Nuclear energy: enabling production of food, fiber, hydrocarbon biofuels, and negative carbon emissions

January 27, 2023, 3:03PMNuclear NewsCharles W. Forsberg and Bruce E. Dale

In the 1960s, Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory initiated a series of studies on nuclear agro-­industrial complexes1 to address the needs of the world’s growing population. Agriculture was a central component of these studies, as it must be. Much of the emphasis was on desalination of seawater to provide fresh water for irrigation of crops. Remarkable advances have lowered the cost of desalination to make that option viable in countries like Israel. Later studies2 asked the question, are there sufficient minerals (potassium, phosphorous, copper, nickel, etc.) to enable a prosperous global society assuming sufficient nuclear energy? The answer was a qualified “yes,” with the caveat that mineral resources will limit some technological options. These studies were defined by the characteristic of looking across agricultural and industrial sectors to address multiple challenges using nuclear energy.

A fateful day for nuclear waste policy: January 31, 1998

January 26, 2023, 3:12PMNuclear News

Next week will mark 25 years since January 31, 1998, a familiar date to most in the nuclear community, and revisited in today’s #ThrowbackThursday post with an article from the March 1998 issue of Nuclear News. “Those in the nuclear power industry are aware of the significance of the date January 31, 1998. ln the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, that date was set as the deadline for the U.S. government—more specifically, the Department of Energy—to begin taking possession of and responsibility for spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants nationwide” (NN, March 1998, p. 59).

The 2023 Nuclear News energy quiz

January 11, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear NewsJames Conca

Are you an energy genius? It’s hard to tell whether or not Americans are really aware of the energy that controls our lives, so the following quiz should be revealing. Click through the multiple-choice options below to reveal the answers.

Scoring: Zero to five correct answers out of the 23 questions means you may need to read up on energy so you’re not at the mercy of others. A score of 6 to 10 correct answers is a good passing grade. Answer 11 to 15 correctly, and you’re really energy literate. Getting 16 to 19 correct means you should be advising Congress. Twenty or more right answers suggests you’re Spock reincarnated.

INL researchers develop strategies to keep today’s nuclear power fleet profitable

December 23, 2022, 3:08PMNuclear NewsCory Hatch
The Human Systems Simulation Laboratory at INL allows researchers to simulate industrial control rooms to improve performance. (Photo: INL)

In the 1960s, nuclear energy established itself as a mainstay of the electrical grid for its ability to produce carbon-­free, safe, and reliable power. Indeed, nuclear energy currently provides about 50 percent of carbon-­free electricity in the United States, but a major challenge is its cost.

Rethinking operations through digital control room design

December 16, 2022, 3:47PMNuclear NewsRyan Flamand
The NuScale control room simulator has been used to showcase the plant’s design, prototype new displays, and test the operator and supervisor procedures in a fully digital control room. (Photos: NuScale Power)

Since the inception of commercial nuclear power in the United States, every control room in every nuclear plant has looked essentially the same. You will see fixed alarm tiles, red and green lights, rows of switches, and analog meters. Until about a decade ago, you would even have seen paper charts (now replaced by digital versions of those same charts). Licensed operators have shown through a proven operating history that this control room design is safe and effective. Genius definitely went into the complexity of circuits and placement of switches and indications in the design, but things have come a long way over the years, and new technology, updated plant designs, and the need to improve efficiency and maintain reliability have impacted staffing and the role of operators. A control room update is long overdue. So, what lies ahead for the future of nuclear control room design? What possibilities exist for the next generation of plants?

Germany’s winter to wonder “What if . . . ?”

December 13, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Meteorological winter is here, and a chill is gripping northern Europe. Predictably, renewable generation has entered a seasonal lull and heating demand is up, despite a push to conserve natural gas, which means electricity and gas bills are up too. With a grudging nod to reality, German chancellor Olaf Scholz ensured in October that Germany’s three remaining nuclear power reactors will provide a few more months of clean, reliable power. Their premature closure, once scheduled for December 31, is now expected by April 15, 2023.

