NC State celebrates 70 years of nuclear engineering education

March 29, 2021, 3:00PMANS News
An early picture of the research reactor building on the North Carolina State University campus. The Department of Nuclear Engineering is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its nuclear engineering curriculum in 2020–2021. Photo: North Carolina State University

The Department of Nuclear Engineering at North Carolina State University has spent the 2020–2021 academic year celebrating the 70th anniversary of its becoming the first U.S. university to establish a nuclear engineering curriculum. It started in 1950, when Clifford Beck, then of Oak Ridge, Tenn., obtained support from NC State’s dean of engineering, Harold Lampe, to build the nation’s first university nuclear reactor and, in conjunction, establish an educational curriculum dedicated to nuclear engineering.

The department, host to the 2021 ANS Virtual Student Conference, scheduled for April 8–10, now features 23 tenure/tenure-track faculty and three research faculty members. “What a journey for the first nuclear engineering curriculum in the nation,” said Kostadin Ivanov, professor and department head.

Virginia’s plan for nuclear in state’s energy strategy released

March 3, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

Virginia’s nuclear-sector stakeholders, led by the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority (VNECA), have drawn up a plan for helping the state reach its goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2045.

Released late last month, Virginia is Nuclear: 2020–2024 Strategic Plan is the result of legislation, SB 549, signed into law last year. The law directed the state’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy; Secretary of Commerce and Trade; and Secretary of Education to work with VNECA and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the role of nuclear energy in Virginia’s overall clean-energy strategy.

“The nuclear industry is vital to Virginia, and the Lynchburg region in particular,” said state Sen. Stephen Newman, who sponsored SB 549. “Jobs, economic growth, and clean air are just three of the benefits the state will see from the plan. I am proud of the industry and look forward to seeing them move forward with the plan.”

Study completed on BWRX-300 deployment in Poland

December 22, 2020, 7:00AMNuclear News

The completion of a study assessing the feasibility of deploying a fleet of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH) BWRX-300 small modular reactors in Poland was announced recently by the Polish firm Synthos Green Energy (SGE).

The feasibility study, which was prepared by Exelon Generation, was not made publicly available by SGE. The study covers the analysis of key aspects of SMR technology implementation, including cost issues, personnel policy, regulatory and security issues, construction models, and operational issues, according to SGE.

SGE is a subsidiary of Synthos S.A., a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland. According to SGE, it views SMR technology as an opportunity for the deep decarbonization of Polish industry and the country's heating sector.

ORNL to examine irradiated accident tolerant fuel assemblies

December 7, 2020, 12:02PMNuclear News

An accident tolerant fuel experiment developed by Global Nuclear Fuel arrives at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for testing. Photo: ORNL

Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) has announced that irradiated lead test assemblies of its IronClad and ARMOR accident tolerant fuel (ATF) have been delivered to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for examination. The unfueled IronClad rods and fueled ARMOR rods, the first ATF samples to be installed in a commercial reactor, completed a 24-month fuel cycle at the Hatch nuclear plant near Baxley, Ga., in February and were shipped to ORNL in early November.

The test samples, manufactured at GNF’s facility in Wilmington, N.C., are part of an industry-led effort with the Department of Energy to commercialize new fuels that could help boost the performance and economics of U.S. reactors within the decade. Framatome and Westinghouse are also involved in the DOE’s ATF program.

According to GNF’s December 3 announcement, ORNL’s examination of the samples will include visual inspections, microscopy, and measurements of the thickness, corrosion, and other mechanical and material properties of the cladding. These data, GNF said, will be used to determine the performance benefits of the materials and support the licensing of new fuel technologies with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy noted in a December 4 press release that initial visual inspections of the test samples showed no visible signs of flaws or degradation on either of the assemblies.

GE Hitachi SMR reaches U.S. licensing milestone

December 2, 2020, 12:00PMNuclear News

A cutaway view of the BWRX-300. Image: GE Hitachi Nuclear

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a final safety evaluation report for the first of several licensing topical reports (LTR) submitted by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) for the BWRX-300 small modular reactor, the company announced on December 1.

