Hitachi sunsets Horizon

Hitachi Ltd. plans to close Horizon Nuclear Power, its U.K. nuclear development subsidiary, early this spring, according to weekend news reports. Horizon is the firm behind Wylfa Newydd, the proposed nuclear new-build project in Wales.

On January 10, citing a story that appeared earlier that day in The Times, Yahoo reported that Hitachi will close Horizon by March 31—a move, Yahoo said, that “could scupper a sale of the [Wylfa Newydd] site, which has attracted interest from bidders, including a U.S. consortium of Bechtel, Southern Company, and Westinghouse, and dent [the] U.K.’s clean energy goals.”

However, a January 11 item on a Welsh online news service stated, “It is understood that if a sale of the site is not secured before Horizon shuts, the sale process will be continued by Hitachi.”

Baranwal departs Office of Nuclear Energy

Baranwal

Rita Baranwal, the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy, announced today via Twitter that she will be leaving her position at the end of the day. “It has been an absolute honor to serve in this capacity to help advance our U.S. nuclear energy R&D,” she tweeted. “I plan to continue to use my talents to promote, lead, and advance our nation’s largest source of clean energy so that our nation and my family will have a cleaner and more sustainable planet to protect.”

Baranwal previously directed the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative at Idaho National Laboratory. Before joining the DOE, Baranwal served as director of technology development and application at Westinghouse. She is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society.

ASLB established for North Anna SLR application

The North Anna nuclear power plant. Photo: Dominion Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced the establishment of an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to address a hearing request filed last month concerning Dominion Energy’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for the two reactors at its North Anna plant. The application, submitted in August of last year, was docketed by the NRC in October.

The contention: Filed by three anti-nuclear groups—Beyond Nuclear, the Sierra Club, and the Alliance for a Progressive Virginia—the 71-page hearing request argues that Dominion’s environmental report, submitted in support of its application, “fails to satisfy” the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as 10 CFR 51.53(c)(2) and 51.45(a), “because [the report] does not address the environmental impacts of operating North Anna Units 1 and 2 during the extended SLR term under the significant risk of an earthquake that exceeds the design basis for the reactors.”

Advanced reactors take center stage in Popular Mechanics

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.”

Five advanced reactor designs get DOE risk reduction funding

The Department of Energy today announced $30 million in initial fiscal year 2020 funding—with the expectation of more over the next seven years—for five companies selected for risk reduction for future demonstration projects. The chosen reactor designs from Kairos Power, Westinghouse, BWX Technologies, Holtec, and Southern Company collectively represent a range of coolants, fuel forms, and sizes—from tiny microreactors to a molten salt reactor topping 1,000 MWe. They were selected for cost-shared partnerships under the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) through a funding opportunity announcement issued in May 2020.

“All of these projects will put the U.S. on an accelerated timeline to domestically and globally deploy advanced nuclear reactors that will enhance safety and be affordable to construct and operate,” said Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette. “Taking leadership in advanced technology is so important to the country’s future, because nuclear energy plays such a key role in our clean energy strategy.”

U.K. sets plans for clean energy and green jobs by 2050

A 170-page energy white paper, Powering Our Net Zero Future, issued by the United Kingdom government on December 14 sets big goals for cleaning up the U.K.’s energy system. According to the U.K. government, the plan would create and support green energy jobs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and would keep electricity bills affordable as the U.K. transitions to net zero emissions by 2050.

The white paper notes that the U.K. will generate emission-free electricity by 2050 with a trajectory that will see "overwhelmingly decarbonized power in the 2030s. Low carbon electricity will be a key enabler of our transition to a net zero economy with demand expected to double due to transport and low carbon heat."

The white paper builds upon the U.K. prime minister’s 38-page Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which was issued on November 18.

U.S., Slovenia ink nuclear cooperation MOU

Anže Logar, Slovenia’s foreign minister (left), talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on December 7 in Washington, D.C. Photo: State Department

In the latest example of the Trump administration’s recent efforts to forge nuclear agreements with Central and Eastern European nations (for other examples, see here, here, and here), the United States earlier this week signed a memorandum of understanding concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation (NCMOU) with Slovenia.

The NCMOU was signed on December 8 during a visit to Washington, D.C., by a Slovenian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Anže Logar. Signing it were Christopher Ford, the administration’s assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, and Jernej Vrtovec, Slovenia’s minister of infrastructure.

The previous day, Logar met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss, among other topics, “the importance of energy security and how civil nuclear cooperation can strengthen the strategic bilateral relationship,” according to a State Department readout.

ORNL to examine irradiated accident tolerant fuel assemblies

An accident tolerant fuel experiment developed by Global Nuclear Fuel arrives at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for testing. Photo: ORNL

Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) has announced that irradiated lead test assemblies of its IronClad and ARMOR accident tolerant fuel (ATF) have been delivered to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for examination. The unfueled IronClad rods and fueled ARMOR rods, the first ATF samples to be installed in a commercial reactor, completed a 24-month fuel cycle at the Hatch nuclear plant near Baxley, Ga., in February and were shipped to ORNL in early November.

The test samples, manufactured at GNF’s facility in Wilmington, N.C., are part of an industry-led effort with the Department of Energy to commercialize new fuels that could help boost the performance and economics of U.S. reactors within the decade. Framatome and Westinghouse are also involved in the DOE’s ATF program.

