Congress set to pass year-end funding bill

The final text of the approximately 5,600-page Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 was released on December 22. While the timing of final passage is still fluid, the Senate was expected to approve it and send it on to President Trump to sign into law, according to John Starkey, American Nuclear Society government relations director.

Below are some key funding highlights from the legislation pertaining to nuclear energy.

Kairos Power test reactor comes to repurposed Oak Ridge site

An aerial view of the ETTP site. Photo: Heritage Center, LLC

Kairos Power plans to site a test reactor it has dubbed Hermes at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company has executed a Memorandum of Understanding with Heritage Center, LLC, to acquire the former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site at ETTP, subject to ongoing due diligence evaluations. The announcement was made today, during the 2020 East Tennessee Economic Council Annual Meeting and Awards Celebration.

“We are thrilled at the prospect of coming to East Tennessee,” said Michael Laufer, cofounder and chief executive officer of Kairos Power. “The infrastructure available at ETTP, combined with its proximity to key collaborators at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, makes this a great location to demonstrate our technology. The successful commissioning of Hermes builds on our current technology development programs and extensive engagement with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Ultimately, Hermes will prove that Kairos Power can deliver real systems at our cost targets to make advanced nuclear a competitive source of clean energy in the United States.”

Lou Martinez, vice president of strategy and innovation, added, “Today is an important day for Kairos Power. We are celebrating our 4th anniversary by showcasing an important milestone.”

BWXT restarts TRISO fuel manufacturing

BWX Technologies Inc. announced on November 10 that its BWXT Nuclear Operations Group Inc. (BWXT NOG) subsidiary has completed its TRISO nuclear fuel line restart project and is actively producing fuel at its Lynchburg, Va., facility.

With the restart, BWXT now manufactures fuel across four commercial and government business lines, the company said. In addition to the TRISO line, BWXT operates fuel production lines at BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada, manufacturer of approximately half of the fuel powering the commercial reactor fleet in Ontario, Canada; BWXT subsidiary Nuclear Fuel Services, sole provider of nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy; and BWXT’s Uranium Processing and Research Reactors operation, the only North American supplier of research reactor fuel elements for colleges, universities, and national laboratories.

CNL and Kairos Power reach agreement on tritium research

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) on September 3 announced a research collaboration agreement with Kairos Power. Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the agreement includes research and engineering for technologies to separate, analyze, and store the tritium that would be created during the operation of Kairos Power’s proposed fluoride-salt–cooled small modular reactor.

House committee marks up Energy and Water Development bill

The House Appropriations Committee held its full committee markup of the Energy and Water Development bill on July 13. (The Bill Report provides a more detailed funding breakdown.) The final bill passed the committee by a party line vote of 30-21. No schedule for Floor consideration of the bill has been set, but it is likely to happen next week or the week after.

BWXT awarded contract to expand TRISO production line

BWX Technologies has signed a $26-million, 20-month contract to expand and upgrade its TRISO fuel manufacturing line. The recently announced deal, awarded by Idaho National Laboratory, calls for the expansion of BWXT’s capacity for the manufacture of TRISO fuel compacts and the upgrading of existing systems for delivering production-scale quantities of TRISO fuel.

BWXT makes progress on TRISO production restart

BWX Technologies has announced the successful formation and sintering of uranium oxycarbide (UCO) fuel kernels that, once coated, will make up the fissile core of TRISO (tristructural isotropic) fuel particles. With that process demonstrated, BWXT has shifted the focus of its TRISO production restart to bringing two more furnaces online—an additional sintering furnace, used to apply heat and pressure to a solid fuel kernel, and a coating furnace.

Microreactor work at ORNL fueled by BWXT

BWX Technologies announced on March 11 that its BWXT Nuclear Operations Group (BWXT NOG) subsidiary had been awarded a contract from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to manufacture TRISO nuclear fuel to support the continued development of the Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR). Plans to restart a TRISO production line at the company’s Lynchburg, Va., manufacturing site will be finalized to allow for production to be completed by the fall of 2020.