Mobile unmanned systems: Automating operations, increasing efficiency, and reducing risk in nuclear

December 2, 2022, 3:03PMNuclear NewsBrian Dassatti, Kamila Blain, and Jenn Sinkiewicz
Teledyne FLIR PackBot® conducts visual inspections in a hazardous area.

Mobile unmanned systems, also known as MUS, encompass a range of robotic devices, including drones, ground vehicles, crawlers, and submersibles. They are used for a wide range of industrial and defense applications to automate operations and assist humans or completely remove human workers from hazardous conditions. Robotics are ubiquitous in industrial manufacturing. Military robots are routinely employed in combat support applications, such as reconnaissance, inspection, explosive ordnance disposal, and transportation. Drones are used in many industries for security and monitoring, to conduct aerial inspections or surveys, and to capture digital twins. Wind and solar farms use MUS technologies for day-to-day operations and maintenance.

Nuclear: Building enthusiasm at COP27

November 22, 2022, 12:05PMNuclear News
Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm (in purple blazer) and the ANS-sponsored delegates pose in front of the Nuclear for Climate booth at COP27.

Nuclear energy is no longer on the fringes of the international climate conversation. At COP27, the United Nations climate change conference held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to 18, pronuclear advocates were everywhere—and they were talking to everyone. They populated the International Atomic Energy Agency’s #Atoms4Climate pavilion, the first-ever nuclear pavilion in the 27-year history of the negotiations. Echoing such strong representation, the final statement issued by the conference used language that included nuclear power.

Risk insights map an efficient approach to aging management

October 28, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

Any method that can enhance safety, reduce risk, and lower costs is worth a second look. When that method proves it has the potential to optimize aging management at any nuclear power plant, it’s time to spread the word.

In 2019, a small team focused on selective leaching began looking for a way to use risk insights to optimize the implementation of deterministic aging management programs (AMPs). What they started soon grew into a large team effort by Constellation, Ameren, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), along with contractors Enercon and Jensen Hughes, to develop a generic framework and then test it in two very different pilot applications.

Preventative Maintenance for Improved Fuel Reliability & Performance

October 4, 2022, 12:02PMSponsored ContentDominion Engineering Inc.

The process of making fuel for our light-water nuclear plants is meticulously developed and executed. And as anyone who has gone through the receipt process once it arrives at the plant can attest, the initial quality examination is likewise a thorough and rigorous activity. We do a great job of making sure that high quality fuel is ready to go into the core.

The world watched as Queen Elizabeth II welcomed the U.K.’s Atomic Age

September 19, 2022, 9:11AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Queen Elizabeth II visits Calder Hall for its ceremonial opening in 1956. (Photo: U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority)

As citizens of the United Kingdom and others around the world mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, many have reflected on how the world has changed during the seven decades of the queen’s reign—the same decades that saw the rise of civilian nuclear power.

Calder Hall was already under construction at the Sellafield site in West Cumbria when Princess Elizabeth became queen in 1953. Queen Elizabeth traveled to the site in October 1956 and declared, in a televised ceremony, that “It is with pride that I now open Calder Hall, Britain’s first atomic power station.” Watch the fanfare in a historical clip uploaded to YouTube by Sellafield Ltd below.

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.

American Nuclear Society welcomes House passage of clean energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act

August 12, 2022, 7:25PMPress Releases

LA GRANGE PARK, Ill. – The American Nuclear Society (ANS) President Steven Arndt and ANS CEO and Executive Director Craig Piercy issued the following statement on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022:

American Nuclear Society welcomes Senate passage of clean energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act

August 8, 2022, 12:20PMPress Releases

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) President Steven Arndt and ANS CEO and Executive Director Craig Piercy issued the following statement on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022:

The United States Navy: The unsung heroes of nuclear power

August 2, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear NewsJames Conca
America’s nuclear navy presently has 86 nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. All of them, and their predecessors over the last 60 years, have performed flawlessly, protecting America as well as their crews. Here, the nuclear submarine USS Seawolf leads the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and the conventionally powered Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Oonami DD 111 during exercises in 2009. (Photo: United States Navy)

Just this last April, President Biden officially commissioned the USS Delaware, a new Virginia-­class nuclear attack submarine, the 18th built in that class and the eighth and final Block III Virginia-­class submarine. (The Delaware was administratively commissioned in April 2020, but the COVID-­19 pandemic caused delay of the ceremony for two years.)

