Two reports agree: Diverse advanced reactor fuel cycles can succeed

November 23, 2022, 6:39AMNuclear News

Advanced reactors and small modular reactors with strikingly different coolants and sizes offer an array of different benefits, but when it comes to fuel cycle issues, including spent fuel and waste, they have a lot in common with conventional light water reactors. Two reports released within the last week—a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics (NASEM) consensus committee report two years in the making and a Department of Energy study released by Argonne National Laboratory—address the timely topic of advanced reactor fuel cycle issues. While the NASEM committee ventured to define research and infrastructure needs to support the entire nuclear power fuel cycle, inclusive of new technologies, for decades to come, the DOE report compares the front- and back-end fuel cycle metrics of three reactor designs (from NuScale Power, TerraPower, and X-energy) that have been selected for DOE cost-share–funded demonstrations within this decade. Together, these reports provide assurance that the fuel cycle needs of a fleet of new reactors can be met and point to near-term research and planning needs.

Coal-to-nuclear conversion: Opportunities and challenges

November 10, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
ANS's “Powering Our Future: The Coal to Nuclear Opportunity” panel discussion featured (top left, clockwise) Jessica Lovering, Patrick Burke, Kenya Stump, Andrew Griffith, Christine King, and Carol Lane. (ANS screenshot)

Since at least June of last year—when TerraPower and PacifiCorp announced plans to site the Natrium reactor demonstration project at one of Wyoming’s retiring coal plants—the concept of repurposing those plants to host nuclear reactors has been a popular topic of conversation among the energy cognoscenti.

TerraPower, PacifiCorp to consider expansion of Natrium deployment

October 28, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
An artist’s rendering of Natrium. (Image: TerraPower)

Nuclear technology firm TerraPower and utility partner PacifiCorp have launched a study to evaluate the feasibility of deploying up to five additional Natrium reactor and integrated energy storage systems in the utility’s service territory by 2035, the companies announced yesterday. (PacifiCorp’s business units—Pacific Power and Rocky Mountain Power—serve customers in California, Oregon, and Washington, and in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming, respectively.)

Just add HALEU: TerraPower and GNF-A break ground on fast reactor fuel facility

October 26, 2022, 9:21AMNuclear News
Natrium Fuel Facility groundbreaking. (Photo: GNF-A)

Global Nuclear Fuel–Americas (GNF-A) and TerraPower announced their plans to build a Natrium fuel fabrication facility next to GNF-A’s existing fuel plant near Wilmington, N.C, on October 21. While more than 50 years of fuel fabrication at the site have supported the boiling water reactor designs of GE (GNF-A’s majority owner) and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), the Natrium Fuel Facility will produce metallic high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel for the sodium fast reactor—Natrium—that TerraPower is developing with GEH.

South Korean firms invest $250 million in TerraPower

August 16, 2022, 3:03PMNuclear News

U.S. nuclear technology company TerraPower announced yesterday the close of a $750 million equity raise—one of the largest advanced-nuclear investment drives to date, according to the announcement—with $250 million of that contributed by South Korean firms SK Inc. and SK Innovation.

Both firms are subsidiaries of the Seoul-based conglomerate SK Group, South Korea’s second-largest conglomerate, after Samsung Group.

INL, Wyoming form partnership on advanced energy tech

May 6, 2022, 12:08PMNuclear News
The Wyoming Energy Authority’s Glen Murrell (left) shakes hands with INL’s John C. Wagner at the MOU signing ceremony on May 4. (Photo: WEA)

Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), the management and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, has signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the State of Wyoming to collaborate on the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of advanced energy technologies and approaches, with a special focus on advanced nuclear.

TerraPower seeks fast reactor data through time-tested U.S.-Japan research ties

February 1, 2022, 3:02PMNuclear News
A rendering of the Natrium plant. (Image: TerraPower)

Natrium, a 345-MWe sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system, was developed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. TerraPower is planning to build the first Natrium demonstration reactor by 2028 with 50-50 cost-shared funding of about $2 billion from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. And for the requisite data and testing of reactor components to support that deployment, TerraPower is looking to Japan—a country with decades of experience developing sodium fast reactor designs and testing infrastructure.

Looking back at 2021—Nuclear News October through December

January 7, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear News

This is the fifth of five articles 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 October-December time frame—please enjoy this recap from a busy year in the nuclear community.

New bill aims to bring advanced reactors to economically depressed communities

December 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Bipartisan support for nuclear energy continued on Capitol Hill last week as Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the committee’s ranking member, introduced the Fission for the Future Act of 2021, a measure backing the commercial deployment of advanced nuclear reactors.

Introduced on December 16, the legislation would prioritize communities affected by the closure of coal and other fossil-fueled generating facilities and assist in the reutilization of those sites to deploy advanced nuclear power plants, promoting job growth in economically depressed regions.

Save the VTR!

December 1, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Artist's rendition of the Versatile Test Reactor. (Source: DOE)

Microsoft: Nuclear help wanted

November 17, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Microsoft, the America-based multinational technology corporation that produces computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services, is looking for a director of nuclear technologies engineering.

