Oklo submits licensing plan for fuel recycling facility

January 25, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions

Oklo said it has submitted a licensing project plan to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, outlining the company’s plans for preapplication engagement activities that support the future licensing of a used nuclear fuel recycling facility. The first-of-a-kind facility is intended to produce fuel to support the deployment of Oklo’s advanced fission power plants.

National lab veteran Goff named to position at DOE-NE

January 18, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Goff

Michael Goff, a renowned nuclear engineer with decades of management and research experience in national laboratories and the Department of Energy, has been named as the principal deputy assistant secretary for the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). The DOE announced the appointment on January 17 after a competitive, nationwide selection process.

NE, White House, national labs: Goff, an American Nuclear Society member, had been serving his third term at NE as a senior advisor to the assistant secretary. He had also previously served as the assistant director for nuclear energy and as a senior policy advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He spent more than 30 years at Idaho National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory in a number of management and research positions. His research interests have focused on the nuclear fuel cycle, including separations technology, high-level waste development, and safeguards. He has had more than 70 papers published on these and other research topics.

THOR puts fast reactor fuel to the test in U.S.-Japan TREAT collaboration

January 17, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
U.S. secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm and Japan’s minister of economy, trade, and industry Yasutoshi Nishimura lead energy discussions on January 9 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: DOE)

Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory have completed initial testing on a newly developed fuel test capsule that is expected to provide crucial performance data for sodium-cooled fast reactors. The Department of Energy announced on January 12 that the series of fuel testing experiments being carried out now at INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) was developed through a joint project between the United States and Japan.

From the pages of Nuclear News : Industry update

January 10, 2023, 9:31AMNuclear News

Here is a recap of industry happenings over the past month:

ADVANCED REACTOR MARKETPLACE

X-energy enters into agreement to become publicly traded company

X-energy, a developer of small modular reactors and nuclear fuel technology, has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Ares Acquisition Corporation, a publicly traded special-purpose acquisition company. As a result of the agreement, X-energy will become a publicly traded company, a status that is expected to give a boost to its growth strategy, investment opportunities, and financial flexibility. In addition, X-energy will receive differentiated sponsorship by Ares Management Corporation, which describes itself as a “leading global alternative investment manager.” The existing equity holders of X-energy are expected to hold more than 60 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of the common stock of the combined company. The transaction is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2023.

Breakthrough Institute tells NRC to “go back to the drawing board” with Part 53 rule

December 19, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Breakthrough Institute’s analysis of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s draft proposal to modernize licensing regulations for advanced reactors has concluded that the latest proposed 10 CFR Part 53 rule language ”largely replicates the failed licensing rules that have hobbled the legacy nuclear industry for decades.”

A summary of the analysis, written by Ted Nordhaus, the Breakthrough Institute’s founder and executive director, and Adam Stein, the institute’s director for nuclear energy innovation, observes that the “draft framework is twice as long as either of the legacy, prescriptive licensing frameworks, Part 50 and 52, that it is intended to supplant. That is because the staff largely cut and pasted the old rules into the new framework, then added further burdensome regulations, including qualitative health objectives that cannot be complied with and expanded requirements for the notorious ‘as low as reasonably achievable’ radiation standard, a further invitation to endlessly ratchet regulatory requirements.”

DOE awards $800K to ANS, ECA to engage on nuclear energy

December 9, 2022, 7:00AMANS News

The Department of Energy yesterday awarded the American Nuclear Society and Energy Communities Alliance Inc. (ECA) a combined $800,000 to connect with communities across the country and establish education and outreach opportunities in nuclear energy. (A Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit, ECA “brings together local government officials to share information, establish policy positions, and promote community interests to address an increasingly complex set of constituent, environmental, regulatory, and economic development needs,” according to its website.)

DOE-NE opens HALEU Consortium with focus on information exchange

December 8, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
(Image: DOE))

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy announced December 7 that its new HALEU Consortium is open for membership. And not just from U.S. enrichers, fuel fabricators, and others working in the front-end fuel cycle, but from “any U.S. entity, association, and government organization involved in the nuclear fuel cycle,” and—at the DOE’s discretion—“organizations whose facilities are in ally or partner nations.” The HALEU Consortium will essentially serve as an information clearinghouse to meet DOE-NE’s ongoing needs for firm supply and demand data as it supports the development of a commercial domestic high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) infrastructure to fuel advanced reactors. The consortium is open for business almost one full year after the DOE first requested public input on its structure.

