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.

AI-based model makes predicting fusion profiles faster

June 28, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

PPPL physicist Dan Boyer. (Photo: Amber Boyer/Kiran Sudarsanan)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory are using machine learning to predict electron density and pressure profile shapes on the National Spherical Torus Experiment-Upgrade (NSTX-U), the flagship fusion facility at PPPL that is currently under repair.

The hope is that such predictions, generated by artificial neural networks, could improve the ability of NSTX-U researchers to optimize the components of experiments that heat and shape the fusion plasma.

“This is a step toward what we should do to optimize the actuators,” said PPPL physicist Dan Boyer, author of the paper, “Prediction of electron density and pressure profile shapes on NSTX-U using neural networks,” published by Nuclear Fusion, a journal of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “Machine learning can turn historical data into a simple model that we can evaluate quickly enough to make decisions in the control room or even in real time during an experiment.”

Introducing the molten salt nuclear battery

June 25, 2021, 2:49PMNuclear NewsPaul Marotta, Richard Christensen, and Piyush Sabharwall

Molten salt reactor technology first gained popularity in the 1960s, through the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Now, decades later, a technology known as the molten salt nuclear battery (MsNB) is being developed to support the growing need for carbon-free, reliable, independent, and compact sources of small-scale heat and electrical power.

Biden, senators agree to infrastructure deal

June 25, 2021, 9:33AMNuclear News



President Biden struck an infrastructure deal yesterday with a bipartisan group of senators to provide new investments for electric utilities, transportation, broadband, and other projects.

The deal coincided with a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (SENR) hearing yesterday, which examined the infrastructure needs of the U.S. energy sector and considered the legislative proposal released last week by SENR chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) . The proposal, labeled a "discussion draft," is currently in play for ongoing bipartisan infrastructure negotiations and includes provisions that would comply with rules on budget reconciliation, including a section that fully funds the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and other Energy Act of 2020 programs. Manchin's proposal would also look to create a Department of Energy grant program for at-risk nuclear plants on an as-needed basis.

Feasibility study for nuclear hydrogen under way in Canada

June 24, 2021, 3:05PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) has launched a study on the role of nuclear power in supporting a growing hydrogen economy. The study will be the first of its kind in Canada to evaluate the technical viability and business case for hydrogen production from nuclear power, according to NII, an Ontario, Canada–based nonprofit formed in 2018 to accelerate innovation in the nuclear industry.

University-based nuclear R&D gets $61 million in DOE funding

June 24, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

More than $61 million in funding has been released for advanced nuclear energy technology projects in 30 states and in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the Department of Energy announced on June 22. Of that total, $58 million is going to U.S. universities for nuclear energy research, cross-discipline technology development, and research reactor infrastructure.

Commissioner Caputo to leave NRC on June 30

June 23, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Annie Caputo will depart the agency when her term expires at the end of this month, NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson said yesterday. Her departure will leave the five-seat panel with only three commissioners—the minimum number required for it to conduct business—as former chairman Kristine Svinicki resigned in January of this year.

At this writing, Caputo has not announced her post-NRC plans.

Remaining on the commission are two Democrats, Hanson and Jeff Baran, and one Republican, David Wright. President Biden has not named a replacement for either of the vacancies and can choose only one Democrat, since no more than three commissioners can be from the same political party.

Special inspection begins at Vogtle-3

June 23, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear News
Vogtle’s Unit 3, earlier this month. Photo: Georgia Power

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has launched a special inspection at the Vogtle new-build site to identify the errors that necessitated construction remediation work on Unit 3’s electrical cable raceway system.

MIT team adapts neutron resonance transmission analysis for portability

June 23, 2021, 7:07AMNuclear News
Left: An experimental setup showing a shielded detector. Right: A DT neutron source showing three disks of 6Li doped glass scintillator mounted on a photomultiplier tube. (Photos: MIT)

Neutron resonance transmission analysis (NRTA) was developed by researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory to identify unknown materials inside a sealed object using a beam of neutrons from a laboratory-scale apparatus. Recognizing that the potential nuclear security applications of NRTA were limited by the size and location of the apparatus, Areg Danagoulian, an associate professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, began about five years ago to consider how NRTA could be made portable to examine materials on location.

Bill introduced to advance U.S. interests in nuclear energy

June 22, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News



Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R., Ohio) and Elaine Luria (D., Va.) last week introduced the Twenty First Century Nuclear Security Act—legislation the sponsors say would “deploy a whole-of-government effort” to gauge the risk to U.S. national security from a growing Russian and Chinese dominance in the global nuclear energy market and to identify opportunities for the United States to reestablish leadership in that arena.

