Insights from the Three Mile Island accident—Part 2: Improvements

May 6, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear NewsWilliam E. Burchill

Part one of this article, published in the May 2019 issue of Nuclear News[1] and last Friday on Nuclear Newswire, presented insights from the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island-­2 and addressed several issues raised by a previous Nuclear News piece on the accident[2]. Part two discusses safety improvements that have been made by both the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the past 40 years.

INL, Wyoming form partnership on advanced energy tech

May 6, 2022, 12:08PMNuclear News
The Wyoming Energy Authority’s Glen Murrell (left) shakes hands with INL’s John C. Wagner at the MOU signing ceremony on May 4. (Photo: WEA)

Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), the management and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, has signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the State of Wyoming to collaborate on the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of advanced energy technologies and approaches, with a special focus on advanced nuclear.

U.S., Armenia ink civil nuclear pact

May 6, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken and Armenian minister of foreign affairs Ararat Mirzoyan signed a memorandum of understanding last week concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation (NCMOU).

According to the State Department, NCMOUs are used to develop stronger ties between the United States and partner countries’ nuclear experts, industry, and researchers, as well as to provide support for the U.S. civil nuclear industry and nuclear nonproliferation goals.

France’s energy woes worsened by inspection-related nuclear power plant shutdowns

May 6, 2022, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France. (Photo: Stefan Kühn)

Bloomberg recently reported that nuclear power production in France declined to its lowest level in almost two years in April, with power output during that month falling to 21.7 TWh. The decline occurred as Électricité de France (EDF), one of the country’s major energy suppliers, dealt with long-term inspection-and maintenance-related halts to the operation of many of its 56 domestic nuclear reactors.

Huff approved to head Office of Nuclear Energy

May 5, 2022, 3:04PMNuclear News

Huff

The Senate has confirmed ANS member Kathryn Huff as the next assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) in the Department of Energy. The bipartisan vote, held earlier this afternoon, was 80–11.

President Biden selected Huff in January to fill the top spot at NE—a post that has been vacant since Rita Baranwal (also an ANS member) announced she was leaving the position on January 8, 2021.

Huff came to the DOE in May of last year to serve as principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy, going on unpaid leave from her position as an associate professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, where she led the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group.

NRC critiques OIG report on Diablo Canyon feedwater system oversight

May 5, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission turned the tables a bit on its inspector general’s office this week, releasing its response to a March 25 OIG event inquiry that criticized an NRC inspection at California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, performed after a July 2020 auxiliary feedwater (AFW) system failure at Unit 2.

The response highlights a number of what the agency terms “factual errors” and takes issue with several portions of the OIG report.

NRC awards $9 million in grants for nuclear science and engineering education

May 5, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has awarded 25 grants totaling more than $9 million to 20 academic institutions in 20 states. Under the NRC’s University Nuclear Leadership Program, the grants are designed to support education in the nuclear science and engineering fields. The institutions rewarded include four-year universities and colleges, two-year trade schools and community colleges.

Contract with Rosatom for Finnish reactor scrapped

May 5, 2022, 6:59AMNuclear News
An artist’s rendering of the Hanhikivi plant. (Image: Rosatom)

Finnish energy company Fennovoima has terminated, effective immediately, its engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with RAOS Project Oy, a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom, for the delivery of a 1,200-MWe VVER-1200 pressurized water reactor at the Hanhikivi site in Finland’s Pyhäjoki municipality.

China greenlights four additional AP1000 reactors

May 4, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News
A pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at China's Haiyang nuclear power plant.

China’s State Council recently approved the construction of four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors—two at China’s Sanmen plant in Zhejiang Province and two at the Haiyang plant in Shandong Province.

The plants currently house two AP1000 units each. Sanmen’s reactors are rated at 1,157 MWe and Haiyang’s at 1,170 MWe. Sanmen-1 and -2 began commercial operation in 2018. Haiyang-1 started commercial operation in 2018, and Haiyang-2 in 2019.

NEDHO urges Congress to provide funding for university nuclear programs

May 4, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

With the federal government’s fiscal year 2023 budget process under way, the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) has reached out to congressional appropriators with a letter urging support for the Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s research programs.

