Radiant horizons: Fission surface power on the moon, Mars, and beyond

April 12, 2024, 7:02AMNuclear NewsLindsay Kaldon
A concept image of NASA’s Fission Surface Power Project. (Image: NASA)

Imagine what our world would be like today without the benefits of electric energy. Think of the inventions and technologies that never would have been. Think of a world without power grids and the electricity that makes them run. Without this power, we’d find it difficult to maintain our industrial and manufacturing bases or enable advancements in the fields of medicine, communications, and computing.

Now consider the moon, our closest celestial neighbor about which we still know so little, waiting for modern-day explorers in spacesuits to unveil its secrets. Lunar exploration and a future lunar economy require reliable, long-lasting, clean sources of power. Nuclear fission answers that call. When assessing the application of nuclear power in space, three Ps should be considered: the present, the potential, and the partnerships.

Thermal hydraulics highlights of 2023

March 13, 2024, 12:00PMANS News

The American Nuclear Society’s Thermal Hydraulics Division is hosting a virtual event on Friday, March 15, from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. (ET), where experts will discuss some of the most impactful work in thermal hydraulics in 2023.

The no-cost event is open to all, but registration is required. Send in your questions now.

Report examines nuclear’s 2023 developments, 2024 trends

February 6, 2024, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new report, A New Nuclear Age: How 2023 Developments Will Impact the Industry in 2024, has been released by Morgan Lewis, a global corporation that provides litigation, corporate, labor and employment, and intellectual property services. Morgan Lewis’s energy specialist attorneys, who compiled the report, reviewed recent developments in rules and guidance from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy that have impacted various aspects of the nuclear energy industry. Covered areas include cybersecurity, small modular reactors, advanced reactors, sustainability, export controls, plant decommissioning, microreactors, and fusion systems. Also considered in the report are potential future developments that may further affect the nuclear industry this year.

Issues on microreactors and irradiation experiments planned for Nuclear Science and Engineering

January 23, 2024, 3:00PMANS News

Two teams of guest editors from Idaho National Laboratory have announced plans for special issues of Nuclear Science and Engineering, the nuclear field’s longest-running technical journal. Abdalla Abou Jaoude and Abderrafi M. Ougouag are leading the issue on Technical Challenges and Opportunities in the Development and Deployment of Microreactors, while Joseph Nielsen and Piyush Sabharwall are organizing the issue on Irradiation Experiments Supporting Advanced Nuclear Technologies.

2024: The State of Advanced Reactors

January 19, 2024, 3:07PMNuclear NewsMatt Wald

Designs for high-tech products, and the start-ups that offer them, will always outnumber the commercial successes. Ditto: many more power plants are proposed than actually get built, no matter what the technology.

This is an axiom of free-market economies, but in early November 2023 it became painfully obvious in the advanced reactor field. NuScale Power, the only advanced reactor that has made it through the licensing gauntlet, acknowledged that the consortium of utilities that was its intended launch customer had failed to put together a feasible package.

Issues on microreactors and irradiation experiments planned for ANS's Nuclear Science and Engineering

December 14, 2023, 3:03PMANS News

Two teams of guest editors from Idaho National Laboratory have announced plans for special issues of the American Nuclear Society's Nuclear Science and Engineering, the nuclear community’s longest-running technical journal. Abdalla Abou Jaoude and Abderrafi M. Ougouag are leading the NSE issue Technical Challenges and Opportunities in the Development and Deployment of Microreactors, while Joseph Nielsen and Piyush Sabharwall are organizing the NSE issue Irradiation Experiments Supporting Advanced Nuclear Technologies.

When deployments hit setbacks: Cautionary tales in Idaho and Alaska

December 4, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
A map of the potential reactor siting area (in green) at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska provided during a pre-proposal conference in October 2022. (Graphic: Department of the Air Force)

Plans announced with fanfare sometimes falter in the face of competition or economics. Take NuScale Power’s plans for the Carbon Free Power Project in Idaho: The project was canceled in mid-November by NuScale and its first customer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, after nearly a decade. The significance of that news depends on the observer. NuScale intends to focus on other sites and customers. Competitors may redouble efforts to tout their own designs and customer lists. Media found an opportunity to speculate about the future of advanced nuclear. And while many in the nuclear community believe the momentum in favor of new nuclear deployments is continuing—or even increasing as COP28 continues—others would caution against high hopes and point to the persistent obstacles of regulation, supply chain constraints, and financing costs.

Ultra Safe signs to perform a microreactor pre-feasibility study in the Philippines

November 17, 2023, 8:37AMNuclear News
A cutaway image of a below-grade MMR module. (Image: USNC)

Ultra Safe Nuclear has signed a cooperative agreement with the Manila Electric Company (Meralco)—the Philippines’ largest electric distribution utility—to study the potential deployment of one or more of the company’s high-temperature, gas-cooled microreactors in the Philippines. The agreement, signed November 15, builds on a partnership between the two companies that was announced in August.

Veto or no veto, UIUC forges ahead with microreactor plans

August 21, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual art of USNC’s MMR, as proposed for construction on the UIUC campus. (Graphic: USNC)

It’s been almost 35 years since Illinois last added a nuclear power reactor to the grid (Braidwood-2, a pressurized water reactor operated by Constellation, reached commercial operation in October 1988). And it’s been 63 years since a research reactor reached initial criticality at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The university’s TRIGA Mark II started up in August 1960 and was shut down in 1998. For about 25 years, UIUC—the flagship public university in a state that generates more power from nuclear energy than any other—has lacked an operating research reactor.

What is at the forefront of PRA today?

