The American Nuclear Society welcomes Senate confirmations of NRC nominees Caputo and Crowell

August 3, 2022, 9:20AMPress Releases

Statement from American Nuclear Society President Steven Arndt and Executive Director and CEO Craig Piercy:

“The American Nuclear Society applauds the Senate for restoring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to five commissioners with the confirmations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell.

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.

The Kemeny Commission Report from the pages of Nuclear News

May 26, 2022, 3:15PMNuclear News

This week’s Throwback Thursday post is again about Three Mile Island—this time looking at the coverage from the pages of the December 1979 issue Nuclear News about the Kemeny Commission. The twelve-person commission, announced by President Carter immediately after the accident in April 1979, was headed by John Kemeny—then president of Dartmouth College—with orders to investigate the causes and any consequences of the accident.

Insights from the Three Mile Island accident—Part 2: Improvements

May 6, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear NewsWilliam E. Burchill

Part one of this article, published in the May 2019 issue of Nuclear News[1] and last Friday on Nuclear Newswire, presented insights from the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island-­2 and addressed several issues raised by a previous Nuclear News piece on the accident[2]. Part two discusses safety improvements that have been made by both the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the past 40 years.

Insights from the Three Mile Island accident—Part 1: The accident

April 29, 2022, 3:59PMNuclear NewsWilliam E. Burchill

The accident at Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant on March 28, 1979, was an extremely complex event. It was produced by numerous preexisting plant conditions, many systemic issues in the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, unanticipated operator actions, previously unrecognized thermal-­hydraulic phenomena in the reactor coolant system (RCS), and the unprecedented challenge of managing a severely degraded core.

Looking back at coverage of TMI

March 31, 2022, 3:30PMANS Nuclear Cafe

This week for the #ThrowbackThursday post, we are again turning to the April 1984 issue of Nuclear News, which was highlighted in February when we looked at the start of the federal program to convert research reactors from the use of high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium. This week, however, we are reviewing the coverage presented in that issue about the five-year anniversary of the Three Mile Island-2 accident.

Looking back at a Nuclear News Q&A

February 24, 2022, 3:07PMNuclear News

An ANS virtual event titled "Perspectives from Past NRC Chairs" featured four former members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who focused on the future of nuclear energy in the United States and the NRC’s role as a regulator of small modular and advanced reactors.

The virtual event gave us an idea for #ThrowbackThursday to search through the Nuclear News archives (available to all ANS members) for an interview with George Apostolakis, published in the March 2000 issue. At the time, Apostolakis was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards. Ten years later, he was sworn in as an NRC commissioner.

How the Olympics put a spotlight on HEU in research reactors

February 10, 2022, 12:04PMNuclear News

Today’s #ThrowbackThursday post looks at the initial debate surrounding the conversion of research reactor fuel from high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium. An article published in the April 1984 issue of Nuclear News (available to all ANS members), titled “NRC studies HEU-to-LEU fuel conversion issue,” was written by the ANS Washington editor John Graham, and brings up several items of interest.

The story: Graham introduces the readers to the growing security concerns around HEU and notes that the issue has its roots in the nonproliferation concerns from the Carter administration that forced the domestic nuclear industry to abandon certain projects—the subject of a #TBT post a couple of weeks ago.

The case of the Pu-powered pacemaker

January 20, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The cover of the August 1969 issue of Nuclear News (left), an image of Brunhilde, the dog that had the first nuclear-powered pacemaker in the U.S. (center) and the cover of the December 1970 Nuclear News (right).

In this first installment of a #ThrowbackThursday post, Nuclear News provides a review of radioisotope-powered pacemakers in response to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The article, published earlier this week, looks at the issue of disposing of nuclear-powered pacemakers, although considering how few are still in use today, it seems like this is really much ado about nothing.

Piercy's opening remarks at the ANS Winter Meeting

January 19, 2022, 7:04AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

ANS ended 2021 on a high note with our first post-pandemic national meeting, held in Washington, D.C. What follows is a lightly edited version of remarks, shorn of opening and closing pleasantries, that I gave to 500-plus attendees during the opening plenary session:

I think the big question everyone will be asking this week will be some form of “How did you spend the pandemic?” I can tell you how ANS spent the pandemic: on a strict quarantine diet and fitness program.

We’ve figured out how to maintain what we believe is a higher level of service on 20 percent fewer FTEs. We’ve rebuilt our digital infrastructure and have a firm path forward toward a modern data architecture. We are in the process of selling our headquarters building in La Grange Park, Ill., and moving to a smaller, more manageable footprint in suburban Chicago, with an outpost in Washington, D.C.

License application for Oklo unit denied

January 7, 2022, 9:06AMNuclear News
An artist's rendition of Oklo’s Aurora powerhouse. (Image: Gensler)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied “without prejudice” Oklo Power’s application to build and operate its Aurora microreactor in Idaho, the agency announced yesterday. The denial, according to the NRC, is due to the California-based firm’s failure to provide sufficient information on several crucial topics regarding the Aurora design.

