What about the waste?

December 5, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

It’s always the first question asked. So, what is your approach? You have options.

You could go the “Yucca Mountain is the law of the land” route. But you’ll soon run into an immutable political truth. Nevada’s early presidential caucuses make it highly unlikely that any candidate would ever take a favorable position on Yucca unless it enjoyed commensurate support in the state. Not convinced? Nevada Gov. Stephen Sisolak signed a bill in August that replaces their closed caucus system with a primary during the first week in February, thereby putting the state in competition with Iowa and New Hampshire to be the “first primary” of the 2024 election. Face it: While you weren’t looking, Nevada secured its consent rights over Yucca Mountain; it’s just written in a different part of the law.

You could also double down on reprocessing/recycling and argue that we need some sort of Manhattan Project. But that requires convincing Congress that it’s a good idea for the government to build large, first-of-a-kind, multibillion-dollar fuel cycle facilities, the economics of which will be based on the estimated price of uranium (or thorium?) some number of decades from now. Good luck with that. As much as a grand solution to the fuel cycle may appeal to our engineering instincts, the funding simply isn’t there—there are no checks left in Washington’s checkbook.

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.

HALEU and the promise of nuclear energy: An interview with the DOE’s Kathryn Huff

November 4, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

Kathryn Huff

Deploying a fleet of advanced reactors in the 2030s means deploying high-assay low- enriched uranium (HALEU) infrastructure now.

The future fleet will need more than 40 metric tons of HALEU by 2030, according to Department of Energy projections. Getting to the 5–20 percent fissile uranium-235 content of HALEU involves either enriching natural or low-enriched uranium (LEU) or downblending high-enriched uranium (HEU).

Because downblending the limited stocks of HEU held at the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory and Savannah River Site is a short-term option at best, the Energy Act of 2020 authorized a HALEU Availability Program to build a sustainable enrichment infrastructure by the time advanced reactors are ready for commercial deployment.

Comments on a request for information reached the DOE in February 2022, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amplified global energy security concerns. While the war in Ukraine didn’t change the DOE’s plans, it “accelerated everything,” said Kathryn Huff, who leads the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) as assistant secretary. “Our attention is now laser-focused on this issue in a way that it wouldn’t have been in the past.”

Framatome’s accident tolerant fuel system successfully completes second cycle at Vogtle

October 27, 2022, 12:09PMNuclear News
Framatome’s GAIA fuel assembly with Protect EATF technologies. (Photo: Framatome)

Framatome has completed the second 18-month cycle of its GAIA Protect Enhanced Accident Tolerant Fuel (EATF) technology at Vogtle’s Unit 2 in Waynesboro, Ga. Inspections afterward revealed that the full-length chromium-coated fuel rods maintained their original characteristics, while the chromia-enhanced pellets operated as designed during 36 months of reactor operation.

Innovation in Fuel Reliability and Spent Fuel Cask Loading

February 18, 2022, 8:55AMSponsored ContentDominion Engineering, Inc.

Dominion Engineering, Inc. (DEI) has developed a number of innovative and cost effective tools and services designed to improve fuel reliability and spent fuel cask loading operations. This includes BNDETM fuel cleaning, which effectively removes debris from all reload fuel bundles without significantly impacting outage schedule. Smart-SipTM fuel sipping, a related activity, provides much higher fidelity leak detection capability than traditional vacuum canister sipping equipment, ensuring tight leaks are reliably identified and dispositioned during refueling outages and prior to spent fuel cask loading operations. Related industry experience is discussed further below.

ANS Grand Challenge: Closing the nuclear fuel cycle

February 15, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear NewsANS FCWMD Executive Committee

It seems like only yesterday that former ANS President Andy Klein announced the nine ANS Nuclear Grand Challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that existing and emerging nuclear technologies benefit current and future generations. The Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division (FCWMD) immediately began tackling the grand challenge of closing the nuclear fuel cycle by sponsoring recurring panel sessions on the topic at subsequent ANS meetings.

Spent fuel reprocessing, or "Don't bother us with facts; our minds are made up."

