LANL cleanup modifies fieldwork to protect threatened species

March 31, 2021, 3:01PMRadwaste Solutions
The Mexican spotted owl, which finds a home in northern New Mexico’s canyons and forests, is a threatened species that the DOE strives to protect. Photo: Don Ulrich, taken in Flagstaff, Ariz.

To protect a treasured ecological species of northern New Mexico, the Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) of the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and its contractor N3B this month began their annual task of modifying legacy waste cleanup activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory ahead of the Mexican spotted owl breeding season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the owl as a threatened species in 1993, when population numbers were decreasing drastically due to the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of their habitat.

Ohio bill repealing nuclear subsidies signed by governor

March 31, 2021, 12:03PMNuclear News

The final nail in the coffin of Ohio’s nuclear subsidies occurred on March 31 when Gov. Mike DeWine signed H.B. 128, a bill passed unanimously by the state’s Senate last Thursday.

Approved 86-7 by the Ohio House on March 10, H.B. 128 strips the nuclear subsidy provisions from H.B. 6, the controversial and, since last July, scandal-scarred piece of legislation signed into law in 2019 to aid Ohio’s economically challenged nuclear facilities, Davis-Besse and Perry.

H.B. 128 also removes the earlier bill’s “decoupling” provision, which would have been of substantial financial benefit to FirstEnergy Corporation, the former parent company of Energy Harbor, owner and operator of Davis-Besse and Perry. The new bill retains H.B. 6’s subsidies for utility-scale solar projects, however, and for two coal plants (one in Ohio, one in Indiana).

H.B. 128 was sponsored by Reps. James Hoops (R., 81st Dist.) and Dick Stein (R., 57th Dist.).

ORNL taps ANS Fellow Icenhour as deputy for operations

March 31, 2021, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe


Alan S. Icenhour, an ANS member since 2002 and a Fellow, has been named deputy for operations at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He succeeds Jeff Smith, who is retiring this spring after serving in the role since UT-Battelle began operating the lab in 2000.

Background: Icenhour joined ORNL in 1990 as an engineer and served most recently as associate laboratory director for the Isotope Science and Engineering Directorate. He led the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate from 2014 until the isotopes directorate was formed in October 2020, and he has held a variety of other leadership positions as well as an assignment as senior technical adviser to the National Nuclear Security Administration.

New Mexico sues NRC over used fuel storage site licensing

March 31, 2021, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions
Holtec’s proposed HI-STORE interim storage facility. Image: Holtec

New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas has filed suit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States, seeking to stop Holtec International’s application to build and operate its HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in the state. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico on March 29, seeks a declaratory judgment that the NRC is acting beyond the scope of its authority and an injunction preventing the licensing from moving forward.

Bill to preserve Illinois nuclear fleet debuts

March 31, 2021, 5:00AMNuclear News
Exelon's Byron Nuclear Generating Station.

A group of Illinois lawmakers joined Joe Duffy, executive director of the labor coalition Climate Jobs Illinois (CJI), at a virtual news conference on March 29 to unveil a union-focused, clean energy legislative proposal that includes help for the state’s struggling nuclear power plants.

Past DOE Nuclear Energy officials hold panel discussion for ANS

March 30, 2021, 3:00PMANS News

Five former assistant secretaries of energy for the Office of Nuclear Energy—a position given the designation “NE-1”—gathered for a virtual panel discussion hosted by the American Nuclear Society on March 26. Rita Baranwal, John Kotek, Peter Lyons, William D. Magwood, and Warren “Pete” Miller each participated in the free event that was moderated by Benjamin Reinke, the former executive director in the secretary of energy’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy.

NRC pushes back safety review of Holtec’s interim storage site

March 30, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has delayed the release of a safety report for Holtec International’s HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility proposed for New Mexico, claiming it needs additional information to complete its review of the license application. The NRC previously said it would complete its safety review and publish a safety evaluation report for the spent fuel storage facility by May.

Canada on track to select repository site by 2023, NWMO says

March 30, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

Despite the challenges of the past year, Canada is on track to select a deep geologic repository site for the country’s used nuclear fuel by 2023, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization said in its annual report to the Canadian government. In conformance with Canada’s Nuclear Fuel Waste Act, the report, Guided by science. Grounded in knowledge. Committed to partnership, was submitted to Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan on March 25.

Leaked report says EU can tag nuclear investments as sustainable

March 30, 2021, 6:57AMNuclear News

Within the European Union, recognizing nuclear energy as green, sustainable, and worthy of investment depends on nuclear being added to the EU taxonomy of “sustainable investments that have been found to ‘do no significant harm’ to human health and to the environment.” The EU will issue a final taxonomy this year, and a decision to include nuclear power—which was excluded from a draft released in late 2020—could raise prospects for public and private nuclear investments both inside and outside the EU.

