Armenia’s positive lessons learned on nuclear power

February 6, 2024, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Danagoulian

Areg Danagoulian, associate professor of nuclear science and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, draws on his experiences growing up in Soviet-era Armenia to argue that nuclear energy is crucial to “help strengthen liberal democracies that are being unprecedently threatened” by what he calls authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China.

Disasters both natural and man-made: In his essay “How Nuclear Power Saved Armenia,” published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Danagoulian recalls the shutdown of Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear reactors in 1989 in the wake of fears generated by the 1986 Chernobyl accident, which “dramatically undermin[ed] public trust in nuclear power as a safe source of energy.” He asserted that “the public perception of danger from nuclear power was magnified by the outrageous lies that the Soviet leadership spread about the disaster, the obvious incompetence and irresponsibility of the Soviet nuclear designers who built and operated the Chernobyl reactor, and the poorly executed cleanup efforts, which were compounded by miscalculations and gross mistakes.”

2023 in Review: April–June

January 11, 2024, 7:00AMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2024, let’s look back at what happened in 2023 in the nuclear community. In today's post, compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire are what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from April through June 2023.

Stay tuned for the top stories from the rest of the past year.

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.

Canadian-German joint venture to produce medical Ac-225

October 23, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

German-based radiopharmaceutical biotech company ITM Isotope Technologies Munich and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories are launching a new joint venture company for the industrial-scale production of actinium-225, which is used in targeted alpha therapies to fight cancer. The new company is being called Actineer.

Germany’s “senseless act of folly”

April 20, 2023, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Hill

The recent shutdown of Germany’s three remaining nuclear reactors is “a senseless act of folly, against all the science and available evidence.” So writes Lincoln Hill, director of policy and external affairs at the Nuclear Industry Association, in a strong opinion piece on CapX, a publication of the London-based Centre for Policy Studies.

Illogical: Hill is emphatic is criticizing Germany’s move as an antiscience action that is ideologically driven and harmful to the cause of battling climate change. He calls it “the single worst decision Europe has taken in the fight against climate change, and one for which we all are paying the price.”

He points out that Germany’s former chancellor, Angela Merkel, “ostensibly” made the decision to phase out nuclear energy as a reaction to the Fukushima accident in Japan. However, Japan itself is seeking to “restart its 30-GW nuclear fleet, even as Germany finishes shuttering a fleet of 20 GW.”

French, European power analysis for first quarter

April 19, 2023, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Although the first quarter of the year saw some of the French nuclear fleet return to service, it was not at the rate originally anticipated, according to data analysis company EnAppSys. France’s nuclear availability, the company noted, was expected to reach a maximum of 50 GW by the middle of the first quarter, but that goal was not reached due to several reasons, including the need for additional repairs and maintenance when stress corrosion cracking first appeared in several reactors last year. Workforce strikes at nuclear operator Électricité de France also led to widespread employee walkouts from nuclear power plants.

Germany completes nuclear phaseout; better news from Finland

April 17, 2023, 3:13PMNuclear News
The Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant in Germany.

Ignoring a last-minute plea from a long list of scientific luminaries (including Nobel laureate Steven Chu and climate scientist James Hansen) to reconsider, as well as recent polls showing pronuclear sentiment among a majority of its population, Germany shut down its last three operating nuclear power plants late Saturday, ending 60-plus years of electricity generation from fission. (Germany’s first nuclear power plant, Kahl, was commissioned in 1961 and closed in 1985.)

Reliable testing under all conditions

March 29, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsChristoph Gatzen and Simon Lemin
VR glasses from manufacturer RealWear.

The challenges of climate change are bringing nuclear energy back into focus. Even in Germany, which decided on a general nuclear phaseout in 2011 as a response to the Fukushima disaster that year, nuclear energy is again being discussed as a bridging technology. Compared with fossil fuels, nuclear saves considerable greenhouse gases. However, for a holistic view of CO2 emissions from power plants, the procurement, maintenance, and repair of plant components must also be considered. At the very least, the CO2 emissions caused by the high costs of testing and maintaining a nuclear power plant can be reduced.

Notes from the 2023 NN Reference Section

March 21, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

This year marks the 25th year that ANS's Nuclear News magazine has published its Reference Section, which features a world list of nuclear power plants, maps showing worldwide plant locations, tables with information on U.S. plant renewals, and international data tables and graphics. What follows are interesting tidbits that Nuclear Newswire has picked up from this year's Reference Section, which was published in the March NN.

From the Reference Section
Five power reactors started commercial operations around the world in 2022 and five more closed, leaving the total number of operable nuclear power reactors in this 25th Annual Reference Section at 434, the same as the year before. What’s more, that number is just one more than the 433 power reactors listed in the 1st Annual Reference Section back in 1999. But make no mistake, plenty has changed over 25 years. Read on.

How can advocates amplify global shifts in the nuclear energy narrative?

March 15, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsParis Ortiz-Wines

Paris Ortiz-Wines

“Nuclear is finding its way into real acceptance and enthusiasm, and that’s really exciting.” So said secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm at the COP27 climate conference last November.

