How robust is HALEU from a nonproliferation perspective?

May 13, 2024, 3:10PMNuclear NewsShikha Prasad

Shikha Prasad

High-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) has emerged as a popular fuel choice for advanced small modular reactors due to its long power production periods before refueling. It is currently being pursued by TerraPower, X-energy, BWX Technologies, Kairos, Oklo, and other reactor companies. HALEU has a uranium-235 enrichment ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent, whereas traditional LWRs use low-enriched uranium fuel enriched up to 5 percent.

HALEU will provide power for longer durations, compared with traditional LWRs. But could it also provide an opportunity for more rapid proliferation, as is speculated in a 2023 National Academy of Sciences report on advanced nuclear reactors (nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/26630/)?

If a nuclear proliferator conspires to divert fresh nuclear fuel for weapons production when it has not been used in a reactor, the effort required in separative work units (SWUs) to enrich U-235 from 5 percent to 90 percent and that required to enrich from 20 percent to 90 percent are both very small, compared with the effort required to enrich U-235 from its natural abundance to the initial 5 percent.

Wyoming as a hub for new nuclear manufacturing and microreactor deployment?

April 29, 2024, 12:02PMNuclear News

A 60-year-old Wyoming industrial machinery company is partnering with nuclear innovator BWX Technologies to deploy 50-megawatt microreactors in America’s heartland over the coming years to provide carbon-free heat and power for industrial users.

BWXT announces nuclear manufacturing plant expansion

April 19, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear News

BWX Technologies announced today plans to expand and add advanced manufacturing equipment to its manufacturing plant in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.

A $36.3 million USD ($50M CAD) expansion will increase the plant’s size by 25 percent—to 280,000 square feet—and another $21.7 million USD ($30M CAD) will be spent on new equipment to increase and accelerate its output of large nuclear components. The investment will increase capacity and create more than 200 long-term jobs for skilled workers, engineers, and support staff, according to the company.

TerraPower submits Natrium construction application to the NRC

March 29, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News

TerraPower today submitted its formal construction permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the Natrium reactor demonstration project—a milestone submission for the nation’s first commercial advanced reactor of its kind.

TerraPower bullish on Natrium plant construction

March 26, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear News

TerraPower officials said last week to expect “dirt moving” at its Wyoming site come June—and for operations to begin there as early as 2030—as it advances plans to build new nuclear in the United States. But 40-plus pages of initial commentary from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in the form of a preapplication readiness assessment report, may slow TerraPower’s plans.

RIPB safety case for TerraPower’s MCRE

February 13, 2024, 7:00AMNuclear News

Last month at the American Nuclear Society’s Risk-informed, Performance-based Principles and Policy Committee’s (RP3C’s) Community of Practice (CoP), Brandon Chisholm presented “Development of a Risk-Informed and Performance-Based Safety Case for TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE).” RP3C holds a CoP on the last Friday of the month from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (ET), and participation is open to all professionals interested in RIPB principles and practices. Chisholm’s January 26 presentation is available to stream on YouTube.

Informal survey asks when the next U.S. nuclear plant will come on line

January 23, 2024, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Wesoff

According to an admittedly informal and unscientific survey of people from online “nuclear affinity groups” conducted by Eric Wesoff, the editorial director for clean energy newsroom Canary Media, there is no consensus regarding when the next nuclear power plant will come on line in the United States. Wesoff recently reported that upon polling his nuclear-connected network on LinkedIn, X, and Reddit, he found that “the responses were all over the map.”

Nuclear renaissance? Wesoff was prompted to try his survey about the expected date for the next nuclear plant because “conditions are perfect for the American nuclear renaissance.” He cited strong support for the nuclear industry from the Department of Energy as well as from public opinion polls and online “influencers.” He thought therefore that he would find confident predictions for when the next new U.S. reactor would go on line. Instead, he found uncertainty and varied responses.

2024: The State of Advanced Reactors

January 19, 2024, 3:07PMNuclear NewsMatt Wald

Designs for high-tech products, and the start-ups that offer them, will always outnumber the commercial successes. Ditto: many more power plants are proposed than actually get built, no matter what the technology.

This is an axiom of free-market economies, but in early November 2023 it became painfully obvious in the advanced reactor field. NuScale Power, the only advanced reactor that has made it through the licensing gauntlet, acknowledged that the consortium of utilities that was its intended launch customer had failed to put together a feasible package.

National lab partnerships speed nuclear deployment

December 15, 2023, 4:56PMNuclear NewsDonna Kemp Spangler and Joel Hiller
BWXT’s microreactor components would be designed to be transported directly from the factory to the deployment site. (Image: BWXT)

“The tools of the academic designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck; it cannot be erased. Everyone sees it.”

Many in the nuclear community are familiar with this sentiment from Admiral Rickover. A generation of stagnation in the industry has underscored the truth of his words. But as economies around the world put a price on carbon emissions, there’s a renewed sense of urgency to deploy clean energy technologies. This shifts the global balance of economic competitiveness, and it’s clear that the best path forward for nuclear requires combining the agility of private innovators with the technology and capabilities of national laboratories.

