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.

2021 ARPA-E Summit to take place virtually May 24–27

March 23, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced last week that the 2021 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, hosted by the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), will take place May 24–27 in a fully virtual format.

The Department of Energy’s ARPA-E Summit will bring together experts from industry, investment, academia, and government to discuss some of the toughest challenges facing the energy community. The 2021 summit’s theme is “Expanding American Energy Innovation,” a nod to both the agency’s energy research and development mission and its goal to grow the energy innovation community.

According to the DOE, the virtual event will combine the most popular elements from past ARPA-E Summits with new ways to stay connected in the virtual format, including four days of main-stage speakers and panels, a virtual technology showcase for attendees to meet with and learn about ARPA-E awardees, and networking sessions and news of other new ways to stay connected virtually.

Vogtle-3 “likely” to miss scheduled start date, says Georgia Power

March 22, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

Vogtle-3's containment and turbine building. Photo: Georgia Power

Vogtle-3, the first of two 1,100-MWe AP1000 pressurized water reactors under construction at the Vogtle plant near Waynesboro, Ga., may not go into service in November as planned, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power has announced.

According to a March 19 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the date for starting commercial operation at Unit 3 could be delayed by a month or more at a cost to Georgia Power of approximately $25 million per month. “While [Vogtle plant operator] Southern Nuclear continues to target a November 2021 in-service date for Unit 3, the schedule is challenged and … a delay is likely,” Georgia Power stated. The filing made no mention of changes to Unit 4’s scheduled start date of November 2022.

Advanced liquid waste processing systems: Safely processing Fukushima’s wastewater

March 19, 2021, 2:07PMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) became a household name a decade ago as the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, center of the largest nuclear accident in a generation. Now in 2021, as a result of the continuous mitigation efforts, TEPCO is currently storing 1.2 million cubic meters of treated wastewater—and counting—in more than 1,000 large storage tanks on site. This wastewater has been in the spotlight for the past few years since current projections show that storage capacity will run out by 2022. That spotlight intensified last year when a panel of experts from Japan named the Subcommittee on Handling of the ALPS-Treated Water (ALPS Subcommittee) recommended to the Japanese government that the treated wastewater should be released into the ocean. The ALPS Subcommittee’s report states, “The topic of how to handle the treated water is one of the most important decommissioning tasks, which has been discussed since 2013.” This issue has plagued the decommissioning and decontamination efforts for the past decade for one simple reason: a failure to effectively communicate about the low risk involved with processing, diluting, and discharging the water over a period of several years.

Accelerator technologies get a boost from the DOE

March 18, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy on March 16 announced $18 million in new particle accelerator technology funding that includes $5 million for university-based traineeships for accelerator scientists and engineers.

Accelerating solutions: Beams of charged particles are powerful tools for scientific research, and particle accelerators have also been used in medical imaging and cancer therapy, in the manufacturing of semiconductors, and as a nonchemical method of destroying pathogens and toxic chemicals.

House GOP energy agenda features nuclear-related legislation

March 18, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

In response to House Democrats’ introduction on March 2 of a massive energy bill, the CLEAN Future Act, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have unveiled their own, more modest energy agenda—a package of existing legislation that they say would “secure America’s energy future and global competitive edge against China.”

McMorris Rodgers

According to a March 15 press release from the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), along with Reps. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) and David McKinley (R., W.Va.), the GOP plan will address climate change risks and spur the development and deployment of clean energy infrastructure without the “pie-in-the-sky” mandates, regulations, and federal government spending advocated by the Democrats.

What they’re saying: “This package will modernize and improve our energy infrastructure and promote an all-of-the-above energy strategy across the board, including solutions to unleash innovation in hydropower, nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas,” the Republican lawmakers state. “These are real, workable solutions to make energy cleaner, reduce emissions, prioritize energy security, and keep energy costs low.”

Westinghouse to invest in Poland’s nuclear future

March 17, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

Patrick Fragman (left), president and CEO of Westinghouse, and Piotr Naimski, Poland’s secretary of state for strategic energy infrastructure, met on March 15, 2021, in Warsaw. Photo: Westinghouse

The signing last October of a bilateral agreement between the United States and Poland to cooperate on the latter’s civil nuclear power program appears to be bearing fruit. On March 15, following a meeting in Warsaw between Patrick Fragman, president and chief executive officer of Westinghouse Electric Company, and Piotr Naimski, Poland’s secretary of state for strategic energy infrastructure, Westinghouse announced its intention to invest in nuclear technologies in Poland.

The agreement, which entered into force earlier this month, calls for the United States and Poland to cooperate over the next 18 months on a report laying out a plan for implementing Poland’s nuclear power program, as well as potential financing arrangements. It also defines areas of U.S.-Polish cooperation for decades to come, including support for relevant business entities and government-led efforts ranging from regulation to research and training to supply chain development.

