The NRC: Observations on commissioner appointments

February 26, 2021, 4:59PMUpdated December 27, 2021, 4:00PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit and Paul T. Dickman
The NRC Commission following the departure of Chairman Svinicki in January and Commissioner Caputo in June of this year.

At the end of 2021, Nuclear News is taking a look back at some of the feature articles published each month in the magazine. This article is from our February issue that focused on policy. Hopefully, Nuclear News will be updating this story in 2022 if the Biden administration follows the recommendation of ANS leadership to fill the vacant seats.

In 2015, we wrote an article for Nuclear News analyzing the history of commissioners appointed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and assessing their backgrounds, experience, and qualifications at the time of their appointment. At the time, ANS had not established a formal position statement on NRC commissioner appointees. Our article provided an objective assessment of historical patterns and was used to develop ANS position statement #77, The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2016). This article draws upon the 2015 article and provides updated data and analysis. Also, the recommendations of the position statement are applied to the current vacancy on the commission.

Fusion and the bounty of electricity

January 8, 2021, 3:05PMUpdated December 27, 2021, 9:50AMNuclear NewsRoss Radel

At the end of 2021, Nuclear News is taking a look back at some of the feature articles published each month in the magazine. The first article is from our January issue that focused on the potential of fusion energy.

From the time we discovered how the sun produces energy, we have been captivated by the prospect of powering our society using the same principles of nuclear fusion. Fusion energy promises the bounty of electricity we need to live our lives without the pollution inherent in fossil fuels, such as oil, gas, and coal. In addition, fusion energy is free from the stigma that has long plagued nuclear power about the storage and handling of long-lived radioactive waste products, a stigma from which fission power is only just starting to recover in green energy circles.

New sensing technologies can reduce O&M costs to ensure advanced reactors’ economic viability

December 23, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsAlexander Heifetz, Matthew Weathered, Nathan Hoyt, Mark Anderson, Scott Sanders, Anthonie Cilliers
Kairos Power’s Instrumentation Test Unit

As a source of carbon-free electricity, nuclear energy currently dominates in the United States. However, the light water reactors in the U.S. are approaching the end of their licensed service lives. Meanwhile, low-cost electricity generated by fossil fuel–based sources (such as natural gas) poses an ongoing challenge to the economic viability of commercial nuclear reactors. To enhance the competitiveness of the nuclear industry, we need to bring down the high operating and maintenance (O&M) costs through savings available from utilizing modern, efficient sensing and automation technologies.

Belgium to close both nuclear plants by 2025

December 23, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
The Tihange nuclear power plant in Belgium. (Photo: Electrabel)

Belgium’s seven-party coalition government this morning announced via press conference a tentative agreement to close the nation’s two nuclear power plants by 2025, confirming a commitment made in October of last year when it took office. Plant closures are scheduled to begin in 2022.

AI accelerates search for safer, more durable materials for nuclear reactors

December 23, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear NewsJohn Spizzirri
A cutaway view of a nuclear reactor. Its construction consists of two essential material types: fuel, which comprises the rods and cores that hold the fuel (center vertical bands); and structural, those parts of the reactor that house the fuel materials. (Graphic: Shutterstock/petrov-k)

Researchers from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory are developing a “tool kit” based on artificial intelligence that will help better determine the properties of materials used in building a nuclear reactor.

Hanford evaporator prepares for tank waste treatment

December 23, 2021, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
A worker installing new waste transfer lines between Hanford’s large underground tanks and evaporator facility welds a secondary encasement on one of the lines. (Photo: DOE)

As the Department of Energy's Hanford Site prepares for around-the-clock operations for tank waste disposal, workers at the site's 242-A Evaporator are upgrading equipment used to remove water from the tank waste and the systems that transfer waste to and from large underground containers. The upgrades will also extend the evaporator’s service life.

Nuclear power and cryptocurrency mining: A perfect match?

December 22, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsFlorent Heidet and Milos Atz

Cryptocurrency ecosystems are rapidly growing and are here to stay. Cryptocurrencies are regularly among the 10 largest traded volumes in financial markets, more and more businesses are accepting crypto payments, and crypto “ATMs” are starting to appear at gas stations and grocery stores. However, cryptocurrencies face one major impediment to widespread public acceptance: energy consumption. Opponents of cryptocurrency often cite its energy and pollution footprints as major reasons against adoption. Energy issues have been tied to significant losses in valuation for the major cryptocurrencies, contributing to volatility in that sector. Although crypto valuations have been quick to recover, the energy and pollution challenges remain.

DOE affirms its interpretation of high-level waste

December 22, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

With a notice published in the December 21 Federal Register, the Department of Energy has affirmed its interpretation of the statutory term “high-level radioactive waste” to mean that not all wastes from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel are HLW. The DOE said it interprets the statutory term such that some reprocessing wastes may be classified as non-HLW and may be safely disposed of in accordance with its radiological characteristics.

