With DOE funds in hand, UAMPS preps for NuScale SMR licensing phase

An artist’s rendering of NuScale Power’s small modular nuclear reactor plant. Image: NuScale

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) announced on October 16 that the Department of Energy has approved a $1.4-billion, multiyear cost-share award to Carbon Free Power Project LLC, a new business entity wholly owned by UAMPS that was created for the development and construction of a 720-MWe NuScale power plant—the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP)—to be sited at Idaho National Laboratory. The funding comes as UAMPS prepares to develop the first combined license application (COLA) for a small modular reactor.

ANS celebrates Nuclear Science Week with social media campaign, new RIPB webpage

The nuclear industry has embraced the risk-informed and performance-based (RIPB) decision-making process over the past two decades. Still, it remains a complex concept to explain in lay terms.

With that in mind, the American Nuclear Society will be kicking off an RIPB awareness social media campaign as part of Nuclear Science Week 2020, which begins today and runs through Friday. The campaign will link decision making to everyday events in a person's life and feature a series of images and seemingly easy questions requiring a choice to be made. For example, ANS asks, “Would you get rid of your car if the radio didn’t work?” or “Would you toss a lamp if the shade was dirty?”

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ATRC Upgrade

Reactor operators Craig Winder (foreground) and Clint Weigel prepare to start up the ATRC Facility reactor at Idaho National Laboratory after a nearly two-year project to digitally upgrade many of the reactor’s key instrumentation and control systems. Photos: DOE/INL

At first glance, the Advanced Test Reactor Critical (ATRC) Facility has very little in common with a full-size 800- or 1,000-MW nuclear power reactor. The similarities are there, however, as are the lessons to be learned from efforts to modernize the instrumentation and control systems that make them valuable assets, far beyond what their designers had envisioned.

One of four research and test reactors at Idaho National Laboratory, the ATRC is a low-power critical facility that directly supports the operations of INL’s 250-MW Advanced Test Reactor (ATR). Located in the same building, the ATR and the ATRC share the canal used for storing fuel and experiment assemblies between operating cycles.

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DOE to fund integrated hydrogen production at LWRs

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.

DOE is ready to announce ARDP demo awards

The Department of Energy has selected the recipients of cost-shared funding for its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) and has notified Congress of the selection, the DOE press staff indicated by tweet on October 8. A public announcement of the recipients is expected this week.

Reactor designers and others looking to invest in advanced nuclear technology had until August 19 to apply through a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) announced in May, which included $160 million in initial funds to build two reactors within the next five to seven years. Applicants were encouraged to connect with other advanced reactor stakeholders—including technology developers, reactor vendors, fuel manufacturers, utilities, supply chain vendors, contractors, and universities—through the ARDP FOA Collaboration Hub and apply as a team. This means that the DOE’s selection of a particular reactor design stands to benefit more than just the team behind the reactor’s initial design.

“Critical decision” keeps Versatile Test Reactor on target

The proposed Versatile Test Reactor complex would cover about 20 acres. Image: INL

Now that the Department of Energy has approved Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, the engineering design phase can begin once Congress appropriates funding, according to a September 23 announcement from the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. The DOE has requested $295 million for the project in fiscal year 2021.

The news came nearly one month after a team led by Bechtel National Inc. (BNI), and including GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and TerraPower, entered into contract negotiations with Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) for the design-and-build phase of the VTR. GEH’s sodium-cooled fast reactor PRISM technology was selected to support the VTR program in November 2018.

Op-ed: UAMPS project needed for abundant, carbon-free energy


An op-ed piece in the September 17 Salt Lake City Tribune touts nuclear energy as needed for a carbon-free future. The piece was written by Doug Hunter, chief executive officer and general manager of Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS).

ANS designates TFTR and FCF for landmark status

A look inside the TFTR plasma vessel. Photo: DOE

The Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) at Princeton University and the Fuel Cycle Facility (FCF) (now known as the Fuel Conditioning Facility) at Idaho National Laboratory have been designated as ANS Nuclear Historic Landmarks. The official awarding of the honors will occur during the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting, which begins November 16.

The TFTR received the award for demonstrating significant fusion energy production and tritium technologies for future nuclear fusion power plants and for the first detailed exploration of magnetically confined deuterium-tritium (D-T) fusion plasmas.

INL’s FCF and its Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II) were honored for demonstrating on-site recycling of used nuclear fuel back into a nuclear reactor.

UAMPS clarifies next steps for planned NuScale SMR deployment

Full-scale mockup of the upper third of the NuScale Power Module. Photo: NuScale

With a design that has just emerged from a rigorous safety evaluation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and a customer—Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS)—getting ready to prepare a combined license (COL) application, what is next for Oregon-based NuScale Power and for near-term small modular reactor prospects in the United States? As milestones are reached, many want to know.

