The American Nuclear Society welcomes Senate confirmations of NRC nominees Caputo and Crowell

August 3, 2022, 9:20AMPress Releases

Statement from American Nuclear Society President Steven Arndt and Executive Director and CEO Craig Piercy:

“The American Nuclear Society applauds the Senate for restoring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to five commissioners with the confirmations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell.

NIST gets confirmatory order 18 months after research reactor fuel failure

August 3, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
NIST's Center for Neutron Research in suburban Gaithersburg, Md. (Photo: NIST)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on August 2 that it had issued a confirmatory order to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for violating NRC requirements during a February 2021 fuel failure at the 20-MWt NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) research reactor in Gaithersburg, Md. NIST committed to improving its training for fuel handing procedures and related management activities, safety culture program, reactor facility operations staff and management, corrective action program and operational procedures, and emergency response resources and procedures, among other things.

Abilene Christian, Teledyne Brown sign contract for molten salt research reactor

July 27, 2022, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
An artist rendering of the Science and Engineering Research Center under construction at Abilene Christian University. The SERC will house the NEXT Lab's new advanced university research reactor sponsored by Natura Resources.

The first university-based molten salt research reactor (MSRR) is one step closer to reality with Abilene Christian University’s Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Laboratory recently signing a contract with Teledyne Brown Engineering. After considering more than a dozen engineering firms, the NEXT Lab selected Teledyne Brown to perform the front-end engineering and design work to produce the reactor on the Abilene campus. The contract was described by NEXT Lab director Rusty Towell as “a significant step into the detailed design and construction phase of this project.” The hope is that the 1-MWt MSRR will go critical in 2025.

NRC and GAO seem to clash on urgency of “dirty bomb” danger

July 26, 2022, 12:06PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Source: GAO | GAO-22-103441

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to “add security features to its licenses to make it harder for people to use a fraudulent license to purchase radioactive material,” which could then be used to make a “dirty bomb,” according to a Government Accountability Office report exclusively obtained by NBC News. The recent report was publicly released on the GAO website.

A dirty bomb, also known as a radiological dispersal device, is a bomb made with conventional explosives to spread illicitly obtained radioactive materials, such as materials intended for generating nuclear power, conducting research, treating cancer, or sterilizing medical instruments. Such a weapon in the hands of a terrorist group or other “bad actor” could cause “hundreds of deaths from evacuations and billions of dollars of socioeconomic effects,” according Preventing a Dirty Bomb (GAO-22-103441).

Defending the nuclear discipline

July 18, 2022, 9:32AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

If you keep tabs on nuclear in popular culture, you know that Netflix recently released a four-part series entitled Meltdown: Three Mile Island. Nominally listed as a “documentary,” the series starts out with a generally accurate chronology of the 1979 event. However, it soon veers off the rails into an uncorroborated conspiracy theory of how the cleanup team risked “wiping out the entire East Coast” in their haste to complete the job on time. Nuclear Newswire has done a fantastic job of unpacking the distortions and outright falsehoods in “Meltdown: Drama disguised as a documentary."

Netflix showrunners were clearly more interested in maximizing the number of eyeballs on their content than in the accuracy of the information they present. But should that make us angry? Netflix is not a news organization; they are a highly algorithm-driven purveyor of video entertainment. Their “recommendation engine” knows what we want, and we happily let them spoon-feed us our next binge watch.

NRC issues final environmental review of Holtec’s SNF storage facility

July 14, 2022, 12:01PMRadwaste Solutions
A rendering of Holtec’s proposed HI-STORE CISF in New Mexico. (Image: Holtec)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for Holtec International’s proposed HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico. Based on its environmental review, the NRC staff recommends issuing the license, subject to the findings in the staff’s ongoing safety review of the application.

NRC to hold webinar, collect comments on SHINE’s Mo-99 license

July 11, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding a virtual event and teleconference on SHINE Medical Technologies’ plans to license and operate a medical isotope production facility in Janesville, Wis. The online public meeting will be held on July 27 from 7:00 p.m. to 9 p.m. (EDT).

The NRC is also seeking the public’s views regarding the agency’s draft supplemental environmental impact statement for SHINE’s application for a license to operate the facility, particularly regarding the conclusion that the environmental impacts are not great enough to prevent the NRC from considering issuance of the license.

NRC seeks input on developing its AI strategy

July 6, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a request for comments as it develops a strategic plan for evaluating artificial intelligence in its regulations. Specifically, the NRC is asking for input on the agency’s overall AI strategy, as well as the strategic goals presented in the NRC’s draft report Artificial Intelligence Strategic Plan: Fiscal Year 2023–2027 (NUREG-2261).

The request for comments on the NRC’s AI Strategic Plan was issued in the July 5 Federal Register with a deadline of August 19. The NRC also plans to hold a public webinar on August 3 from 1–3 p.m. eastern time to receive comments on the draft plan.

