Opining online, journalist urges regulatory flexibility for new reactors

October 13, 2021, 2:43PMANS Nuclear Cafe

In his article, “The nuclear policy America needs,” journalist Matthew Yglesias says upfront that he is not a “nuclear bro.” He is not a scientist or a nuclear engineer. But he is part of an open, online conversation about the energy policy decisions shaping our future. And in the article posted on newsletter platform Substack on October 12, Yglesias says that nuclear prospects should not be determined by a zero-sum competition between zero-carbon energy resources. Instead, he says, “What nuclear really needs is specific regulatory changes that would give advanced reactor designs a chance to prove themselves.”

Michelle Zietlow-Miller: The ins and outs of outage management

October 8, 2021, 3:42PMNuclear NewsMichael McQueen

Michelle Zietlow-Miller

Michelle Zietlow-­Miller, outage manager at Exelon’s Quad Cities plant, had no particular interest in nuclear while growing up in the (very) small town of Great Bend, N.D. She was, however, good at math and science, and taking her mother’s advice to pursue a career in engineering, she earned a degree in chemical engineering from Iowa State University in December 2004.

At the time, one of her dream jobs was to work as a chemical engineer for Budweiser. (“Making beer is a chemical process that involves fermentation,” Zietlow-­Miller explains. “Chemical engineers are hired as process engineers to oversee the fermentation and bottling processes.”) Alas, the King of Beers was not in her future. Instead, Exelon came calling, and in January 2005, she began a career in the nuclear industry as a systems engineer at Quad Cities, located in northwestern Illinois. She’s been at the two-­unit boiling water reactor facility ever since, but in a variety of roles.

Zietlow-­Miller recently spoke about her career and outage management strategies and challenges with Nuclear News staff writer Michael McQueen.

Germany: Coal tops wind energy in 2021, but there’s more to the story

September 23, 2021, 7:02AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Coal-fired plants fed the most power to Germany's electricity grid in the first half of 2021, while wind power dropped to its lowest level since 2018. As a September 13 article published on the German news site DW.com explained, the situation was blamed in part on a wind energy shortfall that is causing power price spikes across Europe.

The American Nuclear Society applauds passage of Illinois clean energy legislation

September 13, 2021, 2:43PMPress Releases

"The American Nuclear Society welcomes passage of legislation to secure Illinois' clean energy future by preventing the slated premature closures of Bryon and Dresden nuclear power plants. Over 4.3 gigawatts of irreplaceable carbon-free nuclear power and more than 1,500 jobs at the nuclear power plants have been saved.

IBEW AND ANS URGE BIDEN TO EXPAND NUCLEAR ENERGY

September 8, 2021, 7:01AMPress Releases

The Biden administration’s climate goals will be met only by expanding carbon-free nuclear energy production, urge the American Nuclear Society (ANS) non-profit and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) labor union in a joint Op-Ed.

Conca implores Congress to rethink funding for the VTR

August 26, 2021, 3:02PMANS Nuclear Cafe
(Image: INL)

The nuclear community continues its collective push to restore funding for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project at Idaho National Laboratory for fiscal year 2022. We first heard from the Department of Energy’s Katy Huff, followed by Argonne National Laboratory’s Jordi Roglans-Ribas. Now add Nuclear News opinion columnist James Conca to the list of supporters hoping to change the minds of those in Congress regarding the crucial VTR project.

Controversy over nuclear organizations’ involvement in the COP26 Green Zone

August 24, 2021, 2:59PMANS Nuclear Cafe

A conversation among nuclear advocates led most to believe that nuclear supporters will have a minimized voice at this year’s UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, commonly known as COP26. According to Kirsty Gogan, cofounder of TerraPraxis and a senior climate and energy advisor to the U.K. government, “All three Green Zone applications by nuclear groups were rejected.” However, it seems some of that may be due to miscommunication regarding application deadlines for the COP26 Green Zone.

A tale of three states

August 11, 2021, 2:57PMANS NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

Stories are unfolding (or have unfolded) in three of our key states that illustrate the challenges facing the backbone of our country’s clean, reliable electricity generation infrastructure. I write, of course, about existing nuclear power plants. On the East Coast, New York is a done deal. Indian Point-3 shut down on April 30. The state authorities are banking on offshore wind to pick up the slack. They shrug off the cost and intermittency challenges associated with deploying wind power. We’ll see.

Could Hawaii get its clean energy from nuclear?

