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.

ANS virtual event: Experts share their expectations for low-dose radiation research

July 20, 2022, 3:00PMANS News

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics released a report in June recommending that the United States invest a total of $1.5 billion in low-dose radiation research over the next 15 years. Congress is working through the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations process at this writing, and many in the nuclear community are hopeful that research programs that have been starved of funding and leadership will be reinvigorated and bring long-overdue clarity to questions of low-dose radiation science, policy, and regulation.

INL researchers take microreactor digital twin for a spin

July 19, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
A screenshot taken from a INL video demonstrating MAGNET and its digital twin. (Source: INL)

Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) recently performed their first digital twin test of the Microreactor Agile Non-nuclear Experimental Testbed (MAGNET) and captured the demonstration in a video posted July 14. The digital twin—a virtual representation of a microreactor—was built using advancements in remote monitoring, autonomous control, and predictive capabilities that could help lower operating costs of microreactor technologies and enhance their safety.

General Atomics looks to silicon carbide for modular tokamak breeding blanket

July 15, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
This fusion tokamak cutaway illustrates how the GAMBL concept would be incorporated into a fusion pilot plant. The SiC-tungsten composite wall provides superior heat-removal capabilities and durability, and a modular approach enables fabrication using existing technologies. (Image: GA)

Researchers at General Atomics (GA) are proposing a breeding blanket made of modular silicon carbide–based components to withstand the intense conditions in a high-power fusion power plant. The GA modular blanket (GAMBL) concept is described in an article published this month in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, and was introduced by GA in a July 13 press release.

Register now for ANS virtual event on the future of low-dose radiation research

July 11, 2022, 7:00AMANS News

The United States could invest a total of $1.5 billion in low-dose radiation research over the next 15 years if Congress, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, and other stakeholders carry out the recommendations set forth in a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics report released in June.

Join ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy on July 15 at 12 p.m. (EDT) for a free public webinar—“High Expectations for the Future of Low-Dose Radiation Research"—on the impact of the National Academies report as the U.S. embarks on a new era of low-dose radiation research.

Universities get $61 million for 74 nuclear research and infrastructure awards

June 20, 2022, 12:04PMNuclear News

Advanced reactor coolants, consent-based siting, and offshore nuclear production of hydrogen are just a few of the topics included among the 74 nuclear science and technology projects awarded more than $61 million by the Department of Energy on June 17. The Nuclear Energy University Program awards, Integrated Research Projects, Nuclear Science User Facilities awards, and Infrastructure awards will support nuclear technology development, infrastructure improvements, and career opportunities at more than 40 U.S. universities in 29 states.

Penn State wants a Westinghouse eVinci microreactor on campus

May 19, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
Representatives from Westinghouse and Penn State met at Westinghouse headquarters to sign a memorandum of understanding and enter a partnership focused on researching and developing microreactors. From left: Jason Beebe, director of the global transformation office at Westinghouse; Michael Valore, senior director of advance reactor commercialization, Westinghouse; Mike Shaqqo, senior vice president of advanced reactors, Westinghouse; Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research at Penn State; Jean Paul Allain, head of the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State; Geanie Umberger, associate vice president for research and director of industry research collaborations at Penn State; Saya Lee, assistant professor of nuclear engineering; Elia Merzari (back), associate professor of nuclear engineering; and Hilary Ruby, director of transformation for the Americas Operating Plant Services Business Unit at Westinghouse. (Photo: Westinghouse)

Penn State University has announced plans to explore siting a Westinghouse Electric Company eVinci microreactor on its State College campus in central Pennsylvania. Under a memorandum of understanding to perform research and development work that could advance the future commercial deployment of eVinci, a team of researchers in Penn State’s Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering also plans to explore how eVinci could displace some fossil-fueled energy sources on campus.

MSU’s FRIB: Ready to accelerate discoveries in nuclear physics and applications

May 3, 2022, 7:16AMNuclear News
An aerial view of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, Mich. (Photo: FRIB)

Michigan State University’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) officially opened yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, elected officials, and guests who had supported the project during its planning and construction, including ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy. They were there to celebrate the completion—on time and within budget—of the world’s most powerful heavy-ion accelerator and the first accelerator-based Department of Energy Office of Science user facility located on a university campus.

Purdue University mass-alpha spectroscopy research draws notice

April 14, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Research into the high-resolution detection of plutonium mixtures by Purdue University professor Rusi Taleyarkhan and his team was featured on the cover of the February issue of the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy, published by the British Royal Society of Chemistry.

The published research focuses on novel hybrid mass-alpha spectroscopy technology. Taleyarkhan and his team applied centrifugally tensioned metastable fluid detector sensor technology to the detection of mixtures of plutonium-239/240. This technology can serve as an alternative to conventional alpha radiation spectroscopy sensors and to mass spectroscopy systems, which can take weeks to deploy and are cost-prohibitive, especially when deployed in low-radiation fields for long periods of time.

DOE funds R&D for advanced reactor fuel cycle management

March 14, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a total of $36 million for 11 projects to develop technologies that will limit the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors and will support sustainable domestic fuel stocks. The projects include research into the facilities and systems required to reprocess, recycle, and dispose of spent fuel generated through diverse advanced reactor fuel cycles.

