COP28 is the backdrop for new fuel commitments from the U.S. and allies

December 12, 2023, 12:01PMNuclear News

Leaders of five nations that collectively represent 50 percent of the world’s uranium conversion and enrichment capacity—the United States, Canada, Japan, France, and the United Kingdom—are making a habit of meeting on the sidelines of global climate talks to pledge their commitment to securing the nuclear fuel supply chain. On December 7 at the Net Zero Nuclear Summit—an event held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, during the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP28—representatives of those nations announced plans to “mobilize at least $4.2 billion” in government and private investment in enrichment and conversion capacity. The commitment expands on an initial civil nuclear fuel security agreement that the so-called Sapporo 5 reached in April 2023, when they met (as now, on the sidelines) during a G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy, and Environment in Sapporo, Japan.

U.S. and U.K. agree to “strategic partnership” on fusion energy

November 13, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

Bowie

Turk

Two top energy officials—U.S. deputy secretary of energy David M. Turk and U.K. minister for nuclear and networks Andrew Bowie—met on November 8 in Washington, D.C., to talk about a “coordinated, strategic approach” to advance fusion energy demonstration and commercialization and “maximize value” for both nations.

The Shape of Water: Nuclear Divers Return to Sellafield’s Legacy Ponds

September 28, 2023, 3:38PMRadwaste Solutions
Josh Everett, a diver with UCC UK Ltd., enters bay No. 11 of Sellafield’s Pile Fuel Storage Pond in December 2022, the first time in over 60 years a diver has entered the legacy pond, used to store a variety of spent nuclear fuel types and wastes. During this commissioning nuclear dive, Everett’s underwater tasks included emergency diver extraction trial confirmation, radiation monitoring system verification, and radiation contact meter commissioning. (Photos courtesy of Sellafield Ltd.)

The last time a human entered the Pile Fuel Storage Pond at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, England, was in 1958, when records show a maintenance operator and health physics monitor carried out a dive into the newly constructed pond to repair a broken winch. At least that was true until December 2022, when Josh Everett, a diver from the U.K. specialist nuclear diving team Underwater Construction Corporation (UCC) UK Ltd., became the first person in more than 60 years to work in one of the most unique workplaces in the world.

U.K. civil nuclear workforce is growing

September 25, 2023, 11:54AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The present size of the civil nuclear workforce in the United Kingdom is the largest it has been in the past 20 years. So reports the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), the main trade association for the U.K. civil nuclear industry, in its recently released Jobs Map 2023. The London-based organization has released this report annually for more than a decade with the objective of giving the government the most up-to-date, accurate statistics on which to base economic and energy decisions. The NIA reports that the latest job growth has been fueled partly by projects on advanced and emerging nuclear technologies.

U.K. decommissioning bureau releases three-year business plan

April 26, 2023, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the governmental organization responsible for the cleanup and decommissioning of the United Kingdom’s 17 nuclear sites, has released its business plan for the fiscal years running from April 1, 2023, through March 31, 2026. The plan provides a summary of the activities and progress the NDA expects to make at its nuclear sites over the next three years.

In introducing the report, NDA group chief executive officer David Peattie wrote, “This business plan sets out a challenging program of work, reducing hazards while contributing to a globally significant sustainability agenda, developing our people, and supporting our communities.”

The full report Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Business Plan: 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2026 can be found here.

U.K., South Korea issue joint declaration on nuclear cooperation

April 11, 2023, 9:40AMNuclear News

As part of the run-up to the G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy, and Environment in Japan on April 15–16, U.K. energy security secretary Grant Shapps met in Seoul yesterday with South Korean trade, industry, and energy minister Chang-yang Lee to discuss closer collaboration on clean energy development and energy security.

The need for sustainable nuclear/alpha skills in the U.K.: A Sellafield perspective

February 10, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear NewsHenry Hickling

The United Kingdom’s nuclear renaissance

The United Kingdom’s nuclear industry is expanding, with the U.K. government committed to supporting the build of more civil nuclear power plants (deployments up to 24 GW by 2050)1 while also undertaking large-scale decommissioning work in parallel.2 The defense sector is experiencing growth with the decommissioning, operation, and new build of submarines, plus managing the U.K.’s deterrent.3 Although the civil and defense programs are separate, they draw on the same group of skills and people.

