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.


Maximizing decommissioning lessons learned

December 7, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsLarry W. Camper

Larry W. Camper

The track record for the successful decommissioning of nuclear facilities, both nationally and internationally, is impressive. In the United States, we have decommissioned many nuclear facilities, including complex materials sites, uranium recovery sites, research and test reactors, and nuclear power plants. To date, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 10 nuclear power plants have been completely decommissioned for unrestricted use, and another 26 power reactor sites are currently undergoing decommissioning through either SAFSTOR or DECON, following NRC regulatory requirements. In addition, the Nuclear Energy Institute identifies three nuclear power plants that were successfully decommissioned outside of NRC jurisdiction. While such a track record is impressive, the nuclear industry must be vigilant in focusing on lessons learned in order to continue to make gains in efficiency, cost savings, improved environmental stewardship, and enhanced stakeholder confidence. In reviewing the outcomes of decommissioning over many years, a number of key lessons learned have emerged.

HTGR locked in for U.K. demonstration project

December 7, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Hands

The U.K. government has confirmed its selection of the high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) for Britain’s £170 million (about $236 million) Advanced Modular Reactor Demonstration Program.

Greg Hands, minister for energy, clean growth, and climate change, delivered the news on December 2 via a speech at the Nuclear Industry Association’s annual conference. “Following evaluation of responses received,” Hands said, “I’m pleased to announce today that we will focus on HTGRs as the technology choice for the program moving forward—with the ambition for this to lead to a demonstration by the early 2030s.”

NNL approved: “As we look to the future and the part we play as a scientific superpower, the U.K.’s unparalleled experience in gas-cooled technologies makes HTGRs the common-sense choice for pursuing advanced nuclear,” said Paul Howarth, chief executive officer at the United Kingdom’s National Nuclear Laboratory. “Following announcements already made on financing for the next stage of the Rolls-Royce SMR program and the proposed Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill to make large-scale plants more achievable, the U.K. is primed once more to be a global leader in nuclear technologies—large, small, and advanced.”

NNSA issues Mo-99 cooperative agreement to Niowave

December 6, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has issued a cooperative agreement worth $13 million to Niowave, of Lansing, Mich., 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.

From the pages of Nuclear News: Industry update

December 6, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

NuScale Power has signed a memorandum of understanding with Prodigy Clean Energy and Kinectrics to explore and inform the development of a regulatory framework to address the licensing and deployment of a marine power station (MPS). The MPS would integrate one to 12 NuScale power modules into a marine-based nuclear power plant system. The MPS would be shipyard-fabricated and marine-transported to its deployment location, where it would be moored in place in sheltered and protected waters at the shoreline. Prodigy is Canada’s first commercial marine nuclear power developer, specializing in integrating existing power reactors into stationary-deployed marine power plant structures. Kinectrics provides life-cycle management services to the electricity industry.

DOE seeks stakeholder input on energy supply chains

December 6, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy issued a request for information (RFI) last week in response to President Biden’s February 24 executive order directing it to submit a report on supply chains for the energy sector industrial base within one year.

According to the order, the United States requires supply chains that are “resilient,” meaning “secure and diverse—facilitating greater domestic production, a range of supply, built-in redundancies, adequate stockpiles, safe and secure digital networks, and a world-class American manufacturing base and workforce.”

Hydrogen: The best shot for nuclear sustainability?

December 3, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

Nuclear power plants are not quick to change. So when four utilities announce they will make room for shiny new electrolyzers and consider tweaking their business model, that’s news.

Nuclear power plants can leverage the energy stored in some of the world’s heaviest elements to generate the lightest: hydrogen. That is not news, but it casts an aura of alchemy over straightforward engineering. Amid the hype, and the hope of significant federal funding, it’s worth acknowledging that hydrogen has an industrial history over 100 years old. In the potential matchup of hydrogen and nuclear power, it’s nuclear that would be the newcomer.

