CP-1 at 80: The events of December 2, 1942

December 1, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News

On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the first controlled nuclear chain reaction, Nuclear Newswire is back with the second of three prepared #ThrowbackThursday posts of CP-1 coverage from past issues of Nuclear News.

On November 17, we surveyed the events of 1942 leading up to the construction of Chicago Pile-1, an assemblage of graphite bricks and uranium “pseudospheres” used to achieve and control a self-sustaining fission reaction on December 2, 1942, inside a squash court at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field.

Today we’ll pick up where we left off, as construction of CP-1 began on November 16, 1942.

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.

CP-1 at 80: Preparing for the first controlled nuclear chain reaction

November 17, 2022, 3:08PMNuclear News
From left, the cover of the December 1962 issue of NN, featuring a model and a medal, both displayed at the 1962 ANS Winter Meeting; a photo of CP-1 during construction, as published in the November 1992 issue of NN; the opening page of a chronological account of CP-1, published in November 1992 to mark the 50th anniversary.

As we approach the 80th anniversary of controlled nuclear fission, Nuclear Newswire is prepared to deliver not one but three #ThrowbackThursday posts of CP-1 highlights unearthed from past issues of Nuclear News.

ANS was founded in 1954, nearly 12 years after the first controlled nuclear chain reaction was achieved on December 2, 1942, inside a pile of graphite and uranium assembled on a squash court at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. By 1962, ANS was prepared to “salute the 20th anniversary of the first chain reaction” at their Winter Meeting, displaying a model of Chicago Pile-1 and presenting a specially cast medal to Walter Zinn, a representative of Enrico Fermi’s scientific team. Over the years, ANS has continued to mark significant anniversaries of CP-1 at national meetings and in NN.

American Nuclear Society publishes special issue of Nuclear Science and Engineering on Versatile Test Reactor

October 14, 2022, 2:37PMPress Releases
A rendering of the Versatile Test Reactor site. Image: INL

LA GRANGE PARK, Ilinois – Idaho National Laboratory’s crucial Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project is the focus of a newly released special issue of Nuclear Science and Engineering, the first and oldest peer-reviewed journal in its field. This special issue of the American Nuclear Society’s flagship journal presents a current snapshot of the nuclear innovation project at INL, which is being developed in partnership among six national labs and a host of industry and university partners.

Cue ominous chords and fade in from black . . .

September 15, 2022, 2:52PMANS News

It’s 1976, and you’re watching TV when a public service announcement from the American Nuclear Society airs, showing the earth being squeezed dry of its last drops of oil by a giant hand as it urges more “safe, reliable, and economical” nuclear power plants. The narrator’s last words, intoned over a fading sunset, still ring true today: “Our world is hungry for energy, and we must move ahead to preserve our future. If we don’t, we could find ourselves in the dark ages of the seventies.”

Carbon value: Lifetime extensions of nuclear reactors could save billions in climate mitigation costs

June 24, 2022, 2:49PMNuclear NewsBeth Burmahl

On the road to achieving net-zero by midcentury, low- or no-carbon energy sources that slash carbon dioxide emissions are critical weapons. Nevertheless, the role of nuclear energy—the single largest source of carbon-free electricity—remains uncertain.

Nuclear energy, which provides 20 percent of the electricity in the United States, has been a constant, reliable, carbon-free source for nearly 50 years. But our fleet of nuclear reactors is aging, with more than half of the 92 operating reactors across 29 states at or over 40 years old—the length of the original operating licenses issued to the power plants. While some reactors have been retired prematurely, there are two options for those that remain: retire them or renew their license.

First experiments in Argonne’s THETA aim to fill liquid sodium data gaps

May 13, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
THETA pictured in Argonne National Laboratory’s METL lab. (Photo: ANL)

The Thermal Hydraulic Experimental Test Article (THETA) at Argonne National Laboratory is now operating and providing data that could support the licensing of liquid-metal fast reactor designs by validating thermal-hydraulic and safety analysis codes. The new equipment has been installed in Argonne’s Mechanisms Engineering Test Loop (METL), and its first experiments are supporting data validation needs of Oklo, Inc., by simulating normal operating conditions as well as protected and unprotected loss-of-flow accidents in a sodium-cooled fast reactor.

The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards elects 2022 leadership

January 6, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

Rempe

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards has elected Joy Rempe as chair, Walter Kirchner as vice chair, and David Petti as member-at-large. All three are ANS members.

“I am honored that my colleagues on the ACRS elected me to this position,” said Rempe, of Rempe and Associates. “The leadership team looks forward to ensuring that the ACRS continues its tradition of providing the commission advice on safety issues.”

Bios: Rempe has more than 35 years of experience in the areas of reactor safety and instrumentation performance. Prior to retiring as a Laboratory Fellow at Idaho National Laboratory, she founded an instrumentation development and deployment laboratory, which supported irradiation testing in U.S. and international facilities.

Texas A&M to lead isotope R&D traineeship program

December 9, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is dedicating $2 million to the establishment of a first-of-its-kind program to train undergraduate and graduate students in isotope research and development, production, and processing. Texas A&M University will serve as the Isotope Traineeship Coordination (ITC) site, collaborating with a team of 14 colleges and universities and three national laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

ANS member Hart featured in Argonne Voices post

October 29, 2021, 9:30AMANS News

Hart

A recent podcast style conversation on YouTube spotlights the journey of J’Tia Hart, an ANS member with an uncommon and inspiring story. The video is part of the Argonne Voices series, an oral history project recording the stories of the people behind the science at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. This year is Argonne’s 75th anniversary.

Background: Hart, who recently moved from Argonne to the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, is a nuclear engineer and was the program initiator for Argonne’s Women in Science and Technology–also known as WIST–one of the lab’s employee resource groups.