The mystery of the hidden uranium: Elementary, my dear Watson?

January 13, 2023, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The discovery of a small amount of uranium inside a package of scrap metal bars at Heathrow Airport in London has raised a number of puzzling questions that are being investigated by Scotland Yard, headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police (the Met). Investigators said that the uranium, which was found by Border Force staff during routine screening at the airport on December 29, originated in Pakistan, though it arrived at Heathrow on a passenger flight from Oman and, according to a January 11 report in the Guardian, was bound for an Iranian-owned business with offices in the United Kingdom.

Holtec, GEH eye U.K. for SMR deployment

January 5, 2023, 9:31AMNuclear News
A rendering of Holtec’s SMR-160 plant. (Image: Holtec International)

Small modular reactor developers Holtec International and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) are both looking to the United Kingdom as a prime location for deployment of their units—the SMR-160 and BWRX-300, respectively.

On December 19, Holtec Britain announced that it is poised to enter the United Kingdom’s generic design assessment (GDA) process for the SMR-160 early in 2023, enabling the start of construction of the first U.K. unit as soon as 2028. (The GDA, developed by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency, gauges the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear plant design. Successfully completing the assessment culminates in a design acceptance confirmation from ONR and a statement of design acceptability from the Environment Agency.)

The story of the Windscale Piles

October 20, 2022, 11:44AMNuclear NewsJeremy Hampshire

The Windscale Piles, circa 1956. (Photo: DOE)

After the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 ended collaboration between the United States and its World War II allies (specifically, the United Kingdom and Canada), the British government felt it necessary to go down its own path in developing nuclear technology. As a result, the Windscale Piles, in Seascale, Cumberland, England, were planned and built with the aim of producing plutonium for the U.K.’s defense purposes. Windscale Pile No. 1 became operational in 1950, and Windscale Pile No. 2 followed shortly after in 1951.

Early in the design process, the U.K. government came to realize that it did not have an adequately expansive piece of land that could provide a safety barrier in case of an issue at a water-cooled reactor. If the flow of water coolant were to be interrupted, an evacuation and exclusion zone could require a large land area that Britain simply did not have. The government, therefore, decided to construct both reactors with a natural draft air convection core cooling system. A massive cooling chimney at each reactor would soar nearly 400 feet into the air.

A view from across the pond

October 12, 2022, 7:00AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

The Cheshire countryside in late summer has a lot to offer an American visitor besides cool, insect-free air; bacon sandwiches; and warm ales. It also provides the perfect vantage point to consider the fundamental shifts in energy availability and security we have witnessed over the last 12 months.

Residential energy prices here in the United Kingdom have increased by roughly 80 percent over the last year, prompting the government to advise Britons to turn their water heaters off at night and boil their kettles with only as much water as needed to make their tea.

While I was here, outgoing British prime minister Boris Johnson visited the Sizewell site to announce a £700 million investment in Sizewell C, two 1,600-MW EPR reactors soon to be under construction. His remarks had the wistful, poignant tone of a leader facing the end of his tenure in office:

The world watched as Queen Elizabeth II welcomed the U.K.’s Atomic Age

September 19, 2022, 9:11AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Queen Elizabeth II visits Calder Hall for its ceremonial opening in 1956. (Photo: U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority)

As citizens of the United Kingdom and others around the world mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, many have reflected on how the world has changed during the seven decades of the queen’s reign—the same decades that saw the rise of civilian nuclear power.

Calder Hall was already under construction at the Sellafield site in West Cumbria when Princess Elizabeth became queen in 1953. Queen Elizabeth traveled to the site in October 1956 and declared, in a televised ceremony, that “It is with pride that I now open Calder Hall, Britain’s first atomic power station.” Watch the fanfare in a historical clip uploaded to YouTube by Sellafield Ltd below.

