The Monticello nuclear power plant. (Photo: NRC)
An Xcel Energy news release issued last week regarding the leak of some 400,000 gallons of tritium-containing water at Minnesota’s Monticello nuclear power plant in 2022 has sparked a flood of news stories over the past few days—in large part because the general public had previously been unaware of the leak. (A low-level beta emitter, tritium is a common byproduct of nuclear reactor operation.)
SHINE’s isotope production building, called the Chrysalis, under construction in October 2022.
In a former farm field just outside the historic town of Janesville in south-central Wisconsin, a large concrete-and-steel building is taking shape. Dubbed the Chrysalis, the building will eventually house eight accelerator-based neutron generators, which start-up company SHINE Technologies will use to produce molybdenum-99. As the precursor to the medical radioisotope technetium-99m, Mo-99 is used in tens of millions of diagnostic procedures every year, primarily as a radioactive tracer.
At the heart of the Chrysalis will be the high-flux neutron generators, being supplied by SHINE’s sister company, Phoenix. The compact accelerators use a deuterium-tritium fusion process to produce neutrons, which in turn induce a subcritical fission reaction in an aqueous low-enriched uranium target (19.75 percent uranium-235) to produce Mo-99.
Nicholas Spivey, left, an SRNL mechanical engineer, and Kurt Gerdes, director of EM’s Office of Technology Development, use virtual reality simulation of an EM worksite during meetings held at the IHMC in Pensacola, Fla. (Photo: DOE)
For the first time since forming in 2020, more than 40 members of a Department of Energy team met in person to evaluate technologies, including exoskeletons and wearable robotic devices, that could be adapted to the cleanup mission of department’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), helping improve the safety and well-being of its workers.
A screenshot of the Interactive Isotopes App from the ANS website depicting U-235 and its decay chain. (Graphic: ANS)
In the summer of 2019, three students from the University of South Carolina–Aiken (USCA) had an idea to digitize the isotope. Wei Zheng, Drake Jones, and Joseph Taylor set out to design an app that would be an interactive one-stop shop for information about any isotope—number of protons and neutrons, whether it is stable or radioactive, its natural abundance on earth, and even its uses. From these ideas, the Interactive Isotopes App began to take shape.
The app’s launch was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic; although it was complete after three years of work and development, the creators sat on it. On October 12, the app at long last went live on the ANS website.
Secretary Granholm, center, leads breaking the ground for the SIPRC at ORNL, along with (from left) ORNL site manager Johnny Moore, ORNL director Thomas Zacharia; DOE undersecretary for science and innovation Geraldine Richmond; and DOE Office of Science director Asmeret Asefaw Berhe. (Photo: Genevieve Martin/ORNL/DOE)
The Department of Energy held a groundbreaking ceremony on October 24 for the Stable Isotope Production and Research Center (SIPRC) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The center is being built to expand the nation’s capability to enrich stable isotopes for medical, industrial, and research applications.
A rendering of the SHINE medical isotope production facility planned for construction in Veendam, the Netherlands. (Image: SHINE)
SHINE Europe, a subsidiary of Wisconsin-based SHINE Technologies, will work with the Netherlands’ University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) to produce a variety of terbium isotopes for use in nuclear medicine under a grant proposal approved by the Dutch government on October 17.
The cooling towers of Unit 2 at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, closed since the accident in 1979.
The Three Mile Island accident in 1979 was the most-studied nuclear reactor event in the U.S. There is a plethora of research about the accident available to the general public, including the president-appointed Kemeny Commission report and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Rogovin inquiry report (split into volume one, and volume two, parts one, two, and three), which are the two detailed government-sponsored investigations into the accident. There are also thousands of documents in the NRC’s ADAMS database available to the public, an excellent overview by NRC historian Samuel Walker Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective, as well as the Nuclear News special report from April 1979, and articles written by ANS members like William Burchill about the accident and the many changes it forced on the industry. If the producers of Meltdown: Three Mile Island—available on Netflix—had read any of those documents instead of relying mostly on input from antinuclear activists, their “documentary” might have been presented with at least some sense of balance and credibility.
Instead, similar to a recent Science Channel documentary on the Three Mile Island accident, Meltdown focuses on drama instead of science. This four-part miniseries does not attempt to provide a balanced set of facts from the technical community and instead relies heavily on nonexpert opinions and anecdotal statements to tell a story that easily falls apart under even the faintest scrutiny.
Nuclear News reached out to multiple ANS members who were involved with either the accident response or the clean up to help provide a critical look at some of the more egregious statements made in the documentary.
The DOE and a contractor recently succeeded in disposing of Oak Ridge’s low-activity U-233, but not before recovering Th-229 from the material.
A vial containing Th-299 extracted from uranyl nitrate.
This past October, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its contractor Isotek successfully completed processing and disposing the low-dose inventory of uranium-233 stored at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), ending a two-year effort that has eliminated a portion of the site’s legacy nuclear material and provided rare nuclear isotopes for next-generation cancer treatment research.
IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi (left) and WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. (Photo: IAEA)
The International Atomic Energy Agency has launched the Rays of Hope program to tackle a severe shortage of cancer care capacity in poorer countries. The program’s initial focus will be on Africa, where people often die from the disease because of the lack of access to potentially life-saving nuclear medicine and radiotherapy, according to the IAEA.
A video on the program is available on YouTube.
SHINE’s Mo-99 production facility under construction in Janesville, Wis. (Photo: SHINE)
SHINE Europe, a nascent subsidiary of Wisconsin-based SHINE Technologies, announced Wednesday that it has secured funding to begin designing an advanced medical isotopes facility in Veendam, the Netherlands. The new facility will use the same fusion-based neutron generator system SHINE is employing at its Janesville, Wis., facility to produce medical isotopes, including molybdenum-99, which is used in diagnostic imaging.
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.