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.


Project Rover: The original nuclear-powered rocket program

January 12, 2023, 3:02PMNuclear News
A diagram from the January 1963 story depicting a nuclear-powered rocket.

It’s Thursday, meaning it’s time to dig through the Nuclear News archives for another #ThrowbackThursday post. Today’s story goes back 60 years to the January 1963 issue of NN and the cover story “Review of Rover: A nuclear rocket” (p. 9), which reviews the first phase of the nuclear rocket program from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Some quick digging online uncovers a lot of information about Project Rover, most notably, a short 20-minute film on the LANL YouTube page that reviews the project (Historic 1960s Film Describes Project Rover). The description of the video notes that the project was active from 1955 to 1973 and led to the design of multiple reactors suitable for testing, including Pewee 1, and that NASA has a modern nuclear thermal propulsion project based on the Pewee design. So it seems fitting to revisit Project Rover, given that there is today a lot of renewed interest in nuclear propulsion for space exploration.

The opening line from the January 1963 article seems to ring true today— “Provided the U. S. continues her space efforts, nuclear-powered rockets are inevitable”—although that probably didn’t seem likely to the nuclear community after the country’s attention shifted from the Space Race to the Vietnam War in the early 1970s when Project Rover was canceled. The introduction to the article lays out the argument for a nuclear-powered rocket and provides a review of the program since its launch in 1955.

The full article as it appeared in 1963 is reprinted below, but don’t forget, all ANS members have full access to the Nuclear News archives that has decades of great content about all topics on nuclear science and technology. Happy reading!

NorthStar marks milestone in non-uranium production of Mo-99

January 12, 2023, 12:02PMNuclear News
IBA Rhodotron TT300-HE (high energy) electron accelerator. (Photo: Business Wire)

Nuclear medicine company NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes announced that it has successfully produced molybdenum-99 at its recently completed accelerator production facility at its Beloit, Wis., campus. According to NorthStar, the event marks a major milestone in advancing the company’s proprietary electron accelerator technology for the non-uranium–based production of the critical medical radioisotope.

Michigan gets the ball rolling on nuclear feasibility study

January 12, 2023, 10:26AMNuclear News

The Michigan Public Service Commission has requested proposals for a feasibility study on nuclear power generation in the state. Responses to the January 5 request are due January 19, with the proposals themselves due February 3. The selected firm is to deliver a report to Michigan’s governor and leaders of the state’s legislature by April 2024.

ITER leaders outline plan for component repairs and replacements

January 11, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
The cooling pipes that snake along the surface of the vacuum vessel thermal shield will be removed and replaced. Here, on a right-hand outboard panel, workers determine the impact of pipe removal on the surface of the component. (Photo: ITER Organization)

ITER’s machine assembly phase began about two and a half years ago. Now, staff are reversing some of that assembly work to make needed repairs. According to a news article published by the ITER Organization on January 9, ITER is “facing challenges common to every industrial venture involving first-of-a-kind components.” Over one year after problems were first detected and less than two months after they were made public in late November, tests and analysis are producing a clearer picture of necessary repairs to the tokamak’s thermal shield panels and vacuum vessel sectors.

“There is no scandal here,” said ITER director general Pietro Barabaschi. “Such things happen. I've seen many issues of the kind, and much worse.”

The 2023 Nuclear News energy quiz

January 11, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear NewsJames Conca

Are you an energy genius? It’s hard to tell whether or not Americans are really aware of the energy that controls our lives, so the following quiz should be revealing. Click through the multiple-choice options below to reveal the answers.

Scoring: Zero to five correct answers out of the 23 questions means you may need to read up on energy so you’re not at the mercy of others. A score of 6 to 10 correct answers is a good passing grade. Answer 11 to 15 correctly, and you’re really energy literate. Getting 16 to 19 correct means you should be advising Congress. Twenty or more right answers suggests you’re Spock reincarnated.

From the pages of Nuclear News : Industry update

January 10, 2023, 9:31AMNuclear News

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

ADVANCED REACTOR MARKETPLACE

X-energy enters into agreement to become publicly traded company

X-energy, a developer of small modular reactors and nuclear fuel technology, has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Ares Acquisition Corporation, a publicly traded special-purpose acquisition company. As a result of the agreement, X-energy will become a publicly traded company, a status that is expected to give a boost to its growth strategy, investment opportunities, and financial flexibility. In addition, X-energy will receive differentiated sponsorship by Ares Management Corporation, which describes itself as a “leading global alternative investment manager.” The existing equity holders of X-energy are expected to hold more than 60 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of the common stock of the combined company. The transaction is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2023.

NuScale submits second SDA application to NRC

January 10, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

NuScale Power has announced its submission to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of a standard design approval application for its updated small modular reactor design, which is based on a six-module VOYGR plant configuration powered by an uprated 77-MWe module.

Looking back at 2022—October through December

January 6, 2023, 9:09AMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In today's post that follows, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from September through December 2022.

But first:

Countries change nuclear policies in response to Ukraine war

January 6, 2023, 7:09AMNuclear News

As a direct result of the war in Ukraine, several countries have changed their policies on nuclear energy—even those with long-standing nuclear phase-out plans. This February will mark one year since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, leading to ongoing war and turning pandemic-era energy shortages into a global energy crisis. Spiking gas prices and concerns about electricity supply during the cold winter months have thrown many governments into a frenzy as they try to ease the impact on their citizens.

