“It is critical after the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station restart that we reduce our cost and increase our capacity factor while becoming more economically competitive.” Ichiro Ihara, chief nuclear officer of Chubu Electric Power, made this observation recently when the Electric Power Research Institute visited the Japanese nuclear power plant for a strategy development session for plant modernization. EPRI’s team of five specialists spent four days at Hamaoka to investigate the feasibility of potential improvements—the third step of the EPRI modernization strategy planning process. It was a trip six months in the making—and the first time EPRI has applied its nuclear plant modernization process outside the United States.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has completed its final safety evaluation for Kairos Power’s application to build its Hermes advanced test reactor at a site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the agency announced recently. The evaluation found no safety aspects precluding issuance of a construction permit for the proposed reactor.
Reports released this week point to a clean energy future fueled by atomic energy—if and when pressing supply chain issues can be resolved. Advanced Reactor Roadmap, Phase 1: North America, released on May 15 by the Electric Power Research Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute, takes a broad look at the deployment of advanced fission reactors and identifies supply chain ramp-up as one key enabler. The Fusion Industry Supply Chain: Opportunities and Challenges, released by the Fusion Industry Association on May 17, focuses on fusion energy supply chain issues.
The Department of Energy yesterday announced the awarding of $22.1 million to 10 industry-led nuclear projects, including two aimed at expanding clean hydrogen production and one at advancing a microreactor design. Other projects selected for funding are focused on addressing nuclear regulatory hurdles, improving existing reactor operation, and facilitating new advanced reactor developments.
Abstracts for all 10 projects can be found here.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science published a notice in the March 27 Federal Register calling for input on technological approaches to a Fusion Prototypic Neutron Source (FPNS) for materials irradiation research under DOE-SC’s Fusion Energy Sciences program, as well as partnership models that could accelerate the construction and delivery of the facility. The request for information (RFI) calls for responses by May 11.
Any method that can enhance safety, reduce risk, and lower costs is worth a second look. When that method proves it has the potential to optimize aging management at any nuclear power plant, it’s time to spread the word.
In 2019, a small team focused on selective leaching began looking for a way to use risk insights to optimize the implementation of deterministic aging management programs (AMPs). What they started soon grew into a large team effort by Constellation, Ameren, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), along with contractors Enercon and Jensen Hughes, to develop a generic framework and then test it in two very different pilot applications.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has launched the Nuclear in District Energy Applications (NuIdea) Initiative to support the use of nuclear power in district energy systems. The new program, which is part of the EPRI’s Nuclear Beyond Electricity Initiative, has the goal of promoting microreactors (up to 10 MW) for heating, cooling, and power applications in institutional settings by 2026.
The 26th Annual Nuclear Generator and Supplier Executive Summit, hosted by Utilities Service Alliance (USA), was held at the Coeur d’Alene Golf and Spa Resort in Idaho from June 28 through July 1. About 375 attendees were present for this year’s meeting, themed “Nuclear’s Next Wave” which featured presentations and discussions on emerging nuclear technologies and designs, as well as an integrated tradeshow with about 50 industry suppliers exhibiting products, services, and ideas.
Interest in reducing carbon emissions around the world continues to climb. As a complement to the increasing deployment of variably generating renewables, advanced nuclear is commonly shown in net-zero grid modeling for 2050 because it represents firm electricity production that can flex in output with load demands.1 However, these projections are challenged by the high levelized cost of electricity associated with legacy nuclear construction, which is often more than double that of modern combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants.
Positioning nuclear power to combat climate change requires the rollout of advanced reactors to replace carbon-emitting power generation. That necessity, and its urgency, is reflected in recent budget proposals for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. Part of that proposed funding focuses on deploying new fuel technologies.
Metallic fuels, which are alloys of fissionable material, offer several advantages, including more fuel-efficient reactors with a double or greater fuel burnup than the oxide fuels found in light water reactors. Fuel fabrication is also more cost-effective with metallic fuels than with oxide fuels. Furthermore, much of the research and development effort needed to qualify these metallic fuels has been done.
Westinghouse Electric Company has appointed ANS member and Fellow Rita Baranwal chief technology officer to drive next-generation solutions for existing and new markets that align with the company’s strategy.
Baranwal’s appointment marks her return to Westinghouse, where she worked for nearly a decade in leadership positions in the global technology development, fuel engineering, and product engineering groups.
