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.

NWTRB to hold public meeting on DOE waste management, consent-based siting

January 24, 2022, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, an independent federal agency established by Congress to conduct ongoing technical and scientific evaluation of the Department of Energy’s efforts to manage and dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, will hold virtual public meetings on March 1 and March 2, to review recent DOE activities.

Huff nominated to fill role of assistant secretary of energy for DOE-NE

January 19, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News


Kathryn “Katy” Huff, who is currently serving as the Department of Energy's principal deputy assistant secretary of nuclear energy, has been nominated by President Joe Biden to head the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy as assistant secretary of energy. The role has been vacant since Rita Baranwal announced she was leaving the position on January 8, 2021.

Sustained commitment: Since Huff was named principal deputy assistant secretary of nuclear energy in May 2021, she has also served as acting assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy.

Huff is on unpaid leave from her role as associate professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she led the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group. Huff was also a Blue Waters assistant professor with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Prior to joining the NPRE faculty at UIUC, Huff was a postdoctoral fellow in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nuclear Science and Security Consortium and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science at the University of California–Berkeley. Huff received her Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2013, and her undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Chicago.

How would you design a HALEU Consortium? The DOE wants to know

December 17, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
(Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy asks no fewer than 21 multipart questions in its request for information on plans to set up a new program to ensure the availability of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) in the United States, encompassing the who, what, when, where, and how of HALEU enrichment, deconversion, fabrication, and transportation. Interested parties were given just 30 days from the December 14 announcement to send their input to the DOE; the deadline is January 13.

Details: Written comments and information are requested on or before January 13. They can be submitted online at regulations.gov or by email to rfi-haleu@hq.doe.gov in a Microsoft Word or a PDF file. See the full request for information published in the Federal Register for additional information.

Early career faculty members sought for new $2.5-million DOE program

December 14, 2021, 12:08PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy is soliciting applications from untenured, early career faculty members for the new Distinguished Early Career Program. Applicants must respond by February 2 with a plan that integrates research, education, and service under the terms of a funding opportunity announcement dated December 6 and announced by the DOE on December 7. The DOE anticipates granting up to four $625,000 awards, each with a five-year duration.

Palo Verde gets $20 million to make hydrogen while the sun shines

October 8, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
APS’s Palo Verde plant

Arizona Public Service is the latest nuclear utility with confirmed plans to install hydrogen production capacity, an investment decision that is based on analysis conducted under the Department of Energy’s H2@Scale program and backed by a $20 million DOE award.

GAO urges Congress to address spent fuel stalemate

September 28, 2021, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Spent nuclear fuel in dry storage at the decommissioned Zion nuclear power plant in Illinois.

Congress needs to take action to break the impasse over a permanent solution for commercial spent nuclear fuel, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO recommends that Congress amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) to authorize a new consent-based siting process, restructure the Nuclear Waste Fund, and direct the Department of Energy to develop and implement an integrated waste management strategy.

The GAO also recommends that the DOE finalize the consent-based process it began in 2015 for siting consolidated interim storage and permanent geologic repository facilities. The DOE agrees with that recommendation.

ORNL to test accident tolerant fuel irradiated at Byron-2

August 4, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News
Irradiated lead test rods are delivered to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for examination. (Photo: ORNL)

Several lead test rods of Westinghouse’s EnCore accident tolerant fuel recently arrived at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for post-irradiation examination over the next year in support of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing process. The rods were installed in 2019 in Exelon’s Byron-2, a 1,158-MWe pressurized water reactor, and were removed in fall 2020 and prepared for shipment to ORNL.

DOE’s Huff: VTR is key to sustained advanced reactor innovation

August 3, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
A rendering of the VTR facility. (Image: INL)

Kathryn Huff, the Department of Energy’s acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy, asserted in an article published online by the Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) on July 30 that demonstration reactors, such as the Natrium and Xe-100 reactors being built as full-size power producers with cost-shared funding from the DOE, and test reactors, such as the Versatile Test Reactor, are both necessary for nuclear innovation. Both are also line items in the DOE budget request, and Huff’s article sends a clear message to appropriators about the need to fund both the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) and the VTR.

University-based nuclear R&D gets $61 million in DOE funding

June 24, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

More than $61 million in funding has been released for advanced nuclear energy technology projects in 30 states and in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the Department of Energy announced on June 22. Of that total, $58 million is going to U.S. universities for nuclear energy research, cross-discipline technology development, and research reactor infrastructure.

Biden administration’s proposed FY 2022 budget supports nuclear

June 3, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

The Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget sent to Congress last week would, according to the Department of Energy, move the United States toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The FY 2022 budget request includes $1.85 billion for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“President Biden’s budget request puts America in the driver's seat as we transition toward a 100 percent clean energy economy,” said secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm on May 28. “These investments will ensure the U.S. is the global leader in research, development, and deployment of critical energy technologies to combat the climate crisis, create good-paying union jobs, and strengthen our communities in all pockets of America.”

Katy Huff named to leadership post in DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy

May 10, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News


Kathryn D. "Katy" Huff, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), has joined the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy as principal deputy assistant secretary, the DOE announced today. Huff will also take on the title of acting assistant secretary.

Called to serve: Just after she was officially sworn in, Huff took to Twitter to break the news:

“I’m thrilled to finally share that today is my first day in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy,” she said. “I’m honored that the Biden-Harris administration has called me to serve . . . during a crucial time in humanity's endeavors toward sustainability, re-imagination of our energy infrastructure, and centering of environmental and energy justice in technology policy. . . . In this position, I hope to work across institutional and other barriers, listen to many voices, strive boldly, and serve responsibly.”