DOE extends comment period on VTR environmental review

The Department of Energy has extended the public review and comment period for the Draft Versatile Test Reactor Environmental Impact Statement (DOE/EIS-0542) through March 2, 2021.

The DOE issued the draft EIS for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) for comment on December 21, 2020. The draft document identifies Idaho National Laboratory as the DOE’s preferred location for the VTR, a proposed sodium-cooled fast-neutron-spectrum test reactor that, according to the DOE, will enhance and accelerate research, development, and demonstration of innovative nuclear energy technologies.

In August 2020, Battelle Energy Alliance, which operates INL for the DOE, began contract negotiations with a Bechtel National–led team that includes TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to support the design and construction of the VTR.

Feature Article

Exelon Generation’s workforce development and knowledge transfer strategy

Students display items they received at a STEM workshop sponsored by Exelon. Photo: Exelon.

The landscape of Exelon Generation’s nuclear business has continued to evolve—even before the complications of a pandemic—but people will always remain the core focus. Our employees and our future employee pipelines are changing almost as fast as technology, which is why the development of the workforce, both present and future, along with the transfer of knowledge across all departments and levels of the organization, must remain adaptable and advance as well.

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Farming in Fukushima

Screenshot of the video from Vice.

Vice News has published a video on YouTube that follows two farmers from the Fukushima Prefecture, Noboru Saito and Koji Furuyama. Saito, who grows many different crops on his farm, says that the rice grown in the area is consistently rated as the best. Furuyama specializes in peaches and explains his strategy to deal with the stigma of selling fruit from Fukushima: grow the best peaches in the world.

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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.

Candidates for ANS vice president offer statements

Today we feature statements from the nominees for vice president/president-elect. The nominees are Steven A. Arndt, an ANS Fellow and member since 1981, who is a senior technical advisor with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; and Corey McDaniel, an ANS member since 2008, who is chief commercial officer at Idaho National Laboratory.

Ballots will be sent electronically on February 22 and must be submitted by noon (CDT) on Tuesday, April 13.

The first-ever ANS vice president candidate discussion forum will be held Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 6:00-7:00 pm EST. Register now for the event to hear directly from candidates Steven Arndt and Corey McDaniel.

Uranium conversion facility to reopen

The Metropolis Works plant. Photo: Honeywell

Honeywell plans to resume production at its Metropolis Works uranium conversion facility in 2023 and will begin preparations for the restart this year, the company has announced. The plant is in Metropolis, Ill.

Honeywell, based in Charlotte, N.C., said in a February 9 statement that it plans to hire 160 full-time employees, as well as contractors, by the end of 2022, adding, “We’re proud to bring these jobs back to the Metropolis community to meet the needs of our customers.”

Idled in early 2018, the plant is the nation’s sole uranium conversion facility.

Manhattan Project scientist Chien-Shiung Wu honored with Forever Stamp

To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the U.S. Postal Service today issued a commemorative Forever stamp recognizing influential nuclear physicist and professor Chien-Shiung Wu (1912–1997).

A great honor: The stamp was dedicated during a virtual ceremony that can be viewed on the Postal Service Facebook and Twitter pages. USPS official Kristin Seaver was joined for the ceremony by Vincent Yuan, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and son of the honoree; Jada Yuan, granddaughter of the honoree; and Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University. The stamp is available for purchase at Post Office locations nationwide and online.

“I am elated to have my mother honored by USPS on a postage stamp because I believe it goes beyond recognizing her scientific achievements; it also honors the determination and moral qualities that she embodied,” said Vincent Yuan. “It’s even more profound that the recognition comes from America, the country of her naturalization that she loved.”

ANS President’s column

Do you love nuclear?

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

February, the month of love! Well, at least the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day. I don’t pay much attention to this holiday, though I’ve never turned down a gift of flowers or good chocolate. I love my husband and I try to express that year round. If someone asked me what I love about him, I’d say, “He’s intelligent, hardworking, handsome, and makes a really good pizza.” What I wouldn’t say is, “I love him because he isn’t a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater.”

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NIST reactor remains shut down as NRC investigates radiation release

Neutron measurement studies at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) are on hold for an investigation of a different sort. On February 9, less than a week after elevated radiation levels were detected as the NCNR research reactor was powered up following a scheduled maintenance outage, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission began an inspection at the facility. According to NIST, the reactor will remain shut down until the cause of the release is corrected.

“The first step will be to develop a plan for safely assessing the condition of the reactor so that the root cause of the elevated radiation levels can be investigated,” NIST announced on February 5. “Once that root cause is determined, NIST will identify and then implement all necessary corrective actions.”

Young Members Group focuses on Remote Sensing Lab in ANS webinar

The ANS Young Members Group is hosting a free webinar, on Thursday, February 11, featuring the Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) as part of its ongoing "Spotlight on National Labs" series. The broadcast runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. (ET) and will cover RSL’s current and future initiatives. Registration is free and open to all.

Details: As part of the Global Security Mission Directorate, RSL is a center for creating and using advanced technologies that provide a broad range of scientific, technological, and operational disciplines with core competencies in emergency response operations and support, remote sensing, and applied science and technologies in support of counterterrorism and radiological and nuclear incident response.

Located at the Nevada National Security Site, RSL is composed of scientists, engineers, technologists, pilots, operations specialists, and administrators, many of whom hold doctorate degrees, providing the lab with a wide diversity of education and experience. Working in sophisticated laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment, these personnel work to advance the technological and operational capabilities of the emergency response teams and other RSL customers and stakeholders.

Savannah River crews remove cesium columns from tank closure unit

Work crews remove the first column filled with cesium from the Tank Closure Cesium Removal unit by crane in H tank farm at the Savannah River Site. Photo: DOE

Columns filled with cesium have been removed at the Savannah River Site in a demonstration project designed to accelerate removal of radioactive salt waste from underground tanks.