The initial LTR, titled “BWRX-300 Reactor Pressure Vessel Isolation and Overpressure Protection,” was submitted to the NRC in December 2019, officially beginning the U.S. licensing process. This LTR forms the basis for the “dramatic simplification” of the BWRX-300, according to GEH.

In its announcement, GEH noted that two additional LTRs were submitted in early 2020 and that it anticipates reviews of those reports to be completed in the coming months. A fourth LTR was submitted in September 2020, the company added.

DOE tags INL as “preferred alternative” to host the Versatile Test Reactor

November 19, 2020, 3:16PMNuclear News

Rendering of the proposed Versatile Test Reactor. Image: Idaho National Laboratory

The Department of Energy won’t publish its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) until mid-December. In a November 19 announcement on Twitter, however, the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy said that the yet-to-be-released EIS lists Idaho National Laboratory as the preferred alternative to site the VTR.

The DOE plans to submit the draft EIS for public comments early next month. The DOE won’t make a final decision on the design, technology selection, and location for the VTR until the completion of the EIS and record of decision in late 2021.

ARDP picks divergent technologies in Natrium, Xe-100: Is nuclear’s future taking shape?

October 14, 2020, 7:21AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy has put two reactor designs—TerraPower’s Natrium and X-energy’s Xe-100—on a fast track to commercialization, each with an initial $80 million in 50-50 cost-shared funds awarded through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). In all, the DOE plans to invest $3.2 billion—with matching funds from industry—over the seven-year demonstration program, subject to future appropriations.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette announced the awards late in the day on October 13 in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and said, “These awards are a critical first step of a program that will strengthen our nation’s nuclear energy and technological competitiveness abroad, and position our domestic industry for growth, for increased job creation, and for even more investment opportunity. It’s absolutely vital that we make progress on this technology now.”

“Critical decision” keeps Versatile Test Reactor on target

September 24, 2020, 3:05PMNuclear News

The proposed Versatile Test Reactor complex would cover about 20 acres. Image: INL

Now that the Department of Energy has approved Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, the engineering design phase can begin once Congress appropriates funding, according to a September 23 announcement from the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. The DOE has requested $295 million for the project in fiscal year 2021.

The news came nearly one month after a team led by Bechtel National Inc. (BNI), and including GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and TerraPower, entered into contract negotiations with Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) for the design-and-build phase of the VTR. GEH’s sodium-cooled fast reactor PRISM technology was selected to support the VTR program in November 2018.

TerraPower, Centrus, and Duke Energy talk tech and collaboration

September 23, 2020, 3:01PMNuclear News

Three companies that are part of a larger collaboration to develop and demonstrate Natrium, the fast reactor design recently introduced by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), were invited to participate in a webinar hosted by ClearPath to talk about Natrium’s design, fuel requirements, and load-following potential.

The September 21 webinar, titled “Natrium: Latin for Sodium, Big for Advanced Nuclear,” was moderated by Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath, and featured TerraPower’s Chris Levesque and Tara Neider, Centrus Energy’s Dan Poneman, and Duke Energy’s Chris Nolan.

TerraPower’s Natrium pairs a sodium fast reactor with heat storage

September 2, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

An artist’s rendering of Natrium. Image: TerraPower

The Natrium reactor and energy system architecture, recently introduced by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), offers baseload electricity output from a 345-MWe sodium fast reactor with the load-following flexibility of molten salt thermal storage. Stored heat can be used to boost the system’s output to 500 MWe for more than five and a half hours when needed, according to TerraPower. A company representative told Nuclear News that the company expects a commercial Natrium plant to cost $1 billion or less.

Negotiations to build Versatile Test Reactor under way

August 27, 2020, 7:05AMNuclear News

Artist’s rendering of the Versatile Test Reactor. INL Image

A team led by Bechtel National Inc. (BNI) that includes GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and TerraPower is in contract negotiations with Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) for the design-and-build phase of the Versatile Test Reactor, BEA announced on August 24. As planned, the VTR would support irradiation testing of fuels, materials, and equipment designed for advanced reactors.