U.S., Canadian regulators complete IMSR technical review

June 9, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Computer rendering of an IMSR400 plant. (Image: Terrestrial Energy)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have completed a first joint technical review of Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor, the company announced earlier this week.

The IMSR was selected in December 2019 to be the first advanced non–light water nuclear reactor technology to be studied under an August 2019 NRC/CNSC memorandum of cooperation aimed at enhancing regulatory effectiveness through collaborative work on technical reviews of advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies.

New reactor on campus? UIUC’s choice for research, education, and training

April 8, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear NewsCaleb Brooks
Image: USNC

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign formed a partnership with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation to deploy an advanced research reactor on campus, based on a microreactor design that improves upon well-established high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technology. Unlike traditional research reactors, our focus at UIUC is not on a laboratory tool to study radiation interactions with matter, or even on the production of radioisotopes. Instead, we will build a research, education, and training facility intended to help advanced reactor technology become a widely deployable, marketable, economic, safe, and reliable option for a clean energy future. If successful, the USNC-designed Micro Modular Reactor (MMR)a would operate on UIUC’s campus with the capability to advance critical and enabling technologies required for advanced reactors to realize their full potential, while educating and training the workforce as a key step toward delivering on the technology’s promise. Microreactors can become a transformative distributed energy technology and revolutionize energy infrastructure worldwide.

Bill to ban Russian uranium imports debuts

March 21, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

Barrasso

In the latest effort by the federal government to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) last week introduced legislation to prohibit the importation of Russian uranium to the United States.

The Biden administration banned imports of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal, via executive order on March 8.

Barrasso’s bill, S. 3856, was introduced on March 16, with three of his fellow GOP lawmakers as cosponsors: Sens. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.), and Roger Marshall (R., Kan.).

“The time is now to permanently remove all Russian energy from the American marketplace,” said Barrasso, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee. “We know Vladimir Putin uses this money to help fund his brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine. While banning imports of Russian oil, gas, and coal is an important step, it cannot be the last. Banning Russian uranium imports will further defund Russia’s war machine, help revive American uranium production, and increase our national security.”

Senate panel vets Biden’s pick to lead DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy

March 18, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Nominated to lead the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Kathryn Huff testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 17.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met yesterday to consider the nomination of Kathryn Huff to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). President Biden selected Huff to fill the top spot at NE in January.

Pilot fuel facility in Oak Ridge to begin operations this summer

March 7, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Ultra Safe Nuclear staff in front of the new pilot fuel fabrication facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Photo: USNC)

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), an advanced reactor and reactor fuel developer, announced last week that it plans to begin operations this summer at its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., pending the receipt of the requisite state and local permits. The facility is located in the East Tennessee Technology Park, site of the Manhattan Project’s K-25 gaseous diffusion plant. USNC purchased an 8.7-acre site—which included a preexisting industrial building—from Heritage Center LLC in 2021.

First set of equipment delivered for Xe-100 RPS prototype

March 7, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Members of the Xe-100 reactor protection system team and the first set of prototype equipment. (Photo: X-energy)

X-energy, developer of the Xe-100 small modular reactor, has delivered the first of four sets of equipment for the Xe-100 reactor protection system (RPS) prototype, marking the latest milestone in the company’s efforts under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

Q&A with Monica Regalbuto: Shaping a sustainable HALEU economy

February 11, 2022, 2:31PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

Regalbuto

High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) is the power-dense feedstock of choice for a slew of advanced reactor designs. There’s just one problem: It isn’t available . . . yet. Downblending high-­enriched uranium owned by the Department of Energy to between 5 and 19.75 percent fissile U-235 is a stopgap measure at best, and no U.S. facility can yet produce commercial quantities of uranium above the 5 percent U-235 limit for low-enriched uranium.

The problem is one not of technology, but of economics: Enrichment companies want to see clear market signals that advanced reactors will be deployed in quantity, leading to long-term purchase agreements that will justify investments made today.

ANS Fellow Monica Regalbuto is director of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Strategy at Idaho National Laboratory, tasked with leveraging her more than 30 years of fuel cycle experience to ensure an adequate domestic supply of HALEU. She was invited to speak about her work during the opening plenary session of the 2021 ANS Winter Meeting.

GAO asked to evaluate NRC’s preparedness for advanced reactor reviews

February 9, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Two GOP lawmakers are calling on the Government Accountability Office to undertake an assessment of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s preparedness to review and approve advanced reactor applications.

In a February 4 letter to the GAO, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote, “Recent NRC actions concerning certain licensing activities raise questions about the agency’s capability to manage effectively first-mover applications for new, advanced technologies.”

CNL issues call for third round of proposals under Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative

October 6, 2021, 7:29AMNuclear News

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) last week issued a call for proposals for the third round of its Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) program.

More information about the program, including application details, can be found online.

NRC brainstorms ways to simplify microreactor licensing

September 24, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News
The U.S. NRC headquarters.

The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently released a draft white paper outlining strategies for streamlining microreactor licensing. The paper is to be used to facilitate discussion at an upcoming advanced reactor stakeholder public meeting.

“This paper,” the document emphasizes, “has not been subject to NRC management and legal reviews and approvals, and its contents are subject to change and should not be interpreted as official agency positions.”