Southern Company and the Department of Energy have announced an agreement to demonstrate the world’s first fast-spectrum salt reactor in collaboration with TerraPower and a host of other participants at Idaho National Laboratory. With this announcement, at least four of the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Project awardees featuring four different coolants—helium (X-energy), sodium (TerraPower), fluoride salt (Kairos Power), and chloride salt (Southern, with TerraPower)—have announced a site and a commitment to build either a full-size demo reactor or a scaled-down experimental reactor.
In April, President Biden announced a new U.S. climate target: a 50–52 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. It’s an ambitious goal, and one that’s right up there with recent climate declarations from Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. It’s also one that, according to a new analysis from the Electric Power Research Institute, will require immediate action across all sectors of the economy.
Key findings of the EPRI report Strategies and Actions for Achieving a 50% Reduction in U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030 include the following:
- Halving GHG emissions by 2030 will involve significant efforts beyond business-as-usual trends.
- Reaching implied decarbonization targets for the power sector involves accelerated and sustained change.
- Electrification and efficiency gains drive GHG reductions in transport, industry, and buildings.
- Consistent emission-reduction strategies for achieving the “50 by 30” goal are emerging, but fundamental questions remain about how to support immediate action while building systems for planning and investment that are adaptive to new information.
Day three of the 2021 Utility Working Conference commenced early Tuesday morning with a plenary session featuring Rita Baranwal, the Electric Power Research Institute’s vice president of nuclear and chief nuclear officer, and Greg Cullen, Energy Northwest’s vice president for energy services and development.
To nuclear fuel suppliers, today’s operating reactors represent a defined customer base with predictable demands. Utilities must order their next fuel reload far in advance of an outage; enrichers and fabricators work to fill those orders. Adapting such a highly optimized supply chain to accommodate new products—fuels with new materials, claddings, and higher enrichments and burnups—will require alignment between all parties involved to meet the associated research, enrichment, manufacturing, regulatory, transportation, and operating experience needs.
That was the consensus during “Current Accident Tolerant Fuel Environment,” a technical session held on March 9 during the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's four-day Regulatory Information Conference (RIC, March 8-11). The session was chaired by NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson, who was taking part in his first RIC as a member of the commission.
Noting that an increasing number of large components will need to be shipped from the growing number of nuclear power plants being decommissioned, Todd Eiler, director of decommissioning and decontamination engineering projects at EnergySolutions, said that the safety of nuclear waste transportation is paramount. “It is imperative as an industry that we do these shipments safely. There’s really no margin for error here,” Eiler said on March 11 during the 2021 Waste Management Symposia virtual conference panel session “Efficient and Effective Waste Management During the D&D of Nuclear Power Plants.”
While noting the stellar safety record of the nuclear industry in transporting radioactive waste, Eiler said that any incident involving a large component from a decommissioned nuclear reactor will cause national headlines, and that the industry needs to adopt a conservatism above and beyond what is already required by regulations.
As plant owners and decommissioning companies prepare to ship reactor components for disposal, Eiler said, entities that do not have direct regulatory oversight but may have some secondary involvement should not be overlooked. As an example, he said that when moving the San Onofre-1 reactor pressure vessel to Utah for disposal, EnergySolutions was not required by regulations to coordinate with the Federal Railroad Administration. “However, they are a stakeholder that definitely has authority over a project of that magnitude [where] you are transporting an irradiated component on the nation’s most in-demand rail infrastructure,” he said, adding that getting the administration’s input early in the project was important.
The Electric Power Research Institute today announced Rita Baranwal as its new vice president of nuclear energy and chief nuclear officer. Baranwal succeeds Neil Wilmshurst, who was promoted to senior vice president of energy system resources in November.
Baranwal most recently served as the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for its Office of Nuclear Energy, where she managed the DOE's portfolio of nuclear research for existing and advanced reactors and new designs. Baranwal unexpectedly resigned from that position late last week.
Arun Majumdar, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University and former vice president for energy at Google, is a leading contender for secretary of energy in a Biden administration, according to a November 12 Bloomberg story.
Chosen on November 10 to lead Biden’s Department of Energy transition team, Majumdar was also the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-–Energy (ARPA-E), serving in that role from 2009 to 2012. Bloomberg quotes Jeff Navin, director of external affairs at TerraPower, as saying, “He had as good relationships with Republicans as he did with Democrats as the first director of ARPA-E, and he took the time to get to know key legislators personally.”