NRC awards R&D grants as part of University Nuclear Leadership Program

December 7, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Regulatory Research recently awarded 20 new research and development grants in the University Nuclear Leadership Program (UNLP). The grants, totaling $9,998,188, are derived from the $16 million that Congress appropriated for the program for fiscal year 2022. The 20 selected proposals were among the 89 that were submitted to the NRC and peer-reviewed by the commission staff and experts from academia.

Impressions from the IAEA General Conference

November 16, 2022, 9:30AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

There are worse places to be than Vienna, Austria, in the early fall. The place has an old-world vibe for sure. The U-Bahn doesn’t have turnstiles; it runs on the honor system. People take care to dress up before they amble down the Kärntner Strasse, the city’s main shopping district.

Every September, a little further north, 3,000 delegates from around the world, along with 200 representatives from nongovernmental organizations, descend on the Vienna International Center of the United Nations—the VIC, for short—for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s General Conference. Attendees ply its curving hallways and attend side events, engage in meetings on the margins, and tour the national booth displays.

Inside the large, purpose-built plenary hall, a seemingly endless procession of national speakers, each allotted seven minutes (with flashing red digits to let all know who’s run over time), tout their nation’s achievements in nuclear technology and express its views on nuclear matters of any sort. As an accredited NGO, ANS has a desk in the plenary complete with microphone and wireless translation headset. An IAEA plenary is a highly scripted affair—one that looks boring at first glance, but once you put the headphones on and get acclimated to the vagaries of real-time translation, a coherent and interesting picture starts to emerge.

Exporting American nuclear excellence

November 15, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

Steven Arndt

As I write, I am reflecting on my time at the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, held in Vienna during the last week of September. At the GC, I was able to meet with a number of U.S. companies that are actively doing business overseas, as well as a number of representatives from countries throughout the world that are using nuclear technology or hoping to do so. This experience—coupled with several other opportunities I have had since becoming ANS president to discuss the nuclear industry’s challenges and opportunities at national and international forums—has led me to conclude that despite the challenges our country faces, the world is still very interested in what the United States is doing in nuclear. What struck me in each of these interactions is the thirst for information about what the U.S. is doing—and what we can do for them. I think the reason for this is the enduring excellence the U.S. has always brought to the nuclear industry.

NRC is now on Instagram

November 1, 2022, 9:31AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is increasing its social media presence with its new Instagram page, the agency announced. The "nrcgov” account on the popular site will post photos, short videos, and graphics to add “a more creative approach to information regarding the NRC’s mission, with a focus on the skilled and diverse employees who carry it out.”

ACRS backs NuScale’s smaller, PRA-informed emergency planning zone

October 25, 2022, 12:53PMNuclear News
A rendering of the six-module Carbon Free Power Project planned for construction in Idaho. (Image: NuScale)

NuScale Power announced October 20 that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) issued a letter the previous day agreeing with NRC staff’s approval of NuScale’s methodology for determining the plume exposure pathway emergency planning zone (EPZ). As approved, the methodology would permit a smaller EPZ—dependent on site-specific conditions, including seismic hazards—that provides the same level of protection to the public as the 10-mile radius EPZs used for existing U.S. nuclear power plants.

DOE plans offtake contracts to stock a HALEU bank “as soon as possible”

October 21, 2022, 9:13AMNuclear News
An image from the video “What is High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU)?” released by the DOE in April 2020. (Source: DOE)

Another piece of the plan for meeting the urgent need for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to fuel advanced reactor deployments fell into place when the Department of Energy held an Industry Day on October 14. Attendees were asked how soon they could deliver 25 metric tons per year of HALEU enriched in the United States from newly mined uranium. Offtake contracts for six or more years of HALEU production at that rate could be used to stock a DOE-owned HALEU bank to “support [HALEU] availability for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use.”

TRISO-X breaks ground on Oak Ridge fuel facility as licensing work continues

October 17, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Government officials and representatives of X-energy and its TRISO-X subsidiary at the October 13 groundbreaking. (Photo: X-energy)

Leaders of X-energy and its TRISO-X subsidiary gathered on October 13 to break ground at the site of what X-energy bills as “North America’s first commercial-scale advanced nuclear fuel facility” in Oak Ridge, Tenn. X-energy expects the TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3) to create more than 400 jobs and to be commissioned and operational by 2025.

NRC (once again) opens Turkey Point SLR environmental scoping for comment

October 10, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Turkey Point nuclear plant. (Image: FPL)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on the scope of its supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) on the subsequent renewed licenses for Turkey Point-3 and -4, twin pressurized water reactors operated by Florida Power & Light (FPL). It’s the second time around for both the NRC and FPL—an SLR environmental scoping process conducted in 2018 already yielded renewed licenses for Turkey Point in December 2019. According to an October 7 NRC press release, “The staff intends to examine the environmental issues the commission determined were not properly evaluated for the subsequent license renewal term, as well as any new information for Turkey Point site–specific issues.”

Draft EIS for fluoride salt–cooled test reactor now out for public comment

October 3, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear News
An artist’s rendering of Hermes. (Image: Kairos Power)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) recently on Kairos Power’s application for a permit to construct Hermes, a 35-MW nonpower version of the company’s fluoride salt–cooled reactor design (KP-FHR), at the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Maintaining RIPB in commercial LWRs

September 29, 2022, 3:22PMNuclear NewsKent B. Welter

The new standard ANSI/ANS-30.3-2022, Light Water Reactor Risk-Informed, Performance-Based Design, has just been issued by the American Nuclear Society. Approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on July 21, 2022, the standard provides requirements for the incorporation of risk-informed, performance-based (RIPB) principles and methods into the nuclear safety design of commercial light water reactors. The process described in this standard establishes a minimum set of process requirements the designer must follow in order to meet the intent of this standard and appropriately combine deterministic, probabilistic, and performance-based methods during design development.