Unit 1 at Kursk plant is retired

December 22, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
Reactor operators in the control room at Kursk I-1, as the unit is powered down for good. (Photo: Rosenergoatom)

After 45 years of producing electricity, the first unit at Russia’s Kursk nuclear power plant has been retired, plant operator Rosenergoatom announced on Monday. Kursk I-1, one of the facility’s four 925-MWe light water–cooled graphite-moderated reactors, model RBMK-1000 (a Chernobyl-type reactor), was permanently shut down at 00:24 Moscow time on December 19.

ANS Winter Meeting: Fusion energy needs private-public partnerships and workforce development

December 22, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

A major shift in fusion research and development is underway in the United States after recent national reports confirmed resounding support in the fusion community for building a pilot power plant and developing commercial fusion energy. Experts from professional societies, government funding agencies, industry, and the scientific community convened for the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting panel session, “The Future of Commercial Fusion in the U.S.,” to discuss what it will take to make that future a reality.

From the pages of Nuclear News: Industry update

December 21, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

ADVANCED REACTORS MARKETPLACE

GEH’s BWRX-300 SMR technology chosen for Darlington clean energy project

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has been selected by Ontario Power Generation as technology partner for the Darlington site's new nuclear plant project. GEH will work with OPG to deploy a BWRX-300 small modular reactor as early as 2028 at the Darlington site in Canada.

■ NuScale Power and Kazakhstan Nuclear Power Plants LLP have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the deployment of NuScale VOYGR power plants in Kazakhstan. KNPP specializes in the development of nuclear power plant construction in Kazakhstan. The agreement calls for a sharing of nuclear and technical expertise between NuScale and KNPP. Under the MOU, NuScale will support KNPP’s evaluation of NuScale’s SMR technology, including nuclear power plant engineering, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance, and project-specific studies and design work.

PKN ORLEN and Synthos Green Energy have signed an agreement to set up a joint venture, ORLEN Synthos Green Energy, with a goal to prepare and commercialize small nuclear reactor technology, particularly GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX-300 reactors, in Poland. Related, BWXT Canada Ltd. signed a letter of intent with Synthos and GEH for the manufacture of key SMR components for Poland.

Supply of Mo-99 sufficient to meet U.S. needs, feds say

December 21, 2021, 9:23AMNuclear News

Secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm and secretary of health and human services (HHS) Xavier Becerra on December 20 jointly certified that the worldwide supply of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 produced without the use of high-enriched uranium is now sufficient to meet the needs of patients in the United States.

X-energy teams with Canada’s First Nations to aid Indigenous communities

December 21, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

X-energy, the Rockville, Md.–based developer of the Xe-100 small modular reactor, announced on December 15 that X-energy Canada has signed a memorandum of understanding with the First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) to look for ways to build “Indigenous capacity” for the future SMR industry in Canada.

DOE to use supercomputers to model materials in molten salt reactors

December 20, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory began operations in 2018. (Photo: ORNL)

The Department of Energy has announced $9.25 million for research into the behavior and properties of structural materials under molten salt reactor conditions through collaborations using the DOE’s high-performance supercomputers.

Westinghouse to invest $131 million in S.C. fuel fabrication facility

December 20, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Westinghouse Electric Company plans to expand operations at its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF), located in Hopkins, S.C., with an investment of $131 million over the next five years. The project, announced on December 15 by South Carolina governor Henry McMaster’s office, includes upgrades to equipment and procedures, as well as enhancements to the CFFF’s pollution prevention systems and controls. The investment will expand automation and digitalization at the facility, improving inspection capabilities and product quality, according to the governor's office. Westinghouse expects to complete the project by January 2026.

New bill aims to bring advanced reactors to economically depressed communities

December 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Bipartisan support for nuclear energy continued on Capitol Hill last week as Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the committee’s ranking member, introduced the Fission for the Future Act of 2021, a measure backing the commercial deployment of advanced nuclear reactors.

Introduced on December 16, the legislation would prioritize communities affected by the closure of coal and other fossil-fueled generating facilities and assist in the reutilization of those sites to deploy advanced nuclear power plants, promoting job growth in economically depressed regions.

NuScale pondering SMRs for Kazakhstan

December 20, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News

In its latest show of interest in Central and Eastern European markets, Portland, Ore.–based NuScale Power has signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan Nuclear Power Plants LLP (KNPP) to explore the deployment of NuScale’s small modular reactor plants—recently christened VOYGR—in Kazakhstan.

Where’s the plan?

December 17, 2021, 3:27PMNuclear NewsMatthew L. Wald
The electric power transmission grid of the U.S. consists of thousands of miles of lines operated by hundreds of companies.

To do big things, like building the interstate highway system, or going to the moon, government usually has a plan. Electric companies and grid operators, which are responsible for keeping the lights on, always have a plan. But something unusual has happened in the past few months. About four dozen U.S. utilities, plus the federal government and many states, have promised to do something extremely big: to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions, or cut them drastically. But they are not clear on how.