Nondestructive electrical conductivity test detects alkali-silica reaction in concrete

May 4, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Alkali-silica reaction was confirmed at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in 2010. (Photo: NextEra Energy Resources)

Concrete structures built to last for decades, including reactor containment buildings and other nuclear power plant structures, are subject to the alkali-silica reaction (ASR), a reaction between alkali ions found in cement and silica, the two main components of concrete. The reaction forms a gel that absorbs water and expands over time, causing a buildup of pressure within the concrete that can eventually lead to cracking and deterioration.

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have successfully used electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) to detect ASR in the lab and believe it could be used for cost-effective, nondestructive testing at nuclear power plants.

Purdue University and Duke Energy to explore feasibility of on-campus SMR

May 4, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind.

Purdue University and Duke Energy have announced that they plan to jointly explore the feasibility of using advanced nuclear energy to meet the university’s long-term energy needs, “a move that may be unprecedented for a college campus.” A small modular reactor could meet the current and future needs for Purdue’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus, as well as provide excess power to the state’s electric grid, according to a joint press release.

MSU’s FRIB: Ready to accelerate discoveries in nuclear physics and applications

May 3, 2022, 7:16AMNuclear News
An aerial view of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, Mich. (Photo: FRIB)

Michigan State University’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) officially opened yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, elected officials, and guests who had supported the project during its planning and construction, including ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy. They were there to celebrate the completion—on time and within budget—of the world’s most powerful heavy-ion accelerator and the first accelerator-based Department of Energy Office of Science user facility located on a university campus.

Newsom mulls a Diablo Canyon rescue

May 2, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

California Gov. Gavin Newsom told the Los Angeles Times editorial board last week that his administration would look into using the federal government’s Civil Nuclear Credit Program to keep Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in operation beyond its scheduled 2025 closure date.

“The requirement is by May 19 to submit an application, or you miss the opportunity to draw down any federal funds if you want to extend the life of that plant,” Newsom told the board, according to an April 29 LA Times piece. “We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option.”

GOP lawmakers call on Secretary Granholm to secure U.S. nuclear energy sector

May 2, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Upton

McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Fred Upton (R., Mich.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy, sent a letter to energy secretary Jennifer Granholm on April 27 urging that more be done to secure America’s nuclear energy sector.

Excerpt: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exposes the risks of weakening American energy security,” McMorris Rodgers and Upton write. “These risks extend beyond our oil and gas assets to include supply vulnerabilities in our civilian nuclear sector. This sector is essential for national and energy security and for strengthening the geostrategic relationships necessary to compete with Russia, China, and other adversaries.

NuScale signs MOU with Korean companies on SMR deployment in Asia

May 2, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Kiyoun Na, chief executive officer of Doosan Enerbility’s nuclear business group; John Hopkins, president and CEO of NuScale Power; Yongsoo Huh, president and CEO of GS Energy; and Byung Soo Lee, executive vice president of Samsung C&T, signed an MOU to collaborate on NuScale SMR deployment in Asia.

Small modular reactor developer NuScale Power has signed a memorandum of understanding with three South Korean companies—Doosan Enerbility Company, GS Energy Corporation, and Samsung C&T Corporation—to explore the deployment of NuScale’s VOYGR power plants in Asia.

DOE seeks input on FY 2023 funding opportunity announcement for university research

May 2, 2022, 7:09AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy has issued a request for information regarding the funding of university research for fiscal year 2023. The RFI, issued on April 20, is seeking input from the nuclear energy community, including technical and community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions, on its competitive Research and Development Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for universities.

Insights from the Three Mile Island accident—Part 1: The accident

April 29, 2022, 3:59PMNuclear NewsWilliam E. Burchill

The accident at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant on March 28, 1979, was an extremely complex event. It was produced by numerous preexisting plant conditions, many systemic issues in the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, unanticipated operator actions, previously unrecognized thermal-­hydraulic phenomena in the reactor coolant system (RCS), and the unprecedented challenge of managing a severely degraded core.