Centrus signs to complete HALEU demo in 2023 as the DOE prepares draft RFP

December 6, 2022, 9:49AMNuclear News
These gas centrifuges operated in the Piketon facility from 2013 to 2016 as part of a 120-machine low-enriched uranium demonstration cascade. (Photo: Centrus Energy)

Centrus Energy confirmed on December 1 that its wholly owned subsidiary American Centrifuge Operating signed a contract with the Department of Energy, which was first announced on November 10, to complete and operate a demo-scale high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) gaseous centrifuge cascade.

Got Fuel? Prospective HALEU enrichers and buyers talk goals and timelines

December 2, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
From left: Christina Leggett (Booz Allen Hamilton), Morris Hassler (IB3 Global Solutions), Everett Redmond (Oklo), Andy Griffith (DOE-NE), Ben Jordan (Centrus), Stephen Long (GLE), and Magnus Mori (Urenco).

Whether commercial demand for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel ultimately falls at the high or low end of divergent forecasts, one thing is certain: the United States is not ready to meet demand, because it currently has no domestic HALEU enrichment capacity. But conversations happening now could help build the commercial HALEU enrichment infrastructure needed to support advanced reactor deployments. At the 2022 American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting, representatives from three potential HALEU enrichers, the government, and industry met to discuss their timelines and challenges during “Got Fuel? Progress Toward Establishing a Domestic US HALEU Supply,” a November 15 executive session cosponsored by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy Division and the Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division.

Two reports agree: Diverse advanced reactor fuel cycles can succeed

November 23, 2022, 6:39AMNuclear News

Advanced reactors and small modular reactors with strikingly different coolants and sizes offer an array of different benefits, but when it comes to fuel cycle issues, including spent fuel and waste, they have a lot in common with conventional light water reactors. Two reports released within the last week—a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) consensus committee report two years in the making and a Department of Energy study released by Argonne National Laboratory—address the timely topic of advanced reactor fuel cycle issues. While the NASEM committee ventured to define research and infrastructure needs to support the entire nuclear power fuel cycle, inclusive of new technologies, for decades to come, the DOE report compares the front- and back-end fuel cycle metrics of three reactor designs (from NuScale Power, TerraPower, and X-energy) that have been selected for DOE cost-share–funded demonstrations within this decade. Together, these reports provide assurance that the fuel cycle needs of a fleet of new reactors can be met and point to near-term research and planning needs.

Centrus Energy gets more time and money to complete HALEU demo

November 15, 2022, 12:08PMNuclear News
Centrifuge casings arrive in Piketon, Ohio. (Photo: Centrus Energy)

The Department of Energy announced a cost-shared award on November 10 valued at about $150 million for American Centrifuge Operating, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy, to complete the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) demonstration project it began in 2019. After delays that Centrus attributes in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company now has until the end of 2023 to produce the first 20 kilograms of HALEU enriched to 19.75 percent U-235 from the 16-centrifuge cascade it has installed in a DOE-owned Piketon, Ohio, facility—the only U.S. facility currently licensed to produce HALEU.

From the pages of Nuclear News : Industry update

November 10, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News

Here is a recap of industry happenings over the past month:


ADVANCED REACTOR MARKETPLACE

U.S. and Canadian regulators formalize relationship on advanced reactors

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) have reached a charter agreement that formally establishes a collaborative relationship on small modular reactors and other advanced reactor technologies. The two agencies have been cooperating on these technologies for several years, but the formal agreement is designed to better harmonize the American and Canadian regulatory processes to achieve safe, successful deployment. The charter specifically focuses on regulatory and safety issues regarding the licensing review of GE--Hitachi’s BWRX--300 SMRs, which Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has selected for deployment at its Darlington site and which the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plans to build at Clinch River. OPG and TVA announced plans earlier this year to work together on the development and deployment these SMRs.

HALEU and the promise of nuclear energy: An interview with the DOE’s Kathryn Huff

November 4, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

Kathryn Huff

Deploying a fleet of advanced reactors in the 2030s means deploying high-assay low- enriched uranium (HALEU) infrastructure now.

The future fleet will need more than 40 metric tons of HALEU by 2030, according to Department of Energy projections. Getting to the 5–20 percent fissile uranium-235 content of HALEU involves either enriching natural or low-enriched uranium (LEU) or downblending high-enriched uranium (HEU).

