ANS Winter Meeting: What it will take to “Fuel our Nuclear Future"

December 1, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo began this morning with a Opening Plenary Session chaired by Winter Meeting general chair Amir Vexler, president and chief executive officer of Orano USA. It was an opportunity to both celebrate achievements that are already building a “Nuclear Future” and to identify needs and challenges ahead.

Influential speakers from the U.S. Congress, the Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Energy Institute joined ANS president Steven Nesbit and ANS CEO/executive director Craig Piercy to explore key issues associated with the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including supply and demand for high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU). They didn’t stop there, however. They took questions from an in-person and virtual audience that probed other requirements of a sustainable nuclear future, including fueling a human resources pipeline.

Save the VTR!

December 1, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Artist's rendition of the Versatile Test Reactor. (Source: DOE)

Countdown to fission on the moon: Candidate designs wanted

November 23, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s concept of a fission surface power system on Mars. (Image: NASA)

NASA and Idaho National Laboratory have just opened a competitive solicitation for U.S. nuclear and space industry leaders to develop innovative technologies for a fission surface power system that could be deployed on the surface of the moon by the end of the decade. Battelle Energy Alliance, the managing and operating contractor for INL, issued a request for proposals and announced the news on November 19. Proposals are due February 17.

ARDP recipient Southern announces molten salt fast reactor demonstration plans

November 19, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
The Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment will be built at Idaho National Laboratory to demonstrate criticality in a fast-spectrum salt-cooled reactor within five years. (Image: Southern Company)

Southern Company and the Department of Energy have announced an agreement to demonstrate the world’s first fast-spectrum salt reactor in collaboration with TerraPower and a host of other participants at Idaho National Laboratory. With this announcement, at least four of the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Project awardees featuring four different coolants—helium (X-energy), sodium (TerraPower), fluoride salt (Kairos Power), and chloride salt (Southern, with TerraPower)—have announced a site and a commitment to build either a full-size demo reactor or a scaled-down experimental reactor.

X-energy has work ahead in quest to build TRISO-X fuel facility, Xe-100 reactor

November 10, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
The TRISO-X fuel pebble shown here contains TRISO particles—HALEU-bearing kernels of oxide and carbide in alternating layers of pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide. (Image: X-energy)

X-energy and Centrus Energy announced last week that they have completed the preliminary design of the TRISO-X fuel fabrication facility and have signed a contract for the next phase of work. The planned facility would produce TRISO fuel particles and pack those particles into fuel forms, including the spherical graphite “pebbles” needed to fuel X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor.

ANS member Hart featured in Argonne Voices post

October 29, 2021, 9:30AMANS News

Hart

A recent podcast style conversation on YouTube spotlights the journey of J’Tia Hart, an ANS member with an uncommon and inspiring story. The video is part of the Argonne Voices series, an oral history project recording the stories of the people behind the science at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. This year is Argonne’s 75th anniversary.

Background: Hart, who recently moved from Argonne to the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, is a nuclear engineer and was the program initiator for Argonne’s Women in Science and Technology–also known as WIST–one of the lab’s employee resource groups.

Hart’s friend Amanda Joyce interviewed Hart in the YouTube post. Joyce is a cybersecurity expert who runs the DOE’s annual CyberForce Competition.

INL captures one dramatic second of a fuel rod test in slow motion

October 27, 2021, 3:13PMNuclear News

Idaho National Laboratory recently released footage of a new experiment at its Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) that simulates what happens to a nuclear fuel pin when it starts to overheat. Go to Twitter for the original post, or cut to the chase and watch a 14-second clip on YouTube.

How will you celebrate Nuclear Science Week?

October 19, 2021, 9:26AMANS Nuclear Cafe

It’s the third week of October, and Nuclear Science Week, first recognized in 2009, has arrived! Nuclear Science Week is an annual opportunity to celebrate nuclear science; recognize the professionals who apply it to solving the world’s most pressing problems; encourage nuclear professional development and networking; and share information with students, educators, and community members about the vital role of nuclear science in the lives of all people.

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.

Renewing a national treasure: INL’s Advanced Test Reactor undergoes sixth core overhaul

October 1, 2021, 5:15PMNuclear NewsJoseph Campbell; Photos by Joseph Campbell and Peter Ritchie, INL
The first of three phases of the Advanced Test Reactor’s sixth core overhaul culminated with the removal of the 31-ton stainless steel vessel top head on July 1, for the first time since 2004. The vessel and top head underwent extensive inspection, laser scanning, and upgrade as part of the overhaul. (Photo: JC)

Out of the frenzy of nuclear technology and engineering development at the height of the Atomic Age, a few designs stand out above the rest—designs so innovative that they would not be surpassed for years, or even decades. An example of this unsurpassed design brilliance exists in the form of Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor.

