A bright future ahead for nuclear engineering students

April 5, 2021, 3:00PMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Happy spring to you, my nuclear comrades. As I write this column (in early March), I’m glancing out the window at the 10 inches of snow still remaining in my backyard. By the time you read this, the snow may be gone, and spring flowers may be poking out of the earth. Every year, I look forward to gardening season, which is short but fun in Idaho.

Over the past year, unfortunately, many of the things we looked forward to didn’t happen. Hardest hit, of course, were the people who fell ill with COVID-­19 and those who lost jobs. But in the “disappointed” category, our students were especially vulnerable. Elementary school students, who most need face-­to-­face contact with their teachers, were isolated at home. Adolescents and teens had no dances, football games, or lunchtimes with their friends. High school and college seniors couldn’t celebrate graduation. University freshmen, who already cope with significant change and stress, added to their agendas the threat of a global pandemic and the complication of distance learning.

WMS2021 panel finds challenges, opportunities in COVID-19

March 11, 2021, 3:10PMRadwaste Solutions

It has been more than a year since the COVID-19 virus fundamentally changed our daily lives, but with mass vaccinations underway, it is now possible to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The past year presented many challenges, as well as new opportunities, and this was the focus of discussion during the panel session “Strategies to Increase Efficiency, Reduce Cost, Accelerate Work, and Maintain Operational Excellence,” held on March 10 during the 2021 Waste Management Symposia virtual conference. “Last year was a tough year for all of us,” said John Eschenburg, president and chief executive officer of Washington River Protection Solutions, the Department of Energy’s liquid waste contractor at the Hanford Site, near Richland, Wash. “[There were] challenges top to bottom.”

Some of the challenges the session speakers said they faced included transitioning personnel to working remotely, ensuring safety with reduced on-site staff, and reducing workplace stress caused by the pandemic. Yet, the panelists found lessons learned from the pandemic that have created opportunities for positive change, such as the ability to reduce overhead costs while offering staff better a work/life balance by continuing to allow remote working where possible post-pandemic. “Teleworking is here to stay at some level,” Eschenburg noted.

UN partners expand use of nuclear technology to combat disease

February 25, 2021, 12:23PMNuclear News

The IAEA headquarters.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have worked together to address the global challenges of food insecurity, climate change, animal/zoonotic diseases, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic over 57 years of partnership. On February 23, the directors general of both organizations signed a Revised Arrangement committing to upgrade their collaboration and increase the scope of their work.

Uranium conversion facility to reopen

February 11, 2021, 3:03PMNuclear News

The Metropolis Works plant. Photo: Honeywell

Honeywell plans to resume production at its Metropolis Works uranium conversion facility in 2023 and will begin preparations for the restart this year, the company has announced. The plant is in Metropolis, Ill.

Honeywell, based in Charlotte, N.C., said in a February 9 statement that it plans to hire 160 full-time employees, as well as contractors, by the end of 2022, adding, “We’re proud to bring these jobs back to the Metropolis community to meet the needs of our customers.”

Idled in early 2018, the plant is the nation’s sole uranium conversion facility.

Canada’s Darlington-1 ends record run

February 9, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

A view of the Darlington-1 turbine hall. Unit 1 has set a new world record for continuous operation by a nuclear power reactor. Photo: OPG

In continuous operation since January 26, 2018, Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington-1 was taken off line last Friday for an inspection and maintenance outage after a record-setting run of 1,106 days, the Canadian utility has announced.

On September 15 of last year, the unit set a new world record for a power reactor, with 963 days of continuous operation, breaking the previous mark of 962, set by a reactor at India’s Kaiga plant in December 2018, according to OPG.

Dependable Darlington: “Unit 1’s record-setting run highlights the excellent work carried out by our dedicated nuclear professionals throughout the pandemic to ensure Ontarians and frontline workers battling COVID-19 can count on a steady supply of power 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Sean Granville, OPG’s chief operating officer. “It also highlights the effectiveness of our preventive maintenance programs and the overall reliability of our nuclear fleet.”

Nearly 22,000 completed IAEA courses in nuclear security

January 29, 2021, 11:58AMNuclear News

The IAEA's In Young Suh (center) demonstrates nuclear security e-learning modules to participants of the International Conference on Nuclear Security. Photo: C. Mitchell/U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory

An International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear security e-learning program is celebrating its 10 years of existence by marking a milestone with nearly 22,000 course completions by nuclear operators, regulators, policy professionals, academics, and students from 170 countries

The IAEA launched the first nuclear security e-learning course, "Use of Radiation Detection Instruments for Front Line Officers," in 2010. Since then, the agency has developed a suite of 17 nuclear security e-learning courses, which are available online at no cost.

