Foratom sounds alarm over nuclear skills shortage in Europe

The European Union’s education and training policy must do more to ensure that the nuclear sector has a sufficient number of people with the right skills, according Nuclear: Investing in a Competent Workforce for the Benefit of Society, a new position paper from Foratom. The Brussels-based Foratom is the trade association for the nuclear energy industry in Europe.

Stressing the vital roles that nuclear plays in low-carbon power generation and medical diagnosis and treatment, Foratom warns of a growing skills shortage, stemming in part from the significant portion of the nuclear workforce approaching retirement age.

In addition, the report states that “adapting to digitalization and automatization (which are important skill shifts for the decommissioning sector, as well as for new build) will be a challenge faced by the industry. This will require the reskilling and upskilling of workers, as well as ensuring an adequate transfer of knowledge between generations through apprenticeship schemes, for instance.”

Entergy takes net-zero pledge, teams with Mitsubishi to decarbonize with hydrogen

Paul Browning, Mitsubishi Power, and Paul Hinnenkamp, Entergy, sign the joint agreement on September 23. Photo: Entergy

New Orleans–based Entergy Corporation last week announced a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, joining a growing list of major energy companies to make that promise—including Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Southern Company, Xcel Energy, and Public Service Enterprise Group. And, like those companies, Entergy says that it sees nuclear playing an important role in the realization of that goal.

Ameren signs up for net zero, plans to extend Callaway operation

Ameren Corporation has announced the establishment of a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all of its operations in Missouri and Illinois, according to a recent news release from the company.

This goal is included in subsidiary Ameren Missouri’s latest integrated resource plan (IRP), filed on September 28 with the Missouri Public Service Commission. (In Ameren Missouri’s 2017 IRP, carbon emissions were to be reduced 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050.)

Legislation to reduce Russian uranium imports introduced in Senate

Sens. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) and Martin Heinrich (D., N.M.) on September 24 introduced S. 4694, the Russian Suspension Agreement Extension Act of 2020, designed to extend and expand limits on Russian uranium imports. The legislation—cosponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), and Jim Risch (R., Idaho)—has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Advanced nuclear to be a focus of reopened Arctic Energy Office

The Department of Energy has announced the reestablishment of the Arctic Energy Office (AEO), to be located on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The AEO was originally established in 2001 but failed to receive sufficient funding. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette had pledged to reopen the office by the close of the current federal fiscal year.

The focus of the AEO, according to the DOE, will include international cooperation on Arctic issues, research on methane hydrates, and the development of advanced microgrids and nuclear power systems, such as small modular reactors.

Progress being made toward Mo-99 production at Darlington

Darlington nuclear generating station. Photo: OPG

Ontario Power Generation, its subsidiary Laurentis Energy Partners, and BWXT ITG Canada and its affiliates announced on September 24 that the companies are making “significant progress” toward the production of molybdenum-99 at OPG’s Darlington nuclear power plant. Darlington will become the first commercial operating nuclear reactor to produce the medical radioisotope.

A precursor to technetium-99m, Mo-99 is used in more than 40 million procedures a year to detect cancers and diagnose various medical conditions.

Foundation slabs for Akkuyu-2 reactor, turbine buildings completed

Concrete pouring for the foundation slabs for the Akkuyu-2 reactor and turbine buildings has been completed, Akkuyu Nuclear has announced. Unit 2 is one of four reactors under construction at the Akkuyu site, located on the Mediterranean coast in southern Turkey.

More than 17,000 cubic meters (about 600,350 cubic feet) of concrete have been poured into the Akkuyu-2 reactor building’s foundation, The company reported on September 23. The area of the concrete slab is 6,864 square meters (about 73,883 square feet), while its height and depth are 2.6 meters (about 8.5 feet) and over 8 meters (over 26 feet), respectively, according to the company.

New report highlights nuclear supply chain opportunities

The London-based World Nuclear Association (WNA) on September 23 released The World Nuclear Supply Chain: Outlook 2040, a market-oriented look at the opportunities and challenges for nuclear power plants and their supply chain, including scenarios for the evolution of nuclear energy over the next two decades.