ANS Grand Challenge: Expedite licensing

September 22, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear NewsNicholas R. Brown

As the largest ultra-low-carbon electricity source in the United States, nuclear energy is a vital pillar of the effort to mitigate climate change. Deployment of advanced nuclear reactor and fuel technologies has been identified as a unique challenge in the production of new nuclear power plants to help maintain and grow our nuclear generating capacity. The licensing of novel nuclear reactor technologies also continues to be a facet of the broader challenge of advanced reactor deployment. When it comes to non–light water reactors and Generation III+ light water reactors, such as the AP-1000 or EPR, deployment is “2X over budget and behind schedule.”1 However, in the case of recent large Generation III+ light water reactors, licensing has not been the rate-limiting step in the reactor deployment timeline, nor has it had a first-order impact on cost. With that said, several significant advances have been made in the expedition of licensing. This article focuses on three areas where progress has been made since this grand challenge was formulated in 2017, with highlights of some examples where the American Nuclear Society has guided or supported this progress.

Advanced reactor licensing and the path to cost certainty

September 20, 2022, 3:13PMNuclear NewsMike Laufer


Developing a first-­of-­a-­kind reactor is a daunting endeavor. To be successful, advanced reactor designers need to achieve cost certainty by delivering a safe and affordable product at the promised cost. To meet this goal, Kairos Power structured its approach around four key strategies: 1) achieving technology certainty through a rapid iterative approach; 2) achieving construction certainty by demonstrating the ability to build it; 3) achieving licensing certainty by proving Kairos can license it; and 4) achieving supply chain certainty by vertically integrating critical capabilities. By mitigating risk in these four key areas, Kairos Power is confident that it will get true cost certainty for our future products.

The third prong in Kairos’s strategy—achieving licensing certainty—was a key driver in the decision to build the Hermes low-­power demonstration reactor, and it remains a major workstream as the company’s construction permit application (CPA) undergoes review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Licensing a new nuclear technology is no small challenge, and there are multiple approaches companies can take. Here’s a look at how we at Kairos are approaching it.

Social license in the deployment of advanced nuclear technology

September 16, 2022, 3:47PMNuclear NewsJessica R. Lovering and Todd R. Allen

Advanced reactor developers are designing many new nuclear energy products, targeting commercial demonstration before 2030. These products aim to provide different products and grid services beyond what is provided by the first generations of commercial nuclear plants, namely, gigawatt-scale electricity production. These reactors are intended for deployment in many novel scenarios, including being closer to population centers. They will be sited in governmental processes that encourage far more public participation than was possible when many of the existing plants were sited and built in the 1960s and 1970s. This means that community engagement and approval likely will be critical for project success. This article, which discusses this issue of social license, is an adaptation of “Social license in the deployment of advanced nuclear technology,” published in Energies in 2021.1 A more detailed discussion can be found in the original article.

The “gold standard” of regulation

September 12, 2022, 3:04PMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

Steven Arndt

Much has been written about regulation over the years, including whether or not the nuclear industry is overregulated or whether the regulator is in the industry’s “pocket.” Having a capable and independent regulator is important to the industry for a number of reasons, such as ensuring the safety and security of nuclear facilities and the trust an effective regulator can engender in vendors, investors, international organizations, and the public. However, regulation simply to engender trust or ensure all voices are heard is neither effective nor sufficiently adaptive to support a vibrant and innovative industry. Moreover, overregulation slows innovation, stifles creativity, drives costs upward, and creates scheduling challenges.

So how did the Nuclear Regulatory Commission become the “gold standard” of regulation? The pat response is because of its long history, experience, and available resources. I would contend, however, that what the NRC did better than most—if not all—national nuclear regulators was innovate and develop new ideas and act as the cocreator of the nuclear industry.

NRC opens Palisades’ decommissioning plans to public comment

September 12, 2022, 7:09AMRadwaste Solutions
The Palisades nuclear power plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has made Holtec International’s post-shutdown decommissioning activities report (PSDAR) for the closed Palisades nuclear power plant available for public comment until December 27. The NRC also plans to hold a public meeting to discuss the report on the evening of September 22 at the South Haven campus of Lake Michigan College, about 10 miles north of the Palisades site in Covert, Mich.

An interview with NRC Chairman Christopher T. Hanson

September 9, 2022, 3:09PMNuclear NewsRick Michal

Who better to talk with about the licensing of nuclear facilities and materials than Christopher T. Hanson, the chairman of the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission? Hanson is the principal executive officer of and official spokesman for the NRC. As a collegial body, the Commission formulates policies, develops regulations governing nuclear reactor and nuclear material safety, issues orders to licensees, and adjudicates legal matters.

The Future of Diablo Canyon

September 2, 2022, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo County, Calif. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The reports of the death of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant may be greatly exaggerated. While Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced as early as 2016 that it would be closing California’s last operating nuclear power plant at the end of its current operating license, there has been growing political pressure to keep the plant, and its 2,200 MWe of carbon-free energy, running.

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.