NuScale plans to supply twelve 60-MWe modules for a 720-MWe plant—called the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) by UAMPS—to be sited at Idaho National Laboratory. A smaller, 50-MWe module version of NuScale’s design recently became the first SMR to receive a final safety evaluation report (FSER) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The NRC design approval represents a significant de-risking factor for the CFPP,” said UAMPS spokesperson LaVarr Webb. The project is “making steady progress,” Webb said, adding that “UAMPS General Manager and CEO Doug Hunter has said it is much more important to do the project right than to do it fast.”

INL continues to fine-tune TREAT testing capabilities

Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test Facility, also known as TREAT, returned to service in 2017 after a hiatus of more than two decades. To make full use of TREAT’s capabilities, researchers at INL created the Minimal Activation Retrievable Capsule Holder (MARCH) test vehicle system, which, according to an August 26 Department of Energy press release, can cut years off the development process for nuclear fuels and materials and allow new clients, like NASA, to take advantage of TREAT’s capabilities.

Negotiations to build Versatile Test Reactor under way

Artist’s rendering of the Versatile Test Reactor. INL Image

A team led by Bechtel National Inc. (BNI) that includes GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and TerraPower is in contract negotiations with Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) for the design-and-build phase of the Versatile Test Reactor, BEA announced on August 24. As planned, the VTR would support irradiation testing of fuels, materials, and equipment designed for advanced reactors.

Battelle names INL Director Peters as head of lab operations


Mark Peters has been named executive vice president of laboratory operations for Battelle, the company announced on August 20. He will take over for Ron Townsend, who earlier this summer announced that he plans to retire in January 2021. Peters, who has served as laboratory director at Idaho National Laboratory since October 2015, will remain in this role until his successor has been selected and is in place. He will assume his new role at Battelle following this transition at INL.

Nuclear is up to the challenge of energy storage

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.

More from UWC 2020: Round 2

This year’s Utility Working Conference Virtual Summit, held on August 11, had a dynamic opening plenary and a packed roster of informative sessions. Following are recaps of some of the 2:00 p.m. (EDT) sessions that took place.

Don't miss Newswire's coverage of the opening plenary and the sessions at 12:00 pm.

More from UWC 2020

This year’s Utility Working Conference, held on August 11, had a dynamic opening plenary and a packed roster of informative sessions. Following are recaps of some of the 12:00 p.m. (EDT) sessions that took place.

You can read about the UWC's opening plenary here.

Look for more meeting recaps later today.

Nuclear has a good mythbuster

There’s a new mythbuster out in the Idaho desert by the name of Don Miley, separating nuclear fact from fiction in the service of science and the Idaho National Laboratory. An article released by INL’s Communications and Outreach staff on August 3—“Nuclear MythBusting: Using Social Media to Set the Record Straight”—explains what you need to know about INL’s new public outreach venture on YouTube. And Miley, a longtime INL tour guide, tells what everyone should know about nuclear technologies in these short videos. Just head to INL’s YouTube channel.

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The race for outage efficiency

Working in INL’s Human Systems Simulation Laboratory, senior R&D scientist Ahmed Al Rashdan co-developed the Advanced Remote Monitoring project for the LWRS Program.

There are numerous similarities between auto racing pit crews and the people in the nuclear power industry who get us through outages: Pace. Efficiency. Diagnostics. Teamwork. Skill. And safety above all else.

To Paul Hunton, a research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory, the keys to successfully navigating a nuclear plant outage are planning and preparation. “When you go into an outage, you are ready,” Hunton said. “You need to manage outage time. You want to avoid adding delays to the scheduled outage work because if you do, it can add a couple million dollars to the cost.”

Hunton was the principal investigator for the September 2019 report Addressing Nuclear Instrumentation and Control (I&C) Modernization Through Application of Techniques Employed in Other Industries, produced for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability (LWRS) Program, led by INL. Hunton drew on his experience outside the nuclear industry, including a decade at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Web workshop: Separating nuclear reactors from the power block with heat storage

A three-part free webinar workshop, Separating Nuclear Reactors from the Power Block with Heat Storage: A New Power Plant Design Paradigm, will run for three upcoming Wednesdays, starting this week on July 29. The workshop is being hosted jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

One small step for fission—on the Moon and beyond

A reliable energy source is critical for long-duration space exploration. NASA, targeting launch readiness by the end of 2026, has teamed up with the Department of Energy and Idaho National Laboratory to solicit realistic assessments of fission surface power systems designed for deployment on the Moon that could, with little modification, be sent to Mars as well.

BWXT awarded contract to expand TRISO production line

BWX Technologies has signed a $26-million, 20-month contract to expand and upgrade its TRISO fuel manufacturing line. The recently announced deal, awarded by Idaho National Laboratory, calls for the expansion of BWXT’s capacity for the manufacture of TRISO fuel compacts and the upgrading of existing systems for delivering production-scale quantities of TRISO fuel.