NRC passes on Pilgrim Watch’s license petition

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant was shut down in May 2019. Photo: Entergy Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied a request by the antinuclear group Pilgrim Watch for a hearing in the transfer of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant’s license from Entergy to a subsidiary of Holtec International for decommissioning. The NRC commissioners issued the order denying Pilgrim Watch’s petition to intervene and request a hearing on November 12.

Pilgrim Watch submitted its petition against the transfer of Pilgrim’s license from Entergy to Holtec Decommissioning International in February 2019. The NRC staff, however, approved the transfer in August 2019, while the petition was still under review. NRC regulations allow staff to approve a license transfer under the condition that the commissioners may later move to “rescind, modify, or condition the approved transfer based on the outcome of any post-effectiveness hearing on the license transfer application.”

A separate petition against the license transfer submitted by the state of Massachusetts was withdrawn in June, following a settlement agreement between the state and Holtec.

Pilgrim permanently ceased operations in May 2019. Holtec plans to decommission the plant (with the exception of the independent spent fuel storage installation) on an eight-year schedule to permit partial site release by the NRC.

2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: Nuclear and politics--two views on the same conclusion

The 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting kicked off on Monday, November 16, with an opening plenary moderated by ANS President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar. The session, delivered via Zoom, featured two keynote speakers—Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress and Jessica Lovering of the Good Energy Collective.

Chosen with deliberation, the two speakers represented two very different political and philosophical views of energy production, but each made the case why nuclear is the best choice for a better world.

2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: Medical isotopes production and applications

The Monday session “Advancement in Medical Isotopes Production and Applications” of the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting was sponsored by the Isotopes & Radiation Division and co-chaired by Lin-Wen Hu of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and James Bowen of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Radioisotopes produced from nuclear reactors and accelerators are widely used for medical diagnostics and cancer therapy. Technetium-99m (decay product of molybdenum-99), for example, is used in more than 80 percent of nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures. The session featured speakers who discussed the advancement and status of domestic production and applications of medical isotopes.

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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.

Apply online now for 2021-22 ANS scholarships

The American Nuclear Society supports more than 50 college students each year with annual scholarships of more than $140,000 awarded through its Scholarship Program. The program offers both achievement-based and financial need-based scholarships to ANS student members made possible by the generosity of ANS professional divisions, local sections, and individual donors.

Applications for the 2021-2022 academic year are now available. All ANS student members are encouraged to apply. Recipients will be awarded between $1,000-$5,000 based on merit and financial need.

Completing the General Scholarship Application qualifies students for consideration for more than 24 ANS scholarships. To increase the chances of receiving a scholarship, explore the various opportunities established by the ANS divisions and local sections. Many of these require answers to only a few extra questions to qualify.

Check out the Before You Apply information for guidance throughout the application process.

ANS backs effort to save Diablo Canyon

Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. Photo: PG&E

The American Nuclear Society has submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in support of a complaint recently filed by a nuclear advocacy group regarding the 2016 decision to prematurely retire the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

The letter was signed by ANS Executive Director and CEO Craig Piercy and President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar.

ANS Virtual Winter Meeting gets under way

With the theme “Nuclear is Good for You,” the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting kicks off on November 16 with the opening plenary session. The plenary features two keynote speakers—Alex Epstein, of the Center for Industrial Progress, and Jessica Lovering, of the Good Energy Collective—in a discussion about why nuclear is the right choice for the benefit of all humankind.

The Winter Meeting features more than 35 panel sessions, 100-plus technical sessions, and more than 440 paper presentations.

More than 2,100 registrants have already signed up. That tops the preregistration total of 1,700 for the 2020 ANS Virtual Annual Meeting, which was the largest ANS meeting in modern history.

If you haven’t registered yet, do so now! Registration is open through Thursday, November 19.

