National lab partnerships speed nuclear deployment

December 5, 2023, 9:46AMNuclear 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.

Argonne assists advanced reactor development with award-winning safety software

December 1, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear NewsKristen Mally Dean
Partnerships between the nuclear industry and national laboratories are making overall codes more robust and capable. (Photo: Argonne)

The development of modern nuclear reactor technologies relies heavily on complex software codes and computer simulations to support the design, construction, and testing of physical hardware systems. These tools allow for rigorous testing of theory and thorough verification of design under various use or transient power scenarios.

Deep geologic repository progress

November 10, 2023, 3:07PMNuclear NewsEmily Stein

Outside my office, there is a display case filled with rock samples from all over the world. It contains a disk of translucent, orange salt from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.; a core of white-and-bronze gneiss from the site of the future deep geologic repository in Eurajoki, Finland; several angular chunks of fine-grained, gray claystone from the underground research laboratory at Bure, France; and a piece of coarse-grained granite from the underground research tunnel in Daejeon, South Korea.

50 minerals critical to our society

September 28, 2023, 7:15AMNuclear NewsJames Conca
Three of the USGS's critical minerals: (Left to right) A piece of native copper recovered by dissolution of the host rock (Photo: Jonathan Zander); A sample of praseodymium in a vial of argon (Photo: Jurii/Wikimedia Commons); A billet of high-enriched uranium that was recovered from scrap processed at the DOE’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn (Photo: DOE).

Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released its 2022 list of 50 minerals that are essential to the function of our society, especially the economy and national security. Whether it’s indium for LCD screens and aircraft wind shielding, cobalt for iPhones, uranium for nuclear reactors and munitions, rare earth elements for wind turbine magnets, lithium for rechargeable batteries, or tantalum for electronic components, if we do not have an ample supply, bad things will happen.

Jumping hurdles: ARPA-E and the path to advanced reactor deployment

September 15, 2023, 3:31PMNuclear NewsJenifer Shafer and Robert Ledoux

The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), a branch of the Department of Energy, is tasked with driving the research and development of cutting-edge energy technologies. The agency’s core emphasis is on mitigating emissions, increasing energy efficiency, reducing imports, ensuring energy systems resiliency, and offering transformative solutions for the management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel (SNF). Its mission is instrumental in ensuring the United States retains its technological superiority in the design and implementation of new energy technologies. Efforts in SNF research also benefit prior investments in ARPA-E’s MEITNER (Modeling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration) and GEMINA (Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets) programs, which seek to substantially decrease the capital and operational expenditures associated with advanced reactors (ARs).

Cracking the code to transition a ‘paper reactor’ to a practical reactor

August 11, 2023, 3:44PMNuclear NewsYasir Arafat
PCAT is prepared for transport from INL to Pennsylvania for testing. (Photo: INL)

As global concerns about climate change and energy sustainability intensify, the need for cleaner and more efficient energy sources is more critical than ever. Nuclear power consistently emerges as an important part of the solution, driving the development of innovative technologies. While numerous fission technologies were built and proven in the early days of nuclear energy, times and regulations have changed. Between the 1950s and mid-1970s, Idaho National Laboratory built 52 reactors—then paused for five decades. Can this nation return to the frontier once again, embarking on new fission technologies? With a mature regulatory environment and increasing public support, how quickly can a new non–light water system be deployed in modern times?

Gas-cooled reactors and Fort St. Vrain

July 21, 2023, 3:04PMNuclear NewsJeremy Hampshire
The National Reactor Testing Station (Photo: DOE)

Gas-cooled reactors have roots that reach way back to the development of early experimental reactors in the United States and Europe. In the United States, early experimental reactors at Oak Ridge and Brookhaven National Laboratories were air-cooled, as were early production reactors known as the “Windscale Piles” in the United Kingdom. Dragon, also located in the United Kingdon and operational from 1965 to 1976, used helium as the coolant and graphite as the moderator.

The U.S. nuclear fuel Gordian knot: From global supplier to vulnerable customer

May 19, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear NewsMatt Wald

This article is the second in a series about the domestic nuclear fuel crisis. The first in the series, “‘On the verge of a crisis’: The U.S. nuclear fuel Gordian knot,” was published on Nuclear Newswire on April 14, 2023.

