National labs targeted in Russia-based phishing scheme, Reuters reports

January 9, 2023, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Reuters broke an “exclusive” story on January 6 that, “according to Internet records reviewed by Reuters and five cyber security experts, a Russian hacking team known as Cold River targeted three Department of Energy laboratoriesArgonne, Brookhaven, and Lawrence Livermore—with a phishing scheme in the summer of 2022.

Countries change nuclear policies in response to Ukraine war

January 6, 2023, 7:09AMNuclear News

As a direct result of the war in Ukraine, several countries have changed their policies on nuclear energy—even those with long-standing nuclear phase-out plans. This February will mark one year since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, leading to ongoing war and turning pandemic-era energy shortages into a global energy crisis. Spiking gas prices and concerns about electricity supply during the cold winter months have thrown many governments into a frenzy as they try to ease the impact on their citizens.

Countries in the process of phasing out their nuclear power had been prepared to increase their reliance on natural gas. But as Russia supplies 40 percent of the European Union’s natural gas, nations with no reliable alternative now face sky-high energy prices—even energy poverty. Across Europe and beyond, nuclear power plants slated for permanent closure have been given second chances to shore up energy supply. Nuclear power has also claimed a bigger spotlight in countries’ strategies for energy independence.

Westinghouse, Framatome to provide fuel for Kozloduy

January 5, 2023, 6:59AMNuclear News

Westinghouse Electric and Framatome have signed agreements with Kozloduy NPP—the eponymous operator of Bulgaria’s only nuclear power facility—to fabricate and deliver fuel for the site’s two operating reactors. Westinghouse will provide the fuel for Unit 5 under a 10-year contract inked on December 22, while Framatome will supply Unit 6 under a December 30 preliminary deal. First deliveries of fuel from Westinghouse and Framatome are expected in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

The two agreements, according to the Bulgarian News Agency, “are part of an effort to diversify energy supplies to Bulgaria and do away with the country’s dependence on Russian energy resources.” In November, the Bulgarian National Assembly approved 156–47 a resolution tasking the country’s Council of Ministers with licensing non-Russian nuclear fuel for Kozloduy.

Russia building protection over Zaporizhzhia spent fuel tanks, according to Russian news source

December 21, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
This image from a video reportedly shows the start of installation of a protective covering over spent fuel storage tanks at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Image: Telegram/Vladimir Rogov)

Russia has begun construction of protected covering at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to a December 17 report from Russian news outlet RT. The story has been picked up in the West by some news agencies but has not been widely circulated.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, said, “Russia is constructing a protective dome over spent radioactive fuel stores at the [Zaporizhzhia] nuclear power plant as Ukrainian forces continue to target the facility.”

Zaporizhzhia the focus of Grossi interview

December 1, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Grossi

The ongoing, tense situation surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine was the subject of a recent interview with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi when he appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes program.

The Zaporizhzhia facility is in an area of Ukraine that became occupied by Russian forces in late February 2022. Though Ukrainian staff remain at the now mostly idle plant, artillery shells have repeatedly landed at and near the plant over the past several months, with Ukrainian officials—along with many Western media outlets—blaming Russia, while Russian officials and media blame Ukraine.

Action from the IAEA: Following months of negotiations with both sides, inspectors from the IAEA, led by Grossi, finally visited the site in late August and early September, and the agency has been monitoring the situation since then with an observation mission at the site. In the interview, which aired on November 20, Grossi did not attribute blame for the shelling to either side.

Russia expands its nuclear-powered icebreaker fleet in Arctic

November 30, 2022, 3:02PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Yakutia awaits launch at St. Petersburg’s Baltic Shipyard on Nov. 22. (Photo: TASS/Valentin Yegorshin)

Advancing its efforts to develop the Arctic and establish new energy markets, Russia launched a new nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Yakutia, in St. Petersburg during a November 22 ceremony. At the launching in the northern Russian port city, the Russian flag was raised on another nuclear icebreaker, the Ural. Overseeing the events via video link from the Kremlin, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that the icebreakers “were laid down as part of a large serial project and are part of our large-scale, systematic work to reequip and replenish the domestic icebreaker fleet, to strengthen Russia's status as a great Arctic power.”

Impressions from the IAEA General Conference

November 16, 2022, 9:30AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

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.

HALEU and the promise of nuclear energy: An interview with the DOE’s Kathryn Huff

November 4, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

Kathryn Huff

Deploying a fleet of advanced reactors in the 2030s means deploying high-assay low- enriched uranium (HALEU) infrastructure now.

The future fleet will need more than 40 metric tons of HALEU by 2030, according to Department of Energy projections. Getting to the 5–20 percent fissile uranium-235 content of HALEU involves either enriching natural or low-enriched uranium (LEU) or downblending high-enriched uranium (HEU).

Because downblending the limited stocks of HEU held at the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory and Savannah River Site is a short-term option at best, the Energy Act of 2020 authorized a HALEU Availability Program to build a sustainable enrichment infrastructure by the time advanced reactors are ready for commercial deployment.

Comments on a request for information reached the DOE in February 2022, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amplified global energy security concerns. While the war in Ukraine didn’t change the DOE’s plans, it “accelerated everything,” said Kathryn Huff, who leads the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) as assistant secretary. “Our attention is now laser-focused on this issue in a way that it wouldn’t have been in the past.”