Published this week on LinkedIn, the job announcement states, “We are looking for a Nuclear Technologies Engineer to research methods of utilizing nuclear energy and design useful nuclear systems. You’ll monitor and report on engineering processes, including nuclear waste disposal and safety regulations. You will handle complex machinery and resolve on-site emergencies.”

The successful candidate can be based anywhere in the U.S., the announcement added.

Nuclear Innovation Alliance releases new reports on advanced nuclear technology

October 14, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) has followed up its report, Advanced Nuclear Technology: A Primer, published last month, with the release of two new reports on the subject—one for policymakers, the other for investors.

For policymakers: According to the NIA, Advanced Nuclear Reactors for State Policymakers, in Brief provides an overview of enabling federal policies and looks at state options to incentivize local development of advanced reactors. In addition, the report features a series of “topical briefs” on the characteristics of advanced reactors with respect to safety, economic benefits, waste remediation, flexibility and dispatchability, and timing and development. The report also contains case studies of state-specific advanced nuclear projects such as the Natrium reactor demonstration project in Wyoming, Energy Northwest’s plans in Washington state, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems’ consortium for the first light water small modular reactor, and the Nuclear Alternative Project in Puerto Rico.

2021 ANS Virtual Annual Meeting: CEO roundtable

June 18, 2021, 9:37AMNuclear News

The 2021 ANS Annual Meeting brought together three leading chief executive officers from the nuclear industry on June 16 for a discussion centered on the future role of nuclear energy deployment and the challenges of portfolio management during a time of net-zero carbon goals.

TerraPower’s Natrium demo is headed to Wyoming

June 3, 2021, 12:03PMNuclear News
A future TerraPower plant visualization. (Graphic: TerraPower)

TerraPower has a design for a sodium-cooled fast reactor and federal cost-shared demonstration funding from the Department of Energy. Its partner, PacifiCorp, has four operating coal-fired power plants in the state of Wyoming. On June 2, together with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and others, the companies announced plans to site a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming, with a specific site to be announced by the end of 2021.

Advanced reactor economics and markets

May 21, 2021, 2:41PMNuclear NewsCharles Forsberg and Eric Ingersoll
TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy jointly developed the sodium-cooled Natrium reactor with the turbine hall, nitrate heat storage tanks, and cooling towers separated from the reactor at the back of the site.

The viability of nuclear power ultimately depends on economics. Safety is a requirement, but it does not determine whether a reactor will be deployed. The most economical reactor maximizes revenue while minimizing costs. The lowest-cost reactor is not necessarily the most economical reactor. Different markets impose different requirements on reactors. If the capital cost of Reactor A is 50 percent more than Reactor B but has characteristics that double the revenue, the most economical reactor is Reactor A.

The most important factor is an efficient supply chain, including on-site construction practices. This is the basis for the low capital cost of light water reactors from China and South Korea. The design of the reactor can significantly affect capital cost through its impact on the supply chain. The question is, how can advanced reactors boost revenue and reduce costs?

NC State celebrates 70 years of nuclear engineering education

March 29, 2021, 3:00PMANS News
An early picture of the research reactor building on the North Carolina State University campus. The Department of Nuclear Engineering is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its nuclear engineering curriculum in 2020–2021. Photo: North Carolina State University

The Department of Nuclear Engineering at North Carolina State University has spent the 2020–2021 academic year celebrating the 70th anniversary of its becoming the first U.S. university to establish a nuclear engineering curriculum. It started in 1950, when Clifford Beck, then of Oak Ridge, Tenn., obtained support from NC State’s dean of engineering, Harold Lampe, to build the nation’s first university nuclear reactor and, in conjunction, establish an educational curriculum dedicated to nuclear engineering.

The department, host to the 2021 ANS Virtual Student Conference, scheduled for April 8–10, now features 23 tenure/tenure-track faculty and three research faculty members. “What a journey for the first nuclear engineering curriculum in the nation,” said Kostadin Ivanov, professor and department head.

ARDP picks divergent technologies in Natrium, Xe-100: Is nuclear’s future taking shape?

October 14, 2020, 7:21AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy has put two reactor designs—TerraPower’s Natrium and X-energy’s Xe-100—on a fast track to commercialization, each with an initial $80 million in 50-50 cost-shared funds awarded through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). In all, the DOE plans to invest $3.2 billion—with matching funds from industry—over the seven-year demonstration program, subject to future appropriations.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette announced the awards late in the day on October 13 in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and said, “These awards are a critical first step of a program that will strengthen our nation’s nuclear energy and technological competitiveness abroad, and position our domestic industry for growth, for increased job creation, and for even more investment opportunity. It’s absolutely vital that we make progress on this technology now.”

HALEU investment is key part of TerraPower’s demo proposal

September 17, 2020, 2:58PMNuclear News

TerraPower announced on September 15 that it plans to work with Centrus Energy to establish commercial-scale production facilities for the high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) needed to fuel many advanced reactor designs.

The proposed investment in HALEU fuel fabrication is tied to a TerraPower-led submittal to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which was created to support the deployment of two first-of-a-kind advanced reactor designs within five to seven years. TerraPower would like one of those designs to be Natrium, the 345-MWe sodium fast reactor that it has developed with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.