High-energy physics gets DOE funding

August 6, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC) on August 2 announced a plan to provide $100 million over the next four years for university-based research on a range of high-energy physics topics through a new funding opportunity announcement. The objective of “FY 2022 Research Opportunities in High Energy Physics,” sponsored by the Office of High Energy Physics within DOE-SC, is to advance fundamental knowledge about how the universe works.

Nuclear propulsion on the rise as private companies and NASA redefine space travel

July 22, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Hot-fire test at Blue Origin’s West Texas launch facility in July 2019. (Photo: Blue Origin)

In July 1969, the public’s attention was fixated on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission—a “giant leap for mankind” that was memorably marked by Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the surface of the moon. This July, the possibilities of spaceflight are once again capturing the public’s imagination and news headlines. While NASA invests in nuclear propulsion research and development to stretch the limits of U.S. space missions, private companies Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are stretching the definition of “astronaut” and proving they can offer a high-altitude thrill to paying customers.

Planning ahead for advanced reactor safeguards and security

May 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Nonproliferation, safeguards, and security were on the agenda for the fifth public information-gathering meeting of the National Academies’ Committee on Merits and Viability of Different Nuclear Fuel Cycles and Technology Options and the Waste Aspects of Advanced Nuclear Reactors. Moderated by committee chair Janice Dunn Lee and NAS study director Charles Ferguson, the two-day public meeting was convened on May 17 and was to be followed by a closed committee session on May 19.

National Academies steers low-dose radiation research in a new direction

May 7, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News

The United States is embarking on a new coordinated federal low-dose radiation research program. With guidance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science will build a program that integrates the research of past decades, but without treading the same well-worn path. Instead, the new program will focus on how the scientific understanding of low-dose radiation can best be augmented, applied, and communicated.

As Perseverance makes tracks, NASA must plan its next Mars move

March 10, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover took its first drive on the surface of Mars on March 4, traversing 21.3 feet and executing a 150-degree turn in about 33 minutes. The drive was one part of an ongoing check and calibration of every system, subsystem, and instrument on Perseverance, which landed on Mars on February 18.

The NASA team has also verified the functionality of Perseverance’s instruments, deployed two wind sensors, and unstowed the rover’s 7-foot-long robotic arm for the first time, flexing each of its five joints over the course of two hours.

With relatively little fanfare, the functionality of Perseverance’s radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG)—assembled at Idaho National Laboratory and fueled by the decay of plutonium-238—is also being proved. It is reliably providing the power that Perseverance’s mechanical and communication systems require.

A new goal for fusion: 50 MWe for the U.S. grid by 2035–2040

February 19, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

Coordinated federal and private industry investments made now could yield an operational fusion pilot plant in the 2035–2040 time frame, according to Bringing Fusion to the U.S. Grid, a consensus study report released February 17 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).

Developed at the request of the Department of Energy, the report builds on the work of the 2019 Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research, and it identifies key goals, innovations, and investments needed to develop a U.S. fusion pilot plant that can serve as a model for producing electricity at the lowest possible capital cost.

“The U.S. fusion community has been a pioneer of fusion research since its inception and now has the opportunity to bring fusion to the marketplace,” said Richard Hawryluk, associate director for fusion at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and chair of the NASEM Committee on the Key Goals and Innovations Needed for a U.S. Fusion Pilot Plant, which produced the report.