The origins of The Reactor Safety Study

September 10, 2021, 8:22AMUpdated December 31, 2021, 7:15AMNuclear NewsThomas R. Wellock
An aerial view of the Hanford reservation and Columbia River that shows the N (nearest), KE/KW (center), and B (top right) reactors. (Photo: U.S. DOE )

In March 1972, Stephen Hanauer, a technical advisor with the Atomic Energy Commission, met with Norman Rasmussen, a nuclear engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The AEC had recruited Rasmussen to develop a report, The Reactor Safety Study (WASH-1400), to estimate the probabilities and consequences of a major nuclear power plant accident. With thousands of safety components in a modern reactor, the task was mind-boggling. Rasmussen proposed a novel approach based on more powerful computers, “fault tree” methodology, and an expanding body of operational data. By calculating and aggregating probabilities for innumerable failure chains of components, he believed he could develop a meaningful estimate of overall accident risk. WASH-1400 would be a first-of-its-kind probabilistic risk assessment (PRA).

How the NRC modernized its digital I&C infrastructure and where it goes from here

June 11, 2021, 3:20PMUpdated December 29, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear NewsEric J. Benner and Steven A. Arndt

As 2021 closes, Nuclear News is taking a look back at some of the feature articles published each month in the magazine. The June issue reviewed some topics in human factors and instrumentation and controls such as the article below that looks at the NRC's review of digital instrumentation systems in the current fleet.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commissiona first formally developed infrastructure for the review of digital instrumentation and control (I&C) systems in the 1990s. Although the current fleet of nuclear power plants in the United States was originally designed and constructed with analog systems, the U.S. nuclear industry has for more than 30 years been working to upgrade these older systems with modern digital equipment.

Helping to solve the plant safety puzzle: An overview of PRA

September 17, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear NewsCurtis Smith, Andrew Miller, Stephen Hess, and Fernando Ferrante

Probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs) have advanced the safe operation of the U.S. reactor fleet over many decades. Risk insights from PRAs have provided information from many different perspectives, from what is most important to maintain at a facility to a better understanding of how to address new information regarding safety issues. The methods and tools that have supported the creation and enhancement of PRA models were established through multiple decades of research, starting with WASH-1400, The Reactor Safety Study,1 published in 1975, through the comprehensive plant-specific models in use today.

Metz on Harold Denton: Memories of a life in nuclear safety

July 23, 2021, 2:54PMNuclear News

Metz

A number of years ago, historian and writer Chuck Metz Jr. was at the Bush’s Visitor Center in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains when he ran into former Nuclear Regulatory Commission official Harold Denton and his wife. Metz was at the visitor center, which opened in 2010 and is now a tourist hotspot, because, as he explained to the Dentons at the time, he had overseen the development of its on-site museum and had written a companion coffee-table history book.

The chance meeting turned into a friendship and a fruitful collaboration. Denton, who in 1979 was the public spokesperson for the NRC as the Three Mile Island-2 accident unfolded, had been working on his memoir, but he was stuck. He asked Metz for help with the organization and compilation of his notes. “I was about to retire,” Metz said, “but I thought that exploring the nuclear world might be an interesting change of pace.”

Denton passed away in 2017, but by then Metz had spent many hours with his fast friend and was able to complete the memoir, Three Mile Island and Beyond: Memories of a Life in Nuclear Safety, which was published recently by ANS. Metz shared some of his thoughts about Denton and the book with Nuclear News. The interview was conducted by NN’s David Strutz.

ANS urges Biden to quickly fill NRC vacancies

July 9, 2021, 6:04AMANS News
Former commissioner Annie Caputo left the NRC when her term expired at the end of June.

In a July 1 letter to President Biden, ANS President Steven Nesbit and ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy stated that a full complement of five commissioners is essential to the effectiveness of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in protecting public health and safety while enabling the deployment and applications of nuclear technology.

NRC discontinues consideration of 40-year license renewals

July 6, 2021, 9:34AMNuclear News
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission headquarters (photo: U.S. NRC)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has halted efforts to consider allowing U.S. nuclear power plant owners to request 40-year license renewals for their facilities, the agency announced on Facebook and Twitter on July 2. Currently, the maximum potential operating lifespan for a plant is 80 years: 40 years with the original license, 20 more with an initial license renewal, and another 20 with a second renewal.

American Nuclear Society urges Biden to fill NRC seats

July 1, 2021, 4:46PMPress Releases

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) requests President Biden restore the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to five commissioners by naming and expediting nominees to the agency. The impending vacancy of Commissioner Annie Caputo’s seat after June 30 will reduce the five-member NRC to three commissioners. NRC commissioners are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate for staggered five-year terms.

Nuclear I&C Modernization: The Future is Digital

June 4, 2021, 9:34AMSponsored ContentRobert Ammon, Technical Director of Digital Safety Systems at Curtiss-Wright Nuclear Division

As the U.S. nuclear industry moves into plant life extension and subsequent license renewals, the modernization of safety instrumentation and control (I&C) systems holds significant potential to transform plant operations. Automated system diagnostics, equipment health monitoring, and performance indications reduce the need for manual surveillance activities and enable condition-based maintenance, resulting in improved system reliability and reduced maintenance costs. Despite these benefits, adoption of digital I&C systems for safety-related applications across the domestic nuclear fleet has been slow. U.S. nuclear power plants that do choose to embrace the transition from analog to digital are in good company; international plants have successfully implemented digital safety systems for more than a decade. Furthermore, digital safety systems are also the first choice of the growing small modular reactor (SMR) and advanced reactor (AR) communities.