Carbon value: Lifetime extensions of nuclear reactors could save billions in climate mitigation costs

June 24, 2022, 2:49PMNuclear NewsBeth Burmahl

On the road to achieving net-zero by midcentury, low- or no-carbon energy sources that slash carbon dioxide emissions are critical weapons. Nevertheless, the role of nuclear energy—the single largest source of carbon-free electricity—remains uncertain.

Nuclear energy, which provides 20 percent of the electricity in the United States, has been a constant, reliable, carbon-free source for nearly 50 years. But our fleet of nuclear reactors is aging, with more than half of the 92 operating reactors across 29 states at or over 40 years old—the length of the original operating licenses issued to the power plants. While some reactors have been retired prematurely, there are two options for those that remain: retire them or renew their license.

INL reactor deployments could be replicated under Net Zero Labs initiative

May 31, 2022, 7:14AMNuclear News

Four national laboratories have been chosen by the Department of Energy to receive a combined $38 million to launch the Net Zero Labs Pilot Initiative: Idaho National Laboratory, National Energy Technology Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The pilot program is planned as “a foundation of net-zero solutions that can be replicated at facilities across DOE, the federal government, and state and local governments” in support of the administration’s goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050, according to the DOE. Additional funding is expected to be available to all 17 national laboratories on a competitive basis next year.

DOE expands minority partnership program for post-doctoral researchers

March 1, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management recently announced the expansion of its Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program for post-doctoral researchers.

The program will offer the opportunity for recent graduates with Ph.D. degrees to perform scientific research that furthers technology development, enhances the global scientific knowledge base, and results in publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

Enhanced monitoring of fuel reprocessing relies on machine learning

November 8, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News



Two student interns at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory looking for an easier way to monitor the acidity and phosphate concentrations of a process fluid like dissolved nuclear fuel have published research on a monitoring method that provides real-time data without the need for physical sampling of the substance. Their story was published on October 27 on PNNL’s website.

Student leaders: Hope Lackey conducted pH measurement and chemical analysis research during her Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) experience at PNNL in 2018 while she was working toward her undergraduate degree in environmental studies at the College of Idaho. Andrew Clifford, also a SULI intern and a student at the College of Idaho, partnered with Lackey between his junior and senior year, while studying for a dual bachelor’s in chemistry and math/physics.

PNNL team weighs options for removing spent fuel from reactor sites

September 2, 2021, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
Participants in a site evaluation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. (Photo: Steve Maheras/PNNL)

Over the past decade, the Department of Energy has been collecting data on nuclear power plants to help plan for the eventual removal of spent nuclear fuel from the sites, performing site evaluations to assess transportation infrastructure and the transportability of spent fuel.

GAIN vouchers connect three companies with national lab experts

March 26, 2021, 12:15PMNuclear News

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced that three nuclear technology companies—Radiant, Oklo, and Lightbridge—will receive GAIN nuclear energy vouchers to accelerate the innovation and application of advanced nuclear technologies. The second set of Fiscal Year 2021 awards was announced March 25.

WSU students deliver nuclear safeguards designs for the NNSA

March 19, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Meeting remotely, WSU students deliver two nonproliferation projects to NNSA and PNNL staff. Source: NNSA

In a program sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, teams of engineering students from Washington State University designed, built, and delivered prototype equipment to address challenges encountered by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory staff in research on nuclear safeguards.

As reported on March 11 by the NNSA, two teams of WSU students presented their projects to PNNL staff during an online meeting in December 2020. One team created physical training aids for safeguards courses to demonstrate two methods of nuclear fuel reprocessing. The other team developed an enrichment monitor mounting bracket that the International Atomic Energy Agency could use to help monitor uranium hexafluoride gas in enrichment facilities.

Fission gas monitoring tool developed for molten salt reactors

March 17, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Amanda Lines, a PNNL chemist, develops real-time monitoring tools to pave the way for faster advanced reactor testing and design. (Photo: Andrea Starr/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Advanced reactor development and testing could benefit from a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory innovation that combines remote, real-time monitoring of gaseous fission by-products with a software package designed with plant operators in mind, according to an article published online earlier this month.

The basics: “Real-time monitoring is a valuable tool, particularly in the development of next-generation reactors,” said Amanda Lines, a PNNL chemist. “This can help designers more efficiently and effectively design and test flow loops, mechanisms, or processes. Also, when they ultimately deploy their reactor systems, this gives operators a tool to better understand and control those processes.”