Examining Russia and China in the global nuclear energy market

October 17, 2022, 6:55AMANS Nuclear Cafe

“Russia and China have overtaken the United States as the world’s premier nuclear-power exporters.” Or so states an article recently published by Defense One, an online news source that primarily reports about national defense and security matters. The article notes that Russian and Chinese reactor designs have accounted for 87 percent of new installed nuclear reactors worldwide during the past five years and that China is set to become the world’s leading nuclear power producer before 2030.

Bulletin article focuses on World Nuclear Industry Status Report

October 13, 2022, 7:02AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A picture of the state of the global nuclear energy industry has been painted in a recent article by Dawn Stover, a contributing editor at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Stover based her comments on The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2022 (WNISR), published on October 5. The report refers to itself as an “independent assessment of nuclear developments in the world” compiled by an international team.

What’s in the WNISR: In the report, 10 countries—China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—receive a focused analysis based on specific issues affecting their nuclear businesses. Other chapters deal with the statuses of Fukushima, decommissioning in general, potential newcomer countries to nuclear power, and small modular reactors. For the first time, the WNISR also contains a chapter on nuclear power and war.

Report sizes up nuclear new-build financing from five top exporters

August 31, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

As energy security and environmental concerns prompt some countries to increase their reliance on nuclear energy or become first-time adopters of the technology, the U.S. government must decide whether it will offer financing for reactor exports—a move that poses financial risks but could create jobs, address global climate and energy security challenges, and limit Chinese and Russian influence. A new report released on August 25 by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Comparing Government Financing of Reactor Exports: Considerations for U.S. Policy Makers, digs into the history of nuclear reactor financing and delivers recommendations for U.S. policymakers.

Matt Bowen, research scholar at the center and the report’s lead author, told Nuclear News, “Given how important financing is to countries considering new reactor construction, as well as the competition that U.S. vendors face from foreign state-owned entities, Congress and the White House should both focus attention on the issue, including policy options to increase U.S. competitiveness.”

Accusations and dire warnings swirl over Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

August 15, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA's director general, addresses the UN Security Council via video link on August 11. (Photo: IAEA)

Contradictory accusations concerning the artillery shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in war-torn Ukraine continue to be made by the Ukrainians and Russians. Both sides have acknowledged several hits on the facility, including 10 artillery strikes on the plant’s administrative office and fire station on August 11. As the two countries blame each other for the attacks, independent authorities have been unable to verify the opposing claims.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the UN Security Council, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the situation was in “a serious hour, a grave hour.” UN secretary general António Guterres added that it could “lead to disaster.”

The American Nuclear Society calls for removal of Russian missiles from Ukraine nuclear power plant

August 3, 2022, 7:01AMPress Releases

Statement from American Nuclear Society President Steven Arndt:

"As an organization dedicated to the use of nuclear technology for the societal good, the American Nuclear Society opposes the misuse of nuclear power plants as shields for military operations.

Nuclear development in the West needs new, better financing models

June 30, 2022, 12:03PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The prospects for new nuclear energy construction in the Western world is the subject of a recent The Economist article, “Energy security gives climate-friendly nuclear-power plants a new appeal.” The article also explores the difficulties that EDF Energy has been experiencing in constructing its EPRs in Europe.

Webinar: International isotope supply chain needs coordination, not complacency

June 1, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

Accelerators and other new facilities are producing an increasing share of the radioisotopes that were once sourced solely from a handful of research reactors around the globe; demand for alpha-emitters is increasing; and the need for an ensured supply of both radioactive and stable isotopes is now heightened as many countries seek an alternative to Russian isotopes. Those are just a few of the key points that emerged from a recent webinar, “Demand and Supply of Isotopes Around the World: From Diverse Perspectives,” organized by the World Council of Isotopes, along with the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation and the University of Saskatchewan, the hosts of the upcoming 11th International Conference on Isotopes (11ICI).

Nuclear economics in a changed world

May 11, 2022, 9:30AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

Laurence J. Peter, author of The Peter Principle, said, “An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.” By that definition, I guess we are all economists now.

As I write this column, it’s still too early to know exactly how the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the world’s response to it, will shape the long-term economics of energy production, and specifically the economics of nuclear energy. But we can make a few logical guesses.

First, I think we will see a stronger security “overlay” to every energy policy decision we make in the next few years. Energy security is a potent motivator. France’s decision to go nuclear wasn’t a decarbonization play; it was a direct result of the Arab oil embargo of 1973, when most of its electricity was generated by oil-fired power plants.

American and European nuclear societies issue joint statement denouncing attacks on Ukraine's nuclear facilities and misinformation

April 5, 2022, 11:48AMPress Releases

The European Nuclear Society (ENS) and the American Nuclear Society (ANS) issued a joint statement expressing support for their Ukrainian colleagues and the International Atomic Energy Agency in ensuring the continued safe operation of Ukraine's nuclear power plants and facilities, amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Europe’s confused climate strategy

March 18, 2022, 3:55PMNuclear NewsMatthew L. Wald

Europeans are taking resolute steps to reduce their output of climate-changing gases, but some countries are moving in the wrong direction.

Many countries are adding solar and wind, which are low-carbon energy sources. Some have moved to biomass, the value of which as a climate cure is not clear. A few are adding reactors, while others are defining nuclear as dirty energy and natural gas as “clean” and are changing their generation mix accordingly.