Full steam ahead: Cooling tower refurbishment at Mochovce

July 22, 2022, 2:37PMNuclear NewsGuest Contributor
A view of the entrance to tower #22, showing the dismantled part of an inclined column.

While the construction of two additional reactors at Slovakia’s Mochovce nuclear plant (Units 3 and 4) may get most of the attention, it isn’t the only major project underway there. In October of last year, plant owner Slovenské Elektrárne commenced the first phase of an effort to revitalize two of the four 125-meter-tall, Iterson-type cooling towers that serve the facility’s two operating reactors—both of which began generating electricity in the late 1990s. Towers #11 and #21 had been refurbished in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The other two, however, towers #12 and #22, had never undergone refurbishment.

Diablo Canyon: What next?

July 8, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear NewsBy George Apostolakis, James Ellis, and Steven Nesbit
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The state of California recently and quite sensibly cracked the door back open for continued operation of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant past the current operating license expiration dates in 2024 (Unit 1) and 2025 (Unit 2). The nonprofit North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s recently released 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment highlights the risk of electricity shortages in California. Given that concern, as well as the benefits of continued Diablo Canyon operation—including much needed clean, reliable energy; good jobs; and potential for large-scale production of fresh water—another look at the shutdown decision made several years ago is clearly warranted. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) reinforced this point when she added her voice to the growing chorus of policymakers advocating extended operation for Diablo Canyon.

IEA calls for major role for nuclear power in clean energy systems

July 1, 2022, 7:06AMNuclear News

Nuclear power can play a significant role in helping countries solve the twin crises of energy and climate and securely transition to future energy systems dominated by renewables, according to a new report, Nuclear Power and Secure Energy Transitions: From Today’s Challenges to Tomorrow’s Clean Energy Systems, released June 30 by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The message is clear: Nuclear power can reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, cut carbon dioxide emissions, and stabilize electricity systems; and building sustainable and clean energy systems will be harder, riskier, and more expensive without nuclear.

ANS Annual Meeting: Nuclear power innovation for decarbonization

June 15, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
Panelists (from left) Adam Stein, Jon Ball, Mike Laufer, and Michl Binderbauer during the Breaking Through: Assessing the Current State and Prospects of Nuclear Innovation in the Race to Decarbonize session at the ANS Annual Meeting.

If nuclear innovators are in a race to decarbonize, it is a race with one finish line—affordable, clean, and reliable power—and many ways to get there. Over 40 fission developers and 20 fusion developers are in the running, and while attendees of the June 13 ANS Annual Meeting executive session on Breaking Through: Assessing the Current State and Prospects of Nuclear Innovation in the Race to Decarbonize heard from representatives of just three of those companies, they presented very different designs and deployment approaches, aptly reflecting the broader diversity of nuclear power innovation.

Session chair Adam Stein, director of nuclear energy innovation at the Breakthrough Institute, welcomed representatives from an advanced non–light water reactor developer (Mike Laufer, Kairos Power), a small modular light water reactor developer (Jon Ball, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy), and a fusion power developer (Michl Binderbauer, TAE Technologies). Together they explored the challenge of engineering a significant commercial scale-up of advanced nuclear technology by the end of the decade, tackling questions of cost, schedule, supply chain, regulation, and more.

What is a nuclear professional?

June 10, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

Years ago, my then boss was trying to convince me to accept an undesirable (to me) assignment, and he asked me, “Aren’t you a professional?” I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. By the textbook definition, a nuclear professional is someone who gets paid to do a job in the nuclear field. True as far as it goes, but the term means much more to me.