Demolition of High Flux Beam Reactor exhaust stack completed

March 16, 2021, 12:04PMNuclear News

Workers use the MANTIS to demolish the High Flux Beam Reactor's exhaust stack, a prominent part of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Source: DOE EM

Work crews have demolished the High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) exhaust stack at Brookhaven National Laboratory, on Long Island, N.Y., the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) reported last week.

The 320-foot-tall red-and-white stack was decommissioned and demolished under the direction of the DOE, with oversight by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Demolition work: Removal of the stack started in early January using a concrete chimney demolition system called the MANTIS. Work crews dismantled the stack down to its base, about 36 feet above ground, before fully demolishing it in late February.

The next steps for the project are the cleanup of soils, the removal of the below-ground stack infrastructure, and verification that cleanup goals have been met. The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education will conduct independent verification of the stack cleanup, according to the DOE.

The first rail shipment of the stack’s debris to off-site disposal will involve 65 intermodal waste containers loaded onto a 10-railcar train. About 45 additional containers are expected to be shipped as part of the second and final waste shipment.

Ohio House passes bill to remove state aid to nuclear plants

March 16, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Ohio House of Representatives has voted to rescind the nuclear subsidy provisions of H.B. 6, the controversial 2019 piece of legislation that has been marinating in scandal since last July. Just one week earlier, a similar measure was passed unanimously in the Ohio Senate.

Approved by a tally of 86-7 on March 10, H.B. 128 strips H.B. 6 of subsidies for Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, as well as a “decoupling” provision that would have been of substantial financial benefit to FirstEnergy Corporation, the former parent company of Energy Harbor. The new bill retains H.B. 6’s subsidies for utility-scale solar projects, however, and for two coal plants (one in Ohio, one in Indiana).

H.B. 128 was sponsored by Reps. James Hoops (R., Dist. 81) and Dick Stein (R., Dist. 57).

Critical Look: PBS Newshour’s coverage of 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident

March 15, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

Along with many other media outlets on March 11, the PBS NewsHour reported on the continuing recovery efforts from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan 10 years ago. The segment, "Japan marks 10th anniversary of Fukushima nuclear disaster," is just over eight minutes long, most of which discusses the effects of the earthquake and tsunami on the region and Japan’s preparedness for the next major natural incident.

ORNL mines Pm-147 from plutonium by-products

March 15, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

Technicians use a manipulator arm in a shielded cave in ORNL’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center to separate concentrated Pm-147 from by-products generated through the production of Pu-238. Photo: Richard Mayes/ORNL, DOE

A method developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is allowing the Department of Energy to cull promethium-147 from plutonium-238 produced for space exploration. Under an ORNL project for the DOE Isotope Program that began last year, the lab has been mining Pm-147, a rare isotope used in nuclear batteries and to measure the thickness of materials, from the fission products left when Pu-238 is separated out of neptunium-237 targets. The Np-237 targets are irradiated in Oak Ridge’s High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE Office of Science user facility, to produce the Pu-238.

According to the DOE, the primary goal of the project is to reestablish the domestic production of Pm-147, which is in short supply. As a side benefit, the project is reducing the concentrations of radioactive elements in the waste so that it can be disposed of safely in simpler, less expensive ways, both now and in the future.

“In the process of recovering a valuable product that the DOE Isotope Program wants, we realized we can reduce our disposal costs,” said Richard Mayes, group leader for ORNL’s Emerging Isotope Research. “There’s some synergy.”

Germany settles with utilities over nuclear phaseout

March 15, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

RWE’s Gundremmingen nuclear plant, located in Bavaria, is slated to close at the end of the year. Photo: Wikipedia/Felix König

After years of litigation, Germany has reached an agreement with four utility companies on compensation for losses incurred as a result of the government’s stunning decision in 2011 to abandon nuclear power. In March of that year, only days after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a 180-degree reversal in the country’s energy policy, which had been one of support for nuclear power. Eight units were shut down immediately, and by May 2011 the government had announced a plan to close all nuclear power plants by 2022.

The companies will receive a total of €2.4 billion (about $2.85 billion), with €1.4 billion going to Sweden-based Vattenfall and the remaining €1 billion split between German utilities RWE (€880 million), EnBW (€80 million), and E.ON (€42.5 million). In return, the companies have agreed to terminate all phaseout-related legal disputes with the government.

NRC's RIC: A clear line of sight for accident tolerant fuel deployment

March 12, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

To nuclear fuel suppliers, today’s operating reactors represent a defined customer base with predictable demands. Utilities must order their next fuel reload far in advance of an outage; enrichers and fabricators work to fill those orders. Adapting such a highly optimized supply chain to accommodate new products—fuels with new materials, claddings, and higher enrichments and burnups—will require alignment between all parties involved to meet the associated research, enrichment, manufacturing, regulatory, transportation, and operating experience needs.

