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.


Exporting American nuclear excellence

November 15, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

Steven Arndt
president@ans.org

As I write, I am reflecting on my time at the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, held in Vienna during the last week of September. At the GC, I was able to meet with a number of U.S. companies that are actively doing business overseas, as well as a number of representatives from countries throughout the world that are using nuclear technology or hoping to do so. This experience—coupled with several other opportunities I have had since becoming ANS president to discuss the nuclear industry’s challenges and opportunities at national and international forums—has led me to conclude that despite the challenges our country faces, the world is still very interested in what the United States is doing in nuclear. What struck me in each of these interactions is the thirst for information about what the U.S. is doing—and what we can do for them. I think the reason for this is the enduring excellence the U.S. has always brought to the nuclear industry.

Watts Bar-2 steam generator project completed

November 14, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
A steam generator is lifted into Watts Bar Unit 2. (Photo: Framatome)

The Steam Generating Team (SGT)—a joint venture of Framatome and United Engineers & Constructors Inc.—has completed a project to replace the Unit 2 steam generators at the Watts Bar nuclear plant, Framatome announced last week.

Watts Barr’s owner and operator, the Tennessee Valley Authority, awarded Framatome the contract for the work in early 2020.

Abilene Christian’s NEXT Lab reaches milestone in molten salt reactor research

November 14, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
Research engineers take a sample of molten salt for the NEXT Lab. (Photo: Jeremy Enlow/Steelshutter)

The Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Laboratory at Abilene Christian University in Texas created quite a bit of buzz within the nuclear community in August when it submitted the first application for a new U.S. research reactor in more than 30 years. The construction permit application submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is for a molten salt research reactor (MSRR)—the first-ever university application for an advanced research reactor. Assuming NRC acceptance of the application, which could happen this year, a formal technical review of the lab’s MSRR plan will then begin, and construction of the MSRR could be completed by 2025. The Abilene campus’s new Science and Engineering Research Center—a 28,000-square-foot multiuse facility for chemistry, physics, and engineering research and education—is expected to be completed by July 2023 and will house the advanced reactor. The final step is to obtain the NRC operating license for the MSRR and commence operation.

Building human capacity and maintaining trust in radioactive waste management

November 11, 2022, 3:05PMNuclear NewsMorgan Packer
The opening session of ICGR-6. (Photo: OECD NEA)

While deep geological repositories (DGRs) are the globally preferred and scientifically proven solution to store high-level radioactive waste, societal challenges remain. Given the long time frames associated with DGR development and implementation, and a rise in global interest in nuclear energy to meet urgent climate mitigation targets, building and maintaining human capacity is now even more of a priority.

Reactor head removed from decommissioned Indian Point-3

November 11, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
On the left, equipment being installed at Indian Point-3 on April 26, 1971. Unit 3 began operation in August 1976. On the right, some of the same equipment being removed as part of the decommissioning process, November 2022. (Photo: Indian Point Energy Center)

Holtec continues the decommissioning work at Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, N.Y.

Unit 2, a 1,028-MWe pressurized water reactor, was shut down in April 2020; Unit 3, a 1,041-MWe PWR, was closed one year later. (Unit 1 was decommissioned in 1974.)

Fusion is prioritized in net-zero R&D initiative and IRA funds, but fission factors in too

November 10, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
The U.S. ITER Project Office in Oak Ridge, Tenn. U.S. ITER has received $256 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding. (Photo: U.S. ITER)

Just days before COP27 and the U.S. midterm elections, the White House announced $1.55 billion in Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding for national laboratories and the launch of a Net-Zero Game Changers Initiative based on a new report, U.S. Innovation to Meet 2050 Climate Goals. Out of 37 research and development opportunities identified, fusion energy was selected as one of just five near-term priorities for the new cross-agency initiative. Together, the announcements signal policy and infrastructure support for fusion energy—the biggest chunk of Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) IRA funding went to ITER, via Oak Ridge National Laboratory—and for advanced nuclear technologies to power the grid and provide process heat to hard-to-decarbonize industrial sectors.

