From “never” to now: NIF through the lens of 60 Minutes

January 23, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
NIF in winter (Photo: LLNL)

“Star Power” is the name 60 Minutes producers gave their interpretation of the recent experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) that achieved fusion ignition and net gain. Views from inside Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory captured by TV cameras and aired Sunday, January 15—of some of NIF’s 192 lasers, banks of capacitors, target assembly labs, and even the remains of the target assembly blasted in the December 5 breakthrough—are well worth the watch for those of us who are unlikely to visit the site in person.

THOR puts fast reactor fuel to the test in U.S.-Japan TREAT collaboration

January 17, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
U.S. secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm and Japan’s minister of economy, trade, and industry Yasutoshi Nishimura lead energy discussions on January 9 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: DOE)

Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory have completed initial testing on a newly developed fuel test capsule that is expected to provide crucial performance data for sodium-cooled fast reactors. The Department of Energy announced on January 12 that the series of fuel testing experiments being carried out now at INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility (TREAT) was developed through a joint project between the United States and Japan.

After 70 years, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s legacy is being rewritten

December 22, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

On December 16 the Department of Energy reversed a decision made nearly 70 years ago by leaders of its predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, to revoke the security clearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led the first group of scientists and engineers at what would eventually become Los Alamos National Laboratory as they built the first atomic bomb. While it comes far too late for Oppenheimer, his family, and his colleagues to appreciate, the McCarthy-era campaign to discredit Oppenheimer is now itself officially discredited as “a flawed process that violated the Commission’s own regulations,” in the words of the DOE’s recent announcement.

Oppenheimer’s story has been told many times by biographers and chroniclers of the Manhattan Project; a new feature film is expected in July 2023. Today, we offer a #ThrowbackThursday post that examines the scant coverage of Oppenheimer’s life and work in the pages of Nuclear News to date and draws on other historical content—and the DOE’s recent move to correct the record—to fill a few of the gaps.

Holtec to reapply for federal funding to revive Palisades

December 21, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Palisades nuclear power plant. (Photo: Entergy)

Holtec International is apparently not ready to give up on the Palisades nuclear power plant just yet. Despite having been denied federal funds last month for a possible reopening of the Covert, Mich., facility, the company this week announced its intention to reapply.

Diablo Canyon approved for federal funding; Palisades denied

November 22, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Palisades nuclear power plant, in Michigan, before it was permanently closed. (Photo: Holtec)

Pacific Gas & Electric’s two-unit Diablo Canyon plant—California’s lone operating nuclear power facility—has been deemed eligible for the initial round of funding from the Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program, the Department of Energy announced yesterday.

The decision was welcomed by a nuclear community disappointed by last Friday’s news that the DOE had rejected Holtec International’s CNC application for the recently closed Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan, despite support for the effort from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Lawmaker releases U.S. nuclear energy “blueprint”

November 17, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News

Duncan

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has issued a three-page “Blueprint for Nuclear Innovation and Competitiveness,” highlighting nuclear policy priorities in the areas of licensing and regulatory modernization, financing, and fuel (including used fuel). According to a press release from Duncan’s office, the document aims “to help chart the course for the nuclear energy agenda in the next Congress and facilitate policy discussions among both lawmakers and industry leaders.” Published last week—along with a related “Dear Colleague” letter—the blueprint is also, according to E&E News, “a sign of his ambitions for landing a more senior role with the committee,” including a subcommittee leadership position should the GOP gain control of the House in the next Congress.

Westinghouse to build Poland’s first nuclear reactors; KHNP may get separate deal

October 31, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

Morawiecki

Poland has chosen Westinghouse Electric Company to supply the reactors for its initial nuclear power plant, as the Central European nation seeks to lessen its dependence on domestic coal and Russian imports for its energy supply. On Friday, Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the decision on Twitter, confirming last week’s reports that Westinghouse’s AP1000 technology was the government’s likely choice.

“A strong [Polish-American] alliance guarantees the success of our joint initiatives,” Morawiecki tweeted. “After talks with [vice president Kamala Harris and energy secretary Jennifer Granholm], we confirm our nuclear energy project will use the reliable, safe technology of [Westinghouse].”

Competing with the American firm for the job were Électricité de France and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. In October 2021, EDF submitted an offer to build four to six EPRs in Poland, while KHNP offered in April of this year to construct six APR1400 units.

Poland hints at choice for first nuclear build; Westinghouse sues KHNP

October 25, 2022, 2:58PMNuclear News

Poland’s deputy prime minister Jacek Sasin and U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm meet in Washington on October 23. (Photo: gov.pl)

Following a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Sunday with secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm, Polish deputy prime minister Jacek Sasin told reporters that his nation is close to choosing the reactor supplier for its initial nuclear plant project, adding, according to Bloomberg, “There is a big chance that we will finally pick Westinghouse.”

And in a news release on the meeting from the Polish government, Sasin is quoted as saying, “The massive energy crisis that is currently affecting us means that we must quickly make decisions on building the country’s energy security based on new, clean, cheap, and reliable sources, and such a source is nuclear energy. We want the decisive decisions to be made as soon as possible. That is why we asked [Granholm] for a meeting, during which we will clarify all the issues that remain to be clarified.”

Michigan pledges support for Holtec plan to reopen Palisades

September 13, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
The Palisades nuclear power plant. (Photo: Entergy)

Maybe hold off commenting on those Palisades decommissioning plans for now: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last Friday penned a letter to energy secretary Jennifer Granholm pledging state support for a Holtec International plan to restart the recently shuttered Palisades nuclear plant in Covert, Mich. It was Whitmer’s second letter to the Department of Energy head expressing support for Palisades and touting its value to the state.

