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.


Spotlight On: Changes to the ANS national meeting program

May 27, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear News

The only constant, as the saying goes, is change. Since adopting the American Nuclear Society Change Plan 2020 at the ANS Winter Meeting in 2019, the Society has been in a state of seemingly constant change. Many important improvements have been implemented under the Change Plan—including to this magazine and our news site, ans.org/news—with an eye toward making ANS a more modern and adaptable organization. Some changes also have better enabled ANS to quickly respond to events that were out of our control and forced us to take on new endeavors (thanks, COVID‑19)—a prime example being the 2020 ANS Virtual Annual Meeting and subsequent virtual meetings that followed.

NuScale to explore SMR deployment in central Washington

May 27, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News
An artist's rendering of the NuScale plant. Image: NuScale

Portland, Ore.–based NuScale Power has announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Grant County Public Utility District (Grant PUD) to evaluate the deployment of NuScale’s advanced nuclear technology in central Washington state.

Nine-month outage preps ATR for years of continued operation

May 26, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Operations personnel working above the Advanced Test Reactor on the reactor top area. The small cylindrical section in the center of the platform has access ports for refueling and experiment loading and unloading during routine outages. (Photo: INL)

The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at Idaho National Laboratory is getting an overhaul that will keep it off line for nine months. When the ATR is restarted in early 2022, the one-of-a-kind pressurized water test reactor—which is operated at low pressures and temperatures as a neutron source—will be ready for another decade or more of service, with the potential for more experimental capacity in years to come.

Consortium debuts new design for U.K. SMR

May 26, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s conception of the UK SMR consortium’s small modular reactor. (Image: Rolls-Royce)

The UK SMR consortium last week revealed the latest design and power upgrade—from 440 MW to 470 MW—for its proposed small modular reactor. According to the consortium’s lead company, Rolls-Royce, the “refreshed” design features a faceted roof, an earth embankment surrounding the reactor to integrate with the landscape, and a more compact building footprint.

Washington and Seoul to cooperate on overseas projects, nonproliferation

May 25, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

Biden

Moon

The United States and South Korea have agreed to “develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects, while ensuring the highest standards of international nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation are maintained,” according to a statement from the White House on last week’s Washington meeting between President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

As part of that agreement, South Korea will adopt a common policy with the United States requiring recipient countries to have a safeguards agreement “Additional Protocol” in place as a condition of doing nuclear-related business. (The Additional Protocol is an expanded set of requirements for information and access to assist the International Atomic Energy Agency in its work to confirm that states are using nuclear material solely for peaceful purposes.)

Nuclear techniques to monitor—and prevent—plastic pollution

May 25, 2021, 12:04PMNuclear News
Plastic waste on a Galapagos beach. Sunlight, wind, and waves break down large plastic debris into smaller and smaller pieces to become microplastics. (Photo: F. Oberhaensli/IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has created a new program, NUclear TEChnology for Controlling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics), to address the global environmental impact of plastic pollution in oceans. It uses nuclear technology to monitor pollution and also to decrease the volume of plastic waste by using irradiation to complement traditional plastic recycling methods.

Micro Modular Reactor reaches Canadian licensing milestone

May 24, 2021, 9:27AMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of the MMR project. (Image: USNC)

Global First Power’s (GFP) Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) project has moved to the formal license review phase with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), becoming the first small modular reactor to do so.

SHINE plans new isotope production facility in the Netherlands

May 24, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
A rendering of the SHINE medical isotope production facility planned for construction in Veendam, the Netherlands. (Image: Shine)

SHINE Medical Technologies plans to locate its European medical isotope production facility in the Netherlands after a yearlong search and a review of more than 50 proposals from sites across Europe. The company announced on May 20 that construction at the site should begin in 2023 with commercial production starting in late 2025.

Advanced reactor economics and markets

May 21, 2021, 2:41PMNuclear NewsCharles Forsberg and Eric Ingersoll
TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy jointly developed the sodium-cooled Natrium reactor with the turbine hall, nitrate heat storage tanks, and cooling towers separated from the reactor at the back of the site.

The viability of nuclear power ultimately depends on economics. Safety is a requirement, but it does not determine whether a reactor will be deployed. The most economical reactor maximizes revenue while minimizing costs. The lowest-cost reactor is not necessarily the most economical reactor. Different markets impose different requirements on reactors. If the capital cost of Reactor A is 50 percent more than Reactor B but has characteristics that double the revenue, the most economical reactor is Reactor A.

The most important factor is an efficient supply chain, including on-site construction practices. This is the basis for the low capital cost of light water reactors from China and South Korea. The design of the reactor can significantly affect capital cost through its impact on the supply chain. The question is, how can advanced reactors boost revenue and reduce costs?

