U.S. boosts SMR development in Romania

U.S. ambassador to Romania Adrian Zuckerman (right) and SNN chief executive officer Cosmin Ghita at the January signing. Photo: U.S. Embassy in Romania

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant worth an undisclosed amount to Romania’s nuclear energy authority, Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN), for technical assistance to support the development of small modular reactors in that country, the agency announced on January 14.

The grant will be used to identify a short list of SMR-suitable sites, assess SMR technology options, and develop site-specific licensing roadmaps. SNN has selected Chicago-based Sargent & Lundy to carry out the assistance.

Acting NNSA administrator to step down on Inauguration Day

Bookless

The acting head of the National Nuclear Security Administration will resign January 20, Inauguration Day, according to a report in the Aiken (S.C.) Standard. William Bookless, who has more than four decades of experience in the nuclear security field, will also retire from federal service that day, the agency confirmed to the Standard.

The NNSA has made no official announcement or named a replacement for Bookless as of Thursday morning.

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New year brings into force a new U.K.-EU nuclear pact

Along with the wider Trade and Cooperation Agreement it signed late last month with the European Union to address post-Brexit realities, the U.K. government concluded a stand-alone Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom. The NCA went into effect January 1.

More adjustments to Vogtle milestone dates likely

The initial shipment of nuclear fuel for Unit 3 arrives at the Vogtle site in December. Photo: Georgia Power

Largely as a result of the continuing COVID-19 crisis, the Vogtle reactor-construction project team expects to further adjust dates for achieving key project milestones, including the start of hot functional testing and fuel load for Unit 3, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power announced on January 11.

The company added, however, that it continues to expect to bring Unit 3 into service this November and Unit 4 into service in November 2022. Additional updates on the project will be provided during Southern’s quarterly earnings call next month.

EIA: Nuclear, coal will account for majority of U.S. generating capacity retirements in 2021

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest inventory of electric generators, 9.1 gigawatts (GW) of electric generating capacity is scheduled to retire in 2021.

In total, it appears that 30 plants (nuclear, coal, petroleum, and others) will be retired in 2021. Five nuclear reactors are included in the closure list—Indian Point-3, Byron (two units at the plant), and Dresden (two units at the plant). Those three plants produce 5.1 GW of power, accounting for more than half of the total capacity expected to be retired.

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.”

DOE releases blueprint for advancing U.S. nuclear

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) last week released its Strategic Vision report, outlining its plan to support the current U.S. reactor fleet, demonstrate the latest innovations in nuclear energy technologies, and explore new market opportunities for nuclear energy.

The 36-page document identifies five goals to address challenges in the nuclear energy sector, help realize the potential of advanced technology, and leverage the unique role of the federal government in sparking innovation. Each goal also includes supporting objectives to ensure progress.

Holtec SMR could be built at Oyster Creek site

The site of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township, N.J., could be the location for Holtec International’s SMR-160 small modular reactor, according to an AP News story published last week.

ARDP investment: Holtec received $147.5 million in Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program funding to demonstrate its SMR design. Company spokesperson Joe Delmar said, “As part of our application to the Department of Energy for its advanced reactor demonstration program, we expressed interest in possibly locating an SMR-160 small modular reactor at the Oyster Creek decommissioning site in the future. This concept is only preliminary and something we would likely discuss with Lacey Township and the community if plans to locate (the reactor) at Oyster Creek evolve.”

Increasing costs of climate change–related disasters reflects importance of nuclear

Hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters across the United States caused $95 billion in damage last year, according to new data referenced by the New York Times. The cost is almost double the amount in 2019 and the third-highest loss since 2010.

The new figures, reported January 7 by Munich Re—a company that provides insurance to other insurance companies—are the latest signal of the growing cost of climate change. The spike reflects the need for increased reliance on clean energy sources such as nuclear, solar, and wind.

Illinois AFL-CIO releases updated nuclear impacts report

In response to Exelon’s announcement of the premature closure of two Illinois nuclear power plants—Byron and Dresden—the Illinois AFL-CIO released an updated version of the Brattle Group’s Illinois Nuclear Impacts Report.

The report highlights the economic losses and environmental impacts Illinois’ and its local communities will face with the retirement of these plants, according to a January 5 article posted to the 23WIFR website.

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.

The year in review 2020: Power and Operations

Here is a look back at the top stories of 2020 from our Power and Operations section in Newswire and Nuclear News magazine. Remember to check back to Newswire soon for more top stories from 2020.

Power and Operations section

Closing Duane Arnold puts Iowa at a disadvantage

Osterberg

An op-ed published in The Gazette, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa–based newspaper, laments the early closure of the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant in 2020. Author David Osterberg, a former Iowa state legislator, contrasts what happened in Iowa with Illinois and three other states, whose governments "decided that heading off climate damage and the loss of good union jobs was worth keeping nuclear plants there alive." The economic calculation in Duane Arnold's case treated its electricity the same as that from coal or natural gas plants. However, Osterberg states that “when it comes to global warming and local air pollution, they aren’t the same.”

Bulgaria joins Nuclear Energy Agency

Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear plant. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gogo89873

Bulgaria has become the 34th member of the Paris-based OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). With its several decades of experience operating VVER units, Bulgaria will reinforce the NEA’s capacity to address matters related to pressurized water reactor technologies and their operational characteristics, according to the NEA on January 4.

In addition, the NEA said that it will support Bulgaria’s efforts in technical and policy areas, including work to address nuclear skills capacity building, the development and application of nuclear data and simulation codes, and issues related to radioactive waste management, decommissioning, and nuclear economics.

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.”

Exelon CEO urges Illinois legislators to save nuclear plants

Crane

Christopher Crane, president and chief executive officer of Exelon, wrote in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed, “The failure of national energy markets to support clean energy will soon force the premature retirement of two of [Illinois’s] six zero-carbon nuclear plants, putting thousands of people out of work, raising energy costs, and taking us decades backward in the fight against climate change."

Crane urged Illinois policymakers to act quickly, as they face critical decisions about the future of energy that will affect the state’s environment, the economy, and the health of every family for years to come.

Decision on Welsh nuclear project delayed again

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

The U.K. government has agreed to delay until April 30 its decision regarding the issuance of a development consent order (DCO) for, the nuclear new-build project proposed for the island of Anglesey, off the northwest coast of Wales. (DCOs are required for large infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom to move forward.)


Chairman Svinicki announces she will resign on Jan. 20

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.