Feature Article

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.

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.

Petition window opened for Oklo’s microreactor license application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced a notice of opportunity to intervene in an adjudicatory hearing on Oklo Power’s combined license application (COLA) for construction of a microreactor at Idaho National Laboratory. The notice, dated June 24, was published in the Federal Register on June 30, opening a 60-day window for petitions.

Aurora’s docketing marks dawn for advanced reactor licensing

Artist’s conception of Oklo’s Aurora. (Image: Gensler)

Oklo's 1.5-MWe fast spectrum design known as Aurora is the first advanced non–light-water reactor to be accepted for a licensing review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Both the reactor’s design and the anticipated licensing process mark a major departure from large light-water reactor design and licensing.

General Chair’s Special Session: Advanced reactors in uncertain times

The final plenary session of the American Nuclear Society's 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting was the General Chair’s Special Session, held on Wednesday, June 10. The session contained much information about the current and future role of advanced reactor technology. The session, with the subtitle “The Promise of Advanced Reactors during Uncertain Times: National Security, Jobs and Clean Energy,” featured two panels: the Lab Directors Roundtable and the Advanced Reactor Panel. The general chair is Mark Peters, Idaho National Laboratory director. The session was moderated by Corey McDaniel, of Idaho National Laboratory, and the assistant general chair of the Annual Meeting.

A few of the issues covered during the dual plenary session included challenges to advanced reactor deployment, public-private partnerships in research and development, nuclear non-proliferation and security, workforce issues, and market conditions and demand.

Final RFP issued for $6.4-billion cleanup contract

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management on May 27 issued a final request for proposals for the cleanup of the Idaho National Laboratory site, near Idaho Falls, Idaho, and the Fort Saint Vrain facility near Platteville, Colo. The 10-year contract for the projects—collectively called the Idaho Cleanup Project—has an estimated ceiling of about $6.4 billion.

DOE issues FOA for advanced reactor demos

Reactor designers and others ready to invest in advanced nuclear technology now have a defined route to apply for cost-share funding, including $160 million in initial funding to build two reactors within the next five to seven years. On May 14, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

Alloy 617 is new option for high-temp reactors

When it comes to advanced, high-temperature reactors—using working fluids such as molten salt, high-temperature gases, or sodium—there simply are not many qualified materials for nuclear component construction. Alloy 617 is not a new material, but it made the news after Idaho National Laboratory announced that it was recently added to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel (BPV) Code for high-temperature nuclear applications, bringing the total number of qualified high-temperature materials to six.

INL seeks input on construction technologies

Battelle Energy Alliance, the managing and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, is seeking an expression of interest (EOI) from industry stakeholders interested in forming a partnership to develop and/or demonstrate advanced construction technologies and processes. The effort would be executed as an initiative of the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) at INL. Battelle announced the EOI on April 17, with a deadline for responses of May 16.

YMG turns the spotlight on national labs

ANS Young Members Group Chair Harsh Desai

The ANS Young Members Group has developed a new live webinar series that is free to all, and Harsh Desai is excited. “We have a great opportunity to highlight our national laboratory infrastructure, which is a pinnacle of innovation in nuclear science, technology, and engineering,” said Desai, chair of the YMG. “We’re giving each of the national labs the opportunity to highlight their mission, key projects, and rising stars, and we’re also giving members of the YMG executive committee valuable leadership experience building and moderating the webinar panels.”