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.


Making emergency planning zones smarter: a risk-informed approach for new reactors

April 16, 2021, 2:52PMNuclear NewsCurtis Smith, Koroush Shirvan, Jason Christensen, and Kurt Vedros

The health and safety of the public and protecting people from the consequences of a significant release of radioactive material has been a top priority since the early days of the civilian nuclear energy program. After World War II, it was realized that the core inventory of radionuclides is a potential hazard. From this knowledge, emergency planning zones (EPZs) for nuclear power plants were established.

DOE touts a MARVEL of a microreactor project

April 15, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
An image from a video released by INL shows MARVEL, to be installed in a concrete pit within the TREAT reactor building. Source: INL

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy is spreading the word about plans to build a tiny microreactor called the Microreactor Applications Research Validation & EvaLuation (MARVEL) project inside Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility and have it in operation within the next three years. INL recently released a video that describes how MARVEL could help researchers and industry partners test, develop, and demonstrate the integration of a microreactor’s heat and electricity output with other technologies.

Isotopes hold clue to travel plans of migrating butterflies

April 14, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Scientists studied the migration of six butterflies (from top left to bottom right): American Snout butterfly, Queen butterfly, Cloudless Sulphur butterfly, Empress Leilia butterfly, Variegated Fritillary butterfly, and Southern Dogface butterfly. (Composite photo: IAEA; photo credits: S. Bright, V. Charny, J. Gallagher, J. Green)

While scientists can tag migrating birds, mammals, and other animals to track their movements, the precise migration patterns of butterflies and other insects too small for tagging evaded scientists’ scrutiny for decades. That changed in 1996, when Leonard Wassenaar and Keith Hobson, working at the time as isotope scientists for Environment Canada, demonstrated that isotopic techniques could be used to determine the origin of individual monarch butterflies and deduce the species’ annual migration routes. Now, the same technique is being used to study other butterfly species.

$5 million awarded to next generation of nuclear scientists, engineers

April 14, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy on April 9 announced more than $5 million in scholarships and fellowships for students pursuing degrees in nuclear energy and engineering in the United States. Included in the funding are 50 undergraduate scholarships and 31 graduate fellowships for students at 36 colleges and universities in 23 states—from Boise State to Virginia Tech. (The full list of schools is available online.)

GAIN’s leadership begins with the end in mind

April 13, 2021, 12:11PMNuclear NewsChristine King

Christine King is director of the DOE’s GAIN

The possibilities of new advanced nuclear for the future are undeniably exciting. For me, nuclear energy has provided a career filled with lifelong learning and a global community interested in collaboration. Not every industry is fortunate in this regard. As I look to this exciting future of nuclear, I keep coming back to this advice: “Begin with the end in mind.”

In November 2015, the Department of Energy established the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) for just that purpose. At GAIN, we get up every day to imagine what nuclear could be and identify concrete actions we can take to turn vision into reality. No doubt we have a long way to go, but a lot has changed in the short period of time since GAIN’s inception. Today, we are designing demonstration units to build within this decade. Soon, we will be commercializing and deploying these technologies.

Adding context to Japan’s (correct) decision to dispose of Fukushima wastewater

April 13, 2021, 6:28AMNuclear News
A current picture of the Fukushima nuclear power station with the more than 1,000 water storage tanks on site. Photo: Courtesy of TEPCO.

The Japanese government will soon announce the decision to dispose of stockpiled Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, according to an AP News story published last Friday. The decision is years in the making and follows the guidelines from a panel of government-appointed experts named the Subcommittee on Handling of the ALPS-Treated Water (ALPS Subcommittee).

TAE records plasma temperature milestone

April 12, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Construction of Norman was completed in 2017. Photo: TAE Technologies

TAE Technologies has announced that it has produced a stable plasma of over 50 million degrees celsius inside a fusion device using a beam-driven, field-reversed configuration. “By generating such stable high-temperature plasmas, TAE has now validated that the company’s unique approach can scale to the conditions necessary for an economically viable commercial fusion power plant by the end of the decade,” the company declared in its April 8 press release. The company added that the results indicate the design’s linear configuration improves plasma confinement as temperatures rise.

Bill to spur clean energy investment brought back in Senate

April 12, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Moran

Coons

Sens. Chris Coons (D., Del.) and Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) late last month reintroduced legislation to give investors in clean energy projects, including advanced nuclear, access to a tax advantage currently available only to fossil fuel investors. The bipartisan bill, the Financing Our Energy Future Act (H.B. 1034), was initially introduced in June 2019.

The measure would enable clean energy companies to form master limited partnerships (MLPs)—business ventures that combine the tax benefits of private partnerships (where profits are taxed only when investors receive distributions) with the liquidity of publicly traded companies. By statute, MLPs are currently available only to investors in energy portfolios for oil, natural gas, coal extraction, and pipeline projects.

Artificial intelligence could yield real advances for the nuclear reactors of tomorrow

April 9, 2021, 9:23AMNuclear NewsRichard Vilim

To build a next-generation nuclear reactor, you can teach it how to build itself

The nuclear reactors currently in operation in the United States are beginning to gray around the temples. Built decades ago using technology developed during the middle of the 20th century, these reactors have safely and reliably powered homes and businesses, but they produce waste that must be disposed of properly.

NRC proposes $150,000 fine to FPL

April 9, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Florida’s Turkey Point nuclear plant. Photo: FPL

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on April 6 issued a violation notice and proposed a $150,000 civil penalty to Florida Power & Light Company for falsifying plant records and recording inaccurate data in maintenance records at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Homestead, Fla.

ASLB to hear argument against Point Beach license renewal

April 8, 2021, 3:27PMNuclear News
Point Beach Units 1 and 2. Photo: NRC

An atomic safety and licensing board has been established to address a hearing request filed on behalf of an antinuclear group regarding the subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for NextEra Energy’s Point Beach reactors, located near Two Rivers, Wis. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission published notice of the panel’s formation in the April 2 Federal Register.