“ATR is really a beautiful machine,” said Sean O’Kelly, associate lab director for the ATR Complex. “The elegant cloverleaf core and control systems were a stroke of genius that solved just about every key problem of test reactor design. The designers’ solutions to those problems give us a testing capacity and flexibility that have yet to be matched.”

Hot U market and simmering interest in HALEU: It boils down to demand

September 22, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
(Click photo to enlarge) One of 16 AC100M gas centrifuges built by Centrus Energy for HALEU production in Piketon, Ohio. (Photo: Centrus Energy)

For years, pressure has been building for a commercial path to a stable supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)—deemed essential for the deployment of advanced power reactors—but advanced reactor developers and enrichment companies are still watching and waiting. In contrast, the uranium spot price soared after Sprott Physical Uranium Trust, a Canadian investment fund formed in July, began buying up U3O8 supplies, causing the price to increase over 60 percent, topping $50 per pound for the first time since 2012. Fueled by growing acknowledgment that nuclear power is a necessary part of a clean energy future, uranium is the focus of attention from Wall Street to Capitol Hill.

Draft EIS released for Project Pele mobile microreactor demo at INL

September 17, 2021, 9:37AMNuclear News

Plans to test a prototype mobile microreactor designed to military requirements moved ahead when the Department of Defense (DOD), acting through its Strategic Capabilities Office and with the Department of Energy serving as a cooperating agency, on September 16 announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement for the construction and demonstration phase of Project Pele.

Opposition to VTR is “dogmatism” we can’t afford, says Breakthrough Institute

September 10, 2021, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe
A rendition of the VTR. (Graphic: DOE)

In an op-ed published online yesterday in The Hill, Ted Nordhaus and Adam Stein of the Breakthrough Institute pick apart arguments made against funding for the construction of the Versatile Test Reactor at Idaho National Laboratory. Nordhaus and Stein contend that opposition to the VTR has been led by “entrenched opponents of nuclear energy” who “fear that innovation of the sort that many U.S. nuclear startups are presently betting on might give the technology a second life.”

NuScale simulator installed at new Idaho laboratory

September 3, 2021, 7:06AMNuclear News
A NuScale representative conducts training on the nuclear power plant control room simulator for students and faculty at CAES. (Photo: CAES)

The Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) has announced the opening of the Small Modular Reactor Simulator Laboratory, featuring NuScale Power’s Energy Exploration Center, at its headquarters in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The new lab will increase CAES’s capabilities to train future scientists, engineers, and members of the energy workforce and will be used to educate the public about nuclear energy and reactor technology, according to an August 31 CAES press release.

Conca implores Congress to rethink funding for the VTR

August 26, 2021, 3:02PMANS Nuclear Cafe
(Image: INL)

The nuclear community continues its collective push to restore funding for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project at Idaho National Laboratory for fiscal year 2022. We first heard from the Department of Energy’s Katy Huff, followed by Argonne National Laboratory’s Jordi Roglans-Ribas. Now add Nuclear News opinion columnist James Conca to the list of supporters hoping to change the minds of those in Congress regarding the crucial VTR project.

Rewriting the script: The real story of advanced reactors

August 19, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier
The EBR-II sodium fast reactor at Idaho National Laboratory began operations in 1964 and generated electricity for decades. Soon it will serve as a National Reactor Innovation Center test bed for future advanced reactor demonstrations. (Source: ANL)

At the box office or streaming at home, it’s fear, not truth, that sells. The laws of physics are swept aside, apocalypse is inevitable, and superpowered heroes wait until the last possible second to save the universe. It can make for great entertainment, but in the real world we need to stick with science over science fiction and be wowed by engineering, not special effects.

The truth is, science and innovation are incredible in their own right. From communications and machine learning to space travel and medical advances, technology is evolving in hyperdrive to solve real problems. With climate change and global warming here on earth, we don’t have to go looking for trouble in a galaxy far, far away.

Setting the record straight on the Versatile Test Reactor

August 9, 2021, 2:50PMANS Nuclear CafeJordi Roglans-Ribas
A rendering of the VTR facility. (Image: INL)

The Department of Energy announced in 2020 its approval of Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, a one-of-a-kind scientific user facility that would support research and development of innovative nuclear energy and other technologies. The decision was well received by the nuclear energy community—after all, the DOE’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee had studied and reported on the need for the VTR and found strong support for the project among reactor developers, federal agencies and national laboratories, and university researchers.

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ORNL to test accident tolerant fuel irradiated at Byron-2

August 4, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News
Irradiated lead test rods are delivered to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for examination. (Photo: ORNL)

Several lead test rods of Westinghouse’s EnCore accident tolerant fuel recently arrived at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for post-irradiation examination over the next year in support of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing process. The rods were installed in 2019 in Exelon’s Byron-2, a 1,158-MWe pressurized water reactor, and were removed in fall 2020 and prepared for shipment to ORNL.