Defense agency invests in fusion- and radioisotope-powered space propulsion

May 19, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of USNC spacecraft using EmberCore. (Image: DIU)

The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a Department of Defense organization focused on swiftly putting commercial technology to use in the U.S. military, has awarded contracts for two nuclear technologies—compact fusion and radioisotope heat—for spacecraft that could carry a high-power payload and freely maneuver in cislunar space. The objective is to accelerate ground and flight testing and launch a successful orbital prototype demonstration of each approach in 2027.

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.

Pilot fuel facility in Oak Ridge to begin operations this summer

March 7, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Ultra Safe Nuclear staff in front of the new pilot fuel fabrication facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. (Photo: USNC)

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), an advanced reactor and reactor fuel developer, announced last week that it plans to begin operations this summer at its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., pending the receipt of the requisite state and local permits. The facility is located in the East Tennessee Technology Park, site of the Manhattan Project’s K-25 gaseous diffusion plant. USNC purchased an 8.7-acre site—which included a preexisting industrial building—from Heritage Center LLC in 2021.

Alaska bill would simplify microreactor siting: Here’s what you need to know

February 2, 2022, 6:59AMNuclear News
This image is described by the Alaska Center for Energy and Power as a conceptual layout of a generic small modular reactor or microreactor. (Image: ACEP)

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R.) introduced “An act relating to microreactors” (SB 177) in the Alaska state legislature on February 1 that would modify existing state law on nuclear energy by specifying that microreactors are not subject to certain nuclear reactor siting and permitting regulations in Alaska. The bill defines a microreactor as an advanced nuclear fission reactor that would be capable of generating no more than 50 MWe.

Ultra Safe Nuclear and ORNL strengthen bonds with 3D printing technology

January 14, 2022, 11:58AMNuclear News
Kurt Terrani observing a chemical vapor infiltration furnace at ORNL during densification of additively manufactured nuclear-grade silicon carbide. (Photo: Carlos Jones/ORNL/DOE)

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), a Seattle-based reactor developer, has licensed an additive manufacturing technique developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to print refractory materials into structural and core components for the company’s microreactor designs.

BWXT delivers reactor fuel that could power a roundtrip to Mars

December 14, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
Coated uranium fuel kernels, as viewed through a glovebox. (Photo: BWXT)

Nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) is one technology that could propel a spacecraft to Mars and back, using thermal energy from a reactor to heat an onboard hydrogen propellant. While NTP is not a new concept, fuels and reactor concepts that can withstand the extremely high temperatures and corrosive conditions experienced in the engine during spaceflight are being designed now.

BWX Technologies announced on December 13 that it has delivered coated reactor fuels to NASA for testing in support of the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s NTP project. BWXT is developing two fuel forms that could support a reactor ground demonstration by the late 2020s, as well as a third, more advanced and energy-dense fuel for potential future evaluation. BWXT has produced a videoof workers processing fuel kernels in a glovebox.

CNL issues call for third round of proposals under Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative

October 6, 2021, 7:29AMNuclear News

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) last week issued a call for proposals for the third round of its Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) program.

More information about the program, including application details, can be found online.

U of Illinois plans to integrate research and power with advanced microreactor

June 30, 2021, 12:18PMNuclear News
A rendering of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s micro modular reactor as proposed for construction on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. (Graphic: USNC)

The U.S. state with more nuclear power plants than any other—Illinois—has no operating university research reactors. A team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) intends to reverse that situation and construct a high-temperature gas-cooled microreactor. If the team's plans go ahead, the first new U.S. university research reactor deployment in about 30 years could also support commercial advanced reactor deployment.

Micro Modular Reactor reaches Canadian licensing milestone

May 24, 2021, 9:27AMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of the MMR project. (Image: USNC)

Global First Power’s (GFP) Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) project has moved to the formal license review phase with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), becoming the first small modular reactor to do so.

Advanced reactors take center stage in Popular Mechanics

December 17, 2020, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The January/February 2021 issue of Popular Mechanics hit subscriber mailboxes this week with a stark cover image of a single small reactor under the headline, “Tiny nuclear reactors are about to revolutionize American energy.” The story looks at advanced reactors as a pivotal step to “redeem nuclear’s stature in American energy.”

A good primer: The article does a good job introducing the casual reader to the idea that “bigger is no longer better” and that the future of nuclear power in the United States will most likely be “a combination of traditional large plants and smaller, safer megawatt reactors.”

Advanced reactors, including small modular reactors, show that nuclear is no longer a one-size-fits-all operation, the article notes. The industry now “is all about personalization,” says Ken Canavan, Westinghouse’s chief technical officer, who is quoted in the article. The capacity and scalability of SMRs “is just irreplaceable,” he adds.

The article explains that SMRs, microreactors, and other advanced reactor designs will be able to bring reliable, carbon-free power to small or remote locations, replacing fossil fuel power plants and supplementing the “resource-sucking downtimes left by renewables.”