Countries in the process of phasing out their nuclear power had been prepared to increase their reliance on natural gas. But as Russia supplies 40 percent of the European Union’s natural gas, nations with no reliable alternative now face sky-high energy prices—even energy poverty. Across Europe and beyond, nuclear power plants slated for permanent closure have been given second chances to shore up energy supply. Nuclear power has also claimed a bigger spotlight in countries’ strategies for energy independence.

NuScale to begin FEED work for Romanian SMR plant

January 5, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News

Portland, Ore.–based NuScale Power yesterday announced the signing of a contract with Romania’s RoPower Nuclear for front-end engineering and design (FEED) work that, according to the American company, marks “a significant step toward the deployment of a NuScale VOYGR small modular reactor power plant in Romania.” The contract was signed on December 28.

Looking back at 2022—July through September

January 5, 2023, 12:12PMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In today's post that follows, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from July through September 2022.

Stay tuned this week for the top stories from the rest of the past year.

But first:

Holtec, GEH eye U.K. for SMR deployment

January 5, 2023, 9:31AMNuclear News
A rendering of Holtec’s SMR-160 plant. (Image: Holtec International)

Small modular reactor developers Holtec International and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) are both looking to the United Kingdom as a prime location for deployment of their units—the SMR-160 and BWRX-300, respectively.

On December 19, Holtec Britain announced that it is poised to enter the United Kingdom’s generic design assessment (GDA) process for the SMR-160 early in 2023, enabling the start of construction of the first U.K. unit as soon as 2028. (The GDA, developed by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency, gauges the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear plant design. Successfully completing the assessment culminates in a design acceptance confirmation from ONR and a statement of design acceptability from the Environment Agency.)

Westinghouse, Framatome to provide fuel for Kozloduy

January 5, 2023, 6:59AMNuclear News

Westinghouse Electric and Framatome have signed agreements with Kozloduy NPP—the eponymous operator of Bulgaria’s only nuclear power facility—to fabricate and deliver fuel for the site’s two operating reactors. Westinghouse will provide the fuel for Unit 5 under a 10-year contract inked on December 22, while Framatome will supply Unit 6 under a December 30 preliminary deal. First deliveries of fuel from Westinghouse and Framatome are expected in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

The two agreements, according to the Bulgarian News Agency, “are part of an effort to diversify energy supplies to Bulgaria and do away with the country’s dependence on Russian energy resources.” In November, the Bulgarian National Assembly approved 156–47 a resolution tasking the country’s Council of Ministers with licensing non-Russian nuclear fuel for Kozloduy.

Looking back at 2022—April through June

January 4, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In today's post that follows, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from April through June 2022.

Stay tuned this week for the top stories from the rest of the past year.

But first:

Trustees of Nuclear

January 4, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

Long ago, there was a time when ANS was great. . . . Nope, not going to say it like that. Start over. There was a time when ANS was an elite organization.

By either annual revenue or employee headcount, we were the largest nuclear-related nongovernmental organization in the United States. The American Nuclear Society enjoyed the support of industry, but it also remained apart from it, with a democratically elected leadership committed to the larger societal good of nuclear technology—not just more plants or higher profits. Back then, ANS had sophisticated efforts to promote nuclear technology to the public.

Did you know ANS produced several public service announcements that aired on radio and TV in the 1970s? We have some on vinyl, and they sound cool. Unfortunately, no one thought to secure the rights or save the original film, so we can’t even post them on our website without paying a royalty to—I kid you not—Oddball Films.

ORNL names new associate director of fusion, fission energy and science

January 4, 2023, 7:02AMNuclear News

Busby

American Nuclear Society member Jeremy Busby has been named associate laboratory director for the Fusion and Fission Energy and Science Directorate at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, effective January 1.

Busby will oversee the directorate’s facilities, capabilities, and scientists and engineers who are tackling such challenges as extending operations of the current U.S. nuclear reactor fleet, investigating economical and flexible advanced reactor systems, and making fusion energy a viable part of the nation’s energy portfolio.

“ORNL has a proud history of addressing compelling challenges in both fusion and fission energy systems, and I’m honored to contribute to our success moving forward,” Busby said. “ORNL’s Fusion and Fission Energy and Science Directorate has the world-leading expertise to advance the development and deployment of both fusion and fission. Combined with the additional strengths across ORNL’s research and support organizations and ORNL’s unique capabilities, we will fortify our nation’s energy transition.”

Looking back at 2022—January through March

January 3, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In today's post that follows, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from January through March 2022.

Stay tuned this week for the top stories from the rest of the past year.

But first, click here for some of ANS’s activities for 2022.

Looking Back at 2022—ANS

January 3, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In posts that will follow here this week, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories of the year past.

But first, here are some of ANS’s activities for 2022.

It’s amazing all the things nuclear can do

January 3, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

Steven Arndt
president@ans.org

It has always amazed me how broad and diverse the nuclear science and technology field is. It is one of the things that drew me to the nuclear business in the first place. The American Nuclear Society, with its eighteen technical divisions, embraces this diversity from accelerator applications and space nuclear to isotopes and robotics. We are truly a disparate group of engineers and scientists. Based on this, I guess I should not be surprised by the renewed interest we are seeing in uses of nuclear energy beyond the generation of electricity. In recent years, engineers and scientists from all around the world have focused on reducing the impact of electric energy generation on the environment and on finding ways to also reduce the impact of other industrial processes. What I have been seeing—including at COP27—is a renewed interest in nuclear power not only for electric generation but also for its unique capabilities in a diverse set of applications. To name only a few, I have seen strong interest in desalinization, hydrogen generation, process heat, and district heat.