The decision rests with the European Commission (EC), which will take into consideration expert opinions, including those in a scientific report of the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) that was requested last summer. The JRC's 387-page report, Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‘do no significant harm’ criteria of Regulation (EU) 2020/852 (‘Taxonomy Regulation’), was leaked to the media and made available online on March 26. The report supports adding nuclear to the taxonomy.

NC State celebrates 70 years of nuclear engineering education

March 29, 2021, 3:00PMANS News
An early picture of the research reactor building on the North Carolina State University campus. The Department of Nuclear Engineering is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its nuclear engineering curriculum in 2020–2021. Photo: North Carolina State University

The Department of Nuclear Engineering at North Carolina State University has spent the 2020–2021 academic year celebrating the 70th anniversary of its becoming the first U.S. university to establish a nuclear engineering curriculum. It started in 1950, when Clifford Beck, then of Oak Ridge, Tenn., obtained support from NC State’s dean of engineering, Harold Lampe, to build the nation’s first university nuclear reactor and, in conjunction, establish an educational curriculum dedicated to nuclear engineering.

The department, host to the 2021 ANS Virtual Student Conference, scheduled for April 8–10, now features 23 tenure/tenure-track faculty and three research faculty members. “What a journey for the first nuclear engineering curriculum in the nation,” said Kostadin Ivanov, professor and department head.

Safe operation of Catawba, McGuire, and Oconee plants subject of NRC virtual meeting

March 29, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will discuss the 2020 safety performance of Duke Energy’s Catawba, McGuire, and Oconee nuclear power plants during a virtual meeting to be held on April 1.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m., eastern time, with a presentation by the NRC staff responsible for plant inspections. Following the discussion with Duke Energy, questions will be answered by the NRC, including by the resident inspectors.

The public and media can access the meeting via Teams. For those without access to Teams, the telephone conference number is 301-576-2978, passcode 71391471#.

The annual assessment letters for the Catawba plant, the McGuire plant, and the Oconee plant, which include upcoming inspection plans for the plants, are available on the NRC website.

Current performance information for Catawba-1, Catawba-2, McGuire-1, McGuire-2, Oconee-1, Oconee-2, and Oconee-3 is available and updated quarterly.

Senate bill introduced to combat global energy poverty

March 29, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News


Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the ranking member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, earlier this month introduced legislation, the Combating Global Poverty Through Energy Development Act (S. 758), which aims at removing barriers put up by international financial institutions that limit support for both fossil fuel and nuclear energy projects.

“Developing countries desperately need affordable and reliable energy,” said Barrasso. “Instead of using all available energy options, the World Bank would rather score political points by boycotting critical coal, oil and gas projects. The solution to ending energy poverty does not lie in limiting options. Our bill will encourage the World Bank to eliminate barriers to traditional energy resources, or risk losing American taxpayer funding.”

The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R., Miss.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), John Hoeven (R., N.D.), Bill Hagerty (R., Tenn.), John Cornyn (R., Texas), and Jim Inhofe (R., Okla.).

Seismic preparation for nuclear plants: Lowering costs without compromising safety

March 26, 2021, 4:02PMNuclear NewsCory Hatch

Nuclear power plants not only provide the nation’s largest source of carbon-­free electricity, they also can operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to augment intermittent renewables such as wind and solar. Further, studies show that nuclear energy is among the safest forms of energy production, especially when considering factors such as industrial accidents and disease associated with fossil fuel emissions. All said, nuclear has the potential to play a key role in the world’s energy future. Before nuclear can realize that potential, however, researchers and industry must overcome one big challenge: cost.

A team at Idaho National Laboratory is collaborating with experts around the nation to tackle a major piece of the infrastructure equation: earthquake resilience. INL’s Facility Risk Group is taking a multipronged approach to reduce the amount of concrete, rebar, and other infrastructure needed to improve the seismic safety of advanced reactors while also substantially reducing capital costs. The effort is part of a collaboration between INL, industry, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-­E), and the State University of New York–Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo).

GAIN vouchers connect three companies with national lab experts

March 26, 2021, 12:15PMNuclear News

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced that three nuclear technology companies—Radiant, Oklo, and Lightbridge—will receive GAIN nuclear energy vouchers to accelerate the innovation and application of advanced nuclear technologies. The second set of Fiscal Year 2021 awards was announced March 25.

U.S. nuclear in spotlight at Senate hearing

March 26, 2021, 9:32AMNuclear News
Sen Joe Manchin gives his opening statement at the March 25 hearing.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday held a hearing to examine the latest developments in the U.S. nuclear energy sector, with a focus on ways to maintain and expand the use of nuclear in the United States and abroad.