Granholm makes first visit to Idaho National Laboratory

August 4, 2022, 11:55AMNuclear News
Pictured during a tour of the EBR-II site are, from left, Robert Boston, DOE-ID manager; Rep. Mike Simpson (R., Idaho); Secretary Granholm; Director Wagner; and Marianne Walck, INL deputy laboratory director for science and technology. (Photo: INL)

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited Idaho National Laboratory on August 3 to meet with INL staff, including director John Wagner, as she toured key research facilities on INL’s 890-square-mile site and the lab’s campus in Idaho Falls.

Feinstein joins Diablo defenders

June 16, 2022, 7:24AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Feinstein

Although previously a supporter of Diablo Canyon’s early closure, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein took to the pages of the Sacramento Bee yesterday to endorse life extension for the state’s sole operating nuclear power plant.

Citing projected electricity shortfalls in California due to the effects of climate change, Feinstein writes that “Pacific Gas and Electric Company should reconsider its decision to close Diablo Canyon by 2025. The utility should get the plant relicensed instead, retiring it once the state can replace its production with clean sources.”

The senator continues: “I remain concerned about the lack of long-term storage for spent nuclear fuel and am working to develop better solutions. But at this point, keeping Diablo Canyon open and producing carbon-free energy is more important.”

California climate goals easier to reach with Diablo Canyon, says study

June 14, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

Extending the operational life of California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant beyond 2025—its scheduled year of retirement—would help the state meet its climate goals more quickly, more reliably, and more cheaply than allowing the facility to close, a new study has found.

According to Retaining Diablo Canyon: Economic, Carbon, and Reliability Implications, keeping the plant on line could not only substantially reduce California’s emissions, natural gas use, and electric power costs, but also help avoid blackouts.

Newsom wants changes to credit program to delay Diablo Canyon closure

June 6, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

This past April, California Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed interest in using the federal government’s new $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program to keep Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in operation beyond its scheduled 2025 closure date.

That interest would appear not to have waned, as Newsom’s cabinet secretary, Ana Matosantos, recently sent a three-page letter to energy secretary Jennifer Granholm requesting some alterations to the program’s language to ensure that Diablo Canyon would be eligible to participate.

The full letter, detailing the requested changes, is available here.

DOE extends application deadline for nuclear credit program

May 18, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy today announced an extension to its deadline for applications and sealed bid submissions under the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program, launched earlier this year.

According to the DOE, owners and operators of nuclear power reactors most at risk of premature retirement due to economic difficulties have 47 more days to submit applications for certification and sealed bids for credits. The deadline for the first CNC award cycle, originally set for tomorrow, is now 11:59 p.m. MDT on July 5.

Granholm: DOE developing “full-on uranium strategy”

May 10, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is putting together a national uranium supply strategy, energy secretary Jennifer Granholm told lawmakers last week at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Granholm was appearing before the committee to discuss the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal for the DOE.

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.

DOE to fast-track Civil Nuclear Credit bids from the most at-risk reactors

April 21, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
The DOE’s guidance for Civil Nuclear Credit Program applicants opens a window for an owner—present or future—to submit a bid for credits that could keep Palisades, in southwest Michigan, operating past its planned May closure date. (Photo: Entergy)

The Department of Energy has announced the steps that would-be applicants must take to access funds from the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program. Guidance published April 19 invites owners or operators of those plants most at risk of near-term closure to apply during the program’s first award cycle. With shutdown planned next month, Entergy’s Palisades plant would top that list (read on for more on Michigan’s efforts to keep the plant operating), but any reactor with publicly announced plans to close by September 30, 2026, that meets other program criteria could be certified for credits. Successful applicants won’t have to wait long for good news: the DOE plans to announce award decisions as soon as 30 days after the May 19 deadline for submitting certification applications together with sealed bids for credits.

FY 2023 budget request released; DOE funding hiked 7 percent

March 29, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

The White House yesterday released its $5.8 trillion fiscal year 2023 budget proposal, just two weeks after President Biden signed into law H.R. 2471, the FY 2022 omnibus bill that funds the federal government through September 30.

DOE releases plan for clean energy supply chain

March 2, 2022, 12:04PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Department of Energy last week released America’s Strategy to Secure the Supply Chain for a Robust Clean Energy Transition, billed by the DOE as “the first-ever comprehensive plan to ensure security and increase [the nation’s] energy independence.”

The 76-page document was produced in response to President Biden’s February 2021 executive order on U.S. supply chains, which called for a plethora of department reports on the subject, including one from the DOE on supply chains for the energy-sector industrial base.

What they’re saying: “Taking bold action to invest in our supply chains means America will reap the tremendous opportunities that tackling climate change presents to kickstart domestic manufacturing and help secure our national, economic, and energy security,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “The strength of a nation relies on resilient and reliable critical supply chains across sectors, and DOE’s report provides the key strategies and recommendations for Congress and the federal government to act now to help deliver more jobs and a stronger, cleaner future.

Looking back at 2021—Nuclear News January through March

January 7, 2022, 10:35AMNuclear News

This is the second of five articles to be posted today to look back at the top news stories of 2021 for the nuclear community. The full article, "Looking back at 2021,"was published in the January 2022 issue of Nuclear News.

Quite a year was 2021. In the following stories, we have compiled what we feel are the past year’s top news stories from the January-March time frame—please enjoy this recap from a busy year in the nuclear community.

  • Click here to see the first article in the series.