Because downblending the limited stocks of HEU held at the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory and Savannah River Site is a short-term option at best, the Energy Act of 2020 authorized a HALEU Availability Program to build a sustainable enrichment infrastructure by the time advanced reactors are ready for commercial deployment.

Comments on a request for information reached the DOE in February 2022, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amplified global energy security concerns. While the war in Ukraine didn’t change the DOE’s plans, it “accelerated everything,” said Kathryn Huff, who leads the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) as assistant secretary. “Our attention is now laser-focused on this issue in a way that it wouldn’t have been in the past.”

DOE awards $38 million to advance used fuel recycling

October 26, 2022, 6:38AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy is providing $38 million in funding for a dozen projects aimed at developing technologies to advance spent nuclear fuel reprocessing, reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring permanent disposal, and provide domestic advanced reactor fuel stocks. The projects are being led by universities, private companies, and national laboratories.

ACRS backs NuScale’s smaller, PRA-informed emergency planning zone

October 25, 2022, 12:53PMNuclear News
A rendering of the six-module Carbon Free Power Project planned for construction in Idaho. (Image: NuScale)

NuScale Power announced October 20 that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) issued a letter the previous day agreeing with NRC staff’s approval of NuScale’s methodology for determining the plume exposure pathway emergency planning zone (EPZ). As approved, the methodology would permit a smaller EPZ—dependent on site-specific conditions, including seismic hazards—that provides the same level of protection to the public as the 10-mile radius EPZs used for existing U.S. nuclear power plants.

How has technology shaped the challenge of deploying nuclear energy projects in today’s world?

October 13, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear NewsEddie Guerra

Eddie M. Guerra (eddie.guerra@rizzointl.com) is vice president of civil infrastructure development at Rizzo International.

Eddie Guerra, VP of Civil Infrastructure: Our energy infrastructure is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, which is in turn opening a new wave of challenges for deploying the next generation of nuclear reactors.

The decentralization of power generation will require nuclear plants to be sited closer to demand centers. As the future grid becomes more distributed, energy--intensive customers will demand proximity and flexibility, and new--generation reactors will need to accommodate the intermittency and load--following requirements that a greener and more dynamic grid will pose. Added to that, nuclear projects will need to compete economically within a more liberalized electricity market. Advanced reactor deployments will face unprecedented challenges in today’s world, and in the future.

Despite challenges, advances in engineering and technology point to a very bright future. Smaller reactors with enhanced safety features will allow stakeholders to rethink proximity criteria on siting, opening doors for deployment in new scenarios: university campuses, municipalities in remote areas, or industrial conglomerates, just to name a few.

NRC issues new report for Convention on Nuclear Safety

September 12, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last Friday announced the publication of its ninth report to the Convention on Nuclear Safety, describing the federal government’s actions under the convention to achieve and maintain safety for the nation’s nuclear power reactor fleet.

An International Atomic Energy Agency treaty, the Convention on Nuclear Safety was adopted in 1994 and entered into force in 1996. In 1999, it was ratified by the U.S. Senate.

The aim of the convention, according to the IAEA, is to “commit contracting parties operating land-based civil nuclear power plants to maintain a high level of safety by establishing fundamental safety principles to which states would subscribe.” Signatories are required to submit reports for peer review at meetings held every three years.

An interview with NRC Chairman Christopher T. Hanson

September 9, 2022, 3:09PMNuclear NewsRick Michal

Who better to talk with about the licensing of nuclear facilities and materials than Christopher T. Hanson, the chairman of the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission? Hanson is the principal executive officer of and official spokesman for the NRC. As a collegial body, the Commission formulates policies, develops regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear material safety, issues orders to licensees, and adjudicates legal matters.

Report sizes up nuclear new-build financing from five top exporters

August 31, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

As energy security and environmental concerns prompt some countries to increase their reliance on nuclear energy or become first-time adopters of the technology, the U.S. government must decide whether it will offer financing for reactor exports—a move that poses financial risks but could create jobs, address global climate and energy security challenges, and limit Chinese and Russian influence. A new report released on August 25 by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Comparing Government Financing of Reactor Exports: Considerations for U.S. Policy Makers, digs into the history of nuclear reactor financing and delivers recommendations for U.S. policymakers.

Matt Bowen, research scholar at the center and the report’s lead author, told Nuclear News, “Given how important financing is to countries considering new reactor construction, as well as the competition that U.S. vendors face from foreign state-owned entities, Congress and the White House should both focus attention on the issue, including policy options to increase U.S. competitiveness.”