FPL files report, asks NRC to reinstate Turkey Point’s 20-year subsequent renewal term

June 24, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
Turkey Point nuclear plant. (Image: FPL)

Florida Power & Light (FPL) has submitted a supplemental environmental report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in support of the subsequent renewed licenses for Turkey Point Units 3 and 4. According to a June 22 NRC press release, FPL’s report was submitted on June 10 to satisfy a “deficiency” in subsequent license renewal applications (SLRA) that rely on the generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) on license renewal and is being reviewed prior to docketing. William D. Maher, director of nuclear licensing projects at FPL, submitted the report, noting that “FPL’s review did not identify any information materially changing the impact assessments” in the NRC’s supplemental GEIS for the Turkey Point licenses.

U.K. fusion energy projects get regulatory clarity to speed deployment

June 23, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP), shown here, is a government-backed prototype fusion energy plant planned for operation in the U.K. in the early 2040s. (Image: UKAEA)

Future fusion energy facilities will continue to be regulated by the Environment Agency (EA) and Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the U.K. government announced June 20, and existing law on nuclear regulations will be amended to exclude fusion energy facilities from nuclear fission regulatory and licensing requirements. The move was announced by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) with the expectation it would provide “clarity to developers of prototype/demonstration fusion facilities currently being planned to support rapid commercialization.”

ANS Annual Meeting: Comments from the opening plenary

June 14, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News

Speaking on June 13 at the opening plenary of the 2022 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Ted Nordhaus, founder and executive director of The Breakthrough Institute, said that the nuclear community has a “generational opportunity to reset both public opinion and policy with regard to nuclear energy.”

Driving the change in the discussion, Nordhaus said, are three items: the growing concern over climate change, a broader recognition that renewable energy sources are insufficient, and a “post-pandemic price shock” over rising energy prices.

Meltdown: Drama disguised as a documentary

June 3, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian
The cooling towers of Unit 2 at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, closed since the accident in 1979.

The Three Mile Island accident in 1979 was the most-studied nuclear reactor event in the U.S. There is a plethora of research about the accident available to the general public, including the president-appointed Kemeny Commission report and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Rogovin inquiry report (split into volume one, and volume two, parts one, two, and three), which are the two detailed government-sponsored investigations into the accident. There are also thousands of documents in the NRC’s ADAMS database available to the public, an excellent overview by NRC historian Samuel Walker Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective, as well as the Nuclear News special report from April 1979, and articles written by ANS members like William Burchill about the accident and the many changes it forced on the industry. If the producers of Meltdown: Three Mile Island—available on Netflix—had read any of those documents instead of relying mostly on input from antinuclear activists, their “documentary” might have been presented with at least some sense of balance and credibility.

Instead, similar to a recent Science Channel documentary on the Three Mile Island accident, Meltdown focuses on drama instead of science. This four-part miniseries does not attempt to provide a balanced set of facts from the technical community and instead relies heavily on nonexpert opinions and anecdotal statements to tell a story that easily falls apart under even the faintest scrutiny.

Nuclear News reached out to multiple ANS members who were involved with either the accident response or the clean up to help provide a critical look at some of the more egregious statements made in the documentary.

The Kemeny Commission Report from the pages of Nuclear News

May 26, 2022, 3:15PMNuclear News

This week’s Throwback Thursday post is again about Three Mile Island—this time looking at the coverage from the pages of the December 1979 issue Nuclear News about the Kemeny Commission. The twelve-person commission, announced by President Carter immediately after the accident in April 1979, was headed by John Kemeny—then president of Dartmouth College—with orders to investigate the causes and any consequences of the accident.

NRC extends public comment period on decommissioning rule

May 19, 2022, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the deadline for comments on its new decommissioning rulemaking until August 30. The proposed rule, which would amend NRC regulations pertaining to nuclear facilities transitioning to decommissioning, was first published in the Federal Register on March 3 with deadline for comments of May 17.

Insights from the Three Mile Island accident—Part 2: Improvements

May 6, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear NewsWilliam E. Burchill

Part one of this article, published in the May 2019 issue of Nuclear News[1] and last Friday on Nuclear Newswire, presented insights from the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island-­2 and addressed several issues raised by a previous Nuclear News piece on the accident[2]. Part two discusses safety improvements that have been made by both the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the past 40 years.

NRC critiques OIG report on Diablo Canyon feedwater system oversight

May 5, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission turned the tables a bit on its inspector general’s office this week, releasing its response to a March 25 OIG event inquiry that criticized an NRC inspection at California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, performed after a July 2020 auxiliary feedwater (AFW) system failure at Unit 2.

The response highlights a number of what the agency terms “factual errors” and takes issue with several portions of the OIG report.

Insights from the Three Mile Island accident—Part 1: The accident

April 29, 2022, 3:59PMNuclear NewsWilliam E. Burchill

The accident at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant on March 28, 1979, was an extremely complex event. It was produced by numerous preexisting plant conditions, many systemic issues in the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, unanticipated operator actions, previously unrecognized thermal-­hydraulic phenomena in the reactor coolant system (RCS), and the unprecedented challenge of managing a severely degraded core.