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 Mathematics (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.

Centrus Energy gets more time and money to complete HALEU demo

November 15, 2022, 12:08PMNuclear News
Centrifuge casings arrive in Piketon, Ohio. (Photo: Centrus Energy)

The Department of Energy announced a cost-shared award on November 10 valued at about $150 million for American Centrifuge Operating, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy, to complete the high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) demonstration project it began in 2019. After delays that Centrus attributes in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company now has until the end of 2023 to produce the first 20 kilograms of HALEU enriched to 19.75 percent U-235 from the 16-centrifuge cascade it has installed in a DOE-owned Piketon, Ohio, facility—the only U.S. facility currently licensed to produce HALEU.

INL infrastructure improvements to support advanced nuclear R&D

October 28, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex. (Photo: INL)

The Department of Energy announced $150 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding on October 25 for infrastructure improvements at Idaho National Laboratory. According to the DOE, the funding will support nearly a dozen projects at INL’s Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) and Materials Fuels Complex (MFC), both of which have operated for more than 50 years. The investments in existing infrastructure assets mean support for nuclear energy research and development, including fuel testing, bolstering the near-term supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), and reactor demonstrations.

DOE plans offtake contracts to stock a HALEU bank “as soon as possible”

October 21, 2022, 9:13AMNuclear News
An image from the video “What is High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU)?” released by the DOE in April 2020. (Source: DOE)

Another piece of the plan for meeting the urgent need for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to fuel advanced reactor deployments fell into place when the Department of Energy held an Industry Day on October 14. Attendees were asked how soon they could deliver 25 metric tons per year of HALEU enriched in the United States from newly mined uranium. Offtake contracts for six or more years of HALEU production at that rate could be used to stock a DOE-owned HALEU bank to “support [HALEU] availability for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use.”

Southern Company, TerraPower complete multiloop molten salt test system

October 21, 2022, 7:33AMNuclear News
The Integrated Effects Test at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Wash. (Photo: Southern Company/TerraPower)

“The world's largest chloride salt system developed by the nuclear sector” is now ready for operation in TerraPower’s Everett, Wash., laboratories. Southern Company, which is working with TerraPower through its subsidiary Southern Company Services to develop molten chloride reactor technology, announced on October 18 that the Integrated Effects Test (IET) was complete. The multiloop, nonnuclear test infrastructure follows years of separate effects testing using isolated test loops, and it was built to support the operation of the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) at Idaho National Laboratory that the companies expect will, in turn, support a demonstration-scale Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR).

GAIN funds companies’ work with ORNL on reactor siting and reprocessing

October 13, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
An aerial view of ORNL’s main campus. (Photo: ORNL)

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced the three recipients of its fourth and final round of 2022 vouchers on October 10. The vouchers were awarded to Curio Solutions, which is developing a spent fuel recycling process, and to two companies that are separately investigating advanced reactor siting—Elementl Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The funds for each award will go directly to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

It's Hydrogen Day: Time to celebrate a growth year for nuclear-produced H2

October 7, 2022, 9:31AMNuclear News

Tomorrow, 10/08, is Hydrogen Day, in recognition of the atomic weight of hydrogen: 1.008. Newswire first covered Hydrogen Day in 2021 after the Department of Energy announced its Hydrogen Shot goal to lower the price of clean hydrogen by 80 percent, to $1 per kilogram, within the decade. Now, backed by industry partnerships, new legislation, an eye-popping $7 billion in federal funds for regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs), a new draft strategy, and on-site progress to pair electrolyzers with nuclear plants, the potential for nuclear-powered production of clean hydrogen is clearer than ever.

New CNC draft guidance out as first-round decision nears

October 4, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy released draft guidance for the second award cycle of the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program on September 30, ahead of a decision on which reactors could receive four years of economic aid from the program’s first award cycle.

The DOE’s draft guidance for the second award cycle describes CNC program timelines and all supporting information required for owners or operators of nuclear power plants to apply for certification of eligibility and submit sealed bids. Feedback is requested by 5:00 p.m. EDT on November 4. While no date has been set for the second-round application process to open, the DOE plans to initiate the award cycle before the end of the year.

GAO finds nuclear demo best practices could set new standard for clean energy projects

October 3, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s management of its commercial-scale reactor demonstration projects has “generally been consistent with requirements to address risk,” according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published recently. The GAO found that the DOE has met existing project management requirements, and that the two offices managing the awards—the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) and the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED)—plan to introduce additional project management tools, such as external independent reviews. The GAO recommended that the DOE adopt those plans as institutional best practices for other large energy projects, and the DOE concurred.

DOE incentivizes interim storage with $16 million funding opportunity

September 26, 2022, 6:57AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy has announced that it will make $16 million in funding available to communities interested in learning more about “consent-based siting, management of spent nuclear fuel, and interim storage facility siting considerations.” The funding opportunity follows the DOE’s recent update to its consent-based process for siting an interim storage facility for SNF.