Biden environmental justice panel says no to nuclear

May 21, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) would appear to be not a fan of nuclear energy. In a May 13 report issued to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, WHEJAC lists “The procurement of nuclear power” under the heading “Examples of the Types of Projects That Will Not Benefit a Community.” (Other projects listed include fossil fuel procurement, carbon capture and storage, and cap and trade.) The 90-page report does not provide an explanation for the opposition.

Time for Illinois’s nuclear advocates to turn up the volume

May 21, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. Photo: Teemu008/Wikipedia

As Illinois lawmakers race to hammer out a compromise clean energy bill before the current legislative session adjourns on May 31, advocacy group Nuclear Matters is asking members of the state’s nuclear community to speak up in support of state aid for the struggling Byron and Dresden nuclear plants, both of which are scheduled to be prematurely retired later this year by Exelon.

Nuclear Matters has launched a letter-writing campaign to encourage individuals to contact their representatives via a pre-drafted letter to urge passage of legislation that will provide that aid. The letter is one of general support for Illinois’s nuclear plants and not an endorsement of any specific measure.

DOE announces funding for advanced reactor fuel cycle and reprocessing R&D

May 21, 2021, 7:06AMNuclear News
This figure, included in the ONWARDS funding opportunity announcement, shows how ARPA-E R&D programs address different stages of advanced reactor development. (Figure: ARPA-E)

The Department of Energy has announced up to $40 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program to conduct research and development into technologies for reprocessing and ultimately disposing of used nuclear fuel. The program, “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems” (ONWARDS), announced on May 19, targets both open (once-through) and closed (reprocessing) fuel cycles to reduce the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors tenfold when compared to light water reactors.

Group calls for NRC licensing fee reform to spur advanced nuclear

May 20, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) yesterday released a report, Unlocking Advanced Nuclear Innovation: The Role of Fee Reform and Public Investment, arguing that a reform of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s user-fee model for new license applicants, combined with more funding for advanced reactor licensing and regulatory infrastructure, will unlock innovation and support U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear energy.

The 38-page report asserts that as currently structured, the NRC’s fee model inhibits carbon-free advanced nuclear innovation in two primary ways: First, it limits the agency’s resources, flexibility, and efficiency; and second, the open-ended costs associated with paying fees impose barriers to new entrants.

Planning ahead for advanced reactor safeguards and security

May 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Nonproliferation, safeguards, and security were on the agenda for the fifth public information-gathering meeting of the National Academies’ Committee on Merits and Viability of Different Nuclear Fuel Cycles and Technology Options and the Waste Aspects of Advanced Nuclear Reactors. Moderated by committee chair Janice Dunn Lee and NAS study director Charles Ferguson, the two-day public meeting was convened on May 17 and was to be followed by a closed committee session on May 19.

Vogtle-3 startup delayed until January as costs increase

May 20, 2021, 7:15AMNuclear News

The commercial start date for Unit 3 at the Vogtle construction site near Waynesboro, Ga., has been pushed back to January of next year, adding some $48 million to the cost of the nuclear new-build project, according to Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear officials who were testifying at a May 18 hearing before the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Pathway to net zero by 2050 “narrow” and “challenging,” says IEA

May 19, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

A highly anticipated report released yesterday by the International Energy Agency on how to transition the world to a net-zero energy system by 2050 calls for “nothing less than a complete transformation of how we produce, transport, and consume energy.” At the same time, the report, Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector, characterizes its preferred road to net zero as the one “most technically feasible, cost-effective, and socially acceptable.”

That road, while relying primarily on renewable energy, keeps a lane open for nuclear, which, the report says, will make a “significant contribution” and “provide an essential foundation for transitions.”

Report: Existing and advanced nuclear best for meeting Illinois’s climate goals

May 18, 2021, 12:10PMNuclear News

Among the 12 energy-mix scenarios analyzed in a new report from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, maintaining the current Illinois reactor fleet while also investing in advanced nuclear technology and renewable energy is the most economical path to zero carbon for the state. It is also, says the report, the path that generates the lowest lifecycle carbon emissions.

The 26-page report, Economic and Carbon Impacts of Potential Illinois Nuclear Plant Closures: The Cost of Closures, was coauthored by Kathryn Huff, who was recently appointed principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy, along with Madicken Munk, a research scientist in the university’s Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) Department, and Sam Dotson, a graduate researcher in NPRE’s Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycle Analysis group. Financial support for the report was provided by Nuclear Matters.

SHINE allowed more flexibility in procuring production components

May 18, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
SHINE executives, construction managers, and partners commemorate a construction milestone of the medical isotope production facility in March. (Photo: SHINE)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a request by SHINE Medical Technologies for an exemption from regulations on how commercial grade equipment is defined, allowing the company to more easily procure components for the medical isotope production facility it is building in Janesville, Wis.