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.


IAEA issues incident-tracking database fact sheet

May 21, 2024, 7:00AMNuclear News

Last year, 168 incidents of illegal or unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive materials were reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB). According to the agency, this number is in line with historical averages. These incidents were reported by 31 IAEA member states; as of 2023, a total of 145 member states have participated in the ITDB.

ORISE report focuses on nuclear engineering degrees and enrollments

May 20, 2024, 3:04PMNuclear News

There is a mix of good news and bad in the latest Nuclear Engineering Enrollment and Degrees Survey, 2021–2022 Data. According to this report from the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), compiled with data initially released in November 2023 and updated in February 2024, the number of doctoral degrees awarded in nuclear engineering at the end of the 2022 academic year in the United States—211 Ph.D.s—was the highest since the beginning of this survey’s data collection in 1966. However, the overall numbers of nuclear engineering degrees awarded in 2021 and 2022 were at their lowest levels in more than a decade. In addition, both undergraduate and graduate enrollment numbers were down compared with 2018 and 2019.

Securing the advanced reactor fleet

May 17, 2024, 3:00PMNuclear NewsBen Cipiti, Katya Le Blanc, and Cory Hatch

Physical protection accounts for a significant portion of a nuclear power plant’s operational costs. As the U.S. moves toward smaller and safer advanced reactors, similar protection strategies could prove cost prohibitive. For tomorrow’s small modular reactors and microreactors, security costs must remain appropriate to the size of the reactor for economical operation.

Oklo to collaborate with Atomic Alchemy on isotope production

May 16, 2024, 3:00PMNuclear News
Oklo Inc. (Image: Gensler)

Fast reactor developer Oklo, which recently went public on the New York Stock Exchange, announced on May 13 that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Atomic Alchemy to cooperate on the production of radioisotopes for medical, energy, industry, and science applications.

Fuel cycle players signal next moves as Russian uranium ban becomes law

May 16, 2024, 7:02AMNuclear News
Uranium yellowcake is used in the preparation of uranium fuel that is used in nuclear reactors. (Photo: DOE)

On May 13, President Biden signed the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, unlocking the $2.72 billion that Congress conditionally appropriated in March to increase production of low-enriched uranium (LEU) and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU).

NEI's Korsnick delivers State of the Nuclear Energy Industry address

May 15, 2024, 11:40AMNuclear News

Korsnick

Nuclear Energy Institute president and CEO Maria Korsnick delivered her State of the Nuclear Energy Industry address at NEI’s 2024 Nuclear Energy Policy Forum yesterday. The forum this year is taking place May 14–16 in Washington, D.C., and serves to gather industry leaders, executives, and experts for pivotal conversations about the federal and state nuclear policy landscapes.

Korsnick updated attendees on policy priorities of the industry and gave her perspective on nuclear energy’s present and future.

She centered her talk on national and global priorities to secure a clean energy future at the same time as achieving energy independence and security—all while meeting a massive increase in demand for power. “Nuclear energy remains the key” to addressing these priorities, she said.

Reducing global radiological risk, moving alternative technologies forward

May 15, 2024, 9:28AMNuclear NewsKristin Hirsch

Kristin Hirsch

Radioactive materials are used in medical, research, and commercial facilities to treat cancer, irradiate blood, sterilize food and equipment, and build economies worldwide. In the wrong hands, however, even a small amount of radioactive material can do a great deal of harm. A radiological dispersal device (RDD), otherwise known as a “dirty bomb,” is believed to be an attractive weapon for terrorist groups due to its scale of impact—panic, physical contamination, costly remediation, and denial of access to facilities and locations.

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration Office of Radiological Security (ORS) enhances global security by preventing high-activity radioactive materials from being used in acts of terrorism. ORS implements its mission through three strategies: protecting radioactive sources used for vital medical, research, and commercial purposes by securing facilities that utilize radioactive isotopes; removing and disposing of disused sources; and encouraging the adoption and development of nonradioisotopic alternative technologies such as X-ray and electron beam irradiators.

Waste Management 2024: The symposia at 50

May 14, 2024, 3:01PMNuclear NewsTim Gregoire
The OECD NEA’s William Magwood addresses the plenary audience of the 2024 Waste Management Conference in Phoenix. (Photo: WM Symposia)

This year marked the 50th anniversary of Waste Management Symposia’s Waste Management Conference, held March 10–14 in Phoenix, Ariz. The event has grown significantly since the first Waste Management Conference in 1974, which attracted about 200 attendees. This year’s conference saw a record attendance of around 3,300 people from more than 20 different countries and boasted 235 technical sessions and 89 exhibitors.

Bill would eliminate public hearing requirement in nuclear licensing

May 14, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear News

A bill being considered in the U.S. Senate seeks to remove the requirement for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold a public hearing for every nuclear reactor application.