U.K., Japan to research remote D&D, fusion systems

January 22, 2021, 6:53AMRadwaste Solutions

The LongOps project will develop innovative robotic technologies. Photo: UKAEA

Britain and Japan have signed a research and technology deployment collaboration to help automate nuclear decommissioning and aspects of fusion energy production. According to the U.K. government, which announced the deal on January 20, the £12 million (about $16.5 million) U.K.–Japanese robotics project, called LongOps, will support the delivery of faster and safer decommissioning at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan and at Sellafield in the United Kingdom, using long-reach robotic arms.

The four-year collaboration on new robotics and automation techniques will also be applied to fusion energy research in the two countries.

Funded equally by U.K. Research and Innovation, the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company, the LongOps project will be led by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) facility.

U.K. launches study into nuclear-powered space exploration

January 15, 2021, 6:58AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new research contract between the U.K. Space Agency and Rolls-Royce will see planetary scientists working together to explore nuclear power as an energy source for deep space missions in the decades to come. The effort is similar to one that the United States is undertaking through NASA.

"Space nuclear power and propulsion is a game-changing concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond," said Graham Turnock, chief executive of the U.K Space Agency, on January 12. "This study will help us understand the exciting potential of atomic-powered spacecraft, and whether this nascent technology could help us travel further and faster through space than ever before."

New year brings into force a new U.K.-EU nuclear pact

January 14, 2021, 6:57AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Along with the wider Trade and Cooperation Agreement it signed late last month with the European Union to address post-Brexit realities, the U.K. government concluded a stand-alone Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom. The NCA went into effect January 1.

U.K. sets plans for clean energy and green jobs by 2050

December 14, 2020, 2:59PMNuclear News

A 170-page energy white paper, Powering Our Net Zero Future, issued by the United Kingdom government on December 14 sets big goals for cleaning up the U.K.’s energy system. According to the U.K. government, the plan would create and support green energy jobs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and would keep electricity bills affordable as the U.K. transitions to net zero emissions by 2050.

The white paper notes that the U.K. will generate emission-free electricity by 2050 with a trajectory that will see "overwhelmingly decarbonized power in the 2030s. Low carbon electricity will be a key enabler of our transition to a net zero economy with demand expected to double due to transport and low carbon heat."

The white paper builds upon the U.K. prime minister’s 38-page Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which was issued on November 18.

U.K. seeks site for STEP fusion reactor

December 4, 2020, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has asked local governments to submit bids to host the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production project, or STEP, according to an article published by Bloomberg on December 1.

The STEP plant will be developed by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, which says that construction could begin as soon as 2032, with operations by 2040, and “will prove that fusion is not a far-off dream.”

Opinion: U.K. power stations could make hydrogen, heat homes, and decarbonize industry

November 5, 2020, 12:19PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Nuclear reactors have evolved to achieve more than just electricity generation and should be part of the U.K.’s plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Photo: Royal Society, authors provided

The United Kingdom needs to start rebuilding its capacity to generate nuclear power, according to an opinion article published Wednesday on The Conversation by two members of the U.K.-based Bangor University faculty.

Bill Lee, a professor of materials in extreme environments, and Michael Rushton, a senior lecturer in nuclear energy, argue that the plan by the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the U.K. government on the effort to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, is “strangely silent on nuclear power.”

To fight climate change, accept nuclear energy

October 23, 2020, 12:17PMANS Nuclear Cafe

“The world needs a mix of renewable power sources, including one that can carry on producing power when the others can’t—the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow,” British journalist Jonathan Gornall writes in an opinion piece posted Wednesday on the Asia Times website. Gornall argues that the residents of Suffolk County in the United Kingdom would be better served by the expansion of the Sizewell nuclear power plant than by leaving a wooded area untouched.

U.K.’s RWM launches geological disposal research office

August 7, 2020, 12:23PMRadwaste Solutions

RWM’s new research office will study geological disposal of nuclear waste in the U.K.

Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), the U.K. government organization tasked with planning for a geological disposal facility (GDF) for radioactive waste in the United Kingdom, announced on August 4 that, in partnership with the University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield, it has established the Research Support Office (RSO) to “harness the U.K.’s vast array of research capabilities in geo-disposal science and technology.”

The new office is to provide RWM with independent research to help guide the organization in designing and building a U.K. deep geological facility for the permanent disposal of high- and intermediate-level waste.