Once upon a time, enrichment was a government monopoly—at least outside the Soviet bloc. But the United States, eager to get out of the field, was convinced that the private sector could do it better. Now, the West is dependent on the Soviets’ successors and is facing an uncertain supply, a complication of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Slowly, a consensus is growing that dependence on imports is a bad idea. Some experts also say that upsets like the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and the collapse of natural gas prices due to fracking, show that the market is too prone to shocks for private companies to navigate without support. One of the architects of the U.S. government’s exit from the enrichment game is now voicing second thoughts. And belatedly—shortly after the first anniversary of the beginning of the Russian invasion—five Western countries, including the United States, announced that they have to get more deeply involved in the fuel supply chain, but didn’t say precisely how.

On the verge of a crisis: The U.S. nuclear fuel Gordian knot

April 14, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear NewsMatt Wald
This chart from the EIA shows sources of uranium for U.S. nuclear power plants, 1950-2021. In 2020, according to the chart, 39.60 million pounds of uranium oxide was imported for the domestic nuclear power plant fleet. (Credit: Energy Information Agency)

The naturalist John Muir is widely quoted as saying, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” While he was speaking of ecology, he might as well have been talking about nuclear fuel.

At the moment, by most accounts, nuclear fuel is in crisis for a lot of reasons that weave together like a Gordian knot. Today, despite decades of assertions from nuclear energy supporters that the supply of uranium is secure and will last much longer than fossil fuels, the West is in a blind alley. We find ourselves in conflict with Russia with ominous implications for uranium, for which Russia holds about a 14 percent share of the global market, and for two processes that prepare uranium for fabrication into reactor fuel: conversion (for which Russia has a 27 percent share) and enrichment (a 39 percent share).

Locked in glass: The vitrification of LLW streams

March 10, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste SolutionsAmanda Gilmore
A sample of GeoMelt glass. (Photos: Veolia)

When it comes to managing nuclear waste, technology is transforming the way some of the most problematic waste is handled. The idea to transform nuclear waste into glass was developed back in the 1970s as a way to lock away the waste’s radioactive elements and prevent them from escaping. For more than 40 years, vitrification has been used for the immobilization of high-level radioactive waste in many countries around the world, including the United States.

Concerning consent-based siting: An Interview with the DOE’s Kim Petry, Erica Bickford, and Natalia Saraeva

March 3, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions

On December 1, 2021, the Department of Energy issued a request for information (RFI) asking for public feedback on using consent-based siting to identify sites for the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel. The department received more than 220 comments in response, and on September 15, 2022, the DOE released a report summarizing and analyzing those responses. That 57-page report, Consent-Based Siting: Request for Information Comment Summary and Analysis, will be followed by an updated consent-based siting process document.

The DOE’s consent-based siting initiative is being led through the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. To learn more about that initiative and the consent-based siting process, Radwaste Solutions spoke with the DOE’s Kim Petry, acting associate deputy assistant secretary, Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition; Erica Bickford, acting office director, Integrated Waste Management; and Natalia Saraeva, team lead, Consent-Based Siting.

New Generic Repository Environmental Standards: Draft Recommendations from ANS

February 17, 2023, 3:03PMRadwaste SolutionsPeter Swift, Michael Apted, Lake Barrett, John Kessler, and Steven Nesbit
An electric continuous miner machine cuts out a waste-emplacement panel at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant salt repository in New Mexico. (Photo: DOE)

Used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive wastes are by-products of nuclear energy production and other applications of nuclear technology, and the consensus approach to disposing of those wastes safely is to encapsulate them and emplace them in stable geologic formations (geologic repositories) where they will be isolated from people and the environment for very long periods of time. The federal government has established environmental standards for waste isolation that any proposed geologic repository must meet.

In July 2021, the American Nuclear Society established a special committee to consider possibilities for revised generic environmental standards for disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the United States. The committee developed a number of recommendations, which are contained in a draft report that was to be issued in February for review and comment by stakeholders. The draft report can be found on the ANS website, at

The committee’s draft recommendations are based on two underlying assumptions. First, that the relevant legislative framework for regulation defined in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) remains unchanged. Specifically, it is assumed that the Environmental Protection Agency will be charged with promulgating environmental standards for disposal and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be charged with reviewing applications for disposal facilities using licensing requirements and criteria consistent with the EPA standards. Second, that existing generic disposal standards will be updated or replaced.

American Nuclear Society unveils draft recommendations for updating industry and EPA geological repository standards for used fuel

February 17, 2023, 7:59AMPress Releases

LA GRANGE PARK, Illinois – Today, the American Nuclear Society (ANS) released draft recommendations on updating public health and safety standards for the permanent disposal of commercial used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at future geological repository projects in the United States. The draft report provides a recommended framework for revisiting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) geologic repository standards.

