Integrated energy systems: Transitioning to carbon-­free electricity, industry, and transportation

May 5, 2023, 3:03PMNuclear NewsCory Hatch and Richard Boardman
At INL’s HTSE testing facility, researchers are advancing hydrogen production by shepherding HTSE through a series of technological advancements, economic analyses, and testing. (Photo: INL)

On December 20, 1951, researchers used energy produced by Experimental Breeder Reactor-I near Arco, Idaho, to illuminate four 200-watt lightbulbs. Since then, utilities have built commercial nuclear power plants in the United States almost exclusively to generate electricity. This has worked well alongside other power generation and transmission infrastructure—large oil- and coal-fired, natural gas turbine or hydroelectric plants, and a relatively simple electrical grid designed to deliver reliable power.

Humanity is now embarking on an epic and complex energy transformation across the grid, industry, and transportation. Renewables like wind and solar are contributing an increasing share of carbon-free electricity to the grid, but that contribution is variable and hard to predict—sometimes those sources produce more electricity than the grid needs, and sometimes less.

Westinghouse unveils SMR version of AP1000

May 4, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear News
Rendering of a Westinghouse AP300 plant. (Image: Westinghouse)

At a virtual press conference this morning, Westinghouse Electric Company president and chief executive officer Patrick Fragman announced the launch of the AP300 small modular reactor, a 300-MWe, 900-MWth single-loop pressurized water reactor based on the company’s larger AP1000 unit. Fragman was joined at the conference by David Durham, president of energy systems for Westinghouse, and Rita Baranwal, the firm’s chief technology officer. The company also released a short video introducing the AP300 on YouTube.

DOE hosts Japanese officials from nuclear decommissioning group

April 5, 2023, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Pictured at the DOE's EM headquarters, from left, are Ana Han, foreign affairs specialist, EM International Program; Joceline Nahigian, director, EM Office of Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Programs; Scott Whiteford, deputy director, DOE Office of Legacy Management; William “Ike” White, EM senior advisor; Masaki Nakagawa, special advisor to executive directors, NDF; Tokuhiro Yamamoto, executive director, NDF; Shin Morita, managing director, International Affairs Group, NDF; Taro Hokugo, managing director, International Affairs Group, NDF; Jeff Avery, EM principal deputy assistant secretary; Angela Watmore, deputy assistant secretary, EM Office of Acquisition and Project Management; and Ming Zhu, EM senior advisor for laboratory policy. (Photo: DOE)

Representatives from the Japan Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) recently visited the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the Hanford Site in Washington state to promote collaboration and provide updates on the status and plans to decommission Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, caused damage to the plant and surrounding communities. The NDF was created in September 2011 to oversee the decommissioning and cleanup of the plant, which is owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Get to know MCRE, the fast-spectrum MSR from Southern and TerraPower

March 30, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
MCRE could be built inside the ZPPR cell (shown here) at INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex. (Photo: INL)

A tiny 200-kWt reactor the Department of Energy says would be the first critical fast-spectrum circulating fuel reactor and the first fast-spectrum molten salt reactor (MSR) could be built and operated inside the Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) cell at Idaho National Laboratory’s Materials and Fuels Center (MFC). Details included in the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) draft environmental assessment (EA)released on March 16 for two weeks of public comment (later extended to four weeks, through April 14)—covered the potential environmental impacts associated with the development, construction, operation, and decommissioning of MCRE at INL, facilitated by the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC).

Locked in glass: The vitrification of LLW streams

March 10, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste SolutionsAmanda Gilmore
A sample of GeoMelt glass. (Photos: Veolia)

When it comes to managing nuclear waste, technology is transforming the way some of the most problematic waste is handled. The idea to transform nuclear waste into glass was developed back in the 1970s as a way to lock away the waste’s radioactive elements and prevent them from escaping. For more than 40 years, vitrification has been used for the immobilization of high-level radioactive waste in many countries around the world, including the United States.

Study favors SMRs for use at future electric truck charging stations

January 23, 2023, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The use of small modular reactors would be an excellent, cost-effective way to recharge electric heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs), such as trucks, according to a recent study published in Applied Energy. The Idaho National Laboratory–funded study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Final rule certifying NuScale SMR design published

January 20, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

A rendering of a NuScale VOYGR plant. (Image: NuScale Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its final rule certifying NuScale Power’s small modular reactor design, making the Portland, Ore.–based company’s power module the first SMR design to be certified by the agency (and only the seventh reactor design okayed for use in the United States).

Published in yesterday’s Federal Register, the rule goes into effect on February 21, allowing utilities to reference the NuScale design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a reactor. The design will be incorporated as Appendix G to 10 CFR Part 52, Licenses, Certifications, and Approvals for Nuclear Power Plants.

As noted last July—when the commission voted unanimously to approve the design certification and directed staff to issue the final rule—an application for a nuclear power plant combined license that references a certified design does not need to address any of the issues resolved by the design certification rule. Instead, the combined license application and the NRC’s safety review would address any remaining safety and environmental issues for the proposed plant.

NEUP project to look at offshore nuclear power plants

September 2, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Core Power, MIT Energy Initiative, and Idaho National Laboratory have secured research funding from the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to conduct a three-year study into the development of offshore floating nuclear power generation. This collaborative research effort is among the 74 nuclear research and infrastructure projects that were awarded more than $61 million by the DOE in June.

ABS to study nuclear for commercial maritime applications

August 19, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
The NS Savannah—the first merchant ship powered by a nuclear reactor.

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has announced the launch of a research project that will look into barriers to the adoption of advanced nuclear propulsion for commercial vessels.