Coal-to-nuclear conversion: Opportunities and challenges

November 10, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
ANS's “Powering Our Future: The Coal to Nuclear Opportunity” panel discussion featured (top left, clockwise) Jessica Lovering, Patrick Burke, Kenya Stump, Andrew Griffith, Christine King, and Carol Lane. (ANS screenshot)

Since at least June of last year—when TerraPower and PacifiCorp announced plans to site the Natrium reactor demonstration project at one of Wyoming’s retiring coal plants—the concept of repurposing those plants to host nuclear reactors has been a popular topic of conversation among the energy cognoscenti.

GA’s delivery of DRACO nuclear rocket design supports FY 2026 in-orbit demo goal

November 10, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
(Image: General Atomics)

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) has completed the baseline design of a reactor and engine for a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) rocket and has successfully tested key reactor components under contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the company announced on November 7. The work was performed under a Track A, Phase 1 contract for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program; Phases 2 and 3 of DRACO could culminate in a demonstration of the nuclear-propelled spacecraft in cislunar space (the region between the Earth and the Moon) during fiscal year 2026.

From the pages of Nuclear News : Industry update

November 10, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News

Here is a recap of industry happenings over the past month:


ADVANCED REACTOR MARKETPLACE

U.S. and Canadian regulators formalize relationship on advanced reactors

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) have reached a charter agreement that formally establishes a collaborative relationship on small modular reactors and other advanced reactor technologies. The two agencies have been cooperating on these technologies for several years, but the formal agreement is designed to better harmonize the American and Canadian regulatory processes to achieve safe, successful deployment. The charter specifically focuses on regulatory and safety issues regarding the licensing review of GE--Hitachi’s BWRX--300 SMRs, which Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has selected for deployment at its Darlington site and which the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plans to build at Clinch River. OPG and TVA announced plans earlier this year to work together on the development and deployment these SMRs.

U.S.-Mexico civil nuclear pact enters into force

November 9, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
Mexico's Laguna Verde nuclear power plant, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the state of Veracruz.

An agreement between the United States and Mexico on civil nuclear cooperation has entered into force, the U.S. State Department announced last week. While first proposed in 2016 and finalized and signed in 2018, the pact only received approval from the Mexican Senate this March.

GAIN’s Rachel Taow recognized as first C3E awardee from the nuclear field

November 8, 2022, 3:15PMNuclear News

Taow

Rachel Taow, who is the process modernization lead for the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) at Idaho National Laboratory, received an award in the category of law and finance during the 11th Annual C3E Women in Clean Energy Symposium and Awards, held on November 2 in Washington, D.C. Taow has 16 years of government contracting experience—the last six spent with GAIN—and was nominated for the award by GAIN director Christine King.

The Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) Initiative was created in 2010 to close the gender gap in clean energy fields, and since 2012, outstanding mid-career women in clean energy have been recognized at the annual C3E symposium. Nine women received awards this year, including—for the first time in the 11 years of the C3E award program—a woman working to advance nuclear energy.

Terrestrial Energy chosen for coal conversion program

November 8, 2022, 12:05PMNuclear News

Ontario’s advanced nuclear technology firm Terrestrial Energy yesterday announced the signing of a letter of intent (LOI) with TerraPraxis, a U.K.-based nonprofit devoted to climate solutions, to cooperate on the latter’s Repowering Coal initiative—a program aimed at integrating clean heat sources with existing infrastructure at coal-fired power plants in North America and elsewhere.

Seeds in space: IAEA/FAO experiment goes the distance for better crops on earth

November 8, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft Sally Ride aboard (so named for first American woman to fly in space), launched at 5:32 a.m. EST on November 7, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket is captured just after liftoff in this still image from NASA’s live broadcast of the event.

Seeds from the joint laboratories of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are onboard a Cygnus spacecraft launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia early on November 7. Now orbiting the Earth en route to the International Space Station, the seeds are part of a commercial resupply mission with a payload that includes resources to support more than 250 scientific investigations.

November 7: The unofficial day of women in nuclear science?

