The Atlantic: Build what we’ve already invented

May 16, 2022, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

“What if I told you that scientists had figured out a way to produce affordable electricity that was 99 percent safer and cleaner than coal or oil, and that this breakthrough produced even fewer emissions per gigawatt-hour than solar or wind?” That’s the question that Derek Thompson, a staff writer at The Atlantic, asks in his article, "The Forgotten Stage of Human Progress," before revealing, “The breakthrough I’m talking about is 70 years old: It’s nuclear power.”

Profile published on head of MARVEL project at Idaho National Laboratory

May 12, 2022, 7:03AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Idaho National Laboratory nuclear engineer Yasir Arafat (Photo: INL)

From refugee in Bangladesh to top nuclear engineer at Idaho National Laboratory, ANS member Yasir Arafat has led quite an interesting life, as described in a recent online profile written by Donna Kemp Spangler for the INL website. Arafat is leading the development of the Department of Energy’s Microreactor Applications Research Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) project at INL. The profile notes that MARVEL, which Arafat envisioned soon after joining INL in 2019, is scheduled to be “built and demonstrated at INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility and connected to the world’s first nuclear microgrid within two years.”

Addressing the economics of clean energy

May 10, 2022, 12:01PMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit
president@ans.org

I often say that nuclear energy will play a key role in our clean energy future, and I believe that is true. However, it won’t happen automatically. There is no “divine right” behind nuclear energy. We like to admire the fascinating aspects of nuclear technology, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the money, and that’s where we stubbed our toe badly over the past two decades.

The “Nuclear Renaissance” foundered when advanced light water reactors turned out to be much more expensive than their marketing claimed, while alternatives—primarily natural gas—plummeted in price. We tend to point to impediments to nuclear technology, such as overly restrictive licensing requirements and adverse public opinion, but these matter only to the extent of their impact on the bottom line. Again, it comes down to the money.

NuScale signs MOU with Korean companies on SMR deployment in Asia

May 2, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Kiyoun Na, chief executive officer of Doosan Enerbility’s nuclear business group; John Hopkins, president and CEO of NuScale Power; Yongsoo Huh, president and CEO of GS Energy; and Byung Soo Lee, executive vice president of Samsung C&T, signed an MOU to collaborate on NuScale SMR deployment in Asia.

Small modular reactor developer NuScale Power has signed a memorandum of understanding with three South Korean companies—Doosan Enerbility Company, GS Energy Corporation, and Samsung C&T Corporation—to explore the deployment of NuScale’s VOYGR power plants in Asia.

ANS's Earth Day webinar focused on clean energy

April 27, 2022, 7:03AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Earth Day webinar participants were (clockwise from top left) Craig Piercy, Lindsey Walter, Mikal Bøe, and Shannon Bragg-Sitton. (Image: ANS)

The American Nuclear Society hosted the webinar “Earth Day: Reflections on the Future of Clean Energy” on April 22. Expert panelists discussed the best options for achieving emissions-free objectives, including goals in energy production, industrial activities, and transportation.

IAEA webinar notes that best-paying clean energy jobs are in nuclear

April 22, 2022, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

In the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, the highest-paying jobs will continue to be in the nuclear power industry, which provides significant and sustainable employment that benefits local and regional economies. That observation was made during a recent webinar sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency titled “Investing in Low Carbon Technologies: Job Creation for Just Energy Transitions.”

Representatives from the clean energy industry discussed how rising living standards and job creation around the world can be ensured as energy investments align to meet climate goals.

U.S. should double its nuclear energy by 2050, says NIA report

April 19, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA), a nonprofit advocating for advanced nuclear, has announced the publication of a new report, Fission Vision: Doubling Nuclear Energy Production to Meet Clean Energy Needs. According to the April 13 announcement, the United States needs a “focused national effort” to develop and deploy advanced nuclear technologies to help meet midcentury climate goals.

Current U.S. climate targets (set by the Biden administration) include a 50–52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 and a net-zero–emissions economy by 2050.

Fission Vision answers the question: What is the role advanced nuclear energy could play at a scale and at a pace to help provide safe, reliable, and affordable clean energy?” said Judi Greenwald, NIA’s executive director. “Fission Vision has three objectives: catalyzing a robust U.S. innovation and commercialization ecosystem, ensuring ‘social license’ to operate advanced nuclear energy, and reimagining and integrating advanced nuclear energy with other clean energy sources. If we can achieve these objectives—and we think we can—advanced reactors will play a major role in meeting our climate and energy goals by at least doubling U.S. nuclear energy production by 2050.”