Nearly 400 coal sites could be home to the next 250 GW of U.S. nuclear capacity

September 15, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
The Naughton coal-fired power plant near Kemmerer, Wyo., has two units set to retire in 2025 and be replaced by a TerraPower Natrium reactor. (Photo: PacifiCorp)

Nuclear power generation surpassed coal generation in the United States for the first time in 2020. As utilities continue to retire coal-fired plants, reusing the shuttered sites to host nuclear reactors could help the nation reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and prove economically beneficial both for nuclear deployments and for the communities impacted by fossil fuel generation. That’s according to a Department of Energy report released this week, detailing how hundreds of U.S. coal power plant sites that have recently retired or plan to close within the decade could be suitable for new nuclear power plants. Nuclear power’s high capacity factors mean those plants could deliver an added benefit—delivering more baseload power to the grid from the nameplate capacity replacement.

White House would send the DOE $1.5 billion to set up reliable LEU/HALEU supply

September 8, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear News
HALEU in the form of 1.5–3 kg reguli ready for fuel fabrication. (Photo: INL)

Those who welcomed the $700 million earmarked for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) supply in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) in August have cause to celebrate again. The White House sent a supplemental appropriation request to Congress on September 2 that would provide more than double the IRA funds if passed—$1.5 billion—for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy to build a reliable supply of both low-enriched uranium for existing U.S. nuclear power plants and HALEU for the advanced reactors that will be built within the decade.

Universities get $61 million for 74 nuclear research and infrastructure awards

June 20, 2022, 12:04PMNuclear News

Advanced reactor coolants, consent-based siting, and offshore nuclear production of hydrogen are just a few of the topics included among the 74 nuclear science and technology projects awarded more than $61 million by the Department of Energy on June 17. The Nuclear Energy University Program awards, Integrated Research Projects, Nuclear Science User Facilities awards, and Infrastructure awards will support nuclear technology development, infrastructure improvements, and career opportunities at more than 40 U.S. universities in 29 states.

DOE-NE 2023 budget priorities summarized in ANS online program

May 18, 2022, 11:59AMNuclear News

A team from the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy joined ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy on April 27 for an ANS members–only online event to discuss the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2023 NE budget proposal. The proposed total for the office, $1.675 billion, is more than a $20 million increase from the FY 2022 enacted level of $1.654 billion.

DOE releases Final EIS for one-of-a-kind Versatile Test Reactor

May 17, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual site layout for the VTR, as shown in the Final EIS. (Image: DOE-NE)

The Versatile Test Reactor, a custom-designed sodium-cooled fast neutron spectrum test reactor, is one step closer to its goal of providing data to accelerate research, development, and demonstration of diverse advanced reactor designs. The Department of Energy released the Final Versatile Test Reactor Environmental Impact Statement (Final VTR EIS) on May 13, and 30 days after its anticipated May 20 publication in the Federal Register, the DOE will issue a Record of Decision on the project.

DOE to fast-track Civil Nuclear Credit bids from the most at-risk reactors

April 21, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
The DOE’s guidance for Civil Nuclear Credit Program applicants opens a window for an owner—present or future—to submit a bid for credits that could keep Palisades, in southwest Michigan, operating past its planned May closure date. (Photo: Entergy)

The Department of Energy has announced the steps that would-be applicants must take to access funds from the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program. Guidance published April 19 invites owners or operators of those plants most at risk of near-term closure to apply during the program’s first award cycle. With shutdown planned next month, Entergy’s Palisades plant would top that list (read on for more on Michigan’s efforts to keep the plant operating), but any reactor with publicly announced plans to close by September 30, 2026, that meets other program criteria could be certified for credits. Successful applicants won’t have to wait long for good news: the DOE plans to announce award decisions as soon as 30 days after the May 19 deadline for submitting certification applications together with sealed bids for credits.

DOE publishes details of $6 billion civil nuclear credit program

February 17, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy has officially launched its $6 billion civil nuclear credit program, which is intended to support nuclear power reactors at risk of shutting down because of economic factors. A notice of intent and request for information (NOI/RFI) regarding the program was published in the February 15 Federal Register. The DOE-NE had announced the program with the release of a pre-publication version of the NOI/RFI on February 10.

DOE to provide $6 billion in credits to keep existing fleet running

February 11, 2022, 11:58AMNuclear News
Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania is one of the U.S. nuclear power plants identified by the Nuclear Decommissioning Collaborative as being at risk of closure. (Photo: NRC)

The Department of Energy’s Office Nuclear Energy has launched a $6 billion program aimed at preserving the existing U.S. fleet of nuclear power reactors. Established under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Civil Nuclear Credit Program will allow owners and operators of commercial nuclear power reactors at economic risk of shutting down to apply for credits via a sealed bid process.

DOE seeks proposals to build and test high-tech railcar for spent nuclear fuel

January 25, 2022, 1:53PMRadwaste Solutions
Graphical rendering of Fortis railcar design with spent nuclear fuel cask. (Image: DOE)

The Department of Energy has issued a request for proposals for the fabrication and testing of a prototype eight-axle railcar to carry the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. The heavy-duty, flat-deck railcar design known as “Fortis” received approval from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) in January 2021 to proceed to building and testing.