First Hunterston reactor shuttered

December 3, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
The Hunterston B nuclear power station in 2018. (Photo: Thomas Nugent/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Unit B1 at Scotland’s two-unit Hunterston B nuclear power plant was taken off line for good on November 26 after nearly 46 years of operation. A 490-MWe advanced gas-cooled reactor, the unit entered commercial operation in June 1976. Its companion AGR, Unit B2, which entered operation in March 1977, is scheduled for retirement in January.

GE Hitachi SMR chosen for Darlington project

December 3, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of a BWRX-300 plant. (Photo: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy)

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) as its technology partner for the Darlington nuclear new-build project. The companies will work to deploy GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor at OPG’s Darlington nuclear plant, located in Clarington, Ontario.

AccAPP’21: The value of accelerators

December 2, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

AccApp'21, the 14th International Topical Meeting on Nuclear Applications of Accelerators, runs through December 4 and is being held as an embedded topical at the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo in Washington, D.C. The meeting was to be held April 5-9, 2020, at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria—and it was to be known as AccApp’20—but it was postponed because of COVID-19.

AccApp'21 is organized by ANS’s Accelerator Applications Division and cosponsored by Texas A&M University, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, and the IAEA. The meeting’s focus is on the following areas:

  • The production and use of accelerator-produced neutrons, photons, electrons, and other particles for scientific and industrial purposes.
  • The production or destruction of radionuclides significant for energy, medicine, cultural heritage, or other endeavors.
  • Safety and security applications.
  • Medical imaging, diagnostics, and therapeutic treatment.
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Neutron depth profiling technique nurtured at NIST can improve battery technology

December 2, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Jamie Weaver with the neutron depth profiling instrument. (Photo: T. Barvitskie/NIST)

The newest generation of lithium-ion batteries now being developed uses thin-film, solid-state technology and could soon safely power cell phones, electric vehicles, laptops, and other devices. However, like all batteries, solid-state lithium-ion batteries have a drawback: Impedance—electrical resistance—can build up as batteries are discharged and recharged, limiting the flow of electric current.

ANS Winter Meeting: What it will take to “Fuel our Nuclear Future"

December 1, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo began this morning with a Opening Plenary Session chaired by Winter Meeting general chair Amir Vexler, president and chief executive officer of Orano USA. It was an opportunity to both celebrate achievements that are already building a “Nuclear Future” and to identify needs and challenges ahead.

Influential speakers from the U.S. Congress, the Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Energy Institute joined ANS president Steven Nesbit and ANS CEO/executive director Craig Piercy to explore key issues associated with the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including supply and demand for high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU). They didn’t stop there, however. They took questions from an in-person and virtual audience that probed other requirements of a sustainable nuclear future, including fueling a human resources pipeline.

What is the role of a control room supervisor during a refueling outage?

December 1, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear NewsGuest Contributor

Outage time at a nuclear power plant comes with a unique set of challenges for licensed personnel. A primary responsibility for control room supervisors in any mode of operation is to maintain control of the plant configuration, which during an outage requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. Considering what is involved in taking the plant apart, upgrading plant equipment, performing once-per-cycle inspections and preventative maintenance, testing safety system functionality, and loading the next core, it’s clear why so much emphasis is placed on outage performance.

When the Science Channel is light on science

November 30, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear NewsSteve Redeker

In September, cable television’s Science Channel aired an episode on power plant catastrophes as part of its series Deadly Engineering, with one principal segment on the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. The episode contains several inaccuracies and distortions—perhaps the biggest mistake being that the TMI accident was featured in Deadly Engineering at all, since no deaths or long-term adverse health trends resulted from the accident.

Leaving that aside, the episode includes other errors that executives at Science Channel should have caught and corrected before airing. They also should have made sure to include knowledgeable scientific reviewers from both sides of the nuclear issue, which they did not.

The biggest falsehood in the episode comes very near the beginning, with the horribly erroneous claim that most of eastern Pennsylvania was made permanently uninhabitable by the accident. Incredibly wrong, and likely believable and very frightening to some viewers.

