Kairos Power is building toward low-power demo operations in 2026

July 16, 2021, 9:00AMNuclear News
Artistic rendering of the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor. (Image: Kairos Power)

Today, Tennessee governor Bill Lee joined Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner Bob Rolfe and Kairos Power officials in Nashville, Tenn., to celebrate Kairos’s plans to construct a low-power demonstration reactor in the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company first announced its plans to redevelop the former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site at the Heritage Center, a former Department of Energy site complex, in December 2020.

Autonomous operation of small reactors: Economy of automation in lieu of economy of scale

July 1, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear NewsRichard Wood

Wood

As indicated in the April issue of Nuclear News, development of advanced reactor concepts heavily emphasizes small modular reactors and microreactors. Promised features, such as capital cost savings, plant system simplification, implementation flexibility, and favorable operational responsiveness with passive safety behavior, all promote small reactors as desirable, non-­­carbon-­­emitting power sources to help satisfy future energy needs. In spite of the favorable up-­­front economics compared to large nuclear reactors, SMRs and microreactors do not provide the benefit of economy of scale that typically compensates for the high staffing demands associated with traditional, labor-intensive operations and maintenance (O&M) practices in the nuclear industry. To avoid the prospect that high staffing levels relative to unit power production will lead to unsustainable O&M costs for small reactors, a significantly higher degree of automation, to the point of near autonomy, is necessary. Essentially, the economy of automation is needed to offset the loss of economy of scale.

ANS to Congress: Don’t prohibit civil nuclear cooperation with China

June 30, 2021, 3:00PMANS News

The American Nuclear Society sent a letter this morning to the chairman and the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urging them to oppose any amendments to H.R. 3524, the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act, that would disallow U.S. cooperation with China in the field of civil nuclear energy.

The bill, introduced on May 25 by the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.), was scheduled for markup by the committee this afternoon at 1:00 (EDT).

Introducing the molten salt nuclear battery

June 25, 2021, 2:49PMNuclear NewsPaul Marotta, Richard Christensen, and Piyush Sabharwall

Molten salt reactor technology first gained popularity in the 1960s, through the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Now, decades later, a technology known as the molten salt nuclear battery (MsNB) is being developed to support the growing need for carbon-free, reliable, independent, and compact sources of small-scale heat and electrical power.

Argonne-led team models fluid dynamics of entire SMR core

June 9, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
This image shows the individual pins in a full-core nuclear reactor simulation. (Image: ANL)

Coolant flow around the fuel pins in a light water reactor core plays a critical role in determining the reactor’s performance. For yet-to-be-built small modular reactors, a thorough understanding of coolant flow will be key to successfully designing, building, and licensing first-of-a-kind reactors.

Tiny MARVEL reactor gets final environmental assessment

June 8, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
The MARVEL reactor concept with Stirling engines. (Image: DOE)

The definition of a microreactor is ambiguous. But whether your upper cutoff is 10 MW or 20 MW, the Microreactor Applications Research Validation and Evaluation (MARVEL) reactor that the Department of Energy plans to build is, at 100 kW, on the tiny side of micro.

TerraPower’s Natrium demo is headed to Wyoming

June 3, 2021, 12:03PMNuclear News
A future TerraPower plant visualization. (Graphic: TerraPower)

TerraPower has a design for a sodium-cooled fast reactor and federal cost-shared demonstration funding from the Department of Energy. Its partner, PacifiCorp, has four operating coal-fired power plants in the state of Wyoming. On June 2, together with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and others, the companies announced plans to site a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming, with a specific site to be announced by the end of 2021.

U.S. and France commit to “common ambition” on advanced nuclear

June 2, 2021, 3:12PMNuclear News

U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and French minister for the ecological transition Barbara Pompili issued a joint statement on May 28 in which they pledged to work together to meet shared climate goals.

“France and the United States share common goals and common resolve in fighting climate change and working toward reaching the ambitious target set forth by the Paris agreement,” the statement read. “We are united in a common ambition on both sides of the Atlantic: achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Reaching this common objective will require leveraging all currently existing emission-free technologies available to us while simultaneously intensifying research, development, and deployment across a suite of zero-emissions energy sources and systems. Ensuring that these energy systems are efficient and reliable, integrating larger shares of renewables coupled with nuclear energy, which is a significant part of today’s electricity production in both our countries, will be crucial to accelerate energy transitions. Reaching this common objective will also require a wide variety of favorable financing conditions across the range of zero-emitting power sources and systems.”

Advanced reactor economics and markets

May 21, 2021, 2:41PMNuclear NewsCharles Forsberg and Eric Ingersoll
TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy jointly developed the sodium-cooled Natrium reactor with the turbine hall, nitrate heat storage tanks, and cooling towers separated from the reactor at the back of the site.

The viability of nuclear power ultimately depends on economics. Safety is a requirement, but it does not determine whether a reactor will be deployed. The most economical reactor maximizes revenue while minimizing costs. The lowest-cost reactor is not necessarily the most economical reactor. Different markets impose different requirements on reactors. If the capital cost of Reactor A is 50 percent more than Reactor B but has characteristics that double the revenue, the most economical reactor is Reactor A.

