Final rule certifying NuScale SMR design published

January 20, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

A rendering of a NuScale VOYGR plant. (Image: NuScale Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its final rule certifying NuScale Power’s small modular reactor design, making the Portland, Ore.–based company’s power module the first SMR design to be certified by the agency (and only the seventh reactor design okayed for use in the United States).

Published in yesterday’s Federal Register, the rule goes into effect on February 21, allowing utilities to reference the NuScale design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a reactor. The design will be incorporated as Appendix G to 10 CFR Part 52, Licenses, Certifications, and Approvals for Nuclear Power Plants.

As noted last July—when the commission voted unanimously to approve the design certification and directed staff to issue the final rule—an application for a nuclear power plant combined license that references a certified design does not need to address any of the issues resolved by the design certification rule. Instead, the combined license application and the NRC’s safety review would address any remaining safety and environmental issues for the proposed plant.

Looking back at 2022—April through June

January 4, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In today's post that follows, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from April through June 2022.

Stay tuned this week for the top stories from the rest of the past year.

But first:

How a nuclear victory at COP27 started with a teen and a text

December 15, 2022, 7:02AMANS News

As Seth Grae was preparing to return home from COP27, where he attended as an American Nuclear Society delegate, he had no idea that he was about to be part of a last-minute win for nuclear energy. Grae, the founder and chief executive officer of Lightbridge Corporation (NASDAQ: LTBR), felt that the nuclear industry had exceeded expectations at the two-week conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The first-ever International Atomic Energy Agency pavilion dedicated solely to nuclear energy was buzzing with delegates eager to educate the public. But hours before COP27 was to end, Grae received a text—the message of which would end up reaching the conference negotiation room.

The text came from a delegate, a teenager from Sweden who spotted an issue with the preliminary draft of the final COP27 decision.

DOE awards $800K to ANS, ECA to engage on nuclear energy

December 9, 2022, 7:00AMANS News

The Department of Energy yesterday awarded the American Nuclear Society and Energy Communities Alliance Inc. (ECA) a combined $800,000 to connect with communities across the country and establish education and outreach opportunities in nuclear energy. (A Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit, ECA “brings together local government officials to share information, establish policy positions, and promote community interests to address an increasingly complex set of constituent, environmental, regulatory, and economic development needs,” according to its website.)

Panel on nuclear energy and climate change to be livestreamed from COP27

November 14, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Scheduled to appear at the Energy Security panel session at COP27: from left, moderator Sweta Chakraborty and speakers Kathryn Huff, Seth Grae, and Bonnie Jenkins.

The United Nations’ COP27 conference, held this year in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to 18, will feature the panel discussion “Energy Security” on Tuesday, November 15, at 9:00 a.m. EST (4:00 p.m. local time). The discussion is being sponsored by the review platform We Don’t Have Time; the live stream will be available to viewers on their COP27 Climate Hub website.

U.S., Japan team up for SMR deployment; first stop: Ghana

November 1, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
From left: U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security Bonnie Jenkins; Japan’s state minister of economy, trade, and industry Fusae Ōta; Ghana’s deputy minister of Energy William Owuraku Aidoo; and U.S. assistant secretary for nuclear energy Kathryn Huff. (Photo: DOE Office of Nuclear Energy)

The United States and Japan have announced Winning an Edge Through Cooperation in Advanced Nuclear (WECAN)—a new agreement aimed at supporting the deployment of small modular reactors and other advanced reactor technologies in partner countries.

DOE plans offtake contracts to stock a HALEU bank “as soon as possible”

October 21, 2022, 9:13AMNuclear News
An image from the video “What is High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU)?” released by the DOE in April 2020. (Source: DOE)

Another piece of the plan for meeting the urgent need for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to fuel advanced reactor deployments fell into place when the Department of Energy held an Industry Day on October 14. Attendees were asked how soon they could deliver 25 metric tons per year of HALEU enriched in the United States from newly mined uranium. Offtake contracts for six or more years of HALEU production at that rate could be used to stock a DOE-owned HALEU bank to “support [HALEU] availability for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use.”

Ultra Safe Nuclear opens pilot-scale TRISO fuel facility in Oak Ridge

August 22, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Terrani, Huff, and Fleischmann had the honor of cutting the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the Pilot Fuel Manufacturing facility. (Photo: USNC)

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) celebrated the opening of its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on August 18 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour attended by assistant secretary for nuclear energy Kathryn Huff, Tennessee lieutenant governor Randy McNally, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R.), representatives from the offices of Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R.) and Bill Hagerty (R.), and other distinguished guests. The next day, radiological operations began at the privately funded facility, which was designed and built in less than twelve months within an existing industrial building purchased by USNC in 2021.

