The nuclear community remembers Pete Lyons

May 3, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

Peter Lyons, former Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner (2005–2009) and assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy (2011–2015), has passed away.

American Nuclear Society President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar and executive director/CEO Craig Piercy issued the following statement on May 3:

“We are saddened to hear about the death of Peter Lyons. An ANS fellow and member since 2003, Pete will be remembered for his inspiring leadership and distinguished public service career that spanned five decades. His legacy and vision for a nuclear renaissance will continue to inspire future generations of nuclear professionals. Our thoughts today are with his family and loved ones.”

Making emergency planning zones smarter: a risk-informed approach for new reactors

April 16, 2021, 2:52PMNuclear NewsCurtis Smith, Koroush Shirvan, Jason Christensen, and Kurt Vedros

The health and safety of the public and protecting people from the consequences of a significant release of radioactive material has been a top priority since the early days of the civilian nuclear energy program. After World War II, it was realized that the core inventory of radionuclides is a potential hazard. From this knowledge, emergency planning zones (EPZs) for nuclear power plants were established.

Post-Fukushima safety enhancements

April 2, 2021, 2:47PMNuclear NewsLeah Parks, Carl Mazzola, Jim Xu, and Brent Gutierrez
A map of Japan highlighting the Fukushima prefecture.

March 11 will mark the 10-­year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi event, when a 45-­foot tsunami, caused by the 9.0-­magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, significantly damaged the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In response to this event, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission took actions to evaluate and mitigate beyond-­design-­basis events, including a new requirement for the staging of so-­called Flex equipment, as well as changes to containment venting and improvements to emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Energy also addressed beyond-­design-­basis events in its documented safety analyses.

Seismic preparation for nuclear plants: Lowering costs without compromising safety

March 26, 2021, 4:02PMNuclear NewsCory Hatch

Nuclear power plants not only provide the nation’s largest source of carbon-­free electricity, they also can operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to augment intermittent renewables such as wind and solar. Further, studies show that nuclear energy is among the safest forms of energy production, especially when considering factors such as industrial accidents and disease associated with fossil fuel emissions. All said, nuclear has the potential to play a key role in the world’s energy future. Before nuclear can realize that potential, however, researchers and industry must overcome one big challenge: cost.

A team at Idaho National Laboratory is collaborating with experts around the nation to tackle a major piece of the infrastructure equation: earthquake resilience. INL’s Facility Risk Group is taking a multipronged approach to reduce the amount of concrete, rebar, and other infrastructure needed to improve the seismic safety of advanced reactors while also substantially reducing capital costs. The effort is part of a collaboration between INL, industry, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-­E), and the State University of New York–Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo).

PRA standard for Advanced Non-Light Water Reactors just issued

February 9, 2021, 7:03AMNuclear News

ANSI/ASME/ANS RA-S-1.4-2021, “Probabilistic Risk Assessment Standard for Advanced Non-Light Water Reactor Nuclear Power Plants,” has just been issued. Approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on January 28, 2021, this joint American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)/American Nuclear Society (ANS) standard sets forth requirements for probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs) used to support risk-informed decisions for commercial nuclear power plants and prescribes a method for applying these requirements for specific applications.

ANSI/ANS-RA-S-1.4-2021 and its preview are available in the ANS Standards Store.

Wanted: A regulatory framework for commercial fusion energy

February 5, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsJeffrey Merrifield, Peter Lyons

Fusion devices have yet to sustain a burning plasma and produce usable energy, so it should come as no surprise that there is not yet a framework for regulating commercial fusion energy.

Fusion and fission are two very different ways to release nuclear energy. But how different could their regulation be? There are many possible answers to two central questions: Who will regulate commercial fusion (in the United States, that authority could reside with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or an Agreement State operating under NRC oversight), and what aspects of a fusion plant will they regulate?

Statement from the American Nuclear Society on the appointment of Christopher T. Hanson as NRC chair

January 24, 2021, 7:11PMPress Releases

On behalf of America’s nuclear professionals, we applaud President Biden for designating ANS member Christopher T. Hanson as chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The NRC plays a critical role in ensuring nuclear technology and materials are used safely to provide zero-carbon energy, detect and treat cancer, and protect the food supply, among many other applications.

Biden designates Hanson as the 18th NRC chairman

January 24, 2021, 12:37AMNuclear News

NRC commissioner Christopher T. Hanson participates in the commission briefing on the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: NRC

President Biden designated Christopher T. Hanson as the 18th chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the weekend. Hanson replaces Kristine Svincki who resigned from the NRC as chairman on January 20. Svinicki was the longest-serving commissioner in the agency's history (2008-2021).

“I am honored to have been selected by President Biden to serve as the next NRC chairman and to lead the talented women and men who oversee the licensing and regulation of our nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials,” said Hanson. “I look forward to building on Chairman Svinicki’s many accomplishments as the commission takes on new challenges and faces new opportunities as nuclear energy technologies continue to evolve and uses of nuclear materials expand in the future.”