The report provides information on nearly 300 major independent suppliers of nuclear-grade structures, systems, components, and services, as well as an up-to-date picture of ongoing and planned nuclear plant construction, decommissioning, and major refurbishment and waste management projects.

Feature Article

HPS's Eric Goldin: On health physics

Eric Goldin, president of the Health Physics Society, is a radiation safety specialist with 40 years of experience in power reactor health physics, supporting worker and public radiation safety programs. A certified health physicist since 1984, he has served on the American Board of Health Physics, and since 2004, he has been a member of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements’ Program Area Committee 2, which provides guidance for radiation safety in occupational settings for a variety of industries and activities. He was awarded HPS Fellow status in 2012 and was elected to the NCRP in 2014.

Goldin’s radiological engineering experience includes ALARA programs, instrumentation, radioactive waste management, emergency planning, dosimetry, decommissioning, licensing, effluents, and environmental monitoring.

The HPS, headquartered in Herndon, Va., is the largest radiation safety society in the world. Its membership includes scientists, safety professionals, physicists, engineers, attorneys, and other professionals from academia, industry, medical institutions, state and federal government, the national laboratories, the military, and other organizations.

The HPS’s activities include encouraging research in radiation science, developing standards, and disseminating radiation safety information. Its members are involved in understanding, evaluating, and controlling the potential risks from radiation relative to the benefits.

Goldin talked about the HPS and health physics activities with Rick Michal, editor-in-chief of Nuclear News.

To continue reading, log in or create a free account!

Two African nations join safety and security treaties at IAEA conference

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi and Teodolinda Coelho, Angola’s ambassador. Photo: IAEA


Grossi and Roger Albéric Kacou, Côte d’Ivoire’s ambassador. Photo: IAEA

Angola and Côte d’Ivoire deposited legal instruments with the International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this week, expressing their consent to be bound by treaties designed to strengthen nuclear safety and security.

On the sidelines of the IAEA’s 64th General Conference, Angola joined the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), as well as the latter’s 2005 amendment, while Côte d’Ivoire joined the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.

Representing Angola and Côte d’Ivoire at the September 21 event were their respective ambassadors to Austria: Teodolinda Coelho and Roger Albéric Kacou.

“Critical decision” keeps Versatile Test Reactor on target

The proposed Versatile Test Reactor complex would cover about 20 acres. Image: INL

Now that the Department of Energy has approved Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, the engineering design phase can begin once Congress appropriates funding, according to a September 23 announcement from the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. The DOE has requested $295 million for the project in fiscal year 2021.

The news came nearly one month after a team led by Bechtel National Inc. (BNI), and including GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and TerraPower, entered into contract negotiations with Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) for the design-and-build phase of the VTR. GEH’s sodium-cooled fast reactor PRISM technology was selected to support the VTR program in November 2018.

TerraPower, Centrus, and Duke Energy talk tech and collaboration

Three companies that are part of a larger collaboration to develop and demonstrate Natrium, the fast reactor design recently introduced by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), were invited to participate in a webinar hosted by ClearPath to talk about Natrium’s design, fuel requirements, and load-following potential.

The September 21 webinar, titled “Natrium: Latin for Sodium, Big for Advanced Nuclear,” was moderated by Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath, and featured TerraPower’s Chris Levesque and Tara Neider, Centrus Energy’s Dan Poneman, and Duke Energy’s Chris Nolan.

NRC recommends over $7 million in R&D grants

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on September 21 that based on a review of 141 research and development grant proposals, it anticipates awarding more than $7.25 million in funding to 15 of the peer-reviewed proposals. The funding is part of the $16 million appropriated by Congress in fiscal year 2020 under the Integrated University Program.

While independent NRC review panels recommended the 15 R&D proposals for funding, the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research will make a final decision on the awards.

U.S. reactor technologies to be featured at IAEA conference

A virtual side event at the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency will spotlight U.S. reactor technologies. The free event, US Reactor Technologies: Flexible Energy Security for Real-World Challenges, will be held this Thursday, September 24, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (EDT).