Canada’s 2022 budget plan includes backing for SMRs

April 15, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Notwithstanding the snubbing of nuclear in its recently released Green Bond Framework, the Canadian government is showing support for small modular reactors in its 2022 budget plan, which was presented to the House of Commons by the minister of finance, Chrystia Freeland, on April 7.

According to the Canadian Nuclear Association, “This is the first documented government policy that provides explicit financial support for SMRs as a key solution for climate change.”

Canadian utilities to collaborate on new nuclear in Ontario

April 8, 2022, 6:56AMNuclear News
Ontario clean energy leaders. From left: John Gorman, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Nuclear Association; Ken Hartwick, president and CEO of Ontario Power Generation; Todd Smith, Ontario’s minister of energy; and Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power president and CEO. (Photo: Bruce Power)

Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) have announced an agreement to work together to support new nuclear technologies in Ontario. Bruce Power operates the Bruce nuclear plant and OPG operates the Darlington and Pickering facilities.

Indiana SMR bill signed into law

March 22, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

Holcomb

Indiana has joined the growing list of states looking into small modular reactors for future energy production as their coal-fired plants are retired.

Gov. Eric Holcomb on March 18 signed into law S. 271, which allows and incentivizes the construction of SMRs in Indiana. Introduced on January 10 and sponsored by state Sens. Eric Koch (R., Bedford) and Blake Doriot (R., Goshen), S. 271 passed in the Senate on February 1 in a 39–9 vote and in the House on February 22 by a vote of 70 to 22.

Specifics: S. 271 requires the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), in consultation with the state’s Department of Environmental Management, to adopt rules concerning the granting of certificates of public convenience for the construction, purchase, or lease of SMRs, defined as reactors with a rated electric generating capacity of not more than 350 MW. The rules are to be adopted by July 1, 2023.

The United States is losing nuclear power when we need it the most

June 4, 2021, 2:49PMUpdated December 29, 2021, 6:03AMNuclear NewsEd Kee

As 2021 closes, Nuclear News is taking a look back at some of the feature articles published each month in the magazine. The May issue reviewed the economics of nuclear power and provided some great articles on nuclear power plant capacity factors, advanced reactor markets, the economic consequences of plant closures, plant closures as an opportunity for industry engagement with local communities, and the article below that looks at why the electricity markets are failing nuclear power plants.

The Biden administration has a goal to decarbonize the U.S. electricity sector by 2035.1 Achieving this goal would require a massive nuclear power build program. The U.S. nuclear power industry’s size and historical success signal that we are in a good position to do this, but at present, the U.S. nuclear fleet is shrinking. Why is this so, and what can be done to turn the trend around?

Diablo Canyon report takeaways: California has options, and it’s time for debate

November 10, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News

A new study by researchers from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—An Assessment of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant for Zero-Carbon Electricity, Desalination, and Hydrogen Production—makes a compelling case that the 2018 decision to shut down California’s only operating nuclear power plants needs another look—and that revenue options could make reversing the decision not just feasible but economically attractive.

“Fast-forward three years and things have changed,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and one of the authors of the report, during a November 8 webinar. Since the decision was made to shut down Diablo Canyon’s twin pressurized water reactors in 2024 and 2025 when their current licenses expire, the state has passed bills calling for net zero carbon emissions by 2045 and for restrictions on land use that could effectively limit solar installation sprawl. Californian’s have also experienced repeated grid reliability issues and prolonged drought conditions.

Senators probe nuclear priorities: HALEU, hydrogen, reactor siting, and more

November 5, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
From left, Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Paul Chodak, and Michael J. Guastella appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on November 4.

As Congress awaited key votes yesterday on spending bills that include production tax credits for at-risk plants and a new amendment adding $500 million in supplemental funding over five years to increase the availability of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a Full Committee Hearing On Potential Non-Electric Applications Of Civilian Nuclear Energy. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.), chairman of the committee, emphasized that “advanced nuclear reactors hold enormous potential to provide opportunity to communities across the country with zero-emission baseload power” and made it clear he expects new reactors to replace retiring coal plants in his home state of West Virginia.

