Feature Article

Digital engineering: Controlling costs for megaprojects

With a new generation of nuclear reactors in the works, Idaho National Laboratory has embraced digital engineering (DE) as a means of achieving the same efficiencies that companies in the private sector have been able to realize in everything from concert halls to aircraft engines.

DE—using advanced technologies to capture data and craft design in a digitized environment—has been evolving since the 1990s. For Mortenson Construction, a worldwide construction firm, using virtual design and construction resulted in a cumulative 600 days saved over 416 projects and a 25 percent increase in productivity. By building digital twins for assets, systems, and processes, DE has avoided more than $1.05 billion in customer, production, and mechanical losses.

Leaders at INL recognized in 2018 that DE could be useful in the design and construction of new commercial and test reactors. Managing construction costs, timing, and performance will be essential to maintain U.S. competitiveness.

Gender equity group reports on progress made

Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy (GCNP), launched in November 2018, has released a report on the progress made during its inaugural year toward its goal of achieving gender equity in the nuclear policy field. According to a May 28 announcement, the group has had “mostly positive results.”

Experimental Breeder Reactor I: A retrospective

In the not-so-distant 20th century past, our planet was in an uncertain new-world order. The second of two major wars had dramatically reshaped the landscape of the world's nations. It was not by any means assured that the extraordinary nuclear process of fission, which itself had been discovered mere years before the second war's end, would be successfully utilized for anything but the tremendous and frightening powers realized in thermonuclear warheads. In the years following, a humble project materializing out of the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho was to challenge that assertion and demonstrate that nuclear fission could indeed be a commercial, peaceful source of electrical power for civilizations around the globe.

EBR-1 in Photos

December 20, 1951 marks an important date in the history of nuclear power; it's the date on which the first useful electric power was generated by atomic fission.  While the now-famous event at that time only powered four light bulbs, the somewhat stunt-like nature of the day obscured the fact that the plant was actually set up to generate considerably more power, and did so.  Let's take a look at this fact and, at the same time, the facility through illustrations from my collection and from photographs that I took myself while touring EBR-1 earlier this year.

Historic Idaho Reactors Detailed at ANS Winter Meeting

Installation of SPERT-II reactor vessel.  From IDO-16050, published 1959, in Will Davis library.

Installation of SPERT-II reactor vessel at National Reactor Testing Station, now Idaho National Laboratory. From IDO-16050, published 1959, in Will Davis library.

The history and lore surrounding the dozens of reactors constructed and operated at the Idaho National Laboratory could fill a book - and has filled at least one whole book and parts of many others.  Today, at the American Nuclear Society's 2016 Winter Meeting a unique presentation was given in the early afternoon by Harold McFarlane, who retired after 44 years working with Argonne National Laboratory (which operated a number of the reactors built in Idaho.)

Advancing Nuclear: Paths to the Future

"How do we move nuclear energy into the future?" was the question asked and answered in a variety of ways during a fascinating speakers' session that followed this morning's opening plenary.  Several expert speakers in a variety of fields provided frank and illuminating commentary on the condition of nuclear now, and on the things that have to change for nuclear energy to be vibrant in the decades to come.

Friday Nuclear Matinee - the Advanced Test Reactor at INL

The versatile, powerful and unique ATR (Advanced Test Reactor) at Idaho National Laboratory is featured in this video describing it, the history of materials testing reactors that led up to it, and the uses for this amazing facility. Fuel handling and storage are also shown and described.

Realistic look at Small Modular Reactors in Idaho

From October 30 through November 1, 2013, a group of about 150 people with questioning attitudes about small, modular reactors (SMRs) met in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  They were treated to a number of presentations that described the technical progress that has been made so far and also provided a realistic, sobering look at the long, challenging development path that must be traversed to allow the technology to begin contributing to the world's energy security.

A tour of EBR-I: Birthplace of nuclear energy

Don Miley, tour guide at Idaho National Laboratory, takes viewers of this video on a trip to the Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I). In 1951, the first electricity from nuclear power was generated at EBR-I-using a reactor that actually bred more fuel than it consumed, using an all-plutonium core.