SHINE allowed more flexibility in procuring production components

May 18, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
SHINE executives, construction managers, and partners commemorate a construction milestone of the medical isotope production facility in March. (Photo: SHINE)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a request by SHINE Medical Technologies for an exemption from regulations on how commercial grade equipment is defined, allowing the company to more easily procure components for the medical isotope production facility it is building in Janesville, Wis.

NorthStar to ship Vermont Yankee’s low-activity wastewater to Idaho

May 10, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The closed Vermont Yankee power plant is currently undergoing decommissioning. (Photo: Entergy)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is set to allow about 2 million gallons of low-level radioactive wastewater from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, currently undergoing decommissioning, to be disposed of at an Idaho waste facility. As published in the May 7 Federal Register, the NRC has issued an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact for a request by NorthStar Nuclear Decommissioning to dispose of the wastewater at US Ecology Idaho’s waste facility near Grand View.

D.C. court dismisses challenge to NRC’s low-level waste policy

May 7, 2021, 12:06PMRadwaste Solutions

A federal court has dismissed a claim by the Nuclear Energy Institute that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had reversed decades of established policy by requiring owners and operators of nuclear power plants to obtain the agency’s approval to dispose of low-level radioactive waste, even in NRC Agreement States.

At issue was a letter the NRC sent to NEI in 2019, stating that licensees must receive agency approval before disposing of LLW. In response, NEI filed a lawsuit against the NRC, claiming that the letter imposes new obligations on licensees without the NRC’s having followed rulemaking procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act, including publishing notice of the new policy and receiving input from stakeholders prior to implementation.

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The nuclear community remembers Pete Lyons

May 3, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

Peter Lyons, former Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner (2005–2009) and assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy (2011–2015), has passed away.

American Nuclear Society President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar and executive director/CEO Craig Piercy issued the following statement on May 3:

“We are saddened to hear about the death of Peter Lyons. An ANS fellow and member since 2003, Pete will be remembered for his inspiring leadership and distinguished public service career that spanned five decades. His legacy and vision for a nuclear renaissance will continue to inspire future generations of nuclear professionals. Our thoughts today are with his family and loved ones.”

The PRA standard for advanced non-LWRs

April 23, 2021, 2:55PMNuclear NewsKarl Fleming

The ASME/ANS Joint Committee on Nuclear Risk Management (JCNRM) has achieved a significant milestone in the advancement of probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) technology. ANSI/ASME/ANS RA-­S-­1.4–2021 [1], Probabilistic Risk Assessment Standard for Advanced Non-­Light Water Reactor Nuclear Power Plants, has been approved by the JCNRM, the ANS Standards Board, the ASME Board of Nuclear Codes and Standards, and the American Nuclear Standards Institute.

NRC seeks comments on AI’s role in U.S. nuclear power fleet

April 22, 2021, 3:04PMNuclear News

As predictive analytical tools, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) show promise in improving nuclear reactor safety while offering economic savings. To get a better understanding of current usage and future trends in AI and ML in the commercial nuclear power industry, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking comments from the public, the nuclear industry, and other stakeholders, as well as other interested individuals and organizations.

Making emergency planning zones smarter: a risk-informed approach for new reactors

April 16, 2021, 2:52PMNuclear NewsCurtis Smith, Koroush Shirvan, Jason Christensen, and Kurt Vedros

The health and safety of the public and protecting people from the consequences of a significant release of radioactive material has been a top priority since the early days of the civilian nuclear energy program. After World War II, it was realized that the core inventory of radionuclides is a potential hazard. From this knowledge, emergency planning zones (EPZs) for nuclear power plants were established.

Post-Fukushima safety enhancements

April 2, 2021, 2:47PMNuclear NewsLeah Parks, Carl Mazzola, Jim Xu, and Brent Gutierrez
A map of Japan highlighting the Fukushima prefecture.

March 11 will mark the 10-­year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi event, when a 45-­foot tsunami, caused by the 9.0-­magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, significantly damaged the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In response to this event, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission took actions to evaluate and mitigate beyond-­design-­basis events, including a new requirement for the staging of so-­called Flex equipment, as well as changes to containment venting and improvements to emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Energy also addressed beyond-­design-­basis events in its documented safety analyses.

New Mexico sues NRC over used fuel storage site licensing

March 31, 2021, 9:31AMRadwaste Solutions
Holtec’s proposed HI-STORE interim storage facility. Image: Holtec

New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas has filed suit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States, seeking to stop Holtec International’s application to build and operate its HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in the state. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico on March 29, seeks a declaratory judgment that the NRC is acting beyond the scope of its authority and an injunction preventing the licensing from moving forward.

NRC pushes back safety review of Holtec’s interim storage site

March 30, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has delayed the release of a safety report for Holtec International’s HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility proposed for New Mexico, claiming it needs additional information to complete its review of the license application. The NRC previously said it would complete its safety review and publish a safety evaluation report for the spent fuel storage facility by May.

Safe operation of Catawba, McGuire, and Oconee plants subject of NRC virtual meeting

March 29, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will discuss the 2020 safety performance of Duke Energy’s Catawba, McGuire, and Oconee nuclear power plants during a virtual meeting to be held on April 1.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m., eastern time, with a presentation by the NRC staff responsible for plant inspections. Following the discussion with Duke Energy, questions will be answered by the NRC, including by the resident inspectors.