“On the surface, it appeared to be like any other crane lift and equipment transport, which are routinely performed in the tank farms. However, this equipment contained cesium-rich, high-level waste, which was transported aboveground via roadway to an on-site interim safe storage pad,” said Savannah River Remediation (SRR) president and project manager Phil Breidenbach. “It was all handled safely and executed with outstanding teamwork by our highly skilled workforce.”

Operated by liquid waste contractor SRR, a system known as the Tank Closure Cesium Removal (TCCR) unit removes cesium from the salt waste in Tank 10 in the site's H Tank Farm. The TCCR is a pilot demonstration that helps accelerate tank closure at the site, according to a report by the Department of Energy on February 9.

Letter from the CEO

Volcanoes and other failures of imagination

Craig Piercy

Low-probability, high-consequence events. In the nuclear community, these scenarios are on our minds every day, but for the rest of society, 2020 has been a painful reminder that powerful forces are at work in the natural world that have the ability to radically change the course of civilization in a relative eyeblink.

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Online registration opens for virtual NRC conference

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has opened registration for its annual Regulatory Information Conference (RIC), the largest public meeting the agency hosts. Scheduled for March 8–11, the 33rd RIC will be an all-virtual event.

The full conference program and registration information can be accessed from the RIC Web page.

Details: In addition to remarks from the NRC commissioners and the executive director of operations, RIC 2021 will feature two special plenary sessions, including one in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, and 28 technical sessions covering a wide range of topics, such as advanced reactors, accident tolerant fuel, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, microreactors, and risk-informed decision making.

DOE gets go-ahead to build spent fuel/high-level waste railcars

Graphical rendering of Fortis railcar design with spent nuclear fuel cask. Image: DOE

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) recently gave the Department of Energy approval to begin building and testing Fortis, a high-tech railcar designed specifically to transport the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Fortis is one of two specialized railcars under development by the DOE that could be operational within the next five years.

Fortis is an eight-axle, flat-deck railcar that will be able to transport large containers of spent fuel and HLW. It is equipped with high-tech sensors and monitoring systems that report 11 different performance features back to the operators in real time. The railcar design was completed earlier this year, with technical support from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

According to the DOE, AAR signed off on the design in January, allowing the department to begin fabricating and testing the prototype in compliance with the rail industry’s highest design standard for railcars transporting spent fuel and HLW.

Canada’s Darlington-1 ends record run

A view of the Darlington-1 turbine hall. Unit 1 has set a new world record for continuous operation by a nuclear power reactor. Photo: OPG

In continuous operation since January 26, 2018, Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington-1 was taken off line last Friday for an inspection and maintenance outage after a record-setting run of 1,106 days, the Canadian utility has announced.

On September 15 of last year, the unit set a new world record for a power reactor, with 963 days of continuous operation, breaking the previous mark of 962, set by a reactor at India’s Kaiga plant in December 2018, according to OPG.

Dependable Darlington: “Unit 1’s record-setting run highlights the excellent work carried out by our dedicated nuclear professionals throughout the pandemic to ensure Ontarians and frontline workers battling COVID-19 can count on a steady supply of power 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Sean Granville, OPG’s chief operating officer. “It also highlights the effectiveness of our preventive maintenance programs and the overall reliability of our nuclear fleet.”

Energy Harbor may decline Ohio plant subsidies

The Associated Press is reporting that Energy Harbor (formerly FirstEnergy Solutions), owner of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, may decline the subsidies provided for those facilities by HB6—the scandal-tainted Ohio bill that was signed into law in 2019. (In late December of last year, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a temporary stay to stop collection of the HB6-mandated fee from Ohio ratepayers that was set to begin January 1.)

PRA standard for Advanced Non-Light Water Reactors just issued

ANSI/ASME/ANS RA-S-1.4-2021, “Probabilistic Risk Assessment Standard for Advanced Non-Light Water Reactor Nuclear Power Plants,” has just been issued. Approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on January 28, 2021, this joint American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)/American Nuclear Society (ANS) standard sets forth requirements for probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs) used to support risk-informed decisions for commercial nuclear power plants and prescribes a method for applying these requirements for specific applications.

ANSI/ANS-RA-S-1.4-2021 and its preview are available in the ANS Standards Store.

Wales inks deal with Sizewell C group

The outlook for new nuclear construction in Wales may have taken a bleak turn, but that hasn’t stopped the Welsh government from seeking other opportunities for its nuclear industry. On February 5, the government announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Sizewell C Consortium, an organization of nearly 200 businesses and trade unions from the United Kingdom's nuclear supply chain focused on ensuring that the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk, England, actually gets built.

The consortium includes the firms Atkins, Balfour Beatty Bailey, Cavendish Nuclear, Doosan Babcock, EDF, Laing O’Rourke, and Mott MacDonald, as well as the unions GMB, Unite, and Prospect.

A big deal: According to the announcement, in the event that the Sizewell C project is approved, the MOU could potentially see an investment of up to £900 million (about $1.2 billion) in the Welsh nuclear supply chain and up to 4,700 jobs supported across Wales. The signatories also view the agreement as a way to help retain the Welsh nuclear skills base.

Former secretary of state George Shultz dies at 100

Schultz

George P. Shultz, a former U.S. secretary of state who played a central role in helping bring the Cold War to an end, died Saturday at 100, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University announced.

ANS connection: Shultz, an ANS member, was honored during the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting with a celebration of his 100th birthday. He provided recorded comments on the increasing challenges facing policy decisions related to climate change, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing/3D printing. Former senator Sam Nunn reviewed Shultz’s “500 years' worth” of accomplishments and service to the United States.

ANS has issued a statement on the passing of George Schultz.