Isotopes hold clue to travel plans of migrating butterflies

April 14, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Scientists studied the migration of six butterflies (from top left to bottom right): American Snout butterfly, Queen butterfly, Cloudless Sulphur butterfly, Empress Leilia butterfly, Variegated Fritillary butterfly, and Southern Dogface butterfly. (Composite photo: IAEA; photo credits: S. Bright, V. Charny, J. Gallagher, J. Green)

While scientists can tag migrating birds, mammals, and other animals to track their movements, the precise migration patterns of butterflies and other insects too small for tagging evaded scientists’ scrutiny for decades. That changed in 1996, when Leonard Wassenaar and Keith Hobson, working at the time as isotope scientists for Environment Canada, demonstrated that isotopic techniques could be used to determine the origin of individual monarch butterflies and deduce the species’ annual migration routes. Now, the same technique is being used to study other butterfly species.

Granholm speaks at Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 21 conference

March 22, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe


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.

WSU students deliver nuclear safeguards designs for the NNSA

March 19, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Meeting remotely, WSU students deliver two nonproliferation projects to NNSA and PNNL staff. Source: NNSA

In a program sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, teams of engineering students from Washington State University designed, built, and delivered prototype equipment to address challenges encountered by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory staff in research on nuclear safeguards.

As reported on March 11 by the NNSA, two teams of WSU students presented their projects to PNNL staff during an online meeting in December 2020. One team created physical training aids for safeguards courses to demonstrate two methods of nuclear fuel reprocessing. The other team developed an enrichment monitor mounting bracket that the International Atomic Energy Agency could use to help monitor uranium hexafluoride gas in enrichment facilities.

Safety remains nuclear power’s greatest post-Fukushima challenge

March 12, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Meshkati, holding an earthquake railing in a Fukushima Daiichi control room during a 2012 site visit. Photo: Najmedin Meshkati

As long as commercial nuclear power plants operate anywhere in the world, the authors of an article published this week on The Conversation believe it is critical for all nations to learn from what happened at Fukushima and continue doubling down on nuclear safety. But the authors, Kiyoshi Kurokawa and Najmedin Meshkati, say that a decade after the accident, the nuclear industry has yet to fully to address safety concerns that Fukushima exposed; the authors assign an “incomplete” grade to global nuclear safety.

In their article, Kurokawa and Meshkati write that the most urgent priority is developing tough, system-oriented nuclear safety standards, strong safety cultures, and much closer cooperation between countries and their independent regulators. They also believe that the International Atomic Energy Agency should urge its member states to find a balance between national sovereignty and international responsibility when it comes to operating nuclear power reactors in their territories.

China on course to lead in nuclear by 2030, says IEA

March 4, 2021, 3:18PMNuclear News

China will have the world's largest nuclear power fleet within a decade, an International Energy Agency official noted during a session at the High-Level Workshop on Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Transitions, World Nuclear News reported on March 3.

The workshop was held jointly by the IEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IEA official, Brent Wanner, head of Power Sector Modelling & Analysis for the agency's World Energy Outlook publication, said that as nuclear fleets in the United States, Canada, and Japan reach their original design lifetimes, decisions will have to be made about what will happen after that. Absent license renewals, the contribution of nuclear power could decline substantially in those countries while China’s reactor building program will boost it into the first position.

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.

UN partners expand use of nuclear technology to combat disease

February 25, 2021, 12:23PMNuclear News

The IAEA headquarters.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have worked together to address the global challenges of food insecurity, climate change, animal/zoonotic diseases, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic over 57 years of partnership. On February 23, the directors general of both organizations signed a Revised Arrangement committing to upgrade their collaboration and increase the scope of their work.

Renewable technologies can’t escape the issue of waste management

February 3, 2021, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A recent article from Deseret News looks at the stark reality of hazardous waste piling up from the green energy revolution. The lengthy article, "The dark side of ‘green energy’ and its threat to the nation’s environment," was written by News reporter Amy Joi O’Donoghue and is based on an Environmental Protection Agency briefing from the Trump administration. The briefing, issued in January, outlines the difficulties the United States will face in recycling and safely disposing of the materials used for green energy technologies.

