte units

September 22, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News

Nearly 47 years after being issued construction permits for two reactors at the Bellefonte site in northeast Alabama, the Tennessee Valley Authority has decided against renewing them, essentially extinguishing any remaining hope for the project, on which the utility has reportedly spent more than $5 billion.

Results of advanced nuclear survey released

September 21, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

The U.S. Nuclear Industry Council has released the results of its 2021 Advanced Nuclear Survey.

The results, issued late last month, include information from 17 USNIC-member advanced nuclear developers on topics such as federal and state policies, types of reactors in development, U.S./Canadian licensing, need for control room operators, Nuclear Regulatory Commission fees, Department of Energy programs, and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). In addition, 24 companies (the 17 member firms plus seven nonmember firms) provided their perspectives on the NRC’s planned 10 CFR Part 53 regulation of advanced reactors.

IAEA boosts projections for nuclear power’s potential growth

September 20, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

The International Atomic Energy Agency has revised upward its projections regarding the potential growth of nuclear power’s capacity for electricity generation over the next three decades. The upward revision is the first by the IAEA since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011.

Released last week, the 148-page report, Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050, provides detailed glimpses into possible nuclear futures in North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; Northern, Western, and Southern Europe; Eastern Europe; Africa; Western Asia, Southern Asia, and Central and Eastern Asia; Southeastern Asia; and Oceania. Global and regional nuclear power projections are presented as low and high cases.

ANS Standards Committee responds to the industry’s need for PRA and RIPB methodology

September 20, 2021, 12:04PMNuclear Newsthe Standards Committee
An artist’s rendering of the NuScale plant. (Image: NuScale)

For more than two decades, the American Nuclear Society’s Standards Committee has recognized the benefit of incorporating risk-informed and performance-based (RIPB) methodology into ANS standards to improve their effectiveness, efficiency, and transparency. In general, standards using RIPB methods with properly identified and structured objectives need less modification and can be expected to remain valid for much longer periods.

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IP3 signs on to nuclear plant development in Poland

September 20, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News

McLean, Va.–based IP3 Corporation and Polish electricity producer Zespół Elektrowni Patnów-Adamów-Konin SA (ZE PAK) signed an agreement earlier this month regarding the development of nuclear power plants in Poland. IP3 is to be ZE PAK’s main advisor in the process, with Georgette Mosbacher, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland (2018–2021) who recently joined the IP3 board, leading the effort for the American company.

ZE PAK is currently involved in various initiatives associated with nuclear technologies for Poland, including a plan to use nuclear power for the production of hydrogen.

Helping to solve the plant safety puzzle: An overview of PRA

September 17, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear NewsCurtis Smith, Andrew Miller, Stephen Hess, and Fernando Ferrante

Probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs) have advanced the safe operation of the U.S. reactor fleet over many decades. Risk insights from PRAs have provided information from many different perspectives, from what is most important to maintain at a facility to a better understanding of how to address new information regarding safety issues. The methods and tools that have supported the creation and enhancement of PRA models were established through multiple decades of research, starting with WASH-1400, The Reactor Safety Study,1 published in 1975, through the comprehensive plant-specific models in use today.

NuScale advances work with BWXT, builds out Canada’s SMR supply chain

September 17, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
BWXT Canada’s Cambridge, Ontario, facility. (Photo: BWXT Canada)

NuScale Power announced earlier this week that manufacturing process development work on its small modular reactor—the NuScale Power Module—is advancing at BWXT Canada Ltd.’s Cambridge, Ontario, facility in preparation for module fabrication. NuScale said that this work is critical to the development of its SMR technology and is an example of the supply chain development opportunities for Canadian companies with the requisite power plant equipment expertise.

Draft EIS released for Project Pele mobile microreactor demo at INL

September 17, 2021, 9:37AMNuclear News

Plans to test a prototype mobile microreactor designed to military requirements moved ahead when the Department of Defense (DOD), acting through its Strategic Capabilities Office and with the Department of Energy serving as a cooperating agency, on September 16 announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement for the construction and demonstration phase of Project Pele.

Terrestrial Energy upgrades IMSR plant design

September 17, 2021, 7:03AMNuclear News
Rendition of the IMSR400 power plant in the configuration proposed for the Darlington site. (Image: Terrestrial Energy)

Terrestrial Energy has upgraded the design of its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) nuclear power plant, the company announced on September 14. The proposed facility will now feature 390 MWe of generation capacity for grid supply from twin reactors and generators.

Illinois governor signs energy bill aiding nuclear plants

September 16, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker appreciates applause at the signing event for the state's new energy bill.

In an hour-long ceremony held yesterday at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium amid some fanfare (it included an appearance by lizards, a snake, and a penguin), Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (S.B. 2408). The bill is a sweeping overhaul of the state’s energy policies aimed at phasing out fossil-fuel power generation and placing Illinois on a path to become a 100 percent carbon-free energy producer by 2050.

Helium-3 to be produced from tritium stored at Canada’s Darlington station

September 16, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Don Perrie (left). of OPG, and Michael Lefebvre, of Laurentis Energy Partners, examine tew He-3 extraction tool installed at Darlington NPP

Laurentis Energy Partners, a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation (OPG), has launched a new program to produce helium-3. The He-3 will be obtained from tritium stored at OPG’s Darlington nuclear power plant, a four-unit CANDU station located about 100 kilometers east of Toronto.

Darlington houses one of the world’s largest reserves of tritium, which is a by-product of the heavy water used in CANDU reactors.

Revamped U.S.-India Strategic Clean Energy Partnership launched

September 15, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and India’s minister of petroleum and natural gas Hardeep Singh Puri remotely meet (with others in the background) during the virtual launch of a "newly revitalized” U.S.-India clean energy partnership.

U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and India’s minister of petroleum and natural gas, Hardeep Singh Puri, last week presided over the virtual launch of what the Department of Energy termed the “newly revitalized” U.S.-India Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP).

Biden makes pick for open FERC seat

September 14, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

Willie L. Phillips Jr.

President Biden last Thursday announced his intention to nominate Willie L. Phillips Jr., chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, for the vacant seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Phillips would replace Republican Neil Chatterjee, who left FERC at the end of August, two months after the official expiration of his term. (Chatterjee remained on the commission to provide time for the Biden administration to choose his replacement. He has since joined the Climate Leadership Council and the global law firm Hogan Lovells.)

Before joining the D.C. PSC, Phillips served as assistant general counsel for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. He is currently an active member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, where he serves on the board of directors as chair of the Select Committee on Regulatory and Industry Diversity.

Bill to preserve Illinois nuclear passes legislature

September 14, 2021, 7:03AMNuclear News
The Byron (left) and Dresden generating stations.

The yearlong, nail-biting drama over the fate of Exelon’s Byron and Dresden nuclear plants came to an end on Monday afternoon when the Illinois Senate gave its nod to S.B. 2408, a wide-ranging clean energy package that seeks to phase out fossil-fuel power generation in the state and place it on a path to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050.