That was the consensus during “Current Accident Tolerant Fuel Environment,” a technical session held on March 9 during the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's four-day Regulatory Information Conference (RIC, March 8-11). The session was chaired by NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson, who was taking part in his first RIC as a member of the commission.

States sue Biden over social cost of carbon order

March 12, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News


Twelve states are suing the Biden administration over the president’s January 20 executive order on climate change. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court on March 8 by Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt, who was joined in the action by his counterparts in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

The reason: The suit objects to a provision in the order that revitalizes the social cost of carbon (SCC) metric—a tool used by regulators to weigh the cost to society, in dollars, of emitting one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The SCC—which takes into account such things as human health, agricultural productivity, property damage from increasingly severe storms, and the value of ecosystem services—had faded into insignificance under President Trump.

Safely decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi and revitalizing Fukushima

March 11, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear NewsAkira Ono

Akira Ono is chief decommissioning officer of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings and president of the Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Company.

The mission of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), and my personal mission, is to safely decommission the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and thereby contribute to the revitalization of Fukushima.

In performing this important work, we are guided by the principle of balancing the recovery of Fukushima with the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, doing everything possible to mitigate the risks as we progress. Since the accident on March 11, 2011, we have stabilized the site and alleviated many of its crisis aspects.

Most significantly, we have been making efforts to improve the working environment by reducing the contamination on the site due to the accident. About 4,000 workers are currently engaged at Fukushima Daiichi. The average monthly radiation dose for those workers has been reduced from 21.55 mSv (2,155 mrem) immediately following the accident to 0.3 mSv (30 mrem).

Nuclear waste policy status and prospects in 2021

March 11, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Sooner or later, any discussion of the future of the role of nuclear power leads to the question, “What are you going to do with the waste?” Nuclear technology professionals recognize that there are good solutions available for the management and disposal of nuclear waste, but implementing them requires overcoming societal and political barriers that have proven daunting in this country. Currently, the United States has a nuclear waste policy, but the federal government lacks the will to implement it or change it. The past decade has been extremely frustrating to those dedicated to addressing waste issues here and now, rather than kicking them down the road. Prospects for the next decade are uncertain, at best.

Communication lessons learned from Fukushima

March 11, 2021, 7:03AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

It is hard to believe that this month marks the 10-year anniversary of the Fukushima accident. If I close my eyes, I can recall exactly where I was when I first heard the news—standing in a hallway in the Russell Senate Office Building with soon-to-be ANS president Mike Corradini, having just briefed Capitol Hill staff on the role of universities in the U.S. nuclear R&D enterprise.

“There’s something happening in Japan,” I recall him saying, as he looked intently at his phone.

As Perseverance makes tracks, NASA must plan its next Mars move

March 10, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover took its first drive on the surface of Mars on March 4, traversing 21.3 feet and executing a 150-degree turn in about 33 minutes. The drive was one part of an ongoing check and calibration of every system, subsystem, and instrument on Perseverance, which landed on Mars on February 18.

The NASA team has also verified the functionality of Perseverance’s instruments, deployed two wind sensors, and unstowed the rover’s 7-foot-long robotic arm for the first time, flexing each of its five joints over the course of two hours.

With relatively little fanfare, the functionality of Perseverance’s radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG)—assembled at Idaho National Laboratory and fueled by the decay of plutonium-238—is also being proved. It is reliably providing the power that Perseverance’s mechanical and communication systems require.

NARUC partners with DOE to explore nuclear power issues

March 9, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has launched a five-year nuclear energy partnership with the Department of Energy. Announced on March 8, the partnership is aimed at providing opportunities for state public service commissioners and their staffs to “better understand barriers and possibilities related to the U.S. nuclear fleet.”

Partnership members will engage in activities such as stakeholder dialogues, peer-sharing calls, site visits, educational webinars, and briefing papers, according to NARUC.

Support for the project is furnished by the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy through the NARUC Center for Partnerships and Innovation. A kickoff meeting is scheduled for later this month.

House Dems introduce clean energy bill for net zero

March 8, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

Democratic leaders in the House last week introduced the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act (the CLEAN Future Act, or H.R. 1512), a nearly 1,000-page piece of climate change–focused legislation establishing, among other things, a federal clean electricity standard that targets a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

The bill, a draft version of which was released in January 2020, presents a sweeping set of policy proposals, both sector-specific and economy-wide, to meet those targets. The final version includes a number of significant revisions to bring the legislation into closer alignment with President Biden’s climate policy campaign pledges. For example, the bill’s clean electricity standard would require all retail electricity suppliers to provide 80 percent clean energy to consumers by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035. (A six-page fact sheet detailing the updates is available online.)