Upgrades completed at world’s only TRIGA fuel fabrication facility

April 8, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The Maryland University Training Reactor, one of 12 TRIGA reactors currently operating at universities in the United States. Photo: University of Maryland

TRIGA International, the only supplier of TRIGA reactor fuel in the world, recently completed a major renovation project at its fuel fabrication facility in Romans, France. The Department of Energy, which provided both technical and financial support for the project, said the upgrades ensure the continued operation of 36 TRIGA reactors around the world, including 18 in the United States.

First UAE unit begins commercial operation

April 6, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News
Barakah-1 (right) is now providing reliable and sustainable electricity around the clock. Photo: ENEC

Unit 1 at the United Arab Emirates’ Barakah nuclear power plant has entered commercial operation and is now providing “constant, reliable, and sustainable electricity around the clock,” the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced this morning. ENEC added that, as a result of the event, the company now leads the largest decarbonization effort of any industry in the UAE.

General Atomics’ compact fusion design shows net-electric potential

April 6, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
The outside of the DIII-D tokamak, where testing that supports the development of the Compact Advanced Tokamak has been performed. Photo: General Atomics

Scientists at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility have published research on a compact fusion reactor design they say could be used to develop a pilot-scale fusion power plant. According to General Atomics (GA), which operates DIII-D as a national user facility for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the Compact Advanced Tokamak (CAT) concept uses a self-sustaining configuration that can hold energy more efficiently than in typical pulsed configurations, allowing the plant to be built at a reduced scale and cost.

Niger’s Akouta uranium mine ceases operations

April 5, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Miners depart Niger’s Akouta uranium mine for the last time after production ended for good. Photo: Cominak

The Akouta mine in Niger stopped production on March 31 after 43 years of service and 75,000 metric tons of uranium extracted. Akouta, the largest underground uranium mine in the world, was operated by Cominak, a subsidiary of Orano. The shutdown was decided by Cominak’s board of directors on October 23, 2019, in response to the depletion of the mine’s deposit.

Post-Fukushima safety enhancements

April 2, 2021, 2:47PMNuclear NewsLeah Parks, Carl Mazzola, Jim Xu, and Brent Gutierrez
A map of Japan highlighting the Fukushima prefecture.

March 11 will mark the 10-­year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi event, when a 45-­foot tsunami, caused by the 9.0-­magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, significantly damaged the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In response to this event, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission took actions to evaluate and mitigate beyond-­design-­basis events, including a new requirement for the staging of so-­called Flex equipment, as well as changes to containment venting and improvements to emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Energy also addressed beyond-­design-­basis events in its documented safety analyses.

Road to advanced nuclear: How DOE and industry collaborations are paving the way for advanced nuclear reactors

April 2, 2021, 8:58AMNuclear NewsCory Hatch

As electric utilities rush to reduce carbon emissions by investing in intermittent renewables such as wind and solar, they often rely heavily on fossil fuels to provide steady baseload power.

More than 60 percent of the nation’s electricity is still generated with fossil fuels, especially coal-fired and gas-fired power plants that have the ability to quickly ramp up or ramp down power to follow loads on the electric grid. Most experts agree that even with a radical advancement in energy storage technology, relying exclusively on wind and solar to replace fossil fuels won’t be enough to maintain a stable electric grid and avoid the major impacts of climate change.

To complete the transition to a carbon-free energy future, one key piece of the puzzle remains: nuclear power.

Partnership supports siting Xe-100 demo in Washington state

April 1, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) observes as (from left) Energy Northwest CEO Brad Sawatzke, X-energy CEO Clay Sell, and Grant PUD CEO Kevin Nordt sign the TRi Energy Partnership MOU on April 1 at the Port of Benton in Richland, Wash. Photo: Energy Northwest

Building the nation’s first advanced reactor is the goal of a partnership formed between X-energy, Energy Northwest, and the Grant County (Washington) Public Utility District (PUD).

The TRi Energy Partnership will support the development and demonstration of X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor, which was selected by the Department of Energy for a cost-shared commercial demonstration by 2027 through the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The new partnership was announced on April 1, when Clay Sell, X-energy’s chief executive officer; Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s CEO; and Kevin Nordt, the Grant County PUD’s CEO, met in Richland, Wash., to sign a memorandum of understanding.

NCSU to host SMR technical library with support from endowment

April 1, 2021, 9:32AMNuclear News

The North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries Department and the Department of Nuclear Engineering are collaborating to build a small modular reactor technical library at NCSU. The library resources will be available to the NCSU research community and to TerraPower/GE Hitachi and X-energy, both of which have signed teaming agreements with NCSU researchers to support planned advanced reactor demonstrations within the next seven years.

Making the new library collection possible: a generous donation from NCSU alumnus Stephen Rea, who together with his wife, Phyllis, formed the Stephen and Phyllis Rea Endowment for Mechanical Engineering Collections in 2015.

“We wanted to seed the endowment and grow it through donations to pursue research and development of green advanced power generation technologies,” Rea explained. “Supporting the advancement of SMR technology development fits our mission statement perfectly.”

OPG and Moltex join forces on recycled fuel project

April 1, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

Ontario Power Generation’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability (CCNS) will collaborate with nuclear technology firm Moltex Energy on a project aimed at recycling used fuel from CANDU reactors, the electricity generator announced March 30.

The CCNS will provide C$1 million (about $800,000) in funding to assist Moltex in demonstrating the technical viability of its process to recycle used CANDU fuel. That process, known as WAste to Stable Salt (WATSS), has the potential to reduce storage needs for used fuel, according to Moltex.