Green energy’s looming waste problem: While the current fervor around the globe is to decarbonize as quickly as possible using wind and solar, the energy industry has yet to fully tackle the long-term waste stream for these systems. Many supporters think that renewable energy equals no waste, when in reality all energy-producing technologies produce waste that should be managed responsibly. That includes solar panels and wind turbines, which have their own environmental hazards such as toxic metals, oil, fiberglass, and other materials. Andrew Wheeler, EPA administrator at the time, said, “Without a strategy for their end-of-life management, so-called green technologies like solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, and windmills will ultimately place [an] unintended burden on our planet and economy.”

Thailand inks agreement with nuclear security organization

February 2, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) and Thailand’s Office of Atoms for Peace (OAP) have signed a memorandum of understanding, WINS announced last week. WINS is a nongovernmental organization based in Vienna that works with the International Atomic Energy Agency on nuclear security–related issues. OAP is Thailand's nuclear regulatory body.

Centered on security: Under the MOU, WINS is supporting the establishment and operation of an IAEA nuclear security support center at OAP. The main functions of the center will include human resource development, technical support services for nuclear security equipment lifecycle management, and scientific support services for the provision of nuclear security expertise, analysis, and research and development, according to the IAEA.

A key aspect of the OAP project will be to support the development of Thailand’s national nuclear security training strategy, as well as to provide professional development activities to Thai nuclear stakeholders, WINS said. The project is funded by Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program.

Nuclear techniques help Pakistan's textile industry

February 1, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

IAEA support, including trainings, workshops and fellowships as well as practical lectures such as this one in Pakistan, have contributed to building the national capacity in cotton breeding techniques. (Photo: L. Jankuloski/Joint FAO/IAEA)

In a story published last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency described a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations working with local experts in Pakistan to develop and introduce new varieties of cotton that are more resilient and better adapted to the increasingly negative effects of climate change. The new varieties are developed through mutation breeding techniques, wherein seeds, cuttings, or tissue-culture material is exposed to radiation or other mutagen sources, like an X-ray or gamma ray source.

Nearly 22,000 completed IAEA courses in nuclear security

January 29, 2021, 11:58AMNuclear News

The IAEA's In Young Suh (center) demonstrates nuclear security e-learning modules to participants of the International Conference on Nuclear Security. Photo: C. Mitchell/U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory

An International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear security e-learning program is celebrating its 10 years of existence by marking a milestone with nearly 22,000 course completions by nuclear operators, regulators, policy professionals, academics, and students from 170 countries

The IAEA launched the first nuclear security e-learning course, "Use of Radiation Detection Instruments for Front Line Officers," in 2010. Since then, the agency has developed a suite of 17 nuclear security e-learning courses, which are available online at no cost.

The courses include:

  • Overview of nuclear security threats and risks
  • Physical protection
  • Insider threat and information
  • Computer security
  • Other areas of nuclear security

The online courses combine self-paced e-learning with virtual and face-to-face classroom learning. They are frequently prerequisites to instructor-led and classroom-based nuclear security education, training, and capacity building activities, according to the IAEA.

IAEA confirms Iran working on uranium metal for reactor fuel

January 14, 2021, 12:01PMANS News

Iran has started work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and Tehran said on Wednesday. Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran’s representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that the country has started working on the fuel, saying that everything has been reported to the agency.

Iran's action is the latest breach of its nuclear deal with six significant powers as it presses for a lifting of U.S. sanctions.

The year in review 2020: Research and Applications

January 8, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

Here is a look back at the top stories of 2020 from our Research and Applications section in Newswire and Nuclear News magazine. Remember to check back to Newswire soon for more top stories from 2020.

Research and Applications section

Report finds uranium resources sufficient for foreseeable future

January 7, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

Adequate uranium resources exist to support the long-term, sustainable use of nuclear energy for low-carbon electricity generation, as well as for other applications, including hydrogen production. That assessment is contained in the latest (28th) edition of Uranium—Resources, Production and Demand, a global, biennial reference prepared jointly by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The publication adds, however, that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent reductions in uranium production and exploration could affect available supplies, suggesting that timely investment in innovative mining and processing techniques would help assure that uranium resources are brought to market when needed.

