Comments requested on proposed EP rule

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking comments on its “Proposed Rule for Emergency Preparedness for Small Modular Reactors and Other New Technologies,” published in the Federal Register on May 12. The proposed rule and associated draft regulatory guide apply to non–light-water reactors and certain nonpower facilities.

Final major module for Vogtle-3 installed

The CB-20 module being installed at Vogtle-3. Photo: Georgia Power

A massive water tank has been placed atop the containment vessel and shield building roof at Vogtle-3, one of two AP1000 reactors currently under construction at Southern Company’s nuclear expansion project near Waynesboro, Ga. The installation represents the final module placement for the unit and marks the latest significant milestone to be reached at the Vogtle site.

Study: Advanced reactors a good fit for Puerto Rico

The Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP), a nonprofit group supporting the use of advanced reactors in Puerto Rico, has released the findings of a preliminary feasibility study undertaken to explore in detail the potential for these devices on the Caribbean island. The 288-page study, Preliminary Feasibility Study for Small Modular Reactors and Microreactors for Puerto Rico, was sponsored by the Department of Energy. The study concludes that small modular reactors and microreactors could be part of Puerto Rico’s energy portfolio and potentially supply a substantial part of a strong and diverse zero-emission energy mix.

ENEC completes key test for Barakah-4

The UAE's Barakah nuclear power plant in 2019. Photo: ENEC

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has completed cold hydrostatic testing at Unit 4 of the Barakah nuclear power plant, the Arab world’s first such facility, located in Abu Dhabi. According to a May 19 ENEC press release, the testing incorporated lessons learned from the plant’s three other units and is a crucial step toward Unit 4’s completion. All four units are 1,345-MWe APR1400 pressurized water reactors. Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.

Lawmakers urge NRC to expedite advanced reactor rulemaking

A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to accelerate the completion of a rulemaking that would establish a technology-inclusive regulatory framework for advanced nuclear reactor technologies.

In a May 15 letter to NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki, Sens. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), and Cory Booker (D., N.J.) note that the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA)—signed into law by President Trump in January 2019—requires the NRC to, among other things, complete a rulemaking to license and regulate these technologies no later than December 31, 2027.

Vogtle-3 integrated head package set in place

Vogtle-3’s integrated head package. Photo: Georgia Power

Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power has placed the integrated head package (IHP) atop the Unit 3 reactor vessel at the Vogtle nuclear expansion project near Waynesboro, Ga., marking the latest major milestone in the construction of the first new U.S. nuclear reactors in more than 30 years.

DOE issues FOA for advanced reactor demos

Reactor designers and others ready to invest in advanced nuclear technology now have a defined route to apply for cost-share funding, including $160 million in initial funding to build two reactors within the next five to seven years. On May 14, the U.S. Department of Energy issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

Bill introduced to protect critical electric infrastructure

Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) and James Risch (R., Idaho) have introduced legislation to bolster safeguards for U.S. critical electric infrastructure. Dubbed the Energy Infrastructure Protection Act, the bill updates provisions in the Federal Power Act and restricts federal disclosures of certain sensitive energy information.

Feature Story

The nexus between safety and operational performance

Nuclear power plant performance includes both operational and safety aspects and is an outcome of numerous elements, such as the reliability of equipment, reduction in challenges to plant operations, protection of workers, and proficiency of operations. These elements are inextricably linked to each other and to the safety of each facility. In short, a well-run plant is a safe plant for the workers and the public, and a well-run plant is an efficient plant. By-products of high performance include improved regulatory performance, worker safety, plant reliability, and, most important, public health and safety.

Baranwal on NFWG plan: “It’s time to get to work”

Baranwal

“Our ability to produce domestic nuclear fuel is on the verge of a collapse,” Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Rita Baranwal said in an article posted on the DOE’s website on May 11. “This is not an easy problem to fix, but the United States has a plan.”

Southern gives nod to NRC on violation at Vogtle

Southern Nuclear has accepted a “white” finding (one of low to moderate safety significance) and an associated violation notice from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a problem at the company’s Vogtle nuclear plant, near Waynesboro, Ga. Earlier this year, Southern had contested the severity of the finding, arguing to no avail that the finding be more appropriately characterized as “green” (very low safety significance).

Illinois plants set outage performance marks

Four of six Illinois nuclear power plants—Braidwood, Byron, LaSalle, and Quad Cities—set operational records while conducting spring refueling outages amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Performance records include the shortest refueling outage (18 days) at LaSalle; the shortest refueling outage at Quad Cities (16 days), as well as the completion of the site’s longest continuous run (722 days); and the completion at both Braidwood and Byron of their sixth consecutive continuous cycle of operations, also known as a “breaker-to-breaker” run, according to a May 7 press release from Exelon Generation. Exelon’s average outage duration in Illinois this spring was 17 days, a full two weeks shorter than the national average, the release stated.

Safety board endorses Surry second license renewal

The ACRS supports subsequent license renewal for the Dominion units. Photo: Dominion Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) has issued a report recommending approval of Dominion Energy’s 20-year subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for Surry-1 and -2. The board reached its conclusion during its April meeting, after reviewing both the SLR application and the associated final safety evaluation report. Dominion submitted the application in October 2018.

NRC declines call to suspend public proceedings

A request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it suspend all rulemakings and other activities involving public comment or participation has failed to receive the petitioners’ desired response from the agency.

In a letter dated April 8, representatives of 82 largely antinuclear organizations—including Beyond Nuclear, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Public Citizen, and the Sierra Club—argue that the public’s role in NRC rulemaking and licensing decisions is not being properly protected during the coronavirus pandemic.

Global nuclear output expected to drop due to COVID-19

Birol

Nuclear energy demand and output could be reduced by 2.5 percent this year compared with 2019, according to the report Global Energy Review 2020 from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The report states that global nuclear power generation fell by about 3 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, adding that the decline was due to lower electricity demand as well as delays for planned maintenance and construction of several projects.