DOE awards $8.5 million to fund advanced nuclear projects

November 29, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

In its latest financial nod of encouragement to the U.S. nuclear industry, the Department of Energy has announced awards totaling $8.5 million to five industry-led projects, with the aim of accelerating the commercial deployment of advanced reactors and fuels.

The awards are funded via the Office of Nuclear Energy’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity, which, since 2017, has invested more than $215 million in advanced nuclear technologies. Solicitations are broken down into three pathways: first-of-a-kind nuclear demonstration readiness projects, advanced reactor development projects, and direct regulatory assistance.

NRC heightens oversight at Vogtle-3 project

November 29, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The Vogtle-3 turbine building (left) and containment (right) in October. (Photo: Georgia Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will increase its oversight of Vogtle-3—one of the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors under construction at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Ga.—after finalizing two inspection findings involving the unit’s safety-related electrical cable raceway system. Vogtle’s operator, Southern Nuclear, was informed of the decision in a November 17 letter.

The agency had launched a special inspection at Vogtle-3 in June of this year to determine the cause and extent of construction quality issues in the raceway system, which consists primarily of conduits and cable trays designed to prevent a single event from disabling redundant safety-related equipment.

SwRI demonstrates drone autonomy technology

November 29, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
SwRI engineers used LIDAR point cloud data to reconstruct a high-resolution image of a facility that houses electric turbines at the nuclear power plant. 3D cubes, or voxels, on the left provide spatial information on the turbine facility. Point clouds were reconstructed to create the high-resolution image of the turbines on the right. SwRI specializes in data visualizations to identify damage and potential hazards following accidents at nuclear power plants and other hazardous facilities. (Graphic: SwRI)

During the EnRicH 2021 European Robotics Hackathon, Southwest Research Institute’s unmanned aircraft system (UAS or drone) explored and mapped the interior of a nuclear power plant, detecting radiation sources autonomously, without the aid of a human pilot.

SwRI’s UAS technology can potentially assist in life-saving search-and-rescue missions and hazardous inspections at industrial facilities and infrastructure following natural disasters and other incidents.

Becoming agile and innovative in an evolving nuclear landscape: Changing the industry narrative for a strong future

November 29, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear NewsGleb Tsipursky
Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. (Photo: PG&E)

Last April, Entergy had to close its Indian Point nuclear plant. That’s despite the plant’s being recognized as one of the best-run U.S. nuclear plants. That’s also despite its 20-year license extension process having been nearly completed, with full support from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

This closure was due in large part to opposition by antinuclear environmental groups. These groups also mobilized existing negative public opinion on nuclear energy to get politicians to oppose the plant’s license extension. Another factor is unfair market conditions. Nuclear energy doesn’t get due government support—unlike solar, wind, and hydro—despite delivering clean, zero-emissions energy.

The U.S. Army’s Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program

November 24, 2021, 2:30PMNuclear Newsthe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program staff
The Sturgis is towed from the Galveston, Texas, pier to the shipping channel on September 25, 2018, as it heads toward Brownsville, Texas, for final shipbreaking and recycling. Over the past three years in Galveston, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been implementing the challenging and complex effort to decommission the MH-1A—the deactivated nuclear reactor that was onboard the Sturgis vessel.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Baltimore District, is home to the North Atlantic Division’s Radiological Health Physics Regional (RHPR) Center of Expertise, which is leading the decommissioning of Army reactors.

From 1956 to 1976, the Army’s nuclear power program operated several small nuclear reactors to confirm the feasibility of their meeting military power needs on land. Three Army reactors were deactivated in the 1970s and placed into safe storage awaiting future decommissioning.

NNSA expands Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program

November 24, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded nine grants totaling $38.8 million to build more partnerships with minority-serving institutions (MSIs), leverage untapped students, and expand its talent pipeline. Known as the Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program (MSIPP), it now has 24 active consortia partnerships encompassing 46 schools.