New NRC Information Digest available online

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week announced the publication of the 2020–2021 Information Digest, which describes the agency's mission, responsibilities, accomplishments, and activities and provides general information on nuclear-related topics. The digest is published annually and, beginning this year, will be available electronically only on the NRC’s website.

The complete 227-page document or individual sections, including a handy nine-page “NRC at a Glance” section, is available for download. An audiobook of the digest is also available at the site.

Bruce Power unveils net zero by 2050 strategy

The Bruce nuclear power plant. Photo: Bruce Power

Speaking last week at a virtual event of the Empire Club of Canada, Bruce Power president and chief executive officer Mike Rencheck announced “NZ-2050”—the company’s strategy for helping Canada achieve its stated goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Canada’s only private sector nuclear generator, Bruce Power operates the Bruce Nuclear Generation Station, located in Kincardine, Ontario. The plant houses eight units, all CANDU pressurized heavy-water reactors, with a total output of 6,288 MWe.

ANS celebrates Nuclear Science Week with social media campaign, new RIPB webpage

The nuclear industry has embraced the risk-informed and performance-based (RIPB) decision-making process over the past two decades. Still, it remains a complex concept to explain in lay terms.

With that in mind, the American Nuclear Society will be kicking off an RIPB awareness social media campaign as part of Nuclear Science Week 2020, which begins today and runs through Friday. The campaign will link decision making to everyday events in a person's life and feature a series of images and seemingly easy questions requiring a choice to be made. For example, ANS asks, “Would you get rid of your car if the radio didn’t work?” or “Would you toss a lamp if the shade was dirty?”

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Inspecting Hidden Areas of Metal Tanks and Containment Vessels or Liners

Figure 1. The Hanford Site in Washington state stores millions of gallons of high-level radioactive waste in 28 double-shell tanks. The tanks are buried underground to enhance radiation shielding. The space between the primary tank and the steel liner can be used to allow inspection of the inaccessible regions of these vessels.

Nuclear power plant containment vessels have large, inaccessible regions that cannot be inspected by conventional techniques. Inaccessible regions often are encased in concrete, soil or sand, or hidden behind equipment attached to a wall. Similar constraints affect the inspection of double-shell tanks designed to store nuclear waste, illustrated in Figure 1, that have an inaccessible region at the tank bottom where the primary shell is supported by the secondary shell. Present methods to monitor the integrity of these vessels primarily rely on partial inspections of accessible areas or estimation of corrosion rates; however, these approaches cannot account for nonuniform localized corrosion or cracking.

U.S., Canada sign MOU on safeguards and nonproliferation

Brent Park, the NNSA’s deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, and Richard Sexton (on screen), president and chief executive officer of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, show the signed agreement. Photo: NNSA

The United States and Canada have signed a memorandum of understanding—Cooperation and Exchange of Information in Nuclear Security, Safeguards, and Nonproliferation Matters—to enable a more effective collaboration between the two countries in the areas of nuclear safety and security.

The five-year agreement was signed virtually on October 16 by Brent Park, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, and two Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) executives: Richard Sexton, president and chief executive officer, and Shannon Quinn, vice president of Science, Technology, and Commercial Oversight.

Feature Article

ATRC Upgrade

Reactor operators Craig Winder (foreground) and Clint Weigel prepare to start up the ATRC Facility reactor at Idaho National Laboratory after a nearly two-year project to digitally upgrade many of the reactor’s key instrumentation and control systems. Photos: DOE/INL

At first glance, the Advanced Test Reactor Critical (ATRC) Facility has very little in common with a full-size 800- or 1,000-MW nuclear power reactor. The similarities are there, however, as are the lessons to be learned from efforts to modernize the instrumentation and control systems that make them valuable assets, far beyond what their designers had envisioned.

One of four research and test reactors at Idaho National Laboratory, the ATRC is a low-power critical facility that directly supports the operations of INL’s 250-MW Advanced Test Reactor (ATR). Located in the same building, the ATR and the ATRC share the canal used for storing fuel and experiment assemblies between operating cycles.

