The DOE is set on “building bridges” to a fusion energy future

December 20, 2023, 3:04PMNuclear News
A slide from the DOE-FES’s recent presentation to the Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee. (Image: DOE)

The Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) in the Department of Energy’s Office of Science introduced a new plan—"Building Bridges: A Vision for the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences”—during a Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (FESAC) hearing on December 13, and announced that news December 14. What’s included? A plan for the DOE to “establish the steps needed to help advance fusion energy, including addressing key science and technology gaps in the supply chain and industry.” The vision is less a guiding document than a preview of DOE-FES’s near-term intentions, which include drafting a fusion science and technology road map in 2024 to shape investments for the coming decade.

Nuclear power and The Simpsons

December 20, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear NewsRob LaZebnik
Homer at his work station. (Artwork from The Simpsons used with the permission of 20th Century Studios)

In the episode “Duffless” in season 4 of The Simpsons, Homer is deep in the bowels of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant when he encounters a gigantic mutant spider. He turns to a map that says, “To overcome the spider’s curse, simply quote a Bible verse.” Homer starts with, “Uh, thou shalt not . . .” but then, unable to remember anything from the Bible, he instead brains the spider with a rock. This sort of nuttiness is often how we’ve depicted the power plant on the show, where I’ve been a writer and producer for 20 seasons.

National lab partnerships speed nuclear deployment

December 15, 2023, 4:56PMNuclear NewsDonna Kemp Spangler and Joel Hiller
BWXT’s microreactor components would be designed to be transported directly from the factory to the deployment site. (Image: BWXT)

“The tools of the academic designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck; it cannot be erased. Everyone sees it.”

Many in the nuclear community are familiar with this sentiment from Admiral Rickover. A generation of stagnation in the industry has underscored the truth of his words. But as economies around the world put a price on carbon emissions, there’s a renewed sense of urgency to deploy clean energy technologies. This shifts the global balance of economic competitiveness, and it’s clear that the best path forward for nuclear requires combining the agility of private innovators with the technology and capabilities of national laboratories.

Three new inertial fusion energy hubs have distinct, laser-focused missions

December 14, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
STARFIRE is the name of an inertial fusion energy hub led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory—one of three hubs announced in early December. (Image: LLNL)

The Department of Energy recently announced that it was establishing three inertial fusion energy (IFE) hubs and funding them with a total of $42 million over four years. The leaders of the three hubs selected by competitive peer review—Colorado State University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of Rochester—all issued press releases touting the attributes and plans of their facilities and their research collaborators on the same day—December 7.

New method ensures integrity of Savannah River’s radioactive material containers

December 11, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Operators in plastic suits prepare for drum venting operations. (Photo: DOE/SRNS)

Department of Energy contractor Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) said its Savannah River Site employees recently used an innovative method to ensure the integrity of radioactive material storage containers currently in long-term dry storage at the South Carolina site.

The spirit of international cooperation

December 11, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsKen Petersen

Ken Petersen

This September, I was fortunate to be in Vienna as a delegate to the 67th International Atomic Energy Agency’s General Conference. I will admit, it was strange at first to be in another country while listening to the U.S. Departments of State, Energy, and Commerce all discuss the positive aspects of nuclear and its international influence, but it was a great experience, especially hearing firsthand the enthusiasm of the secretary of energy.

Delegations from Ghana and the Philippines provided an excellent perspective from countries new to nuclear and embracing it. The Philippines’ representative spoke of the many islands that currently depend on diesel generators to provide power, and the need to replace them. A microreactor would be able to replace the generators and provide clean energy for decades. He also talked about how his country had to ship raw metal ore to China for smelting, and how a larger nuclear plant provides the power to smelt their own ore, improving their market. The Ghanian delegation spoke of their interest in nuclear power and small modular reactor technology and how they believe SMRs will provide their industries with safe, reliable power.

Argonne assists advanced reactor development with award-winning safety software

December 1, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear NewsKristen Mally Dean
Partnerships between the nuclear industry and national laboratories are making overall codes more robust and capable. (Photo: Argonne)

The development of modern nuclear reactor technologies relies heavily on complex software codes and computer simulations to support the design, construction, and testing of physical hardware systems. These tools allow for rigorous testing of theory and thorough verification of design under various use or transient power scenarios.

Savannah River Site M&O contractor hosts supply chain summit

November 30, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
Savannah River Nuclear Solution’s supply chain management team discusses upcoming process changes during its first staff augmentation summit. (Photo: SRNS)

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions’ Supply Chain Management (SCM) team recently hosted its first staff augmentation summit to strengthen relationships with 25 staffing firms and provide upcoming process changes for fiscal year 2024.