Current law requires public hearings to be held by the NRC toward the end the reactor license application process, in addition to the statutorily required environmental and safety reviews that provide public engagement opportunities for stakeholders and citizens.

Oklo now trading on NYSE

May 14, 2024, 7:01AMNuclear News
Concept art of Oklo's Aurora Powerhouse microreactor. (Image: Gensler)

After completing its business combination with AltC Acquisition Corp, Oklo Inc. began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol OKLO this past Friday, May 10.

The company is aiming to provide clean, reliable, affordable nuclear energy to customers across the artificial intelligence, data center, energy, defense, and industrial markets. Sam Altman, chairman of Oklo since 2015 and former chief executive of AltC, called the first day on the NYSE a milestone for the entire team.

How robust is HALEU from a nonproliferation perspective?

May 13, 2024, 3:10PMNuclear NewsShikha Prasad

Shikha Prasad

High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) has emerged as a popular fuel choice for advanced small modular reactors due to its long power production periods before refueling. It is currently being pursued by TerraPower, X-energy, BWX Technologies, Kairos, Oklo, and other reactor companies. HALEU has a uranium-235 enrichment ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent, whereas traditional LWRs use low-enriched uranium fuel enriched up to 5 percent.

HALEU will provide power for longer durations, compared with traditional LWRs. But could it also provide an opportunity for more rapid proliferation, as is speculated in a 2023 National Academy of Sciences report on advanced nuclear reactors (nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/26630/)?

If a nuclear proliferator conspires to divert fresh nuclear fuel for weapons production when it has not been used in a reactor, the effort required in separative work units (SWUs) to enrich U-235 from 5 percent to 90 percent and that required to enrich from 20 percent to 90 percent are both very small, compared with the effort required to enrich U-235 from its natural abundance to the initial 5 percent.

DIII-D upgrades to shape the future of magnetic fusion energy research

May 13, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News
An engineer adjusts mirrors while installing new diagnostic equipment inside the DIII-D tokamak. (Photo: General Atomics)

The DIII-D National Fusion Facility is starting up after an eight-month experimental hiatus, equipped with new and improved plasma control and diagnostic systems. The upgrades will help researchers from around the nation and the world resolve key physics questions to bridge the gap between current magnetic confinement fusion research and the first fusion power pilot plants. General Atomics, which operates DIII-D for the Department of Energy, announced the completion of upgrades on May 8.

Bowman & Smith on NRC security programs

May 13, 2024, 9:38AMNuclear News
The NRC's Greg Bowman (left) and George Smith (right)

Greg Bowman and George Smith work for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in implementing programs that deal with risk, whether to nuclear power plants or from nuclear materials, such as radiological sabotage and theft or diversion of materials. Bowman is the director of the NRC’s Division of Physical and Cybersecurity Policy in the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response. Smith is the senior project manager for security in the Source Management & Protection Branch of the Division of Materials Safety, Security, State, and Tribal Programs in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.

The three initiatives Bowman and Smith discussed with Nuclear News editor-in-chief Rick Michal are the Insider Threat Program, the Cybersecurity Program, and the Domestic Safeguards Program.

Nuclear security workforce development

May 13, 2024, 9:38AMNuclear NewsSara A. Pozzi

Ensuring that nuclear technology is used exclusively for peaceful purposes remains a critical challenge for our society today. The global community faces several grave nuclear security threats: nations that attempt to create (such as Iran) or augment (such as Russia, China, and North Korea) their nuclear arsenals, acts of aggression that target civilian nuclear reactors (as seen with Russia in Ukraine), and the looming menace of nuclear weapons deployment (emanating from Russia). Furthermore, addressing climate change necessitates an expansion of nuclear energy for electricity generation, which brings with it the need for safeguarding and regulating the deployment of advanced reactors.

GE Hitachi forming supplier group for BWRX-300 SMR

May 13, 2024, 7:00AMNuclear News
GE Vernova’s priority regions for SMR growth, with projected gigawatt demands in 2035 and 2050 for the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and European Union. (Source: GE Vernova)

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH)—the nuclear business unit of Massachusetts-based GE Vernova in partnership with Japan’s Hitachi—has announced that it is forming a group of qualified supply chain companies to advance the manufacture, commercialization, and international deployment of its BWRX-300 small modular reactor. The company stated that it is forming the group to help ensure “a reliable, cost-effective and innovative” process for getting its SMR commercialized and deployed around the world.

U.S. nuclear capacity factors: Ideal for data centers?

May 10, 2024, 3:00PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

Baseload nuclear generation doesn’t get the respect it deserves, if you ask nuclear operators. But the hyperscale data centers that process our digital lives—like the one right next to the Susquehanna plant in northeastern Pennsylvania—are pushing electricity demand up. Clean, reliable capacity now looks a lot more valuable.