July 20, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear NewsAskin Guler Yigitoglu

Probabilistic risk assessment is a mature technology that has benefited the safety of the current fleet of light water reactors in the United States since the 1970s. Most utilities have used PRA models as part of risk-informed in-service inspection programs to identify degraded plant conditions for more than two decades. The trends indicate an increasing use of risk-informed applications to support safe and cost-effective long-term operations.

Data science and predictive analytics innovations offer the opportunity to assess, monitor, and manage risk effectively. PRA models are coupled with digital twins informed by sensors and system simulators that provide real-time risk insights. Dynamic PRA approaches were initially introduced to beyond-design-basis event models for LWRs and explicitly model time-dependent operator behavior by simulating the actual plant response. Enhancing the quantification speed and memory usage of the PRA computational tools (both dynamic and traditional) is crucial for future risk-informed efforts.

Donalds, Barnard call for streamlining NRC’s regulatory process

March 27, 2023, 2:59PMNuclear News



“To be frank, any emissions-related climate goals are moonshots without nuclear energy, and next-generation nuclear technology is something that the United States can and SHOULD lead on.” So writes U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R., Fla.) and Christopher Barnard, vice president of external affairs for the American Conservation Coalition, in an essay published by RealClear Energy.

Good news: Donalds, one of the strongest advocates for nuclear energy in the U.S. House, and Barnard, publisher and coauthor of Green Market Revolution, begin their essay by noting some recent positive developments for nuclear power. They characterize the initial criticality of Vogtle-3, the first new nuclear reactor built in the United States in about 30 years, as “a monumental achievement for the American nuclear industry.” They praise the Biden administration’s allocation of funds to keep established nuclear plants operational.

Bill to foster civil nuclear export strategy debuts

March 17, 2023, 9:29AMNuclear News
The U.S. Capitol building.

Further building on their already secure reputations as nuclear energy supporters, Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Jim Risch (R., Idaho) yesterday reintroduced the International Nuclear Energy Act (INEA). (The lawmakers are also cosponsors of two recently debuted nuclear-themed bills: February’s Nuclear Fuel Security Act and last week’s Reduce Russian Uranium Imports Act.)

Nuclear energy package debuted in House

March 1, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News


Rep. Byron Donalds (R., Fla.) recently introduced in the House a four-bill nuclear energy package that, according to the congressman’s office, seeks to “reshape the way our country uses and views nuclear energy.”

Included in the package are the following measures—all originally introduced in the 117th Congress:

  • H.R. 1009—National Strategy to Utilize Microreactors for Natural Disaster Response Efforts Act. This legislation calls on the president to collaborate with several federal entities that currently enjoy minimal interaction to develop a national strategy for the use of microreactors to assist with natural disaster impacts. Cosponsors include Reps. Earl “Buddy” Carter (R., Ga.), Randy Feenstra (R., Iowa), Chuck Fleischmann (R., Tenn.), Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.), Nancy Mace (R., S.C.), Jay Obernolte (R., Calif.), and John Rose (R., Tenn.).

Study favors SMRs for use at future electric truck charging stations

January 23, 2023, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The use of small modular reactors would be an excellent, cost-effective way to recharge electric heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs), such as trucks, according to a recent study published in Applied Energy. The Idaho National Laboratory–funded study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan.

PIMA Nuclear Alliance seeks “revolutionary” change in nuclear industry

December 20, 2022, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Post-Industrial Midwest and Appalachia (PIMA) Nuclear Alliance hosted its third workshop December 8—9 at Pennsylvania State University’s Digital Foundry at New Kensington. The alliance, which consists of Penn State and several academic, industrial, and national lab partners, was formed in May 2022 to harness carbon-free energy while educating and training the future energy workforce. Previous workshops were held in June and October this year.

Microreactor technology: The major focus of the alliance is innovation in microreactor technology and other advanced nuclear reactor technologies in the Midwest and Appalachia regions, with the overall goal of furthering the decarbonization of industries.

Lawmakers press DFC to invest in nuclear

December 19, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter last week to Scott Nathan, chief executive officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), urging the agency to begin financing nuclear energy projects and support the continued development and deployment of advanced nuclear technology.

Signing the December 8 letter were Sens. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), Ben Cardin (D., Md.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), and Jim Risch (R., Idaho).

Rep. Donalds calls for end to regulations hampering microreactor development

December 12, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe


“I wholeheartedly believe that utilizing nuclear energy—specifically advanced nuclear microreactors—could have made a positive difference for Florida’s 19th District in many ways,” wrote Rep. Byron Donalds (R., Fla.) in an op-ed about Hurricane Ian that appeared in the Floridian on December 5. Donalds noted that Ian, which struck southwest Florida (the location of his congressional district) on September 28, 2022, was an “unforgettable storm” that caused “heart-wrenching devastation” to the area but that “the deployment of microreactors throughout Southwest Florida could have: (1) reduced disaster-related mortality; (2) reduced direct disaster-related economic loss; and (3) reduced the overall disruption of basic services stemming from Hurricane Ian’s devastation.”

Microreactor technology and benefits: Donalds offered his readers a brief lesson on nuclear microreactors, explaining that they are “small, versatile, and extremely reliable pieces of innovative technology” that put to rest common public concerns about nuclear energy related to “large smokestacks, nuclear waste, and nuclear meltdowns.”

Air Force pilot program to enlist microreactor for 20-year Alaskan deployment

October 5, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News
Aircraft line the runway at Eielson AFB in December 2020. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

The Department of the Air Force and the Defense Logistics Agency–Energy have released a request for proposals (RFP) for the construction and operation of a microreactor in central Alaska. The Department of Defense wants a 20-year supply of electricity and steam from a 1–5-MW microreactor, but the Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) Microreactor Pilot Program will go beyond a simple power purchase agreement and put the reactor through its paces with tests, at least annually, of the reactor’s walk-away safety and black-start capabilities. The final RFP is available at sam.gov.