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SLR application for North Anna units docketed

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review an application from Dominion Energy to renew for 20 years the previously renewed operating licenses for North Anna-1 and -2, according to a notice published in yesterday’s Federal Register. Dominion submitted the application on August 24.

A version of the 1,899-page subsequent license renewal application without proprietary details is available to the public on the NRC’s website.

It’s time for the United States to demonstrate advanced reactors

After talking about it for decades, the United States is finally ready to take the next step in demonstrating advanced reactor technologies.

We have the bipartisan support from Congress. We have the best innovators in the world. Now it’s time to see what U.S. nuclear companies can really do with the support and resources of the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Energy is all in on new nuclear technologies and we just made our boldest move yet—selecting and supporting two U.S. reactor designs that will be fully operational within the next 7 years.

After evaluating the competitive U.S. reactor design applications that were submitted to our new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program funding opportunity announcement, TerraPower LLC and X-energy were awarded $160 million in initial funding to test, license, and build their advanced reactors under this aggressive timeframe. Pending future appropriations by Congress, the DOE will invest $3.2 billion over 7 years in these projects that will be matched by the industry teams.

SRR renews agreement with Denmark Technical College

From left: Denmark Technical College president and CEO Willie Todd, Jr. gives SRR chief operating officer and deputy project manager Mark Schmitz and SRR president and project manager Phil Breidenbach a tour of a student lab.

Savannah River Remediation (SRR), the liquid waste contractor at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site, signed a memorandum of understanding on October 7 with Denmark Technical College (DTC), one of South Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

SRR signed an original MOU with DTC in 2019. The new MOU is effective through September 2021.

TVEL develops new fuel for Hungarian reactors

TVEL Fuel Company, a division of Russian atomic energy corporation Rosatom, has completed a project to develop and validate a new nuclear fuel modification for the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary, the company announced on October 13.

According to TVEL, the full package of modification documents has been handed over to MVM Paks Ltd., the plant’s operator, for further licensing of the new fuel by Hungary’s national nuclear power regulator. TVEL added that the project’s first fuel assemblies passed acceptance testing at the company’s Elemash Machine-Building plant, a fuel fabrication facility in Elektrostal, near Moscow.

The first consignment of the modified fuel is scheduled for delivery to Paks later this year. The contract between TVEL and MVM Paks for development of the new fuel was signed in late 2017.

Report highlights socioeconomic impact of power plant closures

Communities that host nuclear power plants face “swift and severe” economic and social impacts following a plant’s closure, according to a report by the Nuclear Decommissioning Collaborative that was released on October 12. The free, 61-page report, Socioeconomic Impacts from Nuclear Power Plant Closure and Decommissioning, examines the effects of nuclear power plant closures on surrounding host communities, along with the barriers to planning and mitigation, and offers recommendations to nuclear closure communities across the nation.

According to the report, a typical nuclear power plant may operate in a relatively rural area and contribute upward of $400 million annually to the local and regional economics. That loss of revenue can have a severe impact on local public services such as schools and emergency responders. In addition to the economic benefits of operating nuclear power plants, the report points out that plant employees and their families strengthen host communities through their participation in local cultural, civic, and volunteer opportunities.

ANS Student Sections virtual 5K fundraising event nears completion

There is still time to participate in the “Nuclear Power: Let’s Keep it Running” 5K virtual run fundraiser sponsored by the ANS Student Sections Committee. The virtual 5K is designed to raise awareness about safe, clean, and reliable nuclear energy and to enrich the experiences of students in nuclear science and technology.

The campaign has raised more than $2,500 and consists of an online donation platform where student sections can form teams, organize runs, and connect to donors within their communities and throughout the country.

IEA report: Nuclear needed for sustainable energy goals

The International Energy Agency released its annual World Energy Outlook on October 13, noting the massive disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and calling for a surge in well-designed energy policies to put the world on track for a resilient energy system that can meet climate goals.

According to the latest IEA analysis of the pandemic’s impact, drops are expected in 2020 in global energy demand by 5 percent, energy-related CO2 emissions by 7 percent, and energy investment by 18 percent. This year’s report focuses on the pivotal period of the next 10 years, exploring four different pathways out of the crisis.