The courses include:

  • Overview of nuclear security threats and risks
  • Physical protection
  • Insider threat and information
  • Computer security
  • Other areas of nuclear security

The online courses combine self-paced e-learning with virtual and face-to-face classroom learning. They are frequently prerequisites to instructor-led and classroom-based nuclear security education, training, and capacity building activities, according to the IAEA.

Delay, cost increase announced for U.K. nuclear project

January 27, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

Perspex screens and reduced seating capacity in the Hinkley Point canteens help protect the workforce during breaks, EDF Energy said. Photo: EDF Energy

The unfortunate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nuclear new-build projects haven’t stopped with Vogtle: EDF Energy this morning reported that the expected startup date for Unit 1 at its Hinkley Point C site is being pushed from late 2025 to June 2026.

In addition, the project’s completion costs are now estimated to be in the range of £22 billion to £23 billion (about $30.2 billion to $31.5 billion), some £500 million (about $686 million) more than the 2019 estimate, EDF said, adding the caveat that these revisions assume an ability to begin a return to normal site conditions by the second quarter of 2021.

COVID-19 wake-up call: Doomsday Clock remains at 100 seconds to midnight

January 27, 2021, 12:05PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Bulletin members reveal the 2021 setting of the Doomsday Clock. Photo: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists/Thomas Gaulkin

Citing the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board kept the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, remaining as near to midnight as it has ever been.

“The mishandling of this grave global health crisis is a ‘wake-up call’ that governments, institutions, and a misled public remain unprepared to handle the even greater threats posed by nuclear war and climate change,” a press release from the Bulletin stated. The group also cited a lack of progress in 2020 in dealing with nuclear and climate perils as the reason for not moving the Doomsday Clock from its 2020 position.

House committee spearheading “Scientific Solutions” tweetstorm today

January 27, 2021, 7:04AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is leading a one-day social media campaign today to highlight the importance of leading with science and scientific solutions as the committee works to provide support for science and the scientific community. The “tweetstorm” will run from noon to 5 p.m. (EST) and will involve a variety of science-related organizations, including the American Nuclear Society.

Organizations are being asked to post messages on their social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) related to five categories:

  • American leadership in STEM
  • Environmental justice
  • Combating the climate crisis
  • Scientific integrity
  • COVID-19

Three hashtags have been created for the campaign: #ScientificSolutions, #SolvingtheClimateCrisis, and #EnvironmentalJusticeforAll.

Former NRC chairs issue vaccine timeline recommendation to CDC

January 21, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

Five former chairmen of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission—Stephen Burns, Allison Macfarlane, Nils Diaz, Richard Meserve, and Dale Klein—signed a letter to José Romero, Arkansas health secretary and chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immunization advisory committee, requesting that the advisory committee update its recommendation for COVID-19 vaccine allocation guidance for the energy workforce (including nuclear energy workers).

Currently, the CDC has four phases for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Those phases are numbered:

  • 1a (the current phase), reserved for healthcare workers and those living in long-term care facilities;
  • 1b, reserved for people 75 years and older and frontline essential workers;
  • 1c, reserved for persons 65 to 74 years old, those aged 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, and other categories of essential workers (this includes energy workers); and
  • 2, for everyone else that was not named in the previous three phases aged 16 to 64.

Climate change needs an Operation Warp Speed

January 18, 2021, 3:12PMNuclear News

The government of the United States should throw its muscle behind ramping up a mammoth, rapid rollout of all forms of renewable energy through Operation Warp Speed, similar to what is being done with COVID-19, Clive Thompson writes in an Ideas column for Wired.

The rollout should include energy sources that we already know how to build—like solar and wind — but also experimental emerging sources such as geothermal and small nuclear, and cutting-edge forms of energy storage or transmission.

More adjustments to Vogtle milestone dates likely

January 13, 2021, 3:08PMNuclear News

The initial shipment of nuclear fuel for Unit 3 arrives at the Vogtle site in December. Photo: Georgia Power

Largely as a result of the continuing COVID-19 crisis, the Vogtle reactor-construction project team expects to further adjust dates for achieving key project milestones, including the start of hot functional testing and fuel load for Unit 3, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power announced on January 11.

The company added, however, that it continues to expect to bring Unit 3 into service this November and Unit 4 into service in November 2022. Additional updates on the project will be provided during Southern’s quarterly earnings call next month.

The year in review 2020: Research and Applications

January 8, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

Here is a look back at the top stories of 2020 from our Research and Applications section in Newswire and Nuclear News magazine. Remember to check back to Newswire soon for more top stories from 2020.

