Closing Duane Arnold puts Iowa at a disadvantage

Osterberg

An op-ed published in The Gazette, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa–based newspaper, laments the early closure of the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant in 2020. Author David Osterberg, a former Iowa state legislator, contrasts what happened in Iowa with Illinois and three other states, whose governments "decided that heading off climate damage and the loss of good union jobs was worth keeping nuclear plants there alive." The economic calculation in Duane Arnold's case treated its electricity the same as that from coal or natural gas plants. However, Osterberg states that “when it comes to global warming and local air pollution, they aren’t the same.”

Bulgaria joins Nuclear Energy Agency

Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear plant. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gogo89873

Bulgaria has become the 34th member of the Paris-based OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). With its several decades of experience operating VVER units, Bulgaria will reinforce the NEA’s capacity to address matters related to pressurized water reactor technologies and their operational characteristics, according to the NEA on January 4.

In addition, the NEA said that it will support Bulgaria’s efforts in technical and policy areas, including work to address nuclear skills capacity building, the development and application of nuclear data and simulation codes, and issues related to radioactive waste management, decommissioning, and nuclear economics.

ASLB established for North Anna SLR application

The North Anna nuclear power plant. Photo: Dominion Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced the establishment of an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to address a hearing request filed last month concerning Dominion Energy’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for the two reactors at its North Anna plant. The application, submitted in August of last year, was docketed by the NRC in October.

The contention: Filed by three anti-nuclear groups—Beyond Nuclear, the Sierra Club, and the Alliance for a Progressive Virginia—the 71-page hearing request argues that Dominion’s environmental report, submitted in support of its application, “fails to satisfy” the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as 10 CFR 51.53(c)(2) and 51.45(a), “because [the report] does not address the environmental impacts of operating North Anna Units 1 and 2 during the extended SLR term under the significant risk of an earthquake that exceeds the design basis for the reactors.”

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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.

Exelon CEO urges Illinois legislators to save nuclear plants

Crane

Christopher Crane, president and chief executive officer of Exelon, wrote in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed, “The failure of national energy markets to support clean energy will soon force the premature retirement of two of [Illinois’s] six zero-carbon nuclear plants, putting thousands of people out of work, raising energy costs, and taking us decades backward in the fight against climate change."

Crane urged Illinois policymakers to act quickly, as they face critical decisions about the future of energy that will affect the state’s environment, the economy, and the health of every family for years to come.

UGA profs call for coalition of civilian nuclear partners

The rising influence of Russia and China in the development, construction, and deployment of civilian nuclear reactors around the globe raises significant geopolitical challenges for the United States, according to “Twenty-First Century U.S. Nuclear Power: A National Security Imperative,” a recent paper by two University of Georgia (UGA) researchers.

Decision on Welsh nuclear project delayed again

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

The U.K. government has agreed to delay until April 30 its decision regarding the issuance of a development consent order (DCO) for, the nuclear new-build project proposed for the island of Anglesey, off the northwest coast of Wales. (DCOs are required for large infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom to move forward.)


President's Column

The new normal?

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope that each of you found time to refresh and rejuvenate over the holidays, or at least have fun. Many indicators suggest that 2021 will be a better year than 2020, including a growing understanding of COVID-19 and its impacts and the availability of a vaccine. So many have suffered from job loss or even loss of businesses in 2020. Even for those of us fortunate enough to be healthy, gainfully employed, and able to work from anywhere thanks to Zoom and its competitors, uncertainty is still a challenging aspect of the pandemic.

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Letter from the CEO

A new year, finally

Craig Piercy

To you and all members of the nuclear professional community, Happy New Year! With the COVID-19 vaccine finally here, all indications point toward 2021 as the year we return to some semblance of normality. After all, this year has to be better than 2020, right?

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First female CO to command nuclear aircraft carrier

Bauernschmidt
Photo: U.S. Navy

Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt will assume command of USS Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy announced last month. It marks the first time that a female commanding officer will lead the crew of one of the Navy’s 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

Bauernschmidt will take the Lincoln’s helm this summer, upon completion of the nuclear power, aviation, and leadership training required of aircraft carrier COs.

