Rensselaer to use DOE funds for nuclear efficiency and safety projects

August 16, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Photo: RPI)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will use $1.5 million in grants from the Department of Energy to lead projects aimed at upgrading nuclear power plant efficiency and safety, the university announced earlier this month. The grants are part of more than $61 million in awards recently announced by the DOE to support nuclear energy research.

Post-Fukushima safety enhancements

April 2, 2021, 2:47PMNuclear NewsLeah Parks, Carl Mazzola, Jim Xu, and Brent Gutierrez
A map of Japan highlighting the Fukushima prefecture.

March 11 will mark the 10-­year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi event, when a 45-­foot tsunami, caused by the 9.0-­magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, significantly damaged the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In response to this event, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission took actions to evaluate and mitigate beyond-­design-­basis events, including a new requirement for the staging of so-­called Flex equipment, as well as changes to containment venting and improvements to emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Energy also addressed beyond-­design-­basis events in its documented safety analyses.

GAO: Concerns persist on DOE Order 140.1

November 3, 2020, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on October 29 outlining potential issues regarding a 2018 Department of Energy order on how the department, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and their contractors interact with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) and its staff. DNFSB is the independent agency responsible for ensuring that DOE facilities are protective of public health and safety.

According to the 81-page GAO report, provisions of DOE Order 140.1, issued in May 2018, restricted DNFSB’s access to information essential to its mission, and a subsequent revision of that order has not eliminated concerns that it would hinder DNFSB in carrying out its oversight responsibilities.

The race for outage efficiency

July 31, 2020, 2:54PMNuclear NewsEric Williams

Working in INL’s Human Systems Simulation Laboratory, senior R&D scientist Ahmed Al Rashdan co-developed the Advanced Remote Monitoring project for the LWRS Program.

There are numerous similarities between auto racing pit crews and the people in the nuclear power industry who get us through outages: Pace. Efficiency. Diagnostics. Teamwork. Skill. And safety above all else.

To Paul Hunton, a research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory, the keys to successfully navigating a nuclear plant outage are planning and preparation. “When you go into an outage, you are ready,” Hunton said. “You need to manage outage time. You want to avoid adding delays to the scheduled outage work because if you do, it can add a couple million dollars to the cost.”

Hunton was the principal investigator for the September 2019 report Addressing Nuclear Instrumentation and Control (I&C) Modernization Through Application of Techniques Employed in Other Industries, produced for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability (LWRS) Program, led by INL. Hunton drew on his experience outside the nuclear industry, including a decade at Newport News Shipbuilding.

The nexus between safety and operational performance

May 15, 2020, 4:22PMNuclear NewsDoug True and John Butler

Nuclear power plant performance includes both operational and safety aspects and is an outcome of numerous elements, such as the reliability of equipment, reduction in challenges to plant operations, protection of workers, and proficiency of operations. These elements are inextricably linked to each other and to the safety of each facility. In short, a well-run plant is a safe plant for the workers and the public, and a well-run plant is an efficient plant. By-products of high performance include improved regulatory performance, worker safety, plant reliability, and, most important, public health and safety.