MSU’s FRIB: Ready to accelerate discoveries in nuclear physics and applications

May 3, 2022, 7:16AMNuclear News
An aerial view of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, Mich. (Photo: FRIB)

Michigan State University’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) officially opened yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, elected officials, and guests who had supported the project during its planning and construction, including ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy. They were there to celebrate the completion—on time and within budget—of the world’s most powerful heavy-ion accelerator and the first accelerator-based Department of Energy Office of Science user facility located on a university campus.

The public face of nuclear

April 15, 2022, 9:30AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

This month’s issue of Nuclear News highlights the contributions of university-based programs in advancing nuclear science and technology and preparing the next-generation nuclear workforce.

In addition to the scholarly work they do, our university programs increasingly serve as an important public-facing component of the U.S. nuclear enterprise.

When you think about it, a lot of what goes on with nuclear happens within a security perimeter—“behind the fence,” if you will. Obviously, this is by necessity, as the technology involved is inherently sensitive. However, because the “magic” of nuclear remains out of view, something will always get lost in translation to the public. Yes, tours of commercial nuclear plants are still available to the interested and enterprising, but there is nothing quite like staring down into the core of a university TRIGA reactor and seeing the Cherenkov glow to stoke a person’s imagination.

Spent fuel reprocessing, or "Don't bother us with facts; our minds are made up."

January 27, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The cover of the May 1977 issue of Nuclear News (left), an image of the story discussing Carter's decision to cancel the breeder reactor program (center) and the cover of the June 1977 Nuclear News (right).

The ANS Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division will present a webinar today at noon EST (the recording will be available via the webinar archive to all ANS members) featuring an international panel of experts on nuclear waste reprocessing. The panel will explore the idea of separating certain radionuclides from waste using recycling technology that enables pure materials to be used for other purposes.

Progress being made on Nuclear Grand Challenges

January 24, 2022, 9:29AMNuclear NewsAndrew C. Klein

Early in my year as ANS vice president/president-elect, I was determined to try to find a project that the entire ANS community could rally behind and could be completed during my year as ANS president. I was looking for something that would provide community-identified focus areas for future activities and that would mobilize, energize, and inspire ANS members during that year and in the years ahead.

Helium-3 to be produced from tritium stored at Canada’s Darlington station

September 16, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Don Perrie (left), of OPG, and Michael Lefebvre, of Laurentis Energy Partners, examine the He-3 extraction tool installed at Darlington NPP

Laurentis Energy Partners, a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation (OPG), has launched a new program to produce helium-3. The He-3 will be obtained from tritium stored at OPG’s Darlington nuclear power plant, a four-unit CANDU station located about 100 kilometers east of Toronto.

Darlington houses one of the world’s largest reserves of tritium, which is a by-product of the heavy water used in CANDU reactors.

Radioactive molecules could probe origins of the universe

July 9, 2021, 9:13AMNuclear News

Physicists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other institutions have measured the effect of a single neutron in a molecule of radium monofluoride and hypothesize that radioactive molecules could be used as a tool to explore why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. The research team’s findings were published in the journal Physical Review Letters on July 7, and on the same day, an article published online by MIT News explained the implications of their work.

Heavy water, light uranium: One sweet contrast

April 26, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s view of heavy water eliciting sweet taste in humans. Graphic design: Tomáš Bello/IOCB Prague

Is isotope science all sweetness and light? Recent headlines on research confirming the sweet taste of heavy water and the creation of the lightest isotope of uranium yet may give that impression. But the serious science behind these separate research findings has implications for human health and for the understanding of the process of alpha decay.

Optimism reigns during final plenary of 2021 ANS Virtual Student Conference

April 14, 2021, 3:04PMANS News

The future of nuclear technology is bright and affords ample opportunities for today’s students to make an impact. That was the message given by the three plenary panelists on Saturday, April 10, during the final day of the 2021 ANS Virtual Student Conference. The three-day event was hosted by North Carolina State University and had nearly 500 registered attendees.

Registered attendees can view the entire session on demand.