Research and Applications section

Report finds uranium resources sufficient for foreseeable future

January 7, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

Adequate uranium resources exist to support the long-term, sustainable use of nuclear energy for low-carbon electricity generation, as well as for other applications, including hydrogen production. That assessment is contained in the latest (28th) edition of Uranium—Resources, Production and Demand, a global, biennial reference prepared jointly by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The publication adds, however, that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent reductions in uranium production and exploration could affect available supplies, suggesting that timely investment in innovative mining and processing techniques would help assure that uranium resources are brought to market when needed.

Nuclear Education and COVID-19

December 29, 2020, 7:07AMNuclear News

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States on a wide basis in March of this year, and life as we knew it changed. “Social distancing” and “essential workers” entered the jargon and working from home for many became the norm.

The number of remote meetings skyrocketed, and various companies have seen that business can be conducted without having employees in the office.

For universities, distance learning has been common for a while now, but with COVID it has become essential.

Nuclear News asked some nuclear engineering professors about how their programs have been dealing with the pandemic. We posed three questions and asked for responses to any or all of them:

How has COVID affected your NE program, and what have you learned from the experience?

Has your NE program been able to contribute to your university’s broader COVID response (e.g., through research or volunteer programs)?

What opportunities or challenges do you foresee in the next year for your program and your students?

The following are responses received by NN.

Report: Nuclear and other low-carbon generation becoming cost-competitive

December 17, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

The levelized costs of electricity generation from low-carbon technologies, including nuclear, are dropping and are increasingly below that of conventional fossil fuel generation, concludes a new report from the International Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

The 223-page report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity—2020 Edition, the ninth such jointly produced analysis, includes plant-level cost data on power generation from nuclear, natural gas, coal, and a variety of renewable sources, including wind, solar, hydro, and biofuels. The report provides data from 243 plants in 24 countries.

Vogtle project team reports delays, holds to approved start dates

October 28, 2020, 9:46AMNuclear News

In testimony filed last week with the Georgia Public Service Commission, Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear acknowledge that the “aggressive” target dates set in July for some of the Vogtle construction project’s upcoming milestones have had to be pushed back by a few months. At the same time, however, the companies continue to express confidence in being able to meet the regulatory-approved commercial start dates for the new reactors—November 2021 for Unit 3 and November 2022 for Unit 4.

The testimony was filed in support of Georgia Power’s Twenty-third Semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report, released in August, which covers the period from January 1 to June 30, 2020.

Bruce Power harvests Co-60 for use against COVID-19

October 27, 2020, 7:00AMNuclear News

Bruce Power has harvested a second batch of Co-60 this year. Image: Bruce Power

Bruce Power announced on October 22 that it has completed its second harvest of cobalt-60 this year during an outage of Unit 8 of the Bruce nuclear power plant in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada. The company said that with this latest harvest, it will have provided the world enough of the medical isotope to sterilize 20 billion–25 billion pairs of gloves or COVID-19 swabs.

The Co-60 will be sent to Ottawa-based Nordion for processing and distribution over the next several weeks, according to Bruce Power. From there, the isotope will be shipped around the world for use in gamma irradiation to sterilize medical devices such as single-use gowns, surgical gloves, scalpels, syringes, and other critical health care equipment.

Bruce Power unveils net zero by 2050 strategy

October 19, 2020, 3:04PMNuclear News

The Bruce nuclear power plant. Photo: Bruce Power

Speaking last week at a virtual event of the Empire Club of Canada, Bruce Power president and chief executive officer Mike Rencheck announced “NZ-2050”—the company’s strategy for helping Canada achieve its stated goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Canada’s only private sector nuclear generator, Bruce Power operates the Bruce Nuclear Generation Station, located in Kincardine, Ontario. The plant houses eight units, all CANDU pressurized heavy-water reactors, with a total output of 6,288 MWe.

IEA report: Nuclear needed for sustainable energy goals

October 15, 2020, 7:16AMNuclear News

The International Energy Agency released its annual World Energy Outlook on October 13, noting the massive disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and calling for a surge in well-designed energy policies to put the world on track for a resilient energy system that can meet climate goals.

According to the latest IEA analysis of the pandemic’s impact, drops are expected in 2020 in global energy demand by 5 percent, energy-related CO2 emissions by 7 percent, and energy investment by 18 percent. This year’s report focuses on the pivotal period of the next 10 years, exploring four different pathways out of the crisis.

More information on the report is available here. The full publication can be purchased for €120 (about $140).