Still in need of HALEU, DOE issues RFP for post-enrichment services

November 29, 2023, 9:34AMNuclear News
Image: DOE

The Department of Energy plans to award one or more contracts to deconvert high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) from its post-enrichment gaseous uranium hexafluoride (UF6) state to other chemical forms, such as metal or oxide. The DOE’s final request for proposals (RFP) for deconversion services was issued November 28 as one part of the agency’s effort—under the HALEU Availability Program—to establish a reliable domestic supply of advanced reactor fuel. The DOE will store the deconverted material until it is required by a fuel fabricator or other end user.

The WM Symposia’s 50th year

November 27, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsGary Benda

This spring, Waste Management Symposia will celebrate its 50th anniversary when the conference convenes in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 10–14, 2024. Since the first international conference in 1974, WMS has grown to nearly 3,000 attendees representing more than 30 countries. The conference is an open forum for the exchange of information and discussion of opportunities related to all aspects of radioactive waste and materials management. As a nonprofit organization, all proceeds from the WMS conference go toward providing education and information on global radioactive waste management.

How is consent-based siting changing the prospects for used fuel management?

November 21, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

Patrick O’Brien

As someone who grew up in a community with an operating nuclear plant—Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in Plymouth, Mass., on Cape Cod Bay—I had the luxury of a more thorough education on what nuclear power was (and what it wasn’t) from an early age. Unfortunately, growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, many of my contemporaries were not as lucky; their education on nuclear power came from The Simpsons.

While it is a show that influenced a generation in many ways, its portrayal of the nuclear industry had no basis in reality. Nuclear workers are among the most professional and highly trained people in the world. The standards by which used fuel and waste are handled and stored are some of the strictest of any industry. I have found, after nearly a decade in the nuclear industry, that the first thing I must help the public, media, and even elected officials understand is that used nuclear fuel is not green goo in a barrel, but a solid pellet stored safely in robust dry storage casks. Providing the facts—the science and technology—is the key to helping people understand a complex industry. Doing so in simple terms can help demystify nuclear power.

Plans for TerraPower’s “test and fill” sodium facility covered in draft EA

November 20, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Image from the DOE’s draft EA showing a rendering of the TFF building. (Image: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations issued a draft environmental assessment (EA) in early November for a test and fill facility (TFF) that TerraPower plans to build in Kemmerer, Wyo.—the town selected two years ago to host the company’s first Natrium sodium fast reactor. The draft EA, open for comment through December 1, describes TerraPower’s plans to construct a nonnuclear facility that would safely store about 400,000 gallons of sodium to test coolant system designs and ultimately fill the planned reactor.

ANS Winter Meeting: Space—the next nuclear frontier

November 15, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Put nuclear technology in space or on the moon, and just as on Earth it can provide a power density unmatched by any other source. But what roles can nuclear power and propulsion play as the world enters a 21st-century space race? That was a key question put to six speakers during the November 14 American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting plenary session “Space: The (Next) Nuclear Frontier.”

U.S. and U.K. agree to “strategic partnership” on fusion energy

November 13, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News



Two top energy officials—U.S. deputy secretary of energy David M. Turk and U.K. minister for nuclear and networks Andrew Bowie—met on November 8 in Washington, D.C., to talk about a “coordinated, strategic approach” to advance fusion energy demonstration and commercialization and “maximize value” for both nations.

Deep geologic repository progress

November 10, 2023, 3:07PMNuclear NewsEmily Stein

Outside my office, there is a display case filled with rock samples from all over the world. It contains a disk of translucent, orange salt from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.; a core of white-and-bronze gneiss from the site of the future deep geologic repository in Eurajoki, Finland; several angular chunks of fine-grained, gray claystone from the underground research laboratory at Bure, France; and a piece of coarse-grained granite from the underground research tunnel in Daejeon, South Korea.

Portsmouth Site tests radiation-detecting drone

November 2, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
A radiation detection drone was tested at the Portsmouth site in southern Ohio. (Photo: DOE)

Through a collaborative effort between the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and the state of Ohio, a drone outfitted with radiation detectors underwent testing recently at the site of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant for potential future use.

X-energy’s mobile microreactor gets support from DOE

October 30, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

X-energy and the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy have reached a cooperative agreement valued at $2.5 million to continue the development of X-energy’s mobile microreactor design, the company announced October 25. The agreement, which extends through 2024, supports X-energy’s work on architecture and key technologies for the preliminary design of a commercial transportable power plant expected to produce 3–5 MWe.

White House backs HALEU enrichment with a request for $2.2 billion

October 26, 2023, 3:15PMNuclear News
Image: DOE

Just a few hours after a new Speaker of the House of Representatives was elected on October 25, the White House sent a list of funding priorities for “critical domestic needs” to Congress for consideration as legislators restart the stalled annual appropriations process. Those priorities include $2.2 billion for low-enriched uranium (LEU) and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) enrichment capabilities. And to ensure that investment in domestic HALEU enrichment pays off, the White House is also calling for a long-term ban on enriched uranium from Russia.