For the past 65 years, humanity has harnessed the power of the atom. Since the grid connection of the world’s first commercial nuclear plant in 1957, nuclear has been an unsung hero in providing reliable, clean energy for generations. Nuclear is the world’s fourth-largest source of energy and the second-largest low-carbon source of energy, per Our World in Data.

And yet, it wasn’t until September of 2021, when it became increasingly clear that the world was entering an energy crisis, that nuclear found its way back into the spotlight. Five months later, with the invasion of Ukraine, countries dependent on Russian gas found themselves in a precarious and costly position.

German public supports nuclear power

February 6, 2023, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new survey by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) indicates that 71 percent of the German public supports the continued use of nuclear energy in the country, while 29 percent want it ended. The survey results, which were reported by German news source Bild and elsewhere, come amid ongoing controversy regarding the current plans by the German government to shut down the nation’s three remaining nuclear power plants in mid-April.

U.K. nuclear fuel fund open for bids

January 6, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Applications for grants from Britain’s nuclear fuel fund are now being accepted, the U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced Monday. The application deadline is February 20.

Looking back at 2022—October through December

January 6, 2023, 9:09AMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In today's post that follows, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from September through December 2022.

But first:

Countries change nuclear policies in response to Ukraine war

January 6, 2023, 7:09AMNuclear News

As a direct result of the war in Ukraine, several countries have changed their policies on nuclear energy—even those with long-standing nuclear phase-out plans. This February will mark one year since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, leading to ongoing war and turning pandemic-era energy shortages into a global energy crisis. Spiking gas prices and concerns about electricity supply during the cold winter months have thrown many governments into a frenzy as they try to ease the impact on their citizens.

Countries in the process of phasing out their nuclear power had been prepared to increase their reliance on natural gas. But as Russia supplies 40 percent of the European Union’s natural gas, nations with no reliable alternative now face sky-high energy prices—even energy poverty. Across Europe and beyond, nuclear power plants slated for permanent closure have been given second chances to shore up energy supply. Nuclear power has also claimed a bigger spotlight in countries’ strategies for energy independence.

Germany’s winter to wonder “What if . . . ?”

December 13, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Meteorological winter is here, and a chill is gripping northern Europe. Predictably, renewable generation has entered a seasonal lull and heating demand is up, despite a push to conserve natural gas, which means electricity and gas bills are up too. With a grudging nod to reality, German chancellor Olaf Scholz ensured in October that Germany’s three remaining nuclear power reactors will provide a few more months of clean, reliable power. Their premature closure, once scheduled for December 31, is now expected by April 15, 2023.

Elon Musk: Shutting down nuclear plants is “total madness”

March 31, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Musk

In a wide-ranging interview published by Business Insider on March 26, Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla and SpaceX, repeatedly referred to efforts to shut down nuclear power plants as “crazy” and “madness.” Musk spoke with Mathias Döpfner, chief executive officer of Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer. Musk also discussed his views on the war in Ukraine, climate change, space travel, self-driving cars, humanoid robots, artificial intelligence, religion, and philanthropy.

Germany's mistakes: In discussing the Ukraine conflict and Western Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies, Döpfner referred to “strategic mistakes that Europe, particularly Germany, has made [such as] the dropout of nuclear energy in 2011.”

Musk responded, “It is very important that Germany will not shut down its nuclear power stations. I think this is extremely crazy.”

Europe’s confused climate strategy

March 18, 2022, 3:55PMNuclear NewsMatthew L. Wald

Europeans are taking resolute steps to reduce their output of climate-changing gases, but some countries are moving in the wrong direction.

Many countries are adding solar and wind, which are low-carbon energy sources. Some have moved to biomass, the value of which as a climate cure is not clear. A few are adding reactors, while others are defining nuclear as dirty energy and natural gas as “clean” and are changing their generation mix accordingly.

Nuclear included in IEA plan to reduce Russian gas imports

March 14, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The European Union could reduce imports of Russian natural gas by more than a third within a year through a combination of measures that would support energy security and affordability and would be consistent with the European Green Deal, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.

“Nobody is under any illusions anymore,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol on announcing the release of the report, A 10-Point Plan to Reduce the European Union’s Reliance on Russian Natural Gas. “Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as an economic and political weapon shows Europe needs to act quickly to be ready to face considerable uncertainty over Russian gas supplies next winter. . . . Europe needs to rapidly reduce the dominant role of Russia in its energy markets and ramp up the alternatives as quickly as possible.”

Germany disappoints again, Belgium flirts with reason

March 11, 2022, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant in Germany.

After offering a small shred of hope that it might be persuaded to keep its remaining power reactors in operation a bit longer to reduce its dependence on Russia for energy, Germany has opted to continue with its nuclear phaseout. The last three operating German reactors, Neckarwestheim-2, Isar-2, and Emsland, are slated for shutdown later this year.

The Economist on nuclear: “France says it is green. Germany says it isn’t. France will win.”

November 3, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
(Source: Peter Schrank/The Economist)

“Where nuclear power was once a source of unity for Europe, today it is a source of discord.” So states The Economist’s October 30 “Charlemagne” column—a regular source of commentary on European politics in the weekly publication—before deftly dissecting nuclear power’s continental divide and picking a winner.