IAEA, IEA partner to enhance nuclear’s role in clean energy transition

December 10, 2020, 7:00AMNuclear News

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi signs a memorandum of understanding with the International Energy Agency during an online event. Photo: IAEA

To help speed the transition to clean energy that many experts say will be required to achieve global climate goals by mid-century, the International Atomic Energy Agency and International Energy Agency (IEA) have agreed to strengthen cooperation on activities involving nuclear power.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol on November 30 signed a memorandum of understanding, under which the two organizations will share data, statistics, energy modeling tools, policy analysis, and research, according to the IAEA on December 3. The agencies will also collaborate on publications, seminars, workshops, and webinars and increase participation in each other’s conferences and meetings of mutual interest.

IAEA awards fellowships to 100 female students in nuclear

December 7, 2020, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The International Atomic Energy Agency has awarded fellowships to the first group of 100 female students from around the world under a new initiative to help close the gender gap in nuclear science and technology.

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Program, named after the pioneering physicist, was launched by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in March to support women pursuing nuclear-related careers.

Finland’s Onkalo repository a “game changer,” says IAEA’s Grossi

December 2, 2020, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

Onkalo, Finland’s deep geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel, has been characterized as a game changer for the long-term sustainability of nuclear energy by Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Finland has had the determination to move forward with the project and to bring it to fruition,” Grossi said during a November 26 visit to Olkiluoto, Finland, where the repository is under construction. “Waste management has always been at the center of many debates about nuclear energy and the sustainability of nuclear activity around the world. Everybody knew of the idea of a geological repository for high-level radioactive nuclear waste, but Finland did it.”

Posiva Oy, the Finnish company tasked with researching and creating a method for the permanent disposal of spent fuel from Finland’s Olkiluoto and Loviisa nuclear power plants, obtained a license to construct the Onkalo repository in 2015, marking the first time that a construction license for a geological disposal facility was issued anywhere in the world. The site near the Olkiluoto plant was chosen following several years of screening a number of potential sites.

Pb-210 used to track growing sedimentation in the Caribbean Sea

November 10, 2020, 12:03PMNuclear News

The IAEA is supporting countries surrounding the Caribbean Sea, facilitating their efforts to monitor and analyze the scale of sedimentation in the region. Photo: Tim Gregoire

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, between 750,000 and 1 million metric tons of sediments are discharged into the Caribbean Sea each year. The release of sedimentation into the world’s oceans, increasingly from human activities, degrades marine environments and jeopardizes regional fishing industries.

The IAEA is supporting Latin American and Caribbean countries in monitoring and analyzing the scope and scale of sedimentation in the region by providing training on the use of the lead radioisotope Pb-210 in the sampling, monitoring, and study of growing sedimentation in the Caribbean and its effects on marine life. That training has culminated in the publication of a study in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, the agency announced on November 5.

New NNSA website helps in nuclear safeguards reporting

November 5, 2020, 6:59AMNuclear News

The National Nuclear Security Administration has launched RAINS—the Reporting Assistant for International Nuclear Safeguards website—intended to assist users with the requirements surrounding international nuclear safeguards.

Nuclear safeguards are designed to verify that all nuclear material declared by a nation-state is not diverted for non-peaceful uses; detect any misuse of declared facilities or locations outside facilities; and detect any undeclared nuclear material or activities in the nation-state.

Belarus’s first nuclear reactor connects to grid

November 4, 2020, 6:57AMNuclear News

The Belarusian nuclear power plant. Photo: Rosatom

Belarus on November 3 became the latest nation to begin generating electricity with nuclear energy when Unit 1 of the Belarusian nuclear plant was connected to the country’s power grid.

The Belarusian construction project, located in the Grodno region of Belarus, features twin 1,109-MWe pressurized water reactors, supplied by Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation. The units are VVER-1200 Generation III+ designs, model AES 2006. Just last week, a VVER-1200 was connected to the Russian grid at the Leningrad plant.

The start-up program for Unit 1 began on August 7, when the first fuel assembly with fresh nuclear fuel was loaded into the reactor, according to a Rosatom press release. The reactor achieved first criticality on October 11.

Once fully completed, the plant is expected to supply approximately 18 billion kWh of low-carbon electricity to the Belarus national grid every year, Rosatom said.