CNSC, NRC complete joint report on the Xe-100 SMR

August 19, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have completed the first collaborative project under a two-year-old memorandum of cooperation (MOC) aimed at enhancing technical reviews of advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies, the CNSC announced earlier this week.

The project, a 23-page joint report from the regulators on a white paper submitted last July by X-energy regarding reactor pressure vessel (RPV) construction code specifications for the company’s Xe-100 SMR, was released to the public on August 6. The Xe-100 is an 80-MWe unit that can be scaled into a “four-pack” 320-MWe power plant, according to X-energy.

House appropriators pass bill with more funding for nuclear energy

July 19, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear News

The House Committee on Appropriations last week approved an Energy and Water Development funding bill for fiscal year 2022 that provides an 11 percent increase for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

Reported favorably out of committee on July 16 via a party-line vote of 33 to 24, the House bill sports a total price tag of $53.2 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion from the FY 2021 enacted level. (The committee’s official report on appropriations for the next fiscal year can be found here.)

U of Illinois plans to integrate research and power with advanced microreactor

June 30, 2021, 12:18PMNuclear News
A rendering of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s micro modular reactor as proposed for construction on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. (Graphic: USNC)

The U.S. state with more nuclear power plants than any other—Illinois—has no operating university research reactors. A team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) intends to reverse that situation and construct a high-temperature gas-cooled microreactor. If the team's plans go ahead, the first new U.S. university research reactor deployment in about 30 years could also support commercial advanced reactor deployment.

Oklo awarded $2 million to commercialize advanced fuel recycling

June 29, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News
An artist's rendition of Oklo’s Aurora powerhouse. (Image: Gensler)

California-based Oklo has received a $2 million cost-share award from the Department of Energy for the commercialization of advanced fuel recycling capabilities by using electrorefining technology. Oklo is matching $1 million in funds and is partnering with the DOE and Argonne National Laboratory on this public-private partnership, which is intended to help reduce fuel costs for advanced reactor designs while reducing waste by turning used fuel into advanced reactor fuel.

Centrus approved for HALEU production

June 21, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
Centrus’s American Centrifuge Plant, in Piketon, Ohio. Photo: Centrus Energy

Centrus Energy Corporation has announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the company’s license amendment request to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium at its Piketon, Ohio, enrichment facility. The Piketon plant is now the only U.S. facility licensed to enrich uranium up to 20 percent uranium-235, and it is expected to begin demonstrating HALEU production early next year, according to Centrus.

Moltex clears first phase of CNSC vendor design review

May 28, 2021, 9:28AMNuclear News

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed phase one of its pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) for Moltex Energy’s 300-MW Stable Salt Reactor–Wasteburner (SSR-W)—a molten salt reactor that uses nuclear waste as fuel. CNSC entered into an agreement with Moltex in November 2017 to conduct the initial phase of the review.

Consortium debuts new design for U.K. SMR

May 26, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s conception of the UK SMR consortium’s small modular reactor. (Image: Rolls-Royce)

The UK SMR consortium last week revealed the latest design and power upgrade—from 440 MW to 470 MW—for its proposed small modular reactor. According to the consortium’s lead company, Rolls-Royce, the “refreshed” design features a faceted roof, an earth embankment surrounding the reactor to integrate with the landscape, and a more compact building footprint.

The Natrium technology: Providing reliable, carbon-free energy to complement wind and solar

April 6, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
An artist’s rendering of Natrium. Image: TerraPower

Around the world, national and local policymakers and business leaders are making bold and ambitious commitments to clean energy goals. In the United States, one in three Americans now lives in a city or state that has committed to or has achieved 100 percent clean electricity, according to the Luskin Center for Innovation at the University of California–Los Angeles.

Virginia’s plan for nuclear in state’s energy strategy released

March 3, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

Virginia’s nuclear-sector stakeholders, led by the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority (VNECA), have drawn up a plan for helping the state reach its goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2045.

Released late last month, Virginia is Nuclear: 2020–2024 Strategic Plan is the result of legislation, SB 549, signed into law last year. The law directed the state’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy; Secretary of Commerce and Trade; and Secretary of Education to work with VNECA and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the role of nuclear energy in Virginia’s overall clean-energy strategy.

“The nuclear industry is vital to Virginia, and the Lynchburg region in particular,” said state Sen. Stephen Newman, who sponsored SB 549. “Jobs, economic growth, and clean air are just three of the benefits the state will see from the plan. I am proud of the industry and look forward to seeing them move forward with the plan.”

TVA invites input on Clinch River plans

February 3, 2021, 3:19PMNuclear News

An advanced nuclear reactor technology park is hoped for the 935-acre Clinch River site. Image: TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking public comment on its notice of intent to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on proposed actions for an advanced nuclear reactor technology park at the 935-acre Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. The notice, published yesterday, is also expected to appear in this Friday’s Federal Register.

The consideration of a new nuclear facility at the Clinch River site “supports TVA’s mission statement and is another way to assess how to serve the people of the Tennessee Valley,” according to TVA.

Your turn: TVA is requesting comments on the scope of the PEIS, alternatives being considered (including a no-action alternative), and environmental issues. Comments are due by March 19 and can be submitted online, via email, or by mail to J. Taylor Cates, NEPA Specialist, 1101 Market Street, BR 2C-C, Chattanooga, TN 37402.

TVA recommends giving feedback electronically, due to COVID-19 teleworking restrictions.