More information on the report is available here. The full publication can be purchased for €120 (about $140).

Research reactors promise world of benefits to African nations

Leonardi

Mwamba

Africa hosts only seven of the 220 research reactors in operation today, and despite having 17.2 percent of the world’s population the continent contains just 3 percent of the world's nuclear research reactor capacity, say the authors of an opinion piece published online on October 12.

Marguerite Leonardi, senior advisor at NPC Consulting & Engineering, and Professor Vincent Lukanda Mwamba, Commissaire Général of the Commissariat Général à l’Energie Atomique in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), explain why the lack of research reactor capacity is a concern and they urge the restart of a dormant research reactor in Kinshasa, in the DRC.

NRC approves Yucca Mountain roadmap

Yucca Mountain in Neveda.

The commissioners of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted 3-2 in favor of a recommendation by agency staff to produce a knowledge management “roadmap” for the suspended Yucca Mountain license review. According to NRC staff, the roadmap, which would focus on the regulatory and technical bases of the NRC’s review of the proposed high-level waste repository, would assist staff in resuming licensing work should Congress appropriate funds to do so. The NRC staff said that the document would be completed within a year.

The staff proposes to use $164,000 from the Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF) to develop the document. The staff’s proposal, along with the voting records of the NRC commissioners, was posted to the NRC’s ADAMS website on October 9.

Local pol goes digital to save Illinois nuclear plant

Demmer

Illinois State Representative Tom Demmer (R., Dixon) announced last week the creation of a website, savebyron.com, devoted to preventing the early closure of Exelon Generation’s Byron nuclear power plant.

According to the October 9 announcement, Demmer began working with the city of Byron, Ill.-based Wave Marketing to create the website following Exelon’s August decision to prematurely retire both the Byron plant and the Dresden nuclear plant, located in Morris, Ill., absent state legislation to aid the financially troubled facilities. Byron’s two pressurized water reactors are currently slated to cease operation in September of next year, followed in November by Dresden’s two boiling water reactors.

ARDP picks divergent technologies in Natrium, Xe-100: Is nuclear’s future taking shape?

The Department of Energy has put two reactor designs—TerraPower’s Natrium and X-energy’s Xe-100—on a fast track to commercialization, each with an initial $80 million in 50-50 cost-shared funds awarded through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). In all, the DOE plans to invest $3.2 billion—with matching funds from industry—over the seven-year demonstration program, subject to future appropriations.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette announced the awards late in the day on October 13 in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and said, “These awards are a critical first step of a program that will strengthen our nation’s nuclear energy and technological competitiveness abroad, and position our domestic industry for growth, for increased job creation, and for even more investment opportunity. It’s absolutely vital that we make progress on this technology now.”

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Letter from the CEO

Calling balls and strikes

Craig Piercy

As a not-for-profit scientific and professional organization, the American Nuclear Society’s raison d’être has always been the advancement of nuclear science and technology. While many among our diverse ranks may see themselves as advocates, it is important to recognize that ANS the organization will never take the place of industry trade associations like the Nuclear Energy Institute or the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council. No, we will always be dedicated first to serving the men and women of the nuclear community, both here in the United States and around the world, as a source of news, technical knowledge, professional development opportunities, and scientific fellowship.

This should not in any way dissuade us, however—either individually or as a community—from engaging in the public discussion about nuclear technology, especially when debates become tainted by outright falsehoods or “fake news.” As we have seen in stark relief over the past eight months of pandemic-dominated life, the scientific community has a societal obligation to stand up and set the record straight when misinformation crops up. Simply put, we have to be prepared to call balls and strikes.

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President's Column

The cost of unreliability

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

In the September issue of Nuclear News, I asked if you’ve ever wondered why nuclear isn’t commonly considered the choice for clean power production. In that column and in August’s, I provided some information about the cleanliness and safety of nuclear for your use as you make the case for this clean energy source to friends and neighbors. This month, let’s talk reliability.

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