The public and media can access the meeting via Teams. For those without access to Teams, the telephone conference number is 301-576-2978, passcode 71391471#.

The annual assessment letters for the Catawba plant, the McGuire plant, and the Oconee plant, which include upcoming inspection plans for the plants, are available on the NRC website.

Current performance information for Catawba-1, Catawba-2, McGuire-1, McGuire-2, Oconee-1, Oconee-2, and Oconee-3 is available and updated quarterly.

Seismic preparation for nuclear plants: Lowering costs without compromising safety

March 26, 2021, 4:02PMNuclear NewsCory Hatch

Nuclear power plants not only provide the nation’s largest source of carbon-­free electricity, they also can operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to augment intermittent renewables such as wind and solar. Further, studies show that nuclear energy is among the safest forms of energy production, especially when considering factors such as industrial accidents and disease associated with fossil fuel emissions. All said, nuclear has the potential to play a key role in the world’s energy future. Before nuclear can realize that potential, however, researchers and industry must overcome one big challenge: cost.

A team at Idaho National Laboratory is collaborating with experts around the nation to tackle a major piece of the infrastructure equation: earthquake resilience. INL’s Facility Risk Group is taking a multipronged approach to reduce the amount of concrete, rebar, and other infrastructure needed to improve the seismic safety of advanced reactors while also substantially reducing capital costs. The effort is part of a collaboration between INL, industry, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-­E), and the State University of New York–Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo).

NRC's RIC: A clear line of sight for accident tolerant fuel deployment

March 12, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

To nuclear fuel suppliers, today’s operating reactors represent a defined customer base with predictable demands. Utilities must order their next fuel reload far in advance of an outage; enrichers and fabricators work to fill those orders. Adapting such a highly optimized supply chain to accommodate new products—fuels with new materials, claddings, and higher enrichments and burnups—will require alignment between all parties involved to meet the associated research, enrichment, manufacturing, regulatory, transportation, and operating experience needs.

That was the consensus during “Current Accident Tolerant Fuel Environment,” a technical session held on March 9 during the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's four-day Regulatory Information Conference (RIC, March 8-11). The session was chaired by NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson, who was taking part in his first RIC as a member of the commission.

ANS forms advanced reactors working group

March 5, 2021, 12:00PMANS News

Nesbit

Knowing that many ANS members are heavily involved in the development and regulatory oversight of advanced reactors, ANS Vice President/President-elect Steve Nesbit envisioned a place where members involved in the field could pool their resources, exchange ideas, and support interactions with other organizations and government agencies.

Nesbit’s vision is becoming a reality with the formation of the ANS Advanced Reactor Group. For now, it is housed within the Operations and Power Division, but the ARG will be open to other divisions as well. In fact, OPD chair Piyush Sabharwall said that input from across the ANS membership is essential for the group.

China on course to lead in nuclear by 2030, says IEA

March 4, 2021, 3:18PMNuclear News

China will have the world's largest nuclear power fleet within a decade, an International Energy Agency official noted during a session at the High-Level Workshop on Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Transitions, World Nuclear News reported on March 3.

The workshop was held jointly by the IEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IEA official, Brent Wanner, head of Power Sector Modelling & Analysis for the agency's World Energy Outlook publication, said that as nuclear fleets in the United States, Canada, and Japan reach their original design lifetimes, decisions will have to be made about what will happen after that. Absent license renewals, the contribution of nuclear power could decline substantially in those countries while China’s reactor building program will boost it into the first position.

The NRC: Observations on commissioner appointments

February 26, 2021, 4:59PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit and Paul T. Dickman

In 2015, we wrote an article for Nuclear News analyzing the history of commissioners appointed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and assessing their backgrounds, experience, and qualifications at the time of their appointment. At the time, ANS had not established a formal position statement on NRC commissioner appointees. Our article provided an objective assessment of historical patterns and was used to develop ANS position statement #77, The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2016). This article draws upon the 2015 article and provides updated data and analysis. Also, the recommendations of the position statement are applied to the current vacancy on the commission.

Transfer of Palisades license from Entergy to Holtec challenged

February 26, 2021, 12:48PMNuclear News

Several antinuclear groups and the State of Michigan have filed petitions to intervene in the transfer of the Palisades nuclear power plant license from Entergy to Holtec International for decommissioning following the plant’s permanent shutdown and defueling in the spring of 2022.

NRC grants Duane Arnold emergency planning exemptions

February 22, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News

NextEra Energy will be allowed to revise the emergency preparedness plan for its Duane Arnold nuclear power plant to reflect the plant’s decommissioning status, having been granted exemptions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s emergency preparedness and planning requirements, the agency announced on February 17. A single-unit boiling water reactor plant located in Palo, Iowa, approximately eight miles northwest of Cedar Rapids, Duane Arnold was shut down in August 2020 after a derecho damaged the plant’s cooling towers.

The NRC regularly issues exemptions from its licensing requirements to nuclear power plants that are transitioning to decommissioning, where the risk of an off-site radiological release is significantly lower, and the types of possible accidents significantly fewer, than at an operating reactor.

Once NextEra implements the exemptions, state and local governments can rely on comprehensive emergency management (“all hazard”) planning for off-site emergency response should an event occur at Duane Arnold. As a result, there will not be a 10-mile emergency planning zone as currently identified in Duane Arnold’s license. The plant will maintain an on-site emergency plan and response capabilities, including the continued notification of state government officials in the event of an emergency declaration.