Senate passes defense bill with advanced nuclear provisions

In an 86 to 14 vote, the Senate on July 23 passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, incorporating by amendment S. 903, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA). The House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA, which supports $740 billion in funding for national defense, earlier in the week in a less bipartisan manner, 295 to 125. Members of both chambers will now begin negotiations to hammer out a final bill to send to the president—a process that could take months.

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Limerick’s safe outage during the pandemic: A refueling success story

Limerick Nuclear Power Plant

Refueling a nuclear reactor under normal circumstances can be a challenging endeavor, with hundreds of maintenance activities and inspections to perform in a short window of time, and more than a thousand supplemental workers on-site to complete the work safely and effectively. But these are anything but normal circumstances.

Bruce Power to partner with Isogen, BWXT on isotopes production

The Bruce plant near Kincardine, Ontario. Photo: Bruce Power

Bruce Power announced on July 20 that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Isogen, a joint venture of Framatome and Toronto-based Kinectrics, and BWXT ITG Canada to advance feasibility work for the production of molybdenum-99. Mo-99 is the radioisotope most commonly used in nuclear medicine for diagnostic imaging and the detection of disease, along with other medical isotopes that are growing in demand.

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I&C vendor insights: safety digital technology selection to win the energy market

RadICS-based RPS-ESFAS system

Commercial nuclear power plants in the United States (U.S.) face tough competition from sources of alternative generation (e.g., solar, wind, etc.), cheap natural gas, especially in the unregulated market. It is recognized that 35 percent of the U.S. nuclear power plants, representing 22 percent of U.S. nuclear capacity, are at risk of early closure due to economic factors. Plant operators have been reluctant to adopt modern digital technologies for safety-related systems even though these technologies offer many benefits to improve safety and reliability, as well as achieve operating cost reductions.

For good jobs, nuclear blows wind away, report says

A new report from the World Nuclear Association asserts that the nuclear sector provides more and better-paying jobs, as well as more highly trained jobs, than does the wind sector, and by a substantial margin. According to the 20-page report, Employment in the Nuclear and Wind Energy Generating Sectors, nuclear provides approximately 25 percent more employment per unit of electricity generated than does wind.

Feds arrest Ohio lawmaker who pushed nuclear subsidy bill

Householder

Federal prosecutors on July 21 arrested the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry Householder, and four lobbyists and political consultants for their involvement in an alleged $61-million corruption and racketeering scheme aimed at guaranteeing passage of H.B. 6, the Ohio Clean Air Program Act—the measure that rescued Ohio’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants from premature closure. If convicted, Householder et al. face up to 20 years in prison.

Cleanup activities resume at DOE’s Energy Technology Engineering Center

Workers from DOE contractor North Wind gather furnishings taken from buildings in the Radioactive Materials Handling Complex that is being demolished at the Energy Technology Engineering Center. Photo: DOE OEM

After more than a decade, cleanup work has resumed at the Energy Technology Engineering Center (ETEC), a former nuclear and liquid metals research site in Ventura County, California.

Proton acceleration success paves way for Belgian research reactor

The radio frequency quadropole has been matched with the ion source and the low-energy beam transmission line at UCLouvain, an SCK-CEN partner site. Photo: SCK-CEN

The MYRRHA accelerator team has successfully sent a proton beam through the radio frequency quadrupole (RFQ) of a project billed as “the world’s first large-scale accelerator-driven system.” MYRRHA, which stands for Multi-purpose hYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications, will be built at SCK-CEN’s site in Mol, Belgium, and will consist of a subcritical lead-bismuth eutectic (LBE)–cooled nuclear reactor driven by a high-power linear accelerator (LINAC).

Santee Cooper, Dominion agree to pay $520 million in Summer suit

A circuit court judge on July 20 gave final approval to a $520-million settlement in a class action civil suit brought against Santee Cooper over alleged deceptive business practices involving the failed nuclear-expansion project at South Carolina’s Summer plant.

Santee Cooper was the junior partner to SCANA Corporation’s South Carolina Electric and Gas in the two-reactor project, which was canceled in July 2017 (NN, Aug. 2017, p. 17). In July 2019, SCANA became a wholly owned subsidiary of Virginia-based Dominion Energy (NN, Feb. 2019, p. 15).

According to the lawsuit, brought by ratepayers, Santee Cooper raised rates to cover the increasing costs of the Summer expansion even after becoming aware that the project was no longer viable.

