Nuclear FOMO

August 4, 2022, 2:49PMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

Steven Arndt
president@ans.org

At the June ANS Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., our Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy used an interesting acronym: he said, “This meeting is so exciting we are going to give nuclear professionals FOMO with respect to ANS meetings going forward.” The term “fear of missing out” was common a few years ago, but I had not heard it recently. So when Craig used it, it really caught my attention. Craig was, of course, correct that the Annual Meeting was great: technically interesting, productive, and great fun, as well. It provided a wonderful opportunity to learn, network, and advance both academic and business goals. However, in thinking about this phrase I realized that in a lot of ways, getting people to realize how important nuclear science and technology is for making the world better is a lot like trying to get people to understand that they are truly missing out.


The state of U.S. Fusion

August 2, 2022, 9:28AMNuclear NewsCami Collins
The first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel was placed in the assembly pit in May. Here, a technician positions targets on the surface of the component to be used in laser metrology. (Photo: ITER Organization)

Delivery of electricity from fusion is considered by the National Academies of Engineering to be one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. The tremendous progress in fusion science and technology is underpinning efforts by nuclear experts and advocates to tackle many of the key challenges that must be addressed to construct a fusion pilot plant and make practical fusion possible.

Terrestrial Energy thinks its molten salt reactor may have a future in ammonia

June 13, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
A cutaway of the Integral Molten Salt Reactor and balance of plant. (Image: Terrestrial Energy)

Ammonia is a carbon-free energy carrier that could be produced using thermal energy from nuclear power plants. Terrestrial Energy announced June 9 that it has signed an agreement with engineering firm KBR to explore the use of its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) for both hydrogen and ammonia production.

Clean hydrogen energy from nuclear power is having a good week

June 8, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
A depiction of an electrolyzer from Bloom Energy. (Photo: Bloom Energy)

Using nuclear power technology to produce clean hydrogen is getting a visibility boost as the Department of Energy hosts a virtual three-day (June 6–8) Annual Merit Review and Peer Evaluation Meeting on the agency’s efforts to accelerate clean hydrogen production. On June 6, the DOE announced a notice of intent (NOI) to fund the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $8 billion program to develop regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) and the launch of a new Hydrogen Shot Incubator Prize that seeks “disruptive technologies” to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen production. That same day, Westinghouse Electric Company and Bloom Energy Corp. (a maker of solid oxide electrolyzer technology) announced a letter of intent to develop electrolyzers for use in the commercial nuclear power market and said they are “well positioned to support the U.S. Department of Energy’s developing hydrogen hubs.”

Diablo Canyon report takeaways: California has options, and it’s time for debate

November 10, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News

A new study by researchers from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—An Assessment of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant for Zero-Carbon Electricity, Desalination, and Hydrogen Production—makes a compelling case that the 2018 decision to shut down California’s only operating nuclear power plants needs another look—and that revenue options could make reversing the decision not just feasible but economically attractive.

“Fast-forward three years and things have changed,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and one of the authors of the report, during a November 8 webinar. Since the decision was made to shut down Diablo Canyon’s twin pressurized water reactors in 2024 and 2025 when their current licenses expire, the state has passed bills calling for net zero carbon emissions by 2045 and for restrictions on land use that could effectively limit solar installation sprawl. Californian’s have also experienced repeated grid reliability issues and prolonged drought conditions.

Senators probe nuclear priorities: HALEU, hydrogen, reactor siting, and more

November 5, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
From left, Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Paul Chodak, and Michael J. Guastella appear before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on November 4.

As Congress awaited key votes yesterday on spending bills that include production tax credits for at-risk plants and a new amendment adding $500 million in supplemental funding over five years to increase the availability of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a Full Committee Hearing On Potential Non-Electric Applications Of Civilian Nuclear Energy. Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.), chairman of the committee, emphasized that “advanced nuclear reactors hold enormous potential to provide opportunity to communities across the country with zero-emission baseload power” and made it clear he expects new reactors to replace retiring coal plants in his home state of West Virginia.

Speaking before the committee were Shannon Bragg-Sitton of Idaho National Laboratory, Paul Chodak III of American Electric Power, and Michael J. Guastella of the Council of Radionuclides and Radiopharmaceuticals.