Feature Article

Dixon and Hafen: An update on robotics and plant maintenance

Joe Dixon

Hubert Hafen

Wälischmiller Engineering (HWM), of Markdorf, Germany, has joined forces with NuVision Engineering (NVE) to form NuVision-Wälischmiller under parent company Carr’s Engineering. The NVE-HWM team develops, demonstrates, and deploys engineered remote systems and robotics to meet the high safety standards, quality requirements, and challenging demands of the nuclear industry.

HWM specializes in remote-handling and robotic solutions for hazardous applications. Since 1946, HWM has been delivering a range of remote-handling solutions, including precision manipulators, tools, and controllers, to the nuclear industry.

NVE, founded in 1971, is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., with major operational facilities in Charlotte, N.C. The company delivers engineered solutions and services to its customers in the nuclear markets of commercial power, research, isotope production, and government cleanup sectors. NuVision develops, demonstrates, and deploys technology-based solutions that help extend the life and safe operation of power plants, improve new plant designs, and remediate government-owned legacy waste sites.

Joe Dixon is the robotics director at NVE. For nearly 20 years, he has provided solutions for the global nuclear industry and has conceived, designed, fabricated, deployed, and managed teams for advanced robotics, isotope production, scientific research, decommissioning, energy production, process maintenance, and remote handling. Having worked on large projects around the world, Dixon is one of the industry’s leaders in remote-handling and robotics technologies.

Hubert Hafen is the chief technology officer for HWM. With more than 30 years of experience in the nuclear industry, Hafen has served as chief engineer and project manager for a large number of international remote-handling projects, such as remote-handling equipment for the decommissioning of the Greifswald nuclear power plant in Germany, the decommissioning of the reprocessing plant in Karlsruhe, Germany, planning for the remote equipment for the ITER project, and several remote-handling projects in Japan, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. His ability to present clients with problem solving has made him renowned in the robotics world.

Dixon and Hafen talked recently with Nuclear News editor-in-chief Rick Michal about what is new in robotics and remote-handling systems.

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A transformational challenge: Making crack-free yttrium hydride

Fabricated yttrium hydride samples are pulled out of the system. Photo: ORNL

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have developed a method to produce solid yttrium hydride for use as a moderator for the Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR), a 3-MWt additively manufactured microreactor that ORNL aims to demonstrate by 2023. Lacking a commercial supply of the metal hydride, ORNL scientists developed a system to produce yttrium hydride in large quantities and to exacting standards.

The hydrogen density and moderating efficiency of metal hydrides—which combine a rare earth metal with hydrogen—could enable smaller reactor cores that can operate more efficiently and reduce waste products, according to ORNL. The material could be used in other advanced reactor designs, including space power and propulsion systems for NASA, and has been proposed as a shield component for thermalization and neutron absorption in fast-spectrum nuclear reactors.

Russia retires reactor at Leningrad plant

The Leningrad nuclear power plant’s Unit I-2, a 925-MWe RBMK-1000 light-water–cooled graphite-moderated reactor, was permanently shut down on November 10, according to Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation. The shutdown occurred at 12:30 a.m. Moscow time.

The unit was the oldest operating reactor at the plant, having achieved initial criticality in May 1975 and entered commercial operation in February 1976. Two additional RBMK-1000s remain in operation at Leningrad—Units I-3 and I-4, both of which have been in operation for about 40 years.

The retired reactor is to be replaced by Unit II-2, one of two 1,085-MWe Generation III+ VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors at the Leningrad site. The new unit was connected to the Russian grid in October, and on November 6 it received regulatory approval to begin pilot operation. (Leningrad’s other VVER-1200, Unit II-1, started commercial operation in 2018.) Following the trial operation, Unit II-2 will be shut down for an additional equipment inspection by a state commission before being put into commercial operation early next year, according to Rosenergoatom, Rosatom’s electric power division.

Is proximity key to understanding interactions on the nuclear scale?