Statement from the American Nuclear Society on the announced departure of NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki

January 5, 2021, 1:52PMPress Releases

On behalf of America’s nuclear professionals, we thank Chairman Kristine Svinicki for her service and leadership at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Chairman Svinicki announces she will resign on Jan. 20

January 4, 2021, 3:19PMNuclear News

Chairman Kristine Svinicki announced today that she intends to leave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on January 20. She issued a statement in a press release from the NRC.

Chairman Svinicki has served as a commissioner under three administrations and is the longest serving member of the commission. She was first appointed to the commission by President Bush in 2007, was reappointed in 2012 by President Obama, and was designated chairman by President Donald J. Trump on January 23, 2017. Her term would have ended on June 30, 2022.

The NRC’s Operations Center: Exercising authority to respond

September 21, 2020, 9:36AMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

One essential lesson from the events at Three Mile Island-2 in March 1979 can be summed up in three words: Preparedness takes practice. The emergency response capacity of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuclear plant operators is more than just a set of procedures. Active training and evaluation are required to coordinate effectively with local and state authorities and protect the public in the event of an off-site radiological release.

The NRC’s emergency preparedness and incident response teams work in the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR) to support licensees’ mandated emergency preparedness programs. The Operations Center at NRC headquarters is staffed around-the-clock with NSIR officers who can respond to technical questions and evaluate licensee event reports, yet most of its infrastructure typically stands vacant, awaiting activation for an incident or a planned exercise. With full activation of the NRC’s incident response program, the Operations Center comes to life, and teams of staff populate workstations. That process is regularly tested during exercises that involve NRC licensees, state and local responders, and similar incident response centers at each of the NRC’s four regional offices.

No two exercises are the same. Not only is every exercise dependent on variable human performance and every plant located in a unique community, but emergency preparedness benchmarks continually evolve with advancements in technologies and procedures.

Regulatory history of non-light-water reactors in the U.S.

August 14, 2020, 4:23PMNuclear NewsPranab Samanta, David Diamond, and William Horak

A cutaway view of EBR-1

Over the past several years there has been renewed interest in the development and licensing of advanced reactors that will be very different from the light-water reactors that are currently used to generate electricity in the United States. For example, some advanced reactors will use gas, liquid metal, or molten salt as a coolant, some will have a fast neutron spectrum, and some will be much smaller in size than current generation LWRs. The many possible applications for these reactors include electricity production, process heat, research and testing, isotope generation, and space applications.

To prepare for potential non-LWR application submittals, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has studied the issues and written many new relevant documents. In addition, there is a long history of the NRC regulating non-LWRs that might be useful to study to help in addressing new submittals. To some extent, this has been chronicled in general histories of the NRC. Our objective herein is to describe the NRC’s history specifically with the licensing of non-LWRs and to explain some of the most salient regulatory and licensing issues.

UWC 2020: A call for transformational change

August 12, 2020, 6:25PMNuclear News

Bowing to current COVID-19 realities but buoyed by the success of June’s virtual Annual Meeting, ANS event planners returned to the virtual realm for this year’s Utility Working Conference. Originally scheduled for August 9–12 at Marco Island, Fla., the condensed event was held Wednesday, August 11, wherever registrants’ computer devices happened to be located.

In addition to 26 educational sessions and workshops, UWC 2020 featured an opening plenary session titled “Achieving Transformational Change: A leadership discussion,” moderated by Bob Coward, MPR Associates principal officer and ANS past president (2017–2018). Plenary panelists included representatives from three utilities—Arizona Public Service (APS), Exelon, and Xcel Energy—plus the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In addition to coverage of the opening plenary further below, Newswire also covered other UWC sessions from the day, which are available for reading here:

  • More from UWC 2020 Click here
  • More from UWC 2020: Round 2 Click here
  • More from UWC 2020: Round 3 Click here

The opening plenary coverage starts directly below:

NRC declines call to suspend public proceedings

May 8, 2020, 12:20PMNuclear News

A request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it suspend all rulemakings and other activities involving public comment or participation has failed to receive the petitioners’ desired response from the agency.

In a letter dated April 8, representatives of 82 largely antinuclear organizations—including Beyond Nuclear, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club—argue that the public’s role in NRC rulemaking and licensing decisions is not being properly protected during the coronavirus pandemic.

Comment now on advanced reactor GEIS scope

May 7, 2020, 3:26PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is developing a generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) for small-scale advanced reactor designs. Just how small a reactor must be to fit the parameters of the GEIS is one topic open for public comment, but the NRC staff anticipates including reactors generating up to 30 MWt. The public comment period is open until June 30

New inspector general confirmed for NRC

May 7, 2020, 2:28PMNuclear News

Robert Feitel, speaking at his December 3, 2019, nomination hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety.

The Senate voted unanimously 87–0 on May 4 to confirm Robert Feitel as the inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The position had been vacant since the end of 2018, when the NRC’s longtime IG Hubert T. Bell retired.

A Department of Justice attorney, Feitel was nominated for the job by President Trump in October last year, and in December he was approved by the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, also by unanimous vote.