The $794,000 project, awarded to ABS last year by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, is now being formally contracted through the DOE’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity, according to ABS’s August 17 announcement. Support is to be provided by Idaho National Laboratory’s National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC).

NRC returns to full strength with Caputo, Crowell confirmations

August 3, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear News



The Senate last evening confirmed by voice vote Annie Caputo and Bradley R. Crowell to seats on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, returning the agency to its full, five-member complement. Caputo’s term expires in June 2026, Crowell’s in June 2027.

Nominated by President Biden in May to serve on the commission, Caputo and Crowell appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee on June 8 to field questions. On July 27, the EPW Committee unanimously approved both and sent their nominations to the Senate floor.

USA summit combines industry business and charity fundraising

July 21, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
John Wagner, director of Idaho National Laboratory and president of Batelle Energy Alliance, delivered the keynote address at the 26th Annual Nuclear Generator & Supplier Executive Summit. (Photo: USA)

The 26th Annual Nuclear Generator and Supplier Executive Summit, hosted by Utilities Service Alliance (USA), was held at the Coeur d’Alene Golf and Spa Resort in Idaho from June 28 through July 1. About 375 attendees were present for this year’s meeting, themed “Nuclear’s Next Wave” which featured presentations and discussions on emerging nuclear technologies and designs, as well as an integrated tradeshow with about 50 industry suppliers exhibiting products, services, and ideas.

New Mexico State collaborates on spent fuel recycling under ARPA-E program

July 12, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

New Mexico State University is collaborating with TerraPower, Idaho National Laboratory, and Savannah River National Laboratory on a three-year project to develop a plan to recycle spent nuclear fuel. The project is being funded by an $8.5 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), under the Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems (ONWARDS) program. ONWARDS is designed to increase the use of nuclear power as a reliable, clean energy source, as well to as limit the amount of waste generated by advanced nuclear reactors.

Carbon value: Lifetime extensions of nuclear reactors could save billions in climate mitigation costs

June 24, 2022, 2:49PMNuclear NewsBeth Burmahl

On the road to achieving net-zero by midcentury, low- or no-carbon energy sources that slash carbon dioxide emissions are critical weapons. Nevertheless, the role of nuclear energy—the single largest source of carbon-free electricity—remains uncertain.

Nuclear energy, which provides 20 percent of the electricity in the United States, has been a constant, reliable, carbon-free source for nearly 50 years. But our fleet of nuclear reactors is aging, with more than half of the 92 operating reactors across 29 states at or over 40 years old—the length of the original operating licenses issued to the power plants. While some reactors have been retired prematurely, there are two options for those that remain: retire them or renew their license.

Fast reactor technology getting renewed attention

June 7, 2022, 12:04PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Fast reactor technology, which can run on used nuclear fuel to generate energy, could fulfill U.S. energy needs for 100 years using existing waste, according to Jess Gehin, associate lab director at Idaho National Laboratory and an ANS member in a recent interview with CNBC. Gehin and other nuclear experts believe that this technology could provide substantial energy for the country, help resolve the debate over storing spent nuclear waste, and address the issue of climate change with more carbon-free energy generation. However, the commercial development of fast reactor technology has been hampered by political and economic roadblocks, which researchers are now seeking to overcome.

DOE-NE 2023 budget priorities summarized in ANS online program

May 18, 2022, 11:59AMNuclear News

A team from the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy joined ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy on April 27 for an ANS members–only online event to discuss the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2023 NE budget proposal. The proposed total for the office, $1.675 billion, is more than a $20 million increase from the FY 2022 enacted level of $1.654 billion.

Profile published on head of MARVEL project at Idaho National Laboratory

May 12, 2022, 7:03AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Idaho National Laboratory nuclear engineer Yasir Arafat (Photo: INL)

From refugee in Bangladesh to top nuclear engineer at Idaho National Laboratory, ANS member Yasir Arafat has led quite an interesting life, as described in a recent online profile written by Donna Kemp Spangler for the INL website. Arafat is leading the development of the Department of Energy’s Microreactor Applications Research Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) project at INL. The profile notes that MARVEL, which Arafat envisioned soon after joining INL in 2019, is scheduled to be “built and demonstrated at INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility and connected to the world’s first nuclear microgrid within two years.”

NICE Future: Fostering the international adoption of nuclear energy

March 11, 2022, 3:20PMNuclear NewsCory Hatch

Imagine life without refrigeration, television, clean cooking facilities, clean water, clothes washers, and electric lights. For the roughly 1 billion people around the world without access to electricity, energy poverty is a reality that drastically reduces their quality of life and economic opportunities.

At the same time, fossil fuels currently provide more than 60 percent of electricity and about 80 percent of energy worldwide, even as global carbon dioxide levels are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.

Input sought on Kairos test reactor construction permit

February 23, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requesting public input on environmental issues that the agency should ponder as it reviews Kairos Power’s application for a construction permit to build the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In a notice published in the February 18 Federal Register, the NRC says it will conduct a scoping process to gather information necessary to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed project.

Letter of intent sets COLA submittal date for NuScale plant

February 8, 2022, 3:02PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Small modular reactor developer NuScale Power has informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission via letter that a combined license application (COLA) for the Carbon Free Power Project’s SMR plant is expected to be submitted to the agency in January 2024. The COLA will be for a six-unit 77-MWe plant.

The public power consortium Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems launched the Carbon Free Power Project in 2015 to develop, own, and operate the nation’s first SMR plant, to be located at Idaho National Laboratory, with reactor technology supplied by NuScale.