UChicago researchers track neutrinos at Dresden plant using world’s smallest detector

March 7, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
Juan Collar led a team of UChicago physicists who built a lightweight, portable neutrino detector to observe the elusive interactions of the ghostly particles. (Photo: Jean Lachat)

Constellation Energy’s Dresden nuclear power plant in Illinois is helping University of Chicago researchers to detect neutrinos in an effort to advance knowledge of the fundamental laws governing particle and nuclear interactions. The researchers are taking advantage of the large number of neutrinos generated by Dresden’s boiling water reactors to conduct experiments, using what UChicago calls the world’s smallest neutrino detector to track and record the ghostlike particles.

DOE to award $22 million for cross-cutting accelerator R&D

February 22, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
Instrumentation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source, an accelerator-based facility that provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development. (Photo: ORNL)

Researchers advancing particle accelerator technology for medical, security, energy, and industrial applications have a new funding opportunity announced on February 16 by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC). The funding will support research to advance particle accelerator technology for medical, security, energy, and industrial applications. Grants will be awarded for work focused on innovation, technology transfer, and supply chain resiliency that falls under one of two DOE-SC programs: the Accelerator Stewardship program, which supports cross-disciplinary teams to solve high-impact problems, and the Accelerator Development program, which is aimed at strengthening domestic suppliers of accelerator technology.

IAEA launches cancer care program

February 7, 2022, 12:02PMNuclear News
IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi (left) and WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Photo: IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has launched the Rays of Hope program to tackle a severe shortage of cancer care capacity in poorer countries. The program’s initial focus will be on Africa, where people often die from the disease because of the lack of access to potentially life-saving nuclear medicine and radiotherapy, according to the IAEA.

A video on the program is available on YouTube.

TerraPower seeks fast reactor data through time-tested U.S.-Japan research ties

February 1, 2022, 3:02PMNuclear News
A rendering of the Natrium plant. (Image: TerraPower)

Natrium, a 345-MWe sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system, was developed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. TerraPower is planning to build the first Natrium demonstration reactor by 2028 with 50-50 cost-shared funding of about $2 billion from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. And for the requisite data and testing of reactor components to support that deployment, TerraPower is looking to Japan—a country with decades of experience developing sodium fast reactor designs and testing infrastructure.

House committee passes bipartisan university research infrastructure bill

January 21, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

A bipartisan bill to ensure that U.S. universities are equipped to play a key role in supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technology and applications has been passed by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The National Nuclear University Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2021 (H.R. 4819) would boost investment in new and existing university nuclear science and engineering infrastructure, establish regional consortia to promote collaboration with industry and national laboratories, and support the development of advanced reactor technology and the workforce required for commercial advanced reactor deployment.

Shadow corrosion is reproduced in University of Michigan lab

January 14, 2022, 9:36AMNuclear News
[CLICK TO VIEW FULL IMAGE] The diagram at left illustrates the experimental setup and the resulting zirconium oxide layer of varying thickness. The second diagram shows the circular zirconium alloy sample that is affected by the band of nickel alloy and radiation. Finally, the electron image at right shows a band of oxidation on the zirconium alloy sample. (Images: Peng Wang, Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory)

A longstanding issue in boiling water reactors—shadow corrosion on zirconium alloy fuel rods and fuel channels—has been reproduced in the Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory as part of an effort to understand and prevent the phenomenon. Research led by Peng Wang, a University of Michigan assistant research scientist in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, was published in the January 2022 issue of the Journal of Nuclear Materials and described in a recent university news article.

NRC awards R&D grants to 10 universities

November 17, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on November 15 that it has awarded nearly $5.5 million in grants to support research and development activities in nuclear science, engineering, technology, and related disciplines under the University Nuclear Leadership Program (UNLP), previously known as the Integrated University Program.

Researchers adapt Cf-252 source for wireless data transmission

November 15, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
(CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE) The researchers’ experimental layout is depicted here. In (b), the neutron chopper is depicted without the mesh guard shown in (d), a photograph of the experimental layout that includes the Cf-252 source tank at left. (Composite image: Joyce, et al., “Wireless information transfer with fast neutrons,” doi.org/10.1016/j.nima.2021.165946)

Swapping conventional electromagnetic radiation for fast neutrons, a team of research engineers at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, working with the Jozef Stefan Institute of Slovenia, report that they have successfully transmitted digital information wirelessly using nuclear radiation. The researchers’ attempts to transmit words and numbers using standard ASCII code “were 100 percent successful,” according to a November 10 press release from Lancaster University. Their research will be published in an upcoming issue of Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research and is now available online.

New model improves understanding of how heat moves through fusion plasmas

October 22, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Physicist Suying Jin with computer-generated images showing the properties of heat pulse propagation in plasma (Image: PPPL/Jin/Kiran Sudarsanan)

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have developed a new model of how heat flows within plasmas. According to PPPL, the model could improve insights into the behavior of plasmas and may help engineers avoid the conditions that could lead to heat loss in future fusion facilities.

Root causes of NIST reactor alert point to operator training

October 6, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News
A rendering of the core of the NBSR, which consists of 30 aluminum-cladded plate-type U3O8 fuel elements with a 17.8-cm gap between elements. (Image: NCNR Technical Working Group, Root Cause Investigation of February 2021 Fuel Failure) (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has submitted two reports and supplemental information to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after conducting a root cause analysis of the February 2021 fuel failure and resultant alert at the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) in Gaithersburg, Md. While the 20-MWt NCNR research reactor remains shut down, scuttling the plans of researchers who rely on it as a source of both cold and thermal neutrons, NIST states in an October 4 update that it has requested permission to restart the reactor, contingent upon meeting all 18 corrective actions identified.