August 11, 2021, 6:03AMANS Nuclear Cafe
A satellite image of Hawaii. Image: NASA

Jacob Wiencek, a self-described concerned resident of Honolulu, is doing his part to encourage the state of Hawaii to embrace nuclear power. An opinion piece written by Wiencek was published in Honolulu Civil Beat, an online, nonprofit news site, on August 4.

Nuclear-generated hydrogen could decarbonize marine shipping

August 10, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

On August 4, the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) released a white paper, Bridging the Gap: How Nuclear-Derived Zero-Carbon Fuels Can Help Decarbonize Marine Shipping, containing policy recommendations for a U.S.-led transition away from fossil-based shipping fuels to nuclear-produced fuels and energy carriers like hydrogen and ammonia. According to CATF, in 2018, the international shipping industry accounted for 2.6 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions—more than the international aviation sector. Sector-wide emissions are on pace to triple by 2050.

Water-saving technology developed at MIT could clear the air around nuclear plants

August 9, 2021, 12:14PMNuclear News
The right side of the cooling tower of MIT’s reactor has the new system installed, eliminating its plume of vapor, while the untreated left side continues to produce a steady vapor stream. (Image: MIT/courtesy of the researchers)

The white plumes of steam billowing from the cooling towers of nuclear power plants and other thermal power plants represent an opportunity to some—the opportunity to collect a valued resource, purified water, that is now lost to the atmosphere. A small company called Infinite Cooling is looking to commercialize a technology recently developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by the Varanasi Research Group, whose work is described in an article written by David L. Chandler, of the MIT News Office, and published on August 3.

Support for nuclear energy grows with climate change concerns

July 30, 2021, 9:12AMNuclear NewsAnn S. Bisconti

Public discourse on energy and climate increasingly includes nuclear energy, but how has that affected public opinion? The answer: a lot. A national public opinion survey conducted in May found that support for nuclear energy has rebounded, and politics, in part, may offer a window into why. For example, now Biden and Trump voters support nuclear energy about equally. Trump voters care more about affordable and reliable electricity. Biden voters care more about climate change, and their support is driven by perception of need. Perception of need is boosted by climate change, recent energy supply problems, and Democratic leadership endorsements. The importance of Democratic leadership endorsements is shown in the Obama bump in 2010 and the Biden bump in 2021. In both cases, the increase in overall support for nuclear is largely attributable to increased support among Democrats.

New video stars nuclear: “The safest energy source known to man”

July 27, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
This still image from “The Green Atom” highlights how Germany’s decision to shut down its nuclear plants has resulted in electricity that is twice as expensive as in neighboring France. (Source: Kite and Key)

“You know what power source is more dangerous than nuclear? Literally, all of them. When you add up industrial accidents and the effects of pollution, nuclear is safer than coal or petroleum or natural gas.”

Report: Extreme weather is affecting nuclear power’s reliability

July 27, 2021, 7:10AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new analysis shows that hurricanes and typhoons have become the leading causes of nuclear plant outages, at least in North America and South and East Asia, tech website Ars Technica reports in the article “Nuclear power’s reliability is dropping as extreme weather increases.” The analysis was written by Ali Ahmad, an energy policy and economics scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School, and was published in the July issue of the online journal Nature Energy.

China moves closer to completion of world’s first thorium reactor

July 22, 2021, 6:58AMANS Nuclear Cafe
China’s molten salt loop experiment. (Photo: Thorium Energy World)

China is moving ahead with the development of an experimental reactor that would be the first of its kind in the world and “could prove key to the pursuit of clean and safe nuclear power,” according to an article in New Atlas.

NRC discontinues consideration of 40-year license renewals

July 6, 2021, 9:34AMNuclear News
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission headquarters (photo: U.S. NRC)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has halted efforts to consider allowing U.S. nuclear power plant owners to request 40-year license renewals for their facilities, the agency announced on Facebook and Twitter on July 2. Currently, the maximum potential operating lifespan for a plant is 80 years: 40 years with the original license, 20 more with an initial license renewal, and another 20 with a second renewal.

American Nuclear Society Cautions Congress Against China Ban

July 1, 2021, 9:07AMPress Releases

LaGrange Park, IL – The American Nuclear Society (ANS) urges Congress to oppose any amendment to H.R. 3524 – Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act – that bans U.S.-China nuclear energy cooperation. The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) is slated to markup H.R. 3524 on June 30.

No deal yet in Illinois for Exelon nuclear plants

June 17, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Illinois Senate adjourned on June 15 without calling a comprehensive energy regulatory reform package for a vote, Capitol News Illinois reported. State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D., Chicago) and Senate president Don Harmon (D., Oak Park) said afterward that they expect a vote to happen sometime this summer as negotiations continue.