DOE tags Los Alamos to lead $9.25 million molten salt computational research program

August 10, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy has chosen Los Alamos National Laboratory to lead a $9.25 million collaborative project to model the behavior and properties of structural materials in molten salt through the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program and announced the news August 9. The team working on the five-year project includes experts from LANL; Carnegie Mellon University; and Idaho, Lawrence Berkeley, and Sandia national laboratories.

Nesbit, Huff among others quoted in NYT article on nuclear power

July 12, 2022, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Nesbit

Steven Nesbit, ANS’s immediate past president, is among the nuclear industry leaders quoted in a recent New York Times article about the renewed interest in nuclear power in the United States. The article explains that the challenges of meeting clean energy goals and surging electricity demands are prompting many government officials to take “a fresh look at nuclear power—both extending the life of existing reactors and building new ones.” The article also presents the views of some nuclear critics.

Much of the article focuses on the fate of California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which is currently scheduled for shutdown in 2025. Several of the state’s lawmakers who previously supported the shutdown, including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sen. Diane Feinstein, are now considering supporting the extended life of the plant. A joint study by Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has concluded that a 10-year extension of Diablo Canyon could substantially reduce carbon emissions, lessen reliance on natural gas, cut electricity costs, and minimize the risk of brownouts.

DOE revises nuclear credit program guidance, extends application deadline

July 1, 2022, 12:09PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy yesterday announced that it has amended its Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program guidance for the currently open award cycle and extended the deadline for credit applications from July 5 to September 6. The DOE was instructed to establish the $6 billion program by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Biden last November.

Universities get $61 million for 74 nuclear research and infrastructure awards

June 20, 2022, 12:04PMNuclear News

Advanced reactor coolants, consent-based siting, and offshore nuclear production of hydrogen are just a few of the topics included among the 74 nuclear science and technology projects awarded more than $61 million by the Department of Energy on June 17. The Nuclear Energy University Program awards, Integrated Research Projects, Nuclear Science User Facilities awards, and Infrastructure awards will support nuclear technology development, infrastructure improvements, and career opportunities at more than 40 U.S. universities in 29 states.

ANS Annual Meeting: Moving the needle on the grand challenges

June 15, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The President’s Special Session of the 2022 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., offered members a chance to revisit the Society’s Grand Nuclear Challenges. Introduced in 2017 and put forth by the members and the ANS professional divisions, the nine challenges identify cross-cutting technical issues to be resolved by 2030 to help address the economic, sociological, or political concerns facing nuclear energy.

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.

DOE-NE 2023 budget priorities summarized in ANS online program

May 18, 2022, 11:59AMNuclear News

A team from the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy joined ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy on April 27 for an ANS members–only online event to discuss the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2023 NE budget proposal. The proposed total for the office, $1.675 billion, is more than a $20 million increase from the FY 2022 enacted level of $1.654 billion.

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.

Huff approved to head Office of Nuclear Energy

May 5, 2022, 3:04PMNuclear News

Huff

The Senate has confirmed ANS member Kathryn Huff as the next assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) in the Department of Energy. The bipartisan vote, held earlier this afternoon, was 80–11.

President Biden selected Huff in January to fill the top spot at NE—a post that has been vacant since Rita Baranwal (also an ANS member) announced she was leaving the position on January 8, 2021.

Huff came to the DOE in May of last year to serve as principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy, going on unpaid leave from her position as an associate professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, where she led the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group.

Bill to ban Russian uranium imports debuts

March 21, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

Barrasso

In the latest effort by the federal government to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) last week introduced legislation to prohibit the importation of Russian uranium to the United States.

The Biden administration banned imports of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal, via executive order on March 8.

Barrasso’s bill, S. 3856, was introduced on March 16, with three of his fellow GOP lawmakers as cosponsors: Sens. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.), and Roger Marshall (R., Kan.).

“The time is now to permanently remove all Russian energy from the American marketplace,” said Barrasso, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee. “We know Vladimir Putin uses this money to help fund his brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine. While banning imports of Russian oil, gas, and coal is an important step, it cannot be the last. Banning Russian uranium imports will further defund Russia’s war machine, help revive American uranium production, and increase our national security.”

Senate panel vets Biden’s pick to lead DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy

March 18, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Nominated to lead the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Kathryn Huff testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 17.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met yesterday to consider the nomination of Kathryn Huff to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). President Biden selected Huff to fill the top spot at NE in January.

NuScale solidifies plans for SMR deployment in Poland

February 16, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
John Hopkins (left), NuScale Power’s president and CEO, and Marcin Chludziński, president of KGHM’s management board, sign the agreement on February 14. (Photo: Business Wire)

At an event held on February 14 at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., small modular reactor developer NuScale Power inked an agreement with KGHM Polska Miedz S.A., to initiate deployment of NuScale’s SMR technology in Poland.