Feature Article

Remote fuel cleaning from across the globe

Around the world in the mid-March time frame, conditions were changing rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as was everyone’s understanding of it. For nuclear power plants, the pandemic meant dealing with new government regulations and restrictions that were put in place. “U.S.-based support of international clients was especially challenging,” said Mike Little, president and principal officer of Reston, Va.–based Dominion Engineering Inc. (DEI). “With border closures going into effect, we were not only focusing on the health and safety of our workers abroad, but also making sure they would be able to return home. Providing remote subject matter expertise from the U.S. through our international service partners was critical to successful job execution during this time.”

ANS is your nuclear resource during COVID-19

This story was updated on April 29 with details about the ANS Annual Meeting.

The American Nuclear Society remains committed to serving the needs of the nuclear community even as the COVID-19 pandemic affects how we all communicate. Read on to learn more about the timely content that ANS is delivering to fit the way you live and work today.

Mo-99 supply put at risk by COVID-19 pandemic

The U.S. healthcare industry is warning that the COVID-19 pandemic may threaten supplies of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99, whose decay product, technetium-99m, is considered the workhorse isotope in nuclear medicine for diagnostic imaging. The online magazine Radiology Business recently reported that the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) alerted its members on April 1 that it is monitoring supply shortages of Mo-99 “more closely than ever” during the pandemic.

NEI urges feds to speed recovery, support grid

Maria Korsnick, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Larry Kudlow on March 19, citing the “severe financial strain” being anticipated or experienced by the organization’s member companies due to the COVID-19 crisis. Korsnick offered a number of policy and legislative proposals that, she said, “would be of immediate benefit in helping the people and the companies of our nation’s nuclear energy sector to withstand the ongoing operational and economic disruption.”

CISA updates guidance on essential workforce

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has updated its list of who should be considered an indispensable part of the nation’s critical infrastructure workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding more specificity for the nuclear sector.

The update was released on March 28, one week after CISA issued Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response, Version 1.0. In that initial document, the agency made only three explicit references to nuclear employees, identifying workers “needed for safe and secure operations at nuclear generation,” as well as those involved in critical manufacturing or hazardous materials work at nuclear facilities.

NRC agrees to relax work-hour control regulations

On March 28, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission informed the industry via letter that nuclear plant operators can apply for 60-day exemptions from the agency’s work-hour control regulations—found in 10 CFR 26.205—to address workforce issues arising from the COVID-19 public health emergency. The pandemic has compelled some operators to limit the number of employees physically present at plants to “essential” personnel.

Nuclear-derived techniques to tackle COVID-­19

The International Atomic Energy Agency plans to provide diagnostic kits, equipment, and training in nuclear-­derived detection techniques to countries asking for assistance in tackling the worldwide spread of the coronavirus that has caused the COVID-­19 pandemic. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announced the plans on March 9 during his first formal address to the IAEA’s Board of Governors (see previous story).

“The IAEA is not a specialized health agency and has no role in controlling the disease,” Grossi said, “but we do have expertise and experience that help in detecting outbreaks of certain viral diseases and in diagnosing them.”