The Hanford B Reactor

February 13, 2023, 11:49AMNuclear NewsJeremy Hampshire
Front face of the B Reactor at the Hanford Site. (Photo: DOE)

In remote southeastern Washington you will find the sprawling Hanford Site, which was constructed to produce plutonium for the Manhattan Project. Within this complex is the first plutonium production reactor, the Hanford B Reactor. The DuPont Corporation was responsible for construction and operation of the B Reactor. Due to the urgency of the Manhattan Project, construction was completed in just over a year, and The B Reactor went critical on September 26, 1944. After the needs of the Manhattan Project were satisfied, the reactor was briefly shut down and then restarted to produce plutonium for roughly another 20 years, supporting Cold War efforts. In addition to plutonium production, the B Reactor also pioneered the process to produce tritium for the first-ever thermonuclear test.

Deadline approaching for abstract submissions to the 2023 NETS conference

January 27, 2023, 7:01AMANS News

This year the American Nuclear Society’s Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS 2023) conference, which will be held May 7–11, 2023, in Idaho Falls, Idaho, is focusing on powering the next era of space exploration through nuclear-enabled technologies and is sure to be the can’t-miss event of the year for those in the aerospace community.

A fateful day for nuclear waste policy: January 31, 1998

January 26, 2023, 3:12PMNuclear News

Next week will mark 25 years since January 31, 1998, a familiar date to most in the nuclear community, and revisited in today’s #ThrowbackThursday post with an article from the March 1998 issue of Nuclear News. “Those in the nuclear power industry are aware of the significance of the date January 31, 1998. ln the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, that date was set as the deadline for the U.S. government—more specifically, the Department of Energy—to begin taking possession of and responsibility for spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants nationwide” (NN, March 1998, p. 59).

The American Nuclear Society welcomes fusion ignition milestone

December 13, 2022, 2:00PMPress Releases

LA GRANGE PARK, Illinois – American Nuclear Society (ANS) President Steven Arndt and ANS CEO and Executive Director Craig Piercy issued the following statement:

"The American Nuclear Society and the Fusion Energy Division of the American Nuclear Society congratulate the National Ignition Facility (NIF) team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for their achievement in reaching the scientific energy breakeven milestone for fusion ignition.

Vit Plant delayed: Another defeat for cleaning up nuclear waste at Hanford

September 19, 2022, 12:37PMNuclear NewsJames Conca

The Hanford tanks, on which building began in 1943, were never supposed to hold waste for many decades. If grouting and disposal had occurred according to plans from the 1980s, this waste would already be in the ground and we would have saved almost $100 billion. (Photo: DOE)

At the end of June, a federal judge approved, with the agreement of the Washington State Department of Ecology, a request to push back the deadline 20 months for beginning nuclear waste treatment at the $17 billion Waste Treatment and Immobilization (Vit) Plant at the Hanford Site because of pandemic-related delays. The Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste program is the Department of Energy’s plan to start treating low-level radioactive waste first at the Vit Plant and then start treating high-level radioactive waste sometime in the 2030s.

This is the fifth delay granted by the court for the project, which should have begun operations in 2007. In one sense, this delay is good, since turning LLW into glass through vitrification is about as smart as singing into the wind. The chemistry of this waste makes it much better suited to grouting, a treatment used by everyone else in the United States and the world.

The state of U.S. Fusion

August 19, 2022, 2:56PMNuclear NewsCami Collins
The first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel was placed in the assembly pit in May. Here, a technician positions targets on the surface of the component to be used in laser metrology. (Photo: ITER Organization)

Delivery of electricity from fusion is considered by the National Academies of Engineering to be one of the grand challenges of the 21st century. The tremendous progress in fusion science and technology is underpinning efforts by nuclear experts and advocates to tackle many of the key challenges that must be addressed to construct a fusion pilot plant and make practical fusion possible.

Carbon value: Lifetime extensions of nuclear reactors could save billions in climate mitigation costs

June 24, 2022, 2:49PMNuclear NewsBeth Burmahl

On the road to achieving net-zero by midcentury, low- or no-carbon energy sources that slash carbon dioxide emissions are critical weapons. Nevertheless, the role of nuclear energy—the single largest source of carbon-free electricity—remains uncertain.

Nuclear energy, which provides 20 percent of the electricity in the United States, has been a constant, reliable, carbon-free source for nearly 50 years. But our fleet of nuclear reactors is aging, with more than half of the 92 operating reactors across 29 states at or over 40 years old—the length of the original operating licenses issued to the power plants. While some reactors have been retired prematurely, there are two options for those that remain: retire them or renew their license.