The most important factor is an efficient supply chain, including on-site construction practices. This is the basis for the low capital cost of light water reactors from China and South Korea. The design of the reactor can significantly affect capital cost through its impact on the supply chain. The question is, how can advanced reactors boost revenue and reduce costs?

Biden environmental justice panel says no to nuclear

May 21, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) would appear to be not a fan of nuclear energy. In a May 13 report issued to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, WHEJAC lists “The procurement of nuclear power” under the heading “Examples of the Types of Projects That Will Not Benefit a Community.” (Other projects listed include fossil fuel procurement, carbon capture and storage, and cap and trade.) The 90-page report does not provide an explanation for the opposition.

DOE announces funding for advanced reactor fuel cycle and reprocessing R&D

May 21, 2021, 7:06AMNuclear News
This figure, included in the ONWARDS funding opportunity announcement, shows how ARPA-E R&D programs address different stages of advanced reactor development. (Figure: ARPA-E)

The Department of Energy has announced up to $40 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program to conduct research and development into technologies for reprocessing and ultimately disposing of used nuclear fuel. The program, “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems” (ONWARDS), announced on May 19, targets both open (once-through) and closed (reprocessing) fuel cycles to reduce the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors tenfold when compared to light water reactors.

Planning ahead for advanced reactor safeguards and security

May 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Nonproliferation, safeguards, and security were on the agenda for the fifth public information-gathering meeting of the National Academies’ Committee on Merits and Viability of Different Nuclear Fuel Cycles and Technology Options and the Waste Aspects of Advanced Nuclear Reactors. Moderated by committee chair Janice Dunn Lee and NAS study director Charles Ferguson, the two-day public meeting was convened on May 17 and was to be followed by a closed committee session on May 19.

NRIC wants to know: How could you use a hybrid nuclear energy system?

May 11, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The demonstration program aims to accelerate innovation and deployment of energy concepts at the intersection of industry needs, NRIC’s mission, and the R&D portfolio of CTD IES. (Graphic: BEA)

The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) wants to hear from developers and end users interested in integrated energy systems for advanced reactors. Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), the managing and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, has issued a call for Expressions of Interest for a potential multi-phase demonstration program for innovative uses of nuclear energy, to be carried out by NRIC and the Crosscutting Technology Development Integrated Energy Systems (CTD IES) program. The final date for responses is May 21.

Making emergency planning zones smarter: a risk-informed approach for new reactors

April 16, 2021, 2:52PMNuclear NewsCurtis Smith, Koroush Shirvan, Jason Christensen, and Kurt Vedros

The health and safety of the public and protecting people from the consequences of a significant release of radioactive material has been a top priority since the early days of the civilian nuclear energy program. After World War II, it was realized that the core inventory of radionuclides is a potential hazard. From this knowledge, emergency planning zones (EPZs) for nuclear power plants were established.

Future job opportunities highlight Friday Plenary at ANS Student Conference

April 12, 2021, 9:30AMANS News

The second day of the 2021 ANS Virtual Student Conference, on April 9, hosted by North Carolina State University opened with the plenary, “Student Opportunities within the Nuclear Community.” The session featured three panelists, each representing a different sector of the nuclear community.

Pandemic-delayed ANS Student Conference kicks off with enthusiasm

April 9, 2021, 11:59AMANS News
NCSU: Site of the 2021 ANS Student Conference

North Carolina State University was finally able to host the ANS Student Conference, April 8 to 10. After the 2020 event was canceled due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 version is being held virtually for the first time.

The conference's opening session is available for registered attendees to view online.

Partnership supports siting Xe-100 demo in Washington state

April 1, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) observes as (from left) Energy Northwest CEO Brad Sawatzke, X-energy CEO Clay Sell, and Grant PUD CEO Kevin Nordt sign the TRi Energy Partnership MOU on April 1 at the Port of Benton in Richland, Wash. Photo: Energy Northwest

Building the nation’s first advanced reactor is the goal of a partnership formed between X-energy, Energy Northwest, and the Grant County (Washington) Public Utility District (PUD).

The TRi Energy Partnership will support the development and demonstration of X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor, which was selected by the Department of Energy for a cost-shared commercial demonstration by 2027 through the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The new partnership was announced on April 1, when Clay Sell, X-energy’s chief executive officer; Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s CEO; and Kevin Nordt, the Grant County PUD’s CEO, met in Richland, Wash., to sign a memorandum of understanding.

Fission gas monitoring tool developed for molten salt reactors

March 17, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Amanda Lines, a PNNL chemist, develops real-time monitoring tools to pave the way for faster advanced reactor testing and design. (Photo: Andrea Starr/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Advanced reactor development and testing could benefit from a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory innovation that combines remote, real-time monitoring of gaseous fission by-products with a software package designed with plant operators in mind, according to an article published online earlier this month.

The basics: “Real-time monitoring is a valuable tool, particularly in the development of next-generation reactors,” said Amanda Lines, a PNNL chemist. “This can help designers more efficiently and effectively design and test flow loops, mechanisms, or processes. Also, when they ultimately deploy their reactor systems, this gives operators a tool to better understand and control those processes.”