January 27, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The cover of the May 1977 issue of Nuclear News (left), an image of the story discussing Carter's decision to cancel the breeder reactor program (center) and the cover of the June 1977 Nuclear News (right).

The ANS Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division will present a webinar today at noon EST (the recording will be available via the webinar archive to all ANS members) featuring an international panel of experts on nuclear waste reprocessing. The panel will explore the idea of separating certain radionuclides from waste using recycling technology that enables pure materials to be used for other purposes.

Nuclear fuel considerations in the development of advanced reactors

December 8, 2021, 12:04PMNuclear NewsGary Mignogna


The world faces an urgent need to decarbonize and expand clean energy systems. Earlier this year, the United States announced goals to achieve a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2035 and net-zero emissions across the entire economy by 2050. Today, nuclear energy plants provide more than 50 percent of the United States’ carbon-free energy. Existing plants, along with the advanced technologies currently being developed and demonstrated, are crucial to the United States’ and the world’s clean energy future.

Technologies such as advanced non-light water reactors, which have higher operating temperatures than today’s light water reactors, will be vital to meeting economy-wide decarbonization goals. For example, process heat applications and chemical and synthetic fuel production require higher temperatures and currently rely on fossil fuels. Advanced reactors are the only carbon-free technologies that can provide the high temperatures these processes need.

DOE seeking comments on domestic uranium reserve program

August 13, 2021, 6:14AMNuclear News
[Image: U.S. DOE]

The Department of Energy has issued a request for information (RFI), inviting public comment on topics related to the establishment of its Uranium Reserve Program to support U.S. fuel cycle capabilities. Notice of the RFI was published in the August 11 Federal Register, with a deadline of September 10 for submitting comments.

DOE announces funding for advanced reactor fuel cycle and reprocessing R&D

May 21, 2021, 7:06AMNuclear News
This figure, included in the ONWARDS funding opportunity announcement, shows how ARPA-E R&D programs address different stages of advanced reactor development. (Figure: ARPA-E)

The Department of Energy has announced up to $40 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program to conduct research and development into technologies for reprocessing and ultimately disposing of used nuclear fuel. The program, “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems” (ONWARDS), announced on May 19, targets both open (once-through) and closed (reprocessing) fuel cycles to reduce the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors tenfold when compared to light water reactors.

Senators press Trump for answers on Saudi nuclear capabilities

August 21, 2020, 10:08AMNuclear News

Van Hollen

Amid news stories of possible undeclared nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia and China's involvement with them (see here and here, for instance), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) on August 19 led a bipartisan group of senate colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump requesting more information on the matter.

Cosigners included Sens. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.), Susan Collins (R., Maine), Tim Kaine (D., Va.), and Jerry Moran (R., Kan.).

Mo-99 supply put at risk by COVID-19 pandemic

April 7, 2020, 10:18AMNuclear News

The U.S. healthcare industry is warning that the COVID-19 pandemic may threaten supplies of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99, whose decay product, technetium-99m, is considered the workhorse isotope in nuclear medicine for diagnostic imaging. The online magazine Radiology Business recently reported that the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) alerted its members on April 1 that it is monitoring supply shortages of Mo-99 “more closely than ever” during the pandemic.

Metropolis Works receives 40-year license renewal

April 2, 2020, 9:16AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on March 24 relicensed the only uranium conversion plant in the United States, Honeywell International’s Metropolis Works.

Metropolis Works can now operate until March 24, 2060, potentially logging operations for over a century. Built in 1958 to produce uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for the U.S. government, Metropolis Works began selling UF6 on the commercial market in 1968.

The promise of nuclear thermal propulsion

March 11, 2020, 12:19PMNuclear NewsJud Simmons

The United States is pursuing the objective to land humans more than 100 million miles away on Mars, and nuclear power has the potential to be a key technology in getting to the Red Planet and providing power while there. Specifically, nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) is a promising approach that could enable astronauts to travel from Earth’s orbit to Mars and back in a fraction of the time, and with greater safety, than is available with other options.