NIA: Repeal restriction on foreign ownership, control, domination of U.S. reactors

A new report from the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, U.S. Nuclear Innovation in a Global Economy: Updating an Outdated National Security Framework, argues for the repeal of the Atomic Energy Act’s restriction on foreign ownership, control, or domination of nuclear reactors—the so-called FOCD provision.

Fuel supply and reactor licensing bills debut in House

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 29 continued their push for nuclear with the introduction of the Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act (H.R. 7814) and the Modernize Nuclear Reactor Environmental Reviews Act (H.R. 7817). Last month, GOP members of the committee introduced the Strengthening American Nuclear Competitiveness Act and the Nuclear Licensing Efficiency Act.

Senate passes defense bill with advanced nuclear provisions

In an 86 to 14 vote, the Senate on July 23 passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, incorporating by amendment S. 903, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA). The House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA, which supports $740 billion in funding for national defense, earlier in the week in a less bipartisan manner, 295 to 125. Members of both chambers will now begin negotiations to hammer out a final bill to send to the president—a process that could take months.

Sixty-day extension for comments on proposed SMR rule

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for comments on its “Proposed Rule for Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies” to allow more time for members of the public and other stakeholders to develop and submit their comments. The proposed rule and associated draft regulatory guide apply to non-light-water reactors and certain nonpower facilities, and were originally published in the Federal Register on May 12 with a deadline of July 27. The new deadline is September 25.

White House appointee sees advanced nuclear option for Puerto Rico

All energy sources, including small modular reactors, are being considered to meet Puerto Rico’s energy needs, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown said on July 15 during the second day of PR-Grid Virtual, a three-day online conference on Puerto Rico’s energy grid. Brown’s comments were quickly circulated on Twitter by people who are already working to make nuclear power a reality for Puerto Rico, including members of the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP), a non-profit organization of Puerto Rican engineers in the nuclear industry.

Recapping the ANS/NEI Advanced Reactor Codes and Standards Workshop

As industry steps up its efforts to design, develop, and deploy advanced reactors, codes and standards must be developed to support these technologies. Toward that end, ANS and the Nuclear Energy Institute collaborated to host a virtual workshop on June 23 for industry partners to discuss the development of advanced reactor codes and standards.

NEI’s senior director of new reactors, Marc Nichol, welcomed more than 400 attendees to the online meeting, and ANS’s director of government relations, John Starkey, outlined the meeting logistics.

Feature Article

Digital engineering: Controlling costs for megaprojects

With a new generation of nuclear reactors in the works, Idaho National Laboratory has embraced digital engineering (DE) as a means of achieving the same efficiencies that companies in the private sector have been able to realize in everything from concert halls to aircraft engines.

DE—using advanced technologies to capture data and craft design in a digitized environment—has been evolving since the 1990s. For Mortenson Construction, a worldwide construction firm, using virtual design and construction resulted in a cumulative 600 days saved over 416 projects and a 25 percent increase in productivity. By building digital twins for assets, systems, and processes, DE has avoided more than $1.05 billion in customer, production, and mechanical losses.

Leaders at INL recognized in 2018 that DE could be useful in the design and construction of new commercial and test reactors. Managing construction costs, timing, and performance will be essential to maintain U.S. competitiveness.

Petition window opened for Oklo’s microreactor license application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced a notice of opportunity to intervene in an adjudicatory hearing on Oklo Power’s combined license application (COLA) for construction of a microreactor at Idaho National Laboratory. The notice, dated June 24, was published in the Federal Register on June 30, opening a 60-day window for petitions.

Making the case for advanced reactors in Puerto Rico

The ANS Young Members Group and the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) on June 18 presented a webinar on the rapidly developing prospects for advanced nuclear in Puerto Rico. Behind those bright prospects is the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP), which led a Department of Energy–funded study on the feasibility of using small advanced reactors to meet the island’s power needs.

Aurora’s docketing marks dawn for advanced reactor licensing

Artist’s conception of Oklo’s Aurora. (Image: Gensler)

Oklo's 1.5-MWe fast spectrum design known as Aurora is the first advanced non–light-water reactor to be accepted for a licensing review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Both the reactor’s design and the anticipated licensing process mark a major departure from large light-water reactor design and licensing.

General Chair’s Special Session: Advanced reactors in uncertain times

The final plenary session of the American Nuclear Society's 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting was the General Chair’s Special Session, held on Wednesday, June 10. The session contained much information about the current and future role of advanced reactor technology. The session, with the subtitle “The Promise of Advanced Reactors during Uncertain Times: National Security, Jobs and Clean Energy,” featured two panels: the Lab Directors Roundtable and the Advanced Reactor Panel. The general chair is Mark Peters, Idaho National Laboratory director. The session was moderated by Corey McDaniel, of Idaho National Laboratory, and the assistant general chair of the Annual Meeting.

A few of the issues covered during the dual plenary session included challenges to advanced reactor deployment, public-private partnerships in research and development, nuclear non-proliferation and security, workforce issues, and market conditions and demand.

Comments requested on proposed EP rule

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking comments on its “Proposed Rule for Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies,” published in the Federal Register on May 12. The proposed rule and associated draft regulatory guide apply to non–light-water reactors and certain nonpower facilities.

ARPA-E projects to receive $27 million in DOE grants

The Department of Energy is awarding $27 million in funding for nine projects through the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy’s (ARPA-E) Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets (GEMINA) program. These projects will work to develop digital twin technology to reduce operations and maintenance (O&M) costs in the next generation of nuclear power plants in order to make them more economical, flexible, and efficient, according to the DOE.

Lawmakers urge NRC to expedite advanced reactor rulemaking

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to accelerate the completion of a rulemaking that would establish a technology-inclusive regulatory framework for advanced nuclear reactor technologies.

In a May 15 letter to NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki, Sens. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), and Cory Booker (D., N.J.) note that the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA)—signed into law by President Trump in January 2019—requires the NRC to, among other things, complete a rulemaking to license and regulate these technologies no later than December 31, 2027.

DOE issues FOA for advanced reactor demos

Reactor designers and others ready to invest in advanced nuclear technology now have a defined route to apply for cost-share funding, including $160 million in initial funding to build two reactors within the next five to seven years. On May 14, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

Department of Energy launches $230 million Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the launch of the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) within the Office of Nuclear Energy. ARDP is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the U.S.

Comment now on advanced reactor GEIS scope

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is developing a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) for small-scale advanced reactor designs. Just how small a reactor must be to fit the parameters of the GEIS is one topic open for public comment, but the NRC staff anticipates including reactors generating up to 30 MWt. The public comment period is open until June 30

Alloy 617 is new option for high-temp reactors

When it comes to advanced, high-temperature reactors—using working fluids such as molten salt, high-temperature gases, or sodium—there simply are not many qualified materials for nuclear component construction. Alloy 617 is not a new material, but it made the news after Idaho National Laboratory announced that it was recently added to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel (BPV) Code for high-temperature nuclear applications, bringing the total number of qualified high-temperature materials to six.

ARC signs on as potential Centrus HALEU customer

High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) is the fuel of choice for many advanced reactor developers, including Advanced Reactor Concepts, which is designing the ARC-100, a sodium-cooled fast reactor. Developers face a potential supply problem, however: The United States has no clear path to build the commercial HALEU production facilities that would be needed to fuel a fleet of advanced reactors. A letter of intent signed by ARC and Centrus Energy, announced on April 28, calls for cooperation on the deployment of a commercial supply of HALEU and could lead to a HALEU purchase agreement for ARC-100 deployments in the late 2020s.