An MIT-led team found that the formulas describing how atoms behave in a gas can be generalized to predict how protons and neutrons interact at close range. Image: Collage by MIT News. Neutron star image: X-ray (NASA/CXC/ESO/F.Vogt et al); Optical (ESO/VLT/MUSE & NASA/STScI)

In an MIT News article playfully titled “No matter the size of a nuclear party, some protons and neutrons will always pair up and dance,” author Jennifer Chu explains that findings on the interactions of protons and neutrons recently published in the journal Nature Physics show that the nucleons may behave like atoms in a gas.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology–led team simulated the behavior of nucleons in several types of atomic nuclei using supercomputers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. The team investigated a range of nuclear interaction models and found that formulas describing a concept known as contact formalism can be generalized to predict how protons and neutrons interact at close range.

Bloomberg: Stanford prof a front runner to lead Biden DOE

Majumdar

Arun Majumdar, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University and former vice president for energy at Google, is a leading contender for secretary of energy in a Biden administration, according to a November 12 Bloomberg story.

Chosen on November 10 to lead Biden’s Department of Energy transition team, Majumdar was also the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-–Energy (ARPA-E), serving in that role from 2009 to 2012. Bloomberg quotes Jeff Navin, director of external affairs at TerraPower, as saying, “He had as good relationships with Republicans as he did with Democrats as the first director of ARPA-E, and he took the time to get to know key legislators personally.”

Newly connected Belarusian reactor powers down

On November 8, less than a week after becoming Belarus’s first nuclear reactor to be connected to the power grid, and only one day after a visit to the Belarusian site from the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, to celebrate the accomplishment, Belarusian-1 was forced to cease power production, a report from the Associated Press states.

BWXT restarts TRISO fuel manufacturing

BWX Technologies Inc. announced on November 10 that its BWXT Nuclear Operations Group Inc. (BWXT NOG) subsidiary has completed its TRISO nuclear fuel line restart project and is actively producing fuel at its Lynchburg, Va., facility.

With the restart, BWXT now manufactures fuel across four commercial and government business lines, the company said. In addition to the TRISO line, BWXT operates fuel production lines at BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada, manufacturer of approximately half of the fuel powering the commercial reactor fleet in Ontario, Canada; BWXT subsidiary Nuclear Fuel Services, sole provider of nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy; and BWXT’s Uranium Processing and Research Reactors operation, the only North American supplier of research reactor fuel elements for colleges, universities, and national laboratories.

Last of historic LLW removed from Lake Ontario shores

A truckload of LLW is moved away from the Lake Ontario shoreline to a long-term storage facility. Photo courtesy of CNL.

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) announced on November 9 that it has completed the excavation and transfer of about 450,000 cubic meters of historic low-level radioactive waste (LLW) and contaminated soils away from the Lake Ontario shoreline in Southeast Clarington, Ontario. The waste resulted from radium and uranium refining operations of the former Canadian Crown corporation Eldorado Nuclear and its private sector predecessors, which operated from the 1930s to 1988.

CNL said the placement of the last truckloads of waste in the aboveground mound at the new long-term waste management facility, located about 700 meters north of the shoreline site, marks a milestone for the Port Hope Area Initiative (PHAI), Canada’s cleanup and long-term management response to LLW in the municipalities of Port Hope and Clarington. CNL is implementing the PHAI on behalf of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.

U.S. companies said to be in talks with U.K. on Welsh nuclear project

Artist's concept of the Wylfa Newydd project. Image: Horizon Nuclear Power

The London-based newspaper Financial Times is reporting that a consortium of U.S. firms is holding discussions with the U.K. government to revive Wylfa Newydd, the nuclear new-build project in Wales from which Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd. withdrew in September. According to the November 10 FT story—which is based on an anonymous source—the consortium is led by Bechtel and includes Southern Company and Westinghouse.

Nevada senators reiterate opposition to Yucca Mountain

Cortez Masto

Rosen

U.S. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.) and Jacky Rosen (D., Nev.) sent a letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) to reiterate their annual request that zero funds be appropriated to support licensing activities for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in fiscal year 2021.

Earlier this year, Cortez Masto along with a majority of Nevada’s congressional delegation, including Rosen, reintroduced the Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act. The bill would require the secretary of energy to obtain the consent of affected state and local governments, as well as tribal leaders, before making expenditures from the Nuclear Waste Fund for a nuclear waste repository.