Hart’s friend Amanda Joyce interviewed Hart in the YouTube post. Joyce is a cybersecurity expert who runs the DOE’s annual CyberForce Competition.

U.S. Nuclear Nexus created to guide exporters of advanced nuclear technology

August 23, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Companies, universities, and national laboratories across the United States are working together to develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear technologies. To deploy those technologies on a global scale and maximize U.S. efforts to combat climate change, technology developers eyeing the export market must navigate rules and recommendations designed to ensure that international safeguards, security, and nonproliferation standards are met. Understanding and, where appropriate, integrating these standards early in the development process is crucial for streamlining export and technology deployment.

Rewriting the script: The real story of advanced reactors

August 19, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier
The EBR-II sodium fast reactor at Idaho National Laboratory began operations in 1964 and generated electricity for decades. Soon it will serve as a National Reactor Innovation Center test bed for future advanced reactor demonstrations. (Source: ANL)

At the box office or streaming at home, it’s fear, not truth, that sells. The laws of physics are swept aside, apocalypse is inevitable, and superpowered heroes wait until the last possible second to save the universe. It can make for great entertainment, but in the real world we need to stick with science over science fiction and be wowed by engineering, not special effects.

The truth is, science and innovation are incredible in their own right. From communications and machine learning to space travel and medical advances, technology is evolving in hyperdrive to solve real problems. With climate change and global warming here on earth, we don’t have to go looking for trouble in a galaxy far, far away.

Setting the record straight on the Versatile Test Reactor

August 9, 2021, 2:50PMANS Nuclear CafeJordi Roglans-Ribas
A rendering of the VTR facility. (Image: INL)

The Department of Energy announced in 2020 its approval of Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, a one-of-a-kind scientific user facility that would support research and development of innovative nuclear energy and other technologies. The decision was well received by the nuclear energy community—after all, the DOE’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee had studied and reported on the need for the VTR and found strong support for the project among reactor developers, federal agencies and national laboratories, and university researchers.

Share:

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.

GAIN vouchers connect three companies with national lab experts

March 26, 2021, 12:15PMNuclear News

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced that three nuclear technology companies—Radiant, Oklo, and Lightbridge—will receive GAIN nuclear energy vouchers to accelerate the innovation and application of advanced nuclear technologies. The second set of Fiscal Year 2021 awards was announced March 25.

The value of “fluffy” stuff

December 16, 2020, 9:23AMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

You know the old saying that those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach? Well, I say anyone thinking that way should be kept far away from students!

In my time at Argonne National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory, I worked with incredible scientists and engineers doing cutting-edge research. Unfortunately, making progress in research is not always conducive to the education and training of those who haven’t yet gained the necessary expertise. And there is an interesting phenomenon that occurs the more one gains in education and experience: We tend to forget what we were like before, what it was like not to know everything we do now. More than one of my PhD colleagues at the national labs dismissed the education and outreach efforts that I pursued in my spare time: scouts, K-12 classroom visits, teacher workshops, science expos, etc., viewing any focus other than the truly technical as just “fluffy” and a waste of valuable time and effort.

Testing for Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR under way with research partners

November 19, 2020, 7:00AMNuclear News

Terrestrial Energy and the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) have started a graphite irradiation testing program at NRG’s Petten Research Centre’s High Flux Reactor (HFR), located in the Netherlands. According to Terrestrial Energy, which is based in Ontario, Canada, the work is part of broader program of confirmatory testing of components and systems for the company’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), designed to produce both electricity and industrial heat.

The testing program at NRG was planned to confirm the predicted performance of selected graphite grades throughout the seven-year cycle of an IMSR core. The testing was designed in cooperation with Frazer-Nash Consultancy, and will simulate IMSR core conditions at a range of operating temperatures and neutron flux conditions.

“Our work with NRG at its Petten HFR facility is an important element of our overall IMSR test program, now well underway. The start of in-core irradiation tests speaks to our progress and comes after many months of prior work,” Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy, said on November 12. “The NRG work also reflects an important feature of our testing strategy. That is to engage existing laboratories offering existing capabilities rather than build those in-house, a strategy that is essential for our early deployment schedule.”

The ongoing effort to convert the world’s research reactors

July 10, 2020, 2:17PMNuclear NewsChristina Nunez

The Ghana Research Reactor-1, located in Accra, Ghana, was converted from HEU fuel to LEU in 2017. Photo: Argonne National Laboratory

In late 2018, Nigeria’s sole operating nuclear research reactor, NIRR-1, switched to a safer uranium fuel. Coming just 18 months on the heels of a celebrated conversion in Ghana, the NIRR-1 reboot passed without much fanfare. However, the switch marked an important global milestone: NIRR-1 was the last of Africa’s 11 operating research reactors to run on high-enriched uranium fuel.

The 40-year effort to make research reactors safer and more secure by replacing HEU fuel with low-enriched uranium is marked by a succession of quiet but immeasurably significant milestones like these. Before Africa, a team of engineers from many organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, concluded its conversion work in South America and Australia. Worldwide, 71 reactors in nearly 40 countries have undergone conversions to LEU, defined as less than 20 percent uranium-235. Another 31 research reactors have been permanently shut down.

X-rays size up protein structure at the “heart” of COVID-19 virus

June 29, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

Overlapping X-ray data of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease shows structural differences between the protein at room temperature (orange) and the cryogenically frozen structure (white). Graphic: Jill Hemman/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A team of researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories has performed the first room-temperature X-ray measurements on the SARS-CoV-2 main protease, the enzyme that enables the virus to reproduce.

The X-ray measurements mark an important first step in the researchers’ ultimate goal of building a comprehensive 3D model of the enzymatic protein.

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

June 10, 2020, 5:28PMNuclear News

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.