ITER director general hails the promise of hydrogen—in fusion

October 12, 2021, 3:18PMANS Nuclear Cafe
This June 2021 photo of ITER vacuum vessel sector #6 includes two panels of thermal shielding ready to slide into place. (Photo: ITER/Courtesy of Chang Hyun Noh)

Following a week of heightened attention to all things hydrogen preceding Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Day (October 8), Bernard Bigot, director general of the ITER Organization, published an op-ed on October 11 in The European Files, a magazine billed as an “effective work tool for European deciders.” Bigot’s article, “Hydrogen fusion: The way to a new energy future,” doubled as a fusion primer, promoting the technology as a future source of clean energy that is fueled by hydrogen and is capable of providing heat and power to produce more hydrogen.

Palo Verde gets $20 million to make hydrogen while the sun shines

October 8, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
APS’s Palo Verde plant

Arizona Public Service is the latest nuclear utility with confirmed plans to install hydrogen production capacity, an investment decision that is based on analysis conducted under the Department of Energy’s H2@Scale program and backed by a $20 million DOE award.

Nuclear-generated hydrogen could decarbonize marine shipping

August 10, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

On August 4, the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) released a white paper, Bridging the Gap: How Nuclear-Derived Zero-Carbon Fuels Can Help Decarbonize Marine Shipping, containing policy recommendations for a U.S.-led transition away from fossil-based shipping fuels to nuclear-produced fuels and energy carriers like hydrogen and ammonia. According to CATF, in 2018, the international shipping industry accounted for 2.6 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions—more than the international aviation sector. Sector-wide emissions are on pace to triple by 2050.

Advanced reactor economics and markets

May 21, 2021, 2:41PMNuclear NewsCharles Forsberg and Eric Ingersoll
TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy jointly developed the sodium-cooled Natrium reactor with the turbine hall, nitrate heat storage tanks, and cooling towers separated from the reactor at the back of the site.

The viability of nuclear power ultimately depends on economics. Safety is a requirement, but it does not determine whether a reactor will be deployed. The most economical reactor maximizes revenue while minimizing costs. The lowest-cost reactor is not necessarily the most economical reactor. Different markets impose different requirements on reactors. If the capital cost of Reactor A is 50 percent more than Reactor B but has characteristics that double the revenue, the most economical reactor is Reactor A.

The most important factor is an efficient supply chain, including on-site construction practices. This is the basis for the low capital cost of light water reactors from China and South Korea. The design of the reactor can significantly affect capital cost through its impact on the supply chain. The question is, how can advanced reactors boost revenue and reduce costs?

Granholm speaks at Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 21 conference

March 22, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Granholm

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm gave her first international address as part of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2021 conference, held on March 16 and 17. Granholm started her speech by stating that “America is back,” putting climate change policies front and center as part of the Biden administration’s agenda. She said that President Biden has set ambitious goals for climate policies that will set the United States on “an irreversible path toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Granholm’s message: Granholm focused her talk on renewable energy investment and she discussed how the United States is dedicated to working with the rest of the world to cut emissions to get to net-zero. She touched on assorted topics, including investing in renewables, creating a resilient grid, installing hundreds of miles of new transmission lines to reach new renewable energy sources, improving carbon removal from current fossil fuels, promoting hydrogen production, researching next-generation battery storage, and realizing the potential massive economic boom that could come with all this investment by the U.S. Department of Energy.

There was one glaring omission from that list: Nuclear.

Canada’s net-zero pledge needs all-in commitment, says SNC-Lavalin

March 15, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new technical report from Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin finds Canada’s stated goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to be achievable but stresses the importance of immediate action and investment in all forms of low-carbon energy production, including nuclear, hydro, renewables, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen.

According to the 100-page document, Engineering Net Zero, Canada needs to triple its power production levels over the next 30 years, as forecasts show demand growing from 500 TWh to 1,500 TWh.

A 28-page executive summary of the report is available online.

Axios reviews “green” fuel options for commercial shipping

March 10, 2021, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

In an article published on March 5, Axios reviews the ways the world’s maritime companies are trying to decarbonize. The maritime industry, “from ferries to freighters—is trying to navigate a once-in-a-century transition away from fossil fuels to new, cleaner means of propulsion,” the article explains.