Speaking before the committee were Shannon Bragg-Sitton of Idaho National Laboratory, Paul Chodak III of American Electric Power, and Michael J. Guastella of the Council of Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals.

GOP senators introduce their own energy and climate plan

November 4, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer speaks at a November 3 press conference announcing the American Energy, Jobs & Climate Plan.

A trio of Republican lawmakers from Western states—Sens. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.)—held a press conference at the Capitol yesterday to announce the American Energy, Jobs & Climate Plan, a response to what they termed the “Biden-Kerry Green New Deal.” Also in attendance were fellow Republican senators Ted Cruz (Texas), John Kennedy (La.), and Rob Portman (Ohio).

The plan is “an innovative clean energy and climate strategy with the potential to reduce global [greenhouse gas] emissions by up to 40 percent from today’s levels by 2050 and create thousands of jobs for hard-working Americans,” according to a press release from Sullivan’s office.

In April, the Biden administration announced a target of net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, with an interim target of a 50–52 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.

The Economist on nuclear: “France says it is green. Germany says it isn’t. France will win.”

November 3, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
(Source: Peter Schrank/The Economist)

“Where nuclear power was once a source of unity for Europe, today it is a source of discord.” So states The Economist’s October 30 “Charlemagne” column—a regular source of commentary on European politics in the weekly publication—before deftly dissecting nuclear power’s continental divide and picking a winner.

World Energy Outlook 2021: Nuclear innovation needs to accelerate

October 18, 2021, 6:43AMNuclear News
Nuclear power capacity by scenario, 2020–2050 (STEPS: stated policies scenario, APS: announced pledges scenario, NZE: net-zero emissions by 2050 scenario). (Graphic: IEA World Energy Outlook 2021)

The International Energy Agency released its flagship report, World Energy Outlook 2021, on October 13, “at a time when policymakers are contending with the impacts of both climate change and volatile energy markets” and ahead of the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which begins October 31. With a net-zero emissions by 2050 (NZE) scenario that calls for nuclear power capacity to almost double by 2050, the report acknowledges that rapid development of advanced nuclear technologies could expand opportunities for nuclear energy to provide low-carbon electricity, heat, and hydrogen.

Opining online, journalist urges regulatory flexibility for new reactors

October 13, 2021, 2:43PMANS Nuclear Cafe

In his article, “The nuclear policy America needs,” journalist Matthew Yglesias says upfront that he is not a “nuclear bro.” He is not a scientist or a nuclear engineer. But he is part of an open, online conversation about the energy policy decisions shaping our future. And in the article posted on newsletter platform Substack on October 12, Yglesias says that nuclear prospects should not be determined by a zero-sum competition between zero-carbon energy resources. Instead, he says, “What nuclear really needs is specific regulatory changes that would give advanced reactor designs a chance to prove themselves.”

ITER director general hails the promise of hydrogen—in fusion

October 12, 2021, 3:18PMANS Nuclear Cafe
This June 2021 photo of ITER vacuum vessel sector #6 includes two panels of thermal shielding ready to slide into place. (Photo: ITER/Courtesy of Chang Hyun Noh)

Following a week of heightened attention to all things hydrogen preceding Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day (October 8), Bernard Bigot, director general of the ITER Organization, published an op-ed on October 11 in The European Files, a magazine billed as an “effective work tool for European deciders.” Bigot’s article, “Hydrogen fusion: The way to a new energy future,” doubled as a fusion primer, promoting the technology as a future source of clean energy that is fueled by hydrogen and is capable of providing heat and power to produce more hydrogen.

Australia has invested in batteries for grid security. It’s not going as planned.

September 29, 2021, 1:07PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Two battery Megapacks were destroyed in a July fire at Victorian Big Battery. Each battery is about the size of a standard shipping container. (Photo: Country Fire Authority)

Australia’s two large lithium-ion storage batteries are getting attention for all the wrong reasons. Hornsdale Power Reserve, a 150-MW battery collocated with a wind farm in South Australia, is being charged in federal court with failing to deliver on promises to respond to grid demands, and of being technically unable to deliver under the terms it was being paid to meet. Proceedings were filed September 22, just before the testing of a second Tesla-manufactured “Big Battery resumed after a two-month delay following a fire in July.