November 7, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Curie and Meitner (Photos: Wikicommons)

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw in 1867 on this day, 155 years ago. Exactly 11 years later, in 1878, Lise Meitner was born in Vienna. November 7 is also the date when, in 1911, the Swedish Royal Academy of Science decided to award Curie a second Nobel Prize for her 1898 discovery of the elements radium and polonium (coincidentally, her 44th birthday). Curie, who at age 36 had shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband, Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel, later accepted the chemistry prize on December 10, 1911, and remains to this day the only person—man or woman—to receive two Nobel Prizes in two different categories. On this unofficial day of women in nuclear science, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fundamental discoveries of both Curie and Meitner.

Morris, Lorson named to new leadership positions with NRC

November 7, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

Lorson

Morris

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has appointed two longtime employees to key leadership positions. Scott A. Morris was named as the new deputy executive director for reactor and preparedness programs, and Raymond K. Lorson was named as the new Region I administrator. Morris and Lorson will assume their new roles upon the end-of-year retirements of the current deputy executive director, Darrell J. Roberts, and administrator, David C. Law.

NRC executive director for operations Daniel H. Dorman announced the two appointments on October 31, calling Morris and Lorson “extremely talented individuals committed to NRC’s complex and important mission.”

HALEU and the promise of nuclear energy: An interview with the DOE’s Kathryn Huff

November 4, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

Kathryn Huff

Deploying a fleet of advanced reactors in the 2030s means deploying high-assay low- enriched uranium (HALEU) infrastructure now.

The future fleet will need more than 40 metric tons of HALEU by 2030, according to Department of Energy projections. Getting to the 5–20 percent fissile uranium-235 content of HALEU involves either enriching natural or low-enriched uranium (LEU) or downblending high-enriched uranium (HEU).

Because downblending the limited stocks of HEU held at the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory and Savannah River Site is a short-term option at best, the Energy Act of 2020 authorized a HALEU Availability Program to build a sustainable enrichment infrastructure by the time advanced reactors are ready for commercial deployment.

Comments on a request for information reached the DOE in February 2022, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amplified global energy security concerns. While the war in Ukraine didn’t change the DOE’s plans, it “accelerated everything,” said Kathryn Huff, who leads the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) as assistant secretary. “Our attention is now laser-focused on this issue in a way that it wouldn’t have been in the past.”

Entergy names new chief nuclear officer

November 4, 2022, 12:05PMNuclear News
From left: Kimberly Cook-Nelson, John Dinelli, and Bill Maguire. (Photos: Entergy)

New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation yesterday announced changes to its senior leadership, including the selection of Kimberly Cook-Nelson as executive vice president and chief nuclear officer, replacing Chris Bakken.

Cook-Nelson, Entergy’s first female CNO, will be based in Jackson, Miss., the company’s nuclear operations headquarters. She joined Entergy in 1996 as a design engineer at the Waterford nuclear plant in Killona, La., rising to general manager of plant operations in 2011. Most recently, she held the position of chief operating officer, nuclear operations. (In addition to the Waterford facility, Entergy owns and operates Arkansas Nuclear One in Russellville, Ark., Grand Gulf in Port Gibson, Miss., and River Bend in St. Francisville, La.)

“There’s going to be a cliff”: Preparing an international SMR supply chain

November 3, 2022, 12:32PMNuclear News
Participating in the forum were (from left) John Hopkins (NuScale Power), Renaud Crassous (EDF), Daniel Poneman (Centrus Energy), Adriana Cristina Serquis (CNEA), and Boris Schucht (Urenco).

The nuclear industry leaders assembled in Washington, D.C., last week to discuss small modular reactor supply chains agreed that lost generation capacity from the expected retirement of hundreds or thousands of coal power plants over the next decade—a cliff, in one panelist’s words—represents an opportunity that developers of SMRs and advanced reactors are competing to meet.

“I think in total 80 projects are ongoing,” said Boris Schucht, panel moderator and chief executive officer of Urenco Group, as he opened the forum. “Of course not all of them will win, and we will discuss today what is needed so that they can be successful.”