Comment period extended for Texas interim SNF site

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for public comments on a draft environmental impact statement for Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) license application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C waste in Andrews County, Texas. The NRC said the 60-day extension, to November 3, was to allow more time for members of the public to develop and submit comments in light of the events associated with the COVID-19 health emergency.

Irradiation helps Mauritius develop heat-tolerant tomato varieties

The country of Mauritius is using nuclear technology to develop new tomato varieties that can thrive in hotter temperatures. The new high-yielding and heat-tolerant tomato seeds have been distributed to the country’s farmers, helping to protect a national industry valued at US$14 million annually, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on July 15.

The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), assisted the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (FAREI) in Mauritius to develop new tomato varieties using irradiation.

Hydraulic testing completed on Akkuyu-1 reactor vessel

The Akkuyu-1 reactor pressure vessel. Photo: Atomenergomash

Atommash has completed hydraulic testing of the reactor pressure vessel for Unit 1 at the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, the four-unit facility currently under construction on the Mediterranean coast in southern Turkey. Atommash is part of Atomenergomash, the engineering division of Rosatom, which is Russia’s state atomic energy agency.

Operating license renewed for Laguna Verde-1

Mexico’s Laguna Verde nuclear power plant. Photo: HFStudios

Mexico’s Ministry of Energy (SENER) announced on July 17 that it has approved the renewal of the operating license for Unit 1 at Laguna Verde, the country’s only nuclear power plant.

Laguna Verde is located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, in the state of Veracruz. Unit 1 is a General Electric–supplied 777-MWe BWR-5 boiling water reactor that began commercial operation 30 years ago this month. Its near-twin Unit 2, rated at 775 MWe, first came on line in April 1995.

Sixty-day extension for comments on proposed SMR rule

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for comments on its “Proposed Rule for Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies” to allow more time for members of the public and other stakeholders to develop and submit their comments. The proposed rule and associated draft regulatory guide apply to non-light-water reactors and certain nonpower facilities, and were originally published in the Federal Register on May 12 with a deadline of July 27. The new deadline is September 25.

Record low uranium production noted as Congress debates reserve funding

Uranium producers around the world have suffered through years of record low uranium prices. In 2019 the United States recorded its lowest total uranium production—174,000 lb U3O8—since the U.S. Energy Information Administration began collecting data in 1949, according to the agency’s Today in Energy analysis of July 17.

U.S. uranium producers asked the federal government to come to their aid in January 2018, and President Donald Trump created the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group (NFWG) in July 2019. While the NFWG issued a report in April 2020 recommending support for the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium producers are in a waiting game once again as the U.S. House of Representatives works on Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations legislation.

Fuel loading begins at Leningrad II-2

Technicians at the Leningrad II-2 plant, where fuel loading recently took place. Photo: Rosenergoatom

The first of 163 nuclear fuel assemblies has been loaded into Leningrad II-2, marking the beginning of the Generation III+ unit’s physical startup, Rosenergoatom announced on July 19.

The electric power division of Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned atomic energy corporation, Rosenergoatom is the operator of all of Russia’s nuclear power plants. The fuel for Leningrad II-2, a 1,085-MWe VVER-1200 pressurized water reactor, was manufactured at the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant, part of Rosatom subsidiary TVEL.

New design center supports construction of Hinkley Point C

UK EPR Design Centre, Bristol, England. Image: EDF Energy

EDF Energy has opened a new engineering design facility in Bristol, England, to support the next phase of construction at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, the company announced on July 14. The UK EPR Design Centre at Aztec West brings together nuclear designers and engineers from EDF and British engineering partners and suppliers, including Framatome UK, Atkins, Jacobs, Assystem, Anotech, and Vulcain, the announcement said.

Feature Article

Thought leaders on capacity factors and nuclear power

This article first appeared in the May 2020 issue of Nuclear News.

Nuclear News reached out to leaders in the nuclear community to ask them for their views on the capacity benefits that come from nuclear. We received wide-ranging responses, from how capacity factors provide examples of the excellence of nuclear professionals, to the work being done at universities to continually improve capacity factors, to the importance of adding the word “inherent” to the conversation because forms of energy are different from one another and so inherent capacity factor is a critical piece of understanding.

If you have your own thoughts about capacity factor, please let Nuclear News know. If we collect enough comments, it may result in a Part 2 of this article in the future.