ENEC inks deal with Kazatomprom, MOUs with TerraPower, GEH

December 5, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, president of Kazakhstan (standing), looks on as the commercial uranium fuel supply contract between ENEC and Kazatomprom is signed. (Photo: Kazatomprom)

On the margins of the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, UAE, this week, Barakah nuclear plant owner Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) signed its first commercial uranium fuel supply contract with Kazatomprom, in addition to memorandums of understanding with two U.S.-based advanced reactor developers—TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).

Plans for TerraPower’s “test and fill” sodium facility covered in draft EA

November 20, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Image from the DOE’s draft EA showing a rendering of the TFF building. (Image: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations issued a draft environmental assessment (EA) in early November for a test and fill facility (TFF) that TerraPower plans to build in Kemmerer, Wyo.—the town selected two years ago to host the company’s first Natrium sodium fast reactor. The draft EA, open for comment through December 1, describes TerraPower’s plans to construct a nonnuclear facility that would safely store about 400,000 gallons of sodium to test coolant system designs and ultimately fill the planned reactor.

Operations begin at IET multiloop molten-salt test system

October 6, 2023, 12:05PMNuclear News
The Integrated Effects Test at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Wash. (Photo: Southern Company/TerraPower)

Southern Company, TerraPower, and Core Power (a U.K.-based firm focused on developing nuclear technologies for the maritime sector) have commenced pumped-salt operations in the Integrated Effects Test (IET) facility, the Atlanta, Ga.-based utility announced Tuesday, marking another milestone in the development of TerraPower’s first-of-a-kind, Generation IV Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR).

Bringing nuclear history forward

September 21, 2023, 7:02AMNuclear NewsJeremy Hampshire

This year’s American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting was filled with great content, some of which was covered in the August issue of Nuclear News (beginning on p. 22). One of the meeting’s executive sessions, “Bringing Nuclear History Forward,” focused on advanced reactor (AR) history and was well attended. The United States—along with many countries around the world—is turning to nuclear to combat climate change. Part of this is funding new and innovative companies to create first-of-a-kind nuclear reactors to provide abundant and clean power. Looking at the current designs of interest to the community brings up interesting comparisons to the test and experimental reactors of the past. Test reactors like the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II), the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF), Peach Bottom, Fort St. Vrain, Germany’s AVR, and others now are more important than ever in providing insight, data, and operational lessons learned to develop the next generation of reactors.

Supplier contracts for Natrium project awarded

August 2, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
An artist’s rendering of Natrium. (Image: TerraPower)

Advanced nuclear technology firm TerraPower announced today the selection of four suppliers to support its Natrium reactor demonstration project, in development near a retiring coal plant in Kemmerer, Wyo.

Final EA and proposed FONSI for MCRE released

August 1, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
The former Zero-Power Physics Reactor cell at INL’s Materials and Fuels Center could be home to the MCRE. (Photo: INL)

The Department of Energy today released its final environmental assessment (EA) and a proposed finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the design, construction, and operation of the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) at Idaho National Laboratory. The draft EA was released earlier this year, in March, for four weeks of public comments.

MHI picked to lead development of Japanese fast reactor

July 25, 2023, 7:02AMNuclear News

Concept art of a tank type sodium-cooled fast reactor. (Image: MHI)

The Japanese government has chosen Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to head up the conceptual design and research and development of a demonstration sodium-cooled fast reactor, the Tokyo-based engineering firm announced recently.

MHI is to oversee the work in partnership with Mitsubishi FBR Systems Inc. (MFBR), an MHI Group engineering company established in 2007 to develop and design fast breeder reactors.

Conceptual design work is scheduled to commence in fiscal year 2024, with operation of the unit slated for the 2040s.

Reactor roadmap: According to MHI’s announcement, in the strategic roadmap for fast-reactor development adopted by the Japanese Cabinet in December 2018, a policy was defined to assess the efficacy of several types of technologies to be developed following a competition among private-sector companies. The roadmap was subsequently revised by the Cabinet in December 2022, at which time two decisions were made: (1) to select a sodium-cooled fast reactor as the target of the conceptual design of the demonstration unit and (2) to select a manufacturer to serve as the core company in charge of the reactor’s design and requisite R&D.

X-energy, Energy Northwest team for multiple SMR deployments

July 20, 2023, 9:43AMNuclear News

Small modular reactor firm X-energy and Energy Northwest, owner and operator of the Columbia nuclear power plant in Richland, Wash., announced yesterday the signing of a joint development agreement (JDA) for up to 12 Xe-100 SMRs in central Washington, capable of generating up to a total of 960 MWe.

The JDA defines and details the scope, location, and schedule under which the commercial development of the project will move forward, the companies said, adding that they will also work together to determine the best approaches to licensing and regulatory matters, as well as the project delivery model. Currently, the Xe-100 project is expected to be developed at a site adjacent to the Columbia facility, with the first module coming on line by 2030.