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.

MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems agree to five-year SPARC collaboration

May 16, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
PSFC director Dennis Whyte (left) and CFS chief executive officer Bob Mumgaard in the test hall at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. (Photo: Gretchen Ertl, CFS/MIT-PSFC)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) recently announced it will expand its involvement in fusion energy research and education under a new five-year agreement with Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a fusion energy company that got its start at MIT and is now building what it says will be the world’s first net-energy fusion machine—the demo-scale SPARC.

“CFS will build SPARC and develop a commercial fusion product, while MIT PSFC will focus on its core mission of cutting-edge research and education,” said PSFC director Dennis Whyte in describing the collaboration.

U.S. nuclear capacity factors: A smaller fleet invested in the future

May 13, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

The United States has just 93 operating power reactors at this writing. The fleet last numbered 93 in 1985, when nuclear generation topped out at 383.69 TWh, less than half of the 778.2 TWh produced in 2021.

While the 93 reactors operating today have more capacity, on average, than in 1985, most of that increased productivity is down to operational improvements that pushed the fleet’s average capacity factor from just 57.5 percent in the three-year period 1984–1986 to near 90 percent by the early 2000s.

Cavendish Nuclear, X-energy to collaborate on HTGR deployment in U.K.

May 13, 2022, 9:34AMNuclear News

A cross-section view of X-energy’s Xe-100 reactor. (Image: X-energy)

U.K. nuclear services company Cavendish Nuclear has signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S. reactor and fuel-design engineering firm X-energy to act as its deployment partner for high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) in the United Kingdom.

Headquartered in Rockville, Md., X-energy is the developer of the Xe-100, an 80-MWe reactor with a modular design permitting it to be scaled into a “four-pack” 320-MWe power plant. As a pebble bed HTGR, the Xe-100 would use TRISO particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant.

According to a May 11 joint statement from the companies, development and deployment of HTGRs in the United Kingdom would support an increase in the nation’s energy security, contribute toward the government’s net-zero-by-2050 commitment, and create considerable opportunities for the U.K. nuclear supply chain.

First experiments in Argonne’s THETA aim to fill liquid sodium data gaps

May 13, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
THETA pictured in Argonne National Laboratory’s METL lab. (Photo: ANL)

The Thermal Hydraulic Experimental Test Article (THETA) at Argonne National Laboratory is now operating and providing data that could support the licensing of liquid-metal fast reactor designs by validating thermal-hydraulic and safety analysis codes. The new equipment has been installed in Argonne’s Mechanisms Engineering Test Loop (METL), and its first experiments are supporting data validation needs of Oklo, Inc., by simulating normal operating conditions as well as protected and unprotected loss-of-flow accidents in a sodium-cooled fast reactor.

Focusing on nuclear plant life-cycle O&M from the beginning

May 12, 2022, 3:12PMNuclear NewsChuck Goodnight

Chuck Goodnight

Nuclear plant designers focus on safety and efficiency, and rightly so. But the next steps for new nuclear power technologies and new-build programs are typically focused on “overnight costs,” or the costs to develop the site and construct the nuclear power plant. The problem is that the overnight costs are only the “table stakes” in a much longer game. Investors and stakeholders must have the staying power to play until the end, which now looks to be close to 100 years after the start of a new-build program.

Assuming that the initial estimates of overnight costs are surmountable, total life-cycle costs (TLCs) should be next on the agenda, as they will significantly drive the final levelized cost of energy. TLCs include overnight costs, the operating company’s startup and development (or expansion) costs, life-cycle O&M costs, life-cycle capital reinvestment, shutdown/SAFSTOR, decommissioning and dismantling, and site remediation. The largest element of TLCs will be the non-fuel portion of life-cycle O&M costs, and the largest portion of those costs will be for labor.

Energy Harbor joins with blockchain firm for data center project

May 12, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Energy Harbor’s Beaver Valley plant houses two reactors: Unit 1, a 939-MWe pressurized water reactor, and Unit 2, a 933-MWe PWR. (Photo: Energy Harbor)

Energy Harbor has signed a memorandum of understanding with blockchain company Standard Power to develop a large-scale carbon-free data infrastructure operation adjacent to the Beaver Valley nuclear plant, located in Shippingport, Pa.

In its May 9 announcement, Energy Harbor described Standard Power as “a leading infrastructure service provider for advanced data processing companies and a leading hosting provider for blockchain mining companies.”

Energy Harbor is based in Akron, Ohio.

Granholm: DOE developing “full-on uranium strategy”

May 10, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is putting together a national uranium supply strategy, energy secretary Jennifer Granholm told lawmakers last week at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Granholm was appearing before the committee to discuss the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal for the DOE.

DOD seeks in-space demo of nuclear rocket engine in FY 2026

May 9, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Defense wants to deploy spacecraft in cislunar space—the area between Earth and the moon’s orbit—with thrust and agility that only nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) can provide. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), through its Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, is looking to private industry for the design, development, fabrication, assembly, and testing of a nuclear thermal rocket engine fueled with high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel to heat a liquid hydrogen propellant.