The measure, according to a June 17 joint press release from the lawmakers, would require federal agencies to submit a report to Congress analyzing the importance of civilian nuclear power agreements and opportunities for advancing U.S. national security interests.

2020 enforcement cases rise but still below five-year average

June 22, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently released its Enforcement Program Annual Report for calendar year 2020, showing a total of 61 escalated enforcement actions taken last year against licensees, non-licensees, and individuals—an increase of 7 percent from CY 2019, but a number that remains below the five-year (2016–2020) average.

Centrus approved for HALEU production

June 21, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
Centrus’s American Centrifuge Plant, in Piketon, Ohio. Photo: Centrus Energy

Centrus Energy Corporation has announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the company’s license amendment request to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium at its Piketon, Ohio, enrichment facility. The Piketon plant is now the only U.S. facility licensed to enrich uranium up to 20 percent uranium-235, and it is expected to begin demonstrating HALEU production early next year, according to Centrus.

Exelon files to deactivate the Byron reactors

June 18, 2021, 12:06PMUpdated June 18, 2021, 4:50PMNuclear News
The Byron nuclear power plant.

Exelon on June 16 filed with grid operator PJM Interconnection to deactivate the two Byron reactors in Illinois. The move came one day after the Illinois Senate adjourned without reaching an agreement on a comprehensive energy package that would have provided nearly $700 million to keep Byron’s reactors, as well as Exelon’s Dresden and Braidwood nuclear power plants, in operation. (In August of 2020, Exelon announced that it would close the economically challenged Byron and Dresden facilities in the fall of 2021 without some form of state aid to provide compensation for their clean power.) The state’s House of Representatives also adjourned earlier this week without taking up the bill.

Online monitoring technology to extend calibration intervals of nuclear plant pressure transmitters

June 18, 2021, 1:55PMNuclear NewsH. M. Hashemian

Online monitoring (OLM) technology can be used in nuclear power plants as an analytical tool to measure sensor drift during plant operation and thereby identify the sensors whose calibration must be checked physically during an outage. The technology involves a procedure to (1) retrieve redundant sensor measurements from the process computer or through a separate data acquisition system, (2) calculate the average of these measurements and the deviation of each sensor from the average, and (3) identify any sensor that has deviated beyond its predetermined monitoring limit.

2021 ANS Virtual Annual Meeting: CEO roundtable

June 18, 2021, 9:37AMNuclear News

The 2021 ANS Annual Meeting brought together three leading chief executive officers from the nuclear industry on June 16 for a discussion centered on the future role of nuclear energy deployment and the challenges of portfolio management during a time of net-zero carbon goals.

First ITER central solenoid module ready for transatlantic journey

June 18, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
ITER CS Module 1 (shown here at right with the General Atomics fabrication team) is being loaded onto a specialized heavy transport vehicle for shipment to Houston, Texas, where it will be placed on a ship for transit to France. (Photo: General Atomics)

After a decade of design and fabrication, General Atomics (GA) is preparing to ship the first module of the central solenoid—the largest of ITER’s magnets—to the site in southern France where 35 partner countries are collaborating to build the world’s largest tokamak and the first fusion device to produce net energy.

NNSA to host virtual job fair

June 17, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

A virtual job fair for the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE) is being held on Wednesday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT). The job fair will be hosted by the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration.

The NSE is looking for the next generation of nuclear security professionals and is planning to hire more than 2,500 new employees in 2021.

Interested candidates are encouraged to register online for the event.

2021 ANS Virtual Annual Meeting: President’s Special Session

June 16, 2021, 3:43PMNuclear News

The current orthodoxy on climate change—that it is an existential threat to global civilization—was challenged on June 15 during the 2021 ANS Virtual Annual Meeting's President’s Special Session, which featured two prominent dissenters from that view, Michael Shellenberger and Mark P. Mills.

The criminalization of nuclear

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Nuclear energy is the cleanest, safest, densest, and most reliable energy source. The value proposition for nuclear energy is unparalleled. It is the only commercially proven, “dispatchable” clean energy technology that can be scaled up fast enough to meet the demand for electricity in a decarbonizing scenario. It is the answer for governments and nongovernmental organizations worldwide that are clamoring for a reduction in human-generated CO2 emissions. Humans flourish when they have access to plentiful, safe, and reliable energy. Nuclear excels at all of these.