Isotopes hold clue to travel plans of migrating butterflies

April 14, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Scientists studied the migration of six butterflies (from top left to bottom right): American Snout butterfly, Queen butterfly, Cloudless Sulphur butterfly, Empress Leilia butterfly, Variegated Fritillary butterfly, and Southern Dogface butterfly. (Composite photo: IAEA; photo credits: S. Bright, V. Charny, J. Gallagher, J. Green)

While scientists can tag migrating birds, mammals, and other animals to track their movements, the precise migration patterns of butterflies and other insects too small for tagging evaded scientists’ scrutiny for decades. That changed in 1996, when Leonard Wassenaar and Keith Hobson, working at the time as isotope scientists for Environment Canada, demonstrated that isotopic techniques could be used to determine the origin of individual monarch butterflies and deduce the species’ annual migration routes. Now, the same technique is being used to study other butterfly species.

ORNL mines Pm-147 from plutonium by-products

March 15, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

Technicians use a manipulator arm in a shielded cave in ORNL’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center to separate concentrated Pm-147 from by-products generated through the production of Pu-238. Photo: Richard Mayes/ORNL, DOE

A method developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is allowing the Department of Energy to cull promethium-147 from plutonium-238 produced for space exploration. Under an ORNL project for the DOE Isotope Program that began last year, the lab has been mining Pm-147, a rare isotope used in nuclear batteries and to measure the thickness of materials, from the fission products left when Pu-238 is separated out of neptunium-237 targets. The Np-237 targets are irradiated in Oak Ridge’s High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE Office of Science user facility, to produce the Pu-238.

According to the DOE, the primary goal of the project is to reestablish the domestic production of Pm-147, which is in short supply. As a side benefit, the project is reducing the concentrations of radioactive elements in the waste so that it can be disposed of safely in simpler, less expensive ways, both now and in the future.

“In the process of recovering a valuable product that the DOE Isotope Program wants, we realized we can reduce our disposal costs,” said Richard Mayes, group leader for ORNL’s Emerging Isotope Research. “There’s some synergy.”

2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: Medical isotopes production and applications

November 16, 2020, 5:28PMNuclear News

The Monday session “Advancement in Medical Isotopes Production and Applications” of the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting was sponsored by the Isotopes & Radiation Division and co-chaired by Lin-Wen Hu of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and James Bowen of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Radioisotopes produced from nuclear reactors and accelerators are widely used for medical diagnostics and cancer therapy. Technetium-99m (decay product of molybdenum-99), for example, is used in more than 80 percent of nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures. The session featured speakers who discussed the advancement and status of domestic production and applications of medical isotopes.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley national lab create new isotope

June 29, 2020, 7:31AMNuclear News

A team of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) scientists has discovered a new form of the human-made element mendelevium, LBNL reported on June 23. The newly created isotope, mendelevium-244, is the 17th and lightest form of mendelevium, which is element 101 on the periodic table.

DOE to provide $16 million for isotope R&D

April 17, 2020, 10:04AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is awarding up to $16 million in new funding to advance research and development of isotope production. The funding opportunity is part of a federal program that produces critical isotopes that are otherwise unavailable or in short supply for U.S. science, medicine, and industry. The effort is aimed at sustaining longstanding U.S. leadership in the vital field of isotope production, research, and development, according to the DOE.

Experimental Breeder Reactor I: A retrospective

December 19, 2019, 5:29PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Searight

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.

Nuclear Medicine Radiates Hope For Patients

November 5, 2018, 3:06PMANS Nuclear CafeEmma Meyers

As a fourth year nursing student working in Chicago area hospitals, I deal with nuclear medicine quite often. The term "nuclear medicine" can sound disconcerting, but when you are familiar with it, I assure you, it's not. Just think of it as a bunch of necessary medical tools with a little radiation thrown in. I know what you are thinking. Radiation? What? Relax. It's fine. You already know it, and either you, or someone you know, has been exposed to this specific area of medicine via certain procedures.

A Salute to Medical Ionizing Radiation During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 17, 2012, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeBryan Bednarz

As a cancer researcher, I am constantly reminded of the horrific impact that breast cancer has on women and their families. This past week I received notification from my boss informing me and others that a work colleague's daughter had recently passed away from breast cancer at the age of 40-certainly this reminder was much closer to home than usual. It is difficult to imagine the pain and suffering my colleague and his wife are now experiencing, adding to what I am sure was a nerve-racking and exhausting period of consultations for the family and treatments for his daughter.