DOE puts $9.35 million toward high-energy-density plasma research

July 29, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Invisible infrared light from the 200-trillion-watt Trident Laser at Los Alamos National Laboratory interacts with a 1-micrometer thick foil target (in the center of the photo) to generate a high-energy-density plasma. (Photo: Joseph Cowan and Kirk Flippo, LANL)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on July 27 announced $9.35 million for 21 research projects in high-energy-density laboratory plasmas. High-energy-density (HED) plasma research, originally developed to support the U.S. nuclear weapons program, has applications in astrophysics, fusion power plant development, medicine, nuclear and particle physics, and radioisotope production.

Hruby sworn in as NNSA administrator

July 27, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Jill Hruby, joined by her husband, Stewart Griffiths, is sworn in as the Department of Energy’s under secretary for Nuclear Security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. (Photo: NNSA)

Jill Hruby was sworn in by energy secretary Jennifer Granholm on July 26 as the Department of Energy’s undersecretary for nuclear security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Hruby was nominated for the position by President Biden on April 14.

Mapping the scattered family tree of fission neutrons

July 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
Nicholas Thompson of LANL helps set up the neutron clustering measurements at the Walthousen Reactor Critical Facility at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Schenectady, NY. (Photo: LANL)

A statistically predicted tendency for neutrons produced inside fission reactors to form in clusters can cause asymmetrical energy production that is counterbalanced, at least in part, by the spontaneous fission of radioactive material in the reactor.

Researchers share their cutting-edge work in AI for national security

July 15, 2021, 12:06PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Within the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development (DNN R&D) is leading efforts to drive advances in artificial intelligence and accelerate the adoption of AI-enabled technologies to solve nuclear nonproliferation and national security challenges.

The goal is to incorporate AI into advanced techniques for detecting nuclear weapons and materials. According to the NNSA, these detection capabilities support the nuclear nonproliferation and arms control goals of the United States, while also driving the development of new capabilities.

NNSA to host virtual job fair

June 17, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

A virtual job fair for the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE) is being held on Wednesday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT). The job fair will be hosted by the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration.

The NSE is looking for the next generation of nuclear security professionals and is planning to hire more than 2,500 new employees in 2021.

Interested candidates are encouraged to register online for the event.

DOE finishes demolition of Biology Complex at Y-12 site

June 11, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Demolition of the last of 11 structures at the former Y-12 Biology Complex at Oak Ridge was completed in June, and the removal of the building’s slab foundation is scheduled to be completed this fall. (Photo: DOE)

Crews with the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) have completed the demolition of Building 9207, the largest and final building at the former Biology Complex at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the DOE announced this week. Removal of the massive six-story, 255,000-square-foot building ushers in a new chapter of transformation at Y-12, the DOE said.

Biden administration’s proposed FY 2022 budget supports nuclear

June 3, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

The Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget sent to Congress last week would, according to the Department of Energy, move the United States toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The FY 2022 budget request includes $1.85 billion for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“President Biden’s budget request puts America in the driver's seat as we transition toward a 100 percent clean energy economy,” said secretary of energy Jennifer Granholm on May 28. “These investments will ensure the U.S. is the global leader in research, development, and deployment of critical energy technologies to combat the climate crisis, create good-paying union jobs, and strengthen our communities in all pockets of America.”

Accelerators delivered to NorthStar medical isotope facility

April 27, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
NorthStar is capable of producing Mo-99 using non-uranium-based processes. Photo: NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes

Completing a 5,700-mile journey from Belgium, two 24-ton particle accelerators were delivered to NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes’ facility in Beloit, Wis., on April 22, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Photos and a video of the accelerators being received at the facility are included in the report.

Shrinking Y-12 will facilitate cleanup, reduce costs, DOE says

April 16, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Federal and contractor officials participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the WEPAR project on April 7 at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. Photo: DOE

A project to reduce by approximately half the high-security protected area at the Department of Energy’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., will avoid millions of dollars in costs and accelerate cleanup, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced.

Savannah River works to speed up shipments of surplus Pu to WIPP

April 9, 2021, 2:59PMRadwaste Solutions
Crews move equipment used to inspect drums holding diluted plutonium into a storage site in K Area at the Savannah River Site. Photo: DOE

Workers at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina recently finished transferring equipment to the site’s K Area in preparation of shipping downblended plutonium to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for disposal. The plutonium is part of the 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium the National Nuclear Security Administration plans to ship to WIPP under the “dilute and dispose” option the department adopted following the cancellation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility project.

Upgrades completed at world’s only TRIGA fuel fabrication facility

April 8, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The Maryland University Training Reactor, one of 12 TRIGA reactors currently operating at universities in the United States. Photo: University of Maryland

TRIGA International, the only supplier of TRIGA reactor fuel in the world, recently completed a major renovation project at its fuel fabrication facility in Romans, France. The Department of Energy, which provided both technical and financial support for the project, said the upgrades ensure the continued operation of 36 TRIGA reactors around the world, including 18 in the United States.