The event will highlight the capabilities of small modular reactors and other innovative reactors for addressing countries’ current needs. It will also examine anticipated challenges in the future, as well as underscore the need to act now.

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. Advanced registration is required.

IAEA kicks off annual meeting in Vienna

IAEA General Director Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks to socially distanced attendees at the agency’s 64th General Conference plenary session on September 21. Photo: D. Calma/IAEA

With special precautions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Atomic Energy Agency commenced its week-long 64th General Conference yesterday with a plenary session that included remarks from Rafael Mariano Grossi, the agency’s director general.

“The latest IAEA annual projections show that nuclear power will continue to play a key role in the world’s low-carbon energy mix, with global nuclear electrical capacity seen nearly doubling by 2050 in our high-case scenario,” Grossi said, referring to a recently released agency report. “Climate change mitigation remains a key potential driver for maintaining and expanding the use of nuclear power.”

The IAEA conference runs through September 25.

Feature Article

The NRC’s Operations Center: Exercising authority to respond

One essential lesson from the events at Three Mile Island-2 in March 1979 can be summed up in three words: Preparedness takes practice. The emergency response capacity of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuclear plant operators is more than just a set of procedures. Active training and evaluation are required to coordinate effectively with local and state authorities and protect the public in the event of an off-site radiological release.

The NRC’s emergency preparedness and incident response teams work in the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR) to support licensees’ mandated emergency preparedness programs. The Operations Center at NRC headquarters is staffed around-the-clock with NSIR officers who can respond to technical questions and evaluate licensee event reports, yet most of its infrastructure typically stands vacant, awaiting activation for an incident or a planned exercise. With full activation of the NRC’s incident response program, the Operations Center comes to life, and teams of staff populate workstations. That process is regularly tested during exercises that involve NRC licensees, state and local responders, and similar incident response centers at each of the NRC’s four regional offices.

No two exercises are the same. Not only is every exercise dependent on variable human performance and every plant located in a unique community, but emergency preparedness benchmarks continually evolve with advancements in technologies and procedures.

To continue reading, log in or create a free account!

Aging management at Ringhals-3 has improved

A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have completed a review of the long-term operational safety of Unit 3 at Sweden’s Ringhals nuclear power plant, noting substantial improvements from a previous agency visit in 2018.

The review, which had been requested by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), the Nordic nation’s nuclear regulator, wrapped up September 18.

According to the IAEA, the Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (SALTO) team focused on aspects essential to the safe long-term operation (LTO) of Unit 3—a 1,062-MWe three-loop pressurized water reactor that entered commercial operation in September 1981. (Ringhals houses two additional operating reactors: Unit 1, an 881-MWe boiling water reactor that began operation in January 1976, and Unit 4, an 1,102-MWe PWR that started up in November 1983. Another unit, Ringhals-2, was permanently shut down at the end of last year.)

The original design lifetime of Unit 3 will expire next year, but Vattenfall AB, the plant operator, is planning to extend operation for a total operational lifetime of 60 years.

NRC to hold webinars in October on used fuel storage facility in Texas

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has scheduled four webinars in October to present its draft environmental findings and receive comments on Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) proposed consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas.

Information for the webinars will be posted on the NRC’s Public Meetings webpage. The webinars will be held at different times of the day to maximize opportunities for the public to participate and are tentatively scheduled for the following (all times are Eastern):

  • October 1, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • October 6, 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • October 8, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • October 15, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

IAEA: Nuclear to continue to play key role in low-carbon energy production

The International Atomic Energy Agency has just released its latest projections for energy, electricity, and nuclear power trends over the next 30 years. Compared with the previous year, the new projections are largely unchanged.

In the report's high-case scenario, the IAEA expects a rise in global nuclear electrical generating capacity of 82 percent, to 715 gigawatts. In the low-case scenario, that capacity is expected to drop 7 percent, to 363 gigawatts.

The report is titled Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050.