Latest training center for Hinkley Point C opens

May 9, 2022, 9:31AMNuclear News
U.K. energy minister Greg Hands cuts the ribbon on the Welding Centre of Excellence at Bridgwater & Taunton College’s campus. (Photo: EDF Energy)

The United Kingdom’s energy minister, Greg Hands, recently presided over the opening of one of three new training centers in England aimed at supporting EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C nuclear build project in Somerset. The centers, according to EDF, will provide locals with the skills necessary to join the ranks of about 4,000 additional workers expected to be needed for the next phase of the power station’s construction. Hands unveiled the Welding Centre of Excellence, located on the Bridgwater & Taunton College campus in Bridgwater.

Insights from the Three Mile Island accident—Part 2: Improvements

May 6, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear NewsWilliam E. Burchill

Part one of this article, published in the May 2019 issue of Nuclear News[1] and last Friday on Nuclear Newswire, presented insights from the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island-­2 and addressed several issues raised by a previous Nuclear News piece on the accident[2]. Part two discusses safety improvements that have been made by both the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the past 40 years.

INL, Wyoming form partnership on advanced energy tech

May 6, 2022, 12:08PMNuclear News
The Wyoming Energy Authority’s Glen Murrell (left) shakes hands with INL’s John C. Wagner at the MOU signing ceremony on May 4. (Photo: WEA)

Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), the management and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, has signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the State of Wyoming to collaborate on the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of advanced energy technologies and approaches, with a special focus on advanced nuclear.

U.S., Armenia ink civil nuclear pact

May 6, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken and Armenian minister of foreign affairs Ararat Mirzoyan signed a memorandum of understanding last week concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation (NCMOU).

According to the State Department, NCMOUs are used to develop stronger ties between the United States and partner countries’ nuclear experts, industry, and researchers, as well as to provide support for the U.S. civil nuclear industry and nuclear nonproliferation goals.

Huff approved to head Office of Nuclear Energy

May 5, 2022, 3:04PMNuclear News


The Senate has confirmed ANS member Kathryn Huff as the next assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) in the Department of Energy. The bipartisan vote, held earlier this afternoon, was 80–11.

President Biden selected Huff in January to fill the top spot at NE—a post that has been vacant since Rita Baranwal (also an ANS member) announced she was leaving the position on January 8, 2021.

Huff came to the DOE in May of last year to serve as principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy, going on unpaid leave from her position as an associate professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, where she led the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group.

NRC critiques OIG report on Diablo Canyon feedwater system oversight

May 5, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission turned the tables a bit on its inspector general’s office this week, releasing its response to a March 25 OIG event inquiry that criticized an NRC inspection at California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, performed after a July 2020 auxiliary feedwater (AFW) system failure at Unit 2.

The response highlights a number of what the agency terms “factual errors” and takes issue with several portions of the OIG report.

NRC awards $9 million in grants for nuclear science and engineering education

May 5, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has awarded 25 grants totaling more than $9 million to 20 academic institutions in 20 states. Under the NRC’s University Nuclear Leadership Program, the grants are designed to support education in the nuclear science and engineering fields. The institutions rewarded include four-year universities and colleges, two-year trade schools and community colleges.

Contract with Rosatom for Finnish reactor scrapped

May 5, 2022, 6:59AMNuclear News
An artist’s rendering of the Hanhikivi plant. (Image: Rosatom)

Finnish energy company Fennovoima has terminated, effective immediately, its engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with RAOS Project Oy, a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom, for the delivery of a 1,200-MWe VVER-1200 pressurized water reactor at the Hanhikivi site in Finland’s Pyhäjoki municipality.

China greenlights four additional AP1000 reactors

May 4, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News
A pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at China's Haiyang nuclear power plant.

China’s State Council recently approved the construction of four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors—two at China’s Sanmen plant in Zhejiang Province and two at the Haiyang plant in Shandong Province.

The plants currently house two AP1000 units each. Sanmen’s reactors are rated at 1,157 MWe and Haiyang’s at 1,170 MWe. Sanmen-1 and -2 began commercial operation in 2018. Haiyang-1 started commercial operation in 2018, and Haiyang-2 in 2019.

NEDHO urges Congress to provide funding for university nuclear programs

May 4, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

With the federal government’s fiscal year 2023 budget process under way, the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) has reached out to congressional appropriators with a letter urging support for the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s research programs.

Nondestructive electrical conductivity test detects alkali-silica reaction in concrete

May 4, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Alkali-silica reaction was confirmed at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in 2010. (Photo: NextEra Energy Resources)

Concrete structures built to last for decades, including reactor containment buildings and other nuclear power plant structures, are subject to the alkali-silica reaction (ASR), a reaction between alkali ions found in cement and silica, the two main components of concrete. The reaction forms a gel that absorbs water and expands over time, causing a buildup of pressure within the concrete that can eventually lead to cracking and deterioration.

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have successfully used electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) to detect ASR in the lab and believe it could be used for cost-effective, nondestructive testing at nuclear power plants.

Purdue University and Duke Energy to explore feasibility of on-campus SMR

May 4, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind.

Purdue University and Duke Energy have announced that they plan to jointly explore the feasibility of using advanced nuclear energy to meet the university’s long-term energy needs, “a move that may be unprecedented for a college campus.” A small modular reactor could meet the current and future needs for Purdue’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus, as well as provide excess power to the state’s electric grid, according to a joint press release.