WSU students deliver nuclear safeguards designs for the NNSA

March 19, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Meeting remotely, WSU students deliver two nonproliferation projects to NNSA and PNNL staff. Source: NNSA

In a program sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, teams of engineering students from Washington State University designed, built, and delivered prototype equipment to address challenges encountered by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory staff in research on nuclear safeguards.

As reported on March 11 by the NNSA, two teams of WSU students presented their projects to PNNL staff during an online meeting in December 2020. One team created physical training aids for safeguards courses to demonstrate two methods of nuclear fuel reprocessing. The other team developed an enrichment monitor mounting bracket that the International Atomic Energy Agency could use to help monitor uranium hexafluoride gas in enrichment facilities.

NNSA extends comment period on scope of “dilute and dispose” EIS

February 4, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has extended to February 18 the public comment period for the scoping of its planned environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program, which would dilute and dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus military grade plutonium.

The NNSA on December 16 announced its intent to prepare the EIS, which will examine the agency’s preferred alternative, “dilute and dispose,” also known as “plutonium downblending,” and other alternatives for disposing of the material. The NNSA has been pursuing the dilute-and-dispose approach to managing the surplus plutonium following the cancellation of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the DOE’s Savannah River Site.

ANS weighs in on NNSA’s Pu disposition plan

February 1, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The American Nuclear Society is urging the National Nuclear Security Administration to rethink its “dilute-and-dispose” plan for managing surplus weapons-grade plutonium. In comments submitted to the NNSA, ANS notes that a better solution for the agency’s inventory of surplus plutonium is to convert it to nuclear fuel for advanced reactors, as was originally intended.

The comments are in response to a December 16 Federal Register notice by the NNSA that it intends to prepare an environmental impact statement on the scope of its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program. According to the notice, the NNSA intends to dispose of the entire 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using its dilute-and-dispose approach, whereby the material will be downblended and shipped as transuranic waste to the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.

Under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, signed by the United States and Russia in 2000, the 34 tons of plutonium was to be converted to mixed-oxide nuclear fuel using the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site, in South Carolina. However, the Obama administration, citing rising costs, halted construction on the facility in 2016, and the project was eventually canceled in 2019.

American Nuclear Society recommends NNSA use surplus plutonium for clean energy

February 1, 2021, 11:16AMPress Releases

La Grange Park, IL – The American Nuclear Society (ANS) is recommending that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) consider using surplus plutonium from nuclear weapons as fuel for advanced reactors to generate carbon-free energy, rather than diluting and disposing 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico as proposed by the NNSA.

Kim Budil selected as director of Lawrence Livermore Lab

January 28, 2021, 3:02PMANS Nuclear Cafe


Kim Budil has been named director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The announcement was made to laboratory employees today by Charlene Zettel, chair of Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), which manages the laboratory for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Budil will begin her new role on March 2.

Details: Budil is the 13th director of LLNL since it was established in 1952 and its first woman director. She will also serve as president of LLNS, replacing Bill Goldstein, who announced his plans to step down last July, pending the successful search for his successor.

Initial Los Alamos comingled TRU waste delivered to WIPP

January 26, 2021, 12:09PMRadwaste Solutions

Workers at LANL's RANT facility load the first comingled TRU waste shipment from the DOE and the NNSA. Photo: DOE

The Los Alamos field offices of the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management and the National Nuclear Security Administration have completed their first comingled shipment of transuranic (TRU) waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

"Comingling NNSA and EM waste allows for more efficient shipments to WIPP," Kirk Lachman, EM Los Alamos field office manager, said on January 14. "Reducing LANL’s above-ground waste inventory is an important issue to our local communities and is one of our mission priorities.”

The comingled shipment consisted of one Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 container with a total of 28 drums and containers inside.

ANS member Joyce Connery appointed as DNFSB chair

January 25, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

President Biden has appointed Joyce Connery as chair of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB). Connery, an ANS member since 2012, was appointed to the board in August 2015 for a term ending in October 2019. She was confirmed again by the Senate as a DNFSB member on July 2, 2020, for a term expiring on October 18, 2024. Connery previously held the chairmanship from August 2015 until January 2017.

NNSA to hold virtual public meetings regarding Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

January 19, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will hold two virtual public meetings on a new environmental impact statement for its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP). The meetings will be held on Monday, January 25, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) and Tuesday, January 26, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET). Participants can join by computer, telephone, or other device. A Notice of Intent contains a full description of the proposal and other options for providing public comment until February 1.

The program: The SPDP EIS will analyze alternatives for the disposition of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using the capabilities at multiple sites across the United States. The NNSA’s preferred alternative, the dilute and dispose approach (also known as plutonium downblending), includes converting pit and non-pit plutonium to oxide, blending the oxidized plutonium with an adulterant, and emplacing the resulting transuranic waste underground in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), in New Mexico. The approach would require new, modified, or existing capabilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Pantex Plant in Texas, and WIPP.

NNSA releases contractor performance evaluations

January 19, 2021, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The National Nuclear Security Administration last week released performance evaluation summaries on the effectiveness of its management and operating (M&O) contractors in meeting the agency’s expectations during fiscal year 2020.

The summaries feature assessment “scorecards,” as well as links to M&O contractor performance evaluation and measurement plans. Also included are specific contractor accomplishments, plus issues requiring attention.