According to GNF’s December 3 announcement, ORNL’s examination of the samples will include visual inspections, microscopy, and measurements of the thickness, corrosion, and other mechanical and material properties of the cladding. These data, GNF said, will be used to determine the performance benefits of the materials and support the licensing of new fuel technologies with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy noted in a December 4 press release that initial visual inspections of the test samples showed no visible signs of flaws or degradation on either of the assemblies.

Second license renewal sought for Wisconsin plant

Point Beach nuclear plant. Photo: NRC

NextEra Energy submitted a license renewal (SLR) application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking to add 20 years to the licenses of the two units at the Point Beach plant. The plant is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, in Two Rivers, Wis.

The application, submitted November 16, is the first SLR application for a Midwestern nuclear plant, according to NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng.

Point Beach’s initial license renewal was issued in 2005.

For more on the story, see this Wisconsin State Journal report.

U.S. companies said to be in talks with U.K. on Welsh nuclear project

Artist's concept of the Wylfa Newydd project. Image: Horizon Nuclear Power

The London-based newspaper Financial Times is reporting that a consortium of U.S. firms is holding discussions with the U.K. government to revive Wylfa Newydd, the nuclear new-build project in Wales from which Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd. withdrew in September. According to the November 10 FT story—which is based on an anonymous source—the consortium is led by Bechtel and includes Southern Company and Westinghouse.

Complaint filed with FERC to save Diablo Canyon from early closure

A nuclear advocacy group is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to review the approval by California regulators of the decision by Pacific Gas and Electric in 2016 to prematurely retire its Diablo Canyon plant—the Golden State’s only remaining operating nuclear power facility—in 2025.

On October 26, the nonprofit organization Californians for Green Nuclear Power Inc. (CGNP) filed a 32-page complaint with FERC in the matter, listing as respondents the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), California Independent System Operator (CAISO), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California State Water Resources Control Board (CSWRCB), and California State Lands Commission (CSLC).

Nuclear part of conversation at U.S.-India “2+2” talk

From left: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo participate in the U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue plenary session with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in New Delhi, India, on October 27, 2020. Photo: State Department/Ron Przysucha

In New Delhi earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper joined their Indian counterparts, Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh, for the third U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue—a yearly confab focused on strengthening the strategic relationship between the two nations. (In February of this year, the White House elevated that relationship to Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership status.)

The first 2+2 dialogue took place in New Delhi in September 2018, with a second held in Washington, D.C., in 2019. Washington is scheduled to host the fourth such meeting next year.

NRC gives nod to Watts Bar-2 power uprate

Watts Bar Unit 2. Photo: TVA

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a request from the Tennessee Valley Authority to increase the generating capacity of Unit 2 at the Watts Bar nuclear power plant by 1.4 percent, according to an October 27 press release from the agency. TVA submitted its application for the power uprate on October 10, 2019, and the NRC issued the required license amendment on October 21.

The power uprate, which TVA intends to implement by mid-December, will increase Unit 2’s generating capacity from approximately 1,223 MWe to 1,240 MWe.

“The NRC staff determined that TVA could safely increase the reactor’s output, primarily through more accurate means of measuring feedwater flow,” the press release stated, adding, “NRC staff also reviewed the TVA evaluations demonstrating that the plant’s design can safely handle the increased power level.”

SLR application for North Anna units docketed

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review an application from Dominion Energy to renew for 20 years the previously renewed operating licenses for North Anna-1 and -2, according to a notice published in yesterday’s Federal Register. Dominion submitted the application on August 24.

A version of the 1,899-page subsequent license renewal application without proprietary details is available to the public on the NRC’s website.

Settlement reached over Summer equipment ownership

South Carolina’s state-owned utility Santee Cooper and Westinghouse Electric Company have finalized the terms of a settlement for determining ownership of equipment associated with the Summer plant’s abandoned nuclear new-build project. The settlement agreement gives Santee Cooper full ownership of, and the ability to immediately begin marketing, all nonnuclear equipment, the utility announced on August 31.

Input sought on environmental review of Westinghouse fuel plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requesting public comment on the scope of the environmental impact statement (EIS) it intends to prepare for Westinghouse Electric Company’s application to renew the operating license for its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF), according to a notice published in the July 31 Federal Register. Comments must be filed by August 31 and can be submitted by email to WEC_CFFF_EIS.resource@nrc.gov; by regular mail to Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN–7– A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001; or by visiting the federal rulemaking website and searching for Docket ID NRC-2015-0039.

The CFFF, located in Columbia, S.C., produces fuel assemblies for use in commercial nuclear power reactors.

NRC to prepare EIS for Westinghouse fuel plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Westinghouse Electric Company’s application to renew the operating license of its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF) in South Carolina, the agency announced in a June 5 press release. The plant produces fuel assemblies for use in commercial nuclear power reactors.

Defense Department invests in three microreactor designs

Three reactor developers got a boost on March 9 when they were each awarded a contract from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to design a reactor that can fit inside a standard shipping container for military deployment. The DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), in partnership with the Department of Energy, proposes to build and demonstrate a 1–10 MWe reactor within four years that, if successful, could be widely deployed to support the DOD’s domestic and operational energy demands.

National Nuclear Science Week 2015 - Nuclear Energy

NSW logoWednesday during National Nuclear Science Week is devoted to the topic of Nuclear Energy.  Do you know how we use the energy obtained by splitting the atom to produce the electricity that charges up your phone, powers your TV and router, and lights your way?  Click on the link below to see the basics.