Scientists use nuclear magnetic resonance to identify olive oil blends

New research confirms the growing relevance of nuclear magnetic resonance technologies for the olive oil industry, according to the Olive Oil Times, based in Newport, R.I.

The latest Italian study, published in the scientific journal Foods, hints at the new opportunities emerging from the identification of the molecular footprint of extra virgin olive oil blends, which could be used to not only certify their contents but also to determine the transformational processes applied to the product.

Palisades license transfer request submitted to NRC

The Palisades nuclear plant will be permanently retired in the spring of next year. Photo: Entergy Nuclear

Entergy Corporation and Holtec International have jointly submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for approval of the transfer of the licenses for the Palisades nuclear plant, in Covert, Mich., to Holtec, following the plant’s permanent shutdown and defueling in the spring of 2022.

The application, dated December 23, also requests approval of the license transfer of Entergy’s decommissioned Big Rock Point facility near Charlevoix, Mich., where only the independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) remains.

Chairman Svinicki announces she will resign on Jan. 20

Chairman Kristine Svinicki announced today that she intends to leave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on January 20. She issued a statement in a press release from the NRC.

Chairman Svinicki has served as a commissioner under three administrations and is the longest serving member of the commission. She was first appointed to the commission by President Bush in 2007, was reappointed in 2012 by President Obama, and was designated chairman by President Donald J. Trump on January 23, 2017. Her term would have ended on June 30, 2022.

Nuclear undervalued in European hydrogen strategy, report says

The European Commission’s current strategy for developing a hydrogen economy—part of its overall goal of achieving a climate-neutral European Union by 2050—needs to make more room for nuclear power. That’s according to a report published in December by the New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI), an industry-supported think tank based in the United Kingdom.

The 28-page report, On the Role of Nuclear Power in the Development of a European Hydrogen Economy, notes that the commission’s strategy, set out in last summer’s A Hydrogen Strategy for a Climate-Neutral Europe, sees the long-term future of the European hydrogen economy as one based on hydrogen production solely utilizing renewable power, thereby excluding nuclear from a lasting role in the market.

Game-playing AI technique may lead to cheaper nuclear energy

In this AI-designed layout for a boiling water reactor, fuel rods are ideally positioned around two fixed water rods to burn more efficiently. MIT researchers ran the equivalent of 36,000 simulations to find the optimal configurations. Colors correspond to varying amounts of uranium and gadolinium oxide in each rod. Image: Majdi Radaideh/MIT

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Exelon show that by turning the nuclear fuel assembly design process into a game, an artificial intelligence system can be trained to generate dozens of optimal configurations that can make each fuel rod last about 5 percent longer, saving a typical power plant an estimated $3 million a year, the researchers report.

The AI system can also find optimal solutions faster than a human and can quickly modify designs in a safe, simulated environment. The results appear in the journal Nuclear Engineering and Design.

Feature Article

The Belgian Nuclear Society’s 50-Year anniversary

In 1970, a bit more than 50 years ago, then–ANS President Nunzio Palladino gave an evening lecture in Brussels to the newly formed Belgian local section of the American Nuclear Society. It was the seed for what would become the Belgian Nuclear Society, but the story starts even earlier than that.

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Feature Article

John Gilligan: NEUP in support of university nuclear R&D

John Gilligan has been the director of the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) since its creation in 2009 by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE). NEUP consolidates DOE-NE’s university support under one program and engages colleges and universities in the United States to conduct research and development in nuclear technology. The two main R&D areas for NEUP funding are fuel cycle projects, which include evolving sustainable technologies that improve energy generation to enhance safety, limit proliferation risk, and reduce waste generation and resource consumption; and reactor projects, which strive to preserve the existing commercial light-water reactors as well as improve emerging advanced designs, such as small modular reactors, liquid-metal-cooled fast reactors, and gas- or liquid-salt-cooled high-temperature reactors.

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Feature Article

Award Winners: Fostering innovation in student research

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy created the Innovations in Fuel Cycle Research Awards program for university students in 2010. Now known as the Innovations in Nuclear Technology R&D Awards, the program aims to engage faculty and students in innovation and innovative thinking, increase experiential activities related to nuclear technology, and prepare students to engage in nuclear policy discussions.


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