Testifying before the committee were Jeffrey Lyash, president and chief executive officer of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, Scott Melbye, president of Uranium Producers of America (UPA); Amy Roma, founding member of the Atlantic Council’s Nuclear Energy and National Security Coalition and a partner with the law firm Hogan Lovells; and J. Clay Sell, CEO of X-energy.

Demolition of final Biology Complex building begins at Oak Ridge

March 26, 2021, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
Demolition begins on the six-story, 255,000-square-foot Building 9207, the final building in the former Biology Complex at Oak Ridge. Photo: DOE

Workers with the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) recently began demolishing the last facility standing in the former Biology Complex at the Y-12 National Security Complex at the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee.

As announced by EM on March 23, removal of the massive six-story, 255,000-square-foot Building 9207 creates a new chapter of transformation and modernization for Y-12. Completion of the Biology Complex demolition is one of EM’s 2021 priorities.

According to EM, the facilities in the Biology Complex presented significant structural risks due to their deterioration, and their condition landed them on DOE’s list of high-risk excess contaminated facilities.

Nuclear generation in U.S. tops coal power for first time in 2020

March 25, 2021, 3:08PMNuclear News
Source: EIA

A recent U.S. Energy Information Administration report, Short-Term Energy Outlook, notes that in 2020, nuclear power plants generated more electricity in the United States than coal-fired plants for the first time ever. Last year also marked the first time that coal generation was not the first or second largest U.S. electricity producer in more than 70 years.

Two factors led to the decrease in coal-fired generation, according to the EIA: one is the drop in the number of operating coal-fired plants, and the other is the lower utilization of those remaining coal-fired plants as the nation moves toward cleaner energy production. Coal, however, is not to be abandoned yet, according to the EIA.

The next couple of years will see changes in energy production, according to the EIA report. The EIA believes that "increases in natural gas prices will make coal more competitive in the electric power sector. This expected increase in coal's utilization more than offsets the upcoming retirement of 2.8 GW of coal capacity in 2021 and another 8.5 GW in 2022," based on information reported to the EIA by coal-fired plant owners and developers.

Advisory panel formed for TMI-2 decommissioning

March 25, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
The Three Mile Island nuclear generating station in 2010.

A community advisory board has been formed for the decommissioning of Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, according to a March 23 report by StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration of National Public Radio member stations. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved in December the transfer of TMI-2 and its license to TMI-2 Solutions for decommissioning. TMI-2 Solutions is a subsidiary of EnergySolutions.

According to the report, the TMI-2 Community Advisory Panel (CAP) is made up of 15 people who represent the plant and its neighbors, including townships, school districts, first responders, nuclear planners, and state historians. The group is being led by Londonderry Township manager Steve Letavic.

TMI-2 Solutions said that it will provide quarterly decommissioning updates to the TMI-2 CAP. As a volunteer non-regulatory organization, the CAP will provide community feedback to TMI-2 Solutions, including any issues or concerns related to TMI-2 decommissioning activities.

DOD narrows field of Project Pele microreactor contenders

March 25, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

After funding one year of microreactor engineering design work by three teams, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced on March 22 that it has exercised contract options for two of those teams—led by BWXT Advanced Technologies and X-energy—to proceed with development of a final design for a transportable microreactor. Following a final design review in early 2022 and the completion of environmental analysis, one of the two companies may be selected to build a prototype reactor during a 24-­month construction and demonstration phase.

“We are thrilled with the progress our industrial partners have made on their designs,” said Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager. “We are confident that by early 2022 we will have two engineering designs matured to a sufficient state that we will be able to determine suitability for possible construction and testing.”

Canada invests $40M in Moltex SMR technology

March 25, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

Artist’s rendering of the Stable Salt Reactor–Wasteburner (SSR–W) and WAste to Stable Salt (WATSS) facility. Image: Moltex

The Canadian government has awarded C$50.5 million (about $40.2 million) to Moltex Energy Canada to support small modular reactor research and technology development in New Brunswick. The investment, announced March 18, was provided by the government’s Strategic Innovation Fund and its Regional Economic Growth Through Innovation program, part of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

In a press release on the funding, Moltex said it plans to build the world’s first 300-MW Stable Salt Reactor–Wasteburner (SSR–W) and WAste to Stable Salt (WATSS) facility at the Point Lepreau Generating Station site in Saint John, New Brunswick, and provide electricity to the grid by the early 2030s. According to the company, its WATSS process, which recycles existing used nuclear fuel, has the potential to reduce storage needs for that fuel.

Moltex also noted its expectation that jobs created through the project will, over the next 15 years, contribute approximately C$1 billion (about $800 million) to Canada’s gross domestic product and result in some C$100 million (about $79.7 million) in federal government revenue.