Emissions from shipping: The article notes that the world’s economy relies on international shipping, with more than 90 percent of global trade traveling via maritime vessels. The issue, though, is that “the vessels burn about 4 million barrels of oil a day, accounting for almost 3 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.” The article then cites a United Nations report from 2018 that sets greenhouse gas reduction targets of 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

Fukushima Daiichi: 10 years on

March 1, 2021, 2:12PMNuclear NewsLake Barrett

The Fukushima Daiichi site before the accident. All images are provided courtesy of TEPCO unless noted otherwise.

It was a rather normal day back on March 11, 2011, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant before 2:45 p.m. That was the time when the Great Tohoku Earthquake struck, followed by a massive tsunami that caused three reactor meltdowns and forever changed the nuclear power industry in Japan and worldwide. Now, 10 years later, much has been learned and done to improve nuclear safety, and despite many challenges, significant progress is being made to decontaminate and defuel the extensively damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor site. This is a summary of what happened, progress to date, current situation, and the outlook for the future there.

DOE’s Hydrogen Program Plan sees potential for nuclear-powered electrolysis

November 17, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

Many regions with peak potential hydrogen demand, as shown in this image created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and reproduced in the Hydrogen Program Plan, are also home to operating nuclear power plants. Image: NREL, The Technical and Economic Potential of the H2@Scale Concept within the United States

The Department of Energy released a Hydrogen Program Plan on November 12 that provides a strategic framework for the agency’s hydrogen research, development, and demonstration activities.

The DOE’s Offices of Nuclear Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy, Electricity, and Science, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy are all working on the production, transport, storage, and use of hydrogen in several sectors of the economy and have developed technical and programmatic multi-year plans. The Hydrogen Program Plan coordinates and complements those efforts by presenting a strategic direction that highlights the importance of collaboration both within DOE and with stakeholders in industry, academia, and the states.

Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island likely hydrogen demo site

November 11, 2020, 9:33AMNuclear News

Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island plant. Photo: Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island is the probable location for the nation’s first demonstration of high-temperature steam electrolysis at a nuclear power plant. Idaho National Laboratory, which plays a key role in a hydrogen demonstration project launched last year with Xcel Energy, Energy Harbor, and Arizona Public Service (APS), announced on November 9 that Prairie Island, which houses two 550-MWe pressurized water reactors, would likely be chosen over the one-unit boiling water reactor plant at Monticello.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy will work with INL to demonstrate a system that uses the plant’s steam and electricity to split water. The resulting hydrogen will be used at the power plant, but excess hydrogen could be sold to other industries. Hydrogen has applications in transportation and in industrial sectors, including steel and ammonia production.

More than $10 million in federal funding for the Xcel Energy demo was announced by the Department of Energy on October 8. It is just one phase of a project that showcases collaboration between the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Commercial hydrogen production via low-temperature electrolysis is being demonstrated at Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse plant. APS, which operates the Palo Verde generating station, will build on the Xcel Energy demo to develop an initial design and feasibility assessment for plant modifications to integrate a reversible hydrogen electrolysis system with the plant’s secondary system and will include hydrogen storage infrastructure.

DOE to fund integrated hydrogen production at LWRs

October 13, 2020, 7:00AMNuclear News

Two projects intended to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen production technology at existing U.S. light-water reactors received the bulk of the funding announced by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) on October 8 under the ongoing U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Out of three projects with a total value of $26.9 million, the two involving hydrogen production have a total value of $26.2 million.

Nuclear is up to the challenge of energy storage

August 20, 2020, 11:54AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is asking for input on an Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC) Draft Roadmap and Request for Information (RFI) and recently extended the response deadline to August 31. While there is no “N” for nuclear in “ESGC,” nuclear is definitely part of the DOE’s plan for future energy storage technologies and integrated energy systems designed to improve the efficiency and reliability of U.S. energy markets. In fact, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee has called for $4 million in the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget to support energy storage.

ANS Annual Meeting: Hydrogen is on the table

June 9, 2020, 10:24AMNuclear News

Producing hydrogen as well as electricity from the current fleet of nuclear reactors is garnering a lot of interest from stakeholders, according to representatives of four nuclear operating utilities that together operate about one-third of the U.S. nuclear fleet. That interest drew viewers to a Utility Roundtable on U.S. Leadership in Sustaining Clean, Competitive Power and Hydrogen during the June 8 opening plenary of the American Nuclear Society's 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting.