James Behrens—ANS member since 1979

April 1, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News
Left: Behrens as a physics lecturer in 1969 at the University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign. Right: Behrens at home today with his new pup Snowflake.

We welcome ANS members who have careered in the community to submit their own Nuclear Legacy stories, so that the personal history of nuclear power can be captured. For information on submitting your stories, contact nucnews@ans.org.

The James Wm. Behrens family legacy in America starts with Henry H. Behrens, who came across the pond from Germany in 1857. He was later joined by Wilhelmina, also from Germany, and they were married in Alton, Ill., in about 1862. One of their sons, George Wm. Sr., was my grandfather. He and his wife, Frances Walker (of Irish and English descent), had three sons, one of whom (George Wm. Jr.) was my father. I was born in 1947 and raised in the small country town of Bunker Hill, Ill. I attended Bunker Hill elementary and high schools, graduating from the latter in 1965.

Veto or no veto, UIUC forges ahead with microreactor plans

August 21, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual art of USNC’s MMR, as proposed for construction on the UIUC campus. (Graphic: USNC)

It’s been almost 35 years since Illinois last added a nuclear power reactor to the grid (Braidwood-2, a pressurized water reactor operated by Constellation, reached commercial operation in October 1988). And it’s been 63 years since a research reactor reached initial criticality at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The university’s TRIGA Mark II started up in August 1960 and was shut down in 1998. For about 25 years, UIUC—the flagship public university in a state that generates more power from nuclear energy than any other—has lacked an operating research reactor.

New reactor on campus? UIUC’s choice for research, education, and training

April 8, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear NewsCaleb Brooks
Image: USNC

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign formed a partnership with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation to deploy an advanced research reactor on campus, based on a microreactor design that improves upon well-established high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technology. Unlike traditional research reactors, our focus at UIUC is not on a laboratory tool to study radiation interactions with matter, or even on the production of radioisotopes. Instead, we will build a research, education, and training facility intended to help advanced reactor technology become a widely deployable, marketable, economic, safe, and reliable option for a clean energy future. If successful, the USNC-designed Micro Modular Reactor (MMR)a would operate on UIUC’s campus with the capability to advance critical and enabling technologies required for advanced reactors to realize their full potential, while educating and training the workforce as a key step toward delivering on the technology’s promise. Microreactors can become a transformative distributed energy technology and revolutionize energy infrastructure worldwide.

Senate panel vets Biden’s pick to lead DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy

March 18, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Nominated to lead the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Kathryn Huff testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 17.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met yesterday to consider the nomination of Kathryn Huff to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). President Biden selected Huff to fill the top spot at NE in January.

Time for Illinois’s nuclear advocates to turn up the volume

May 21, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. Photo: Teemu008/Wikipedia

As Illinois lawmakers race to hammer out a compromise clean energy bill before the current legislative session adjourns on May 31, advocacy group Nuclear Matters is asking members of the state’s nuclear community to speak up in support of state aid for the struggling Byron and Dresden nuclear plants, both of which are scheduled to be prematurely retired later this year by Exelon.

Nuclear Matters has launched a letter-writing campaign to encourage individuals to contact their representatives via a pre-drafted letter to urge passage of legislation that will provide that aid. The letter is one of general support for Illinois’s nuclear plants and not an endorsement of any specific measure.

Report: Existing and advanced nuclear best for meeting Illinois’s climate goals

May 18, 2021, 12:10PMNuclear News

Among the 12 energy-mix scenarios analyzed in a new report from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, maintaining the current Illinois reactor fleet while also investing in advanced nuclear technology and renewable energy is the most economical path to zero carbon for the state. It is also, says the report, the path that generates the lowest lifecycle carbon emissions.

The 26-page report, Economic and Carbon Impacts of Potential Illinois Nuclear Plant Closures: The Cost of Closures, was coauthored by Kathryn Huff, who was recently appointed principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy, along with Madicken Munk, a research scientist in the university’s Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) Department, and Sam Dotson, a graduate researcher in NPRE’s Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycle Analysis group. Financial support for the report was provided by Nuclear Matters.