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Can chemical heat pumps for integrated energy systems and industrial applications change the world?

Nuclear energy is faced with a number of challenges in a changing energy landscape, driven by the need to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate climate change. Renewable energy technologies are being considered as the solution to climate change and are increasingly being deployed across the world. However, renewable energy sources, particularly solar and wind, are highly variable, and deployment of these technologies has resulted in significant perturbances in the energy market, raising questions about grid stability and the adaptability of other sources to compete in a changing marketplace that prioritizes renewables. Nuclear plants, well suited for baseload operation, have demonstrated technical capability and flexibility to respond to the fluctuating demand; however, they have also discovered that the economics of such operating mode are not necessarily optimal to their financial security. On the other hand, despite contributing to the carbon emissions, the low cost of abundantly available natural gas and resultant low-cost electricity have exacerbated the economic pressure on nuclear technologies, raising questions about their survival and role in future energy systems1.

Exelon to close Byron and Dresden plants in 2021

Exelon Generation, operator of the largest nuclear reactor fleet in the United States, intends to downsize that fleet next year by retiring its Byron and Dresden plants. In an announcement released early this morning, Exelon said that the two-unit Byron, located near Byron, Ill., would be permanently closed in September 2021, followed in November by the two-unit Dresden, located in Morris, Ill.

Byron is licensed to operate for another 20 years; Dresden, a much older facility, is licensed for another decade.

NRC proposes six-figure fine to TVA; cites two former execs

In actions related to its rules involving employee protection, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on August 24 issued a proposed civil penalty of $606,942 to the Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as an order prohibiting a senior TVA executive from NRC-licensed activities for five years and a violation notice to a second executive.

Following investigations completed in October 2019 and January 2020, the NRC concluded that two former TVA employees had been subjected to reprisals for raising concerns regarding a chilled work environment.

Windstorms force early closure of Duane Arnold

High winds that caused damage across central Iowa last week have prompted NextEra Energy to close the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant about two months earlier than originally planned. The plant’s 622-MWe boiling water reactor has been off line since August 10, when a line of intense, fast-moving windstorms, called derechos, caused a loss of off-site power and damaged the plant’s cooling towers. NextEra had planned to permanently shut down Duane Arnold, Iowa’s only nuclear power reactor, on October 30.

WNA: Nuclear generation in 2019 close to record high

Global nuclear power generation in 2019 totaled 2,657 TWh, second only to the 2,661 TWh generated in 2006, according to the World Nuclear Performance Report 2020, released yesterday by the World Nuclear Association. This is the seventh consecutive year that nuclear generation has increased, the WNA noted, with output 311 TWh higher than in 2012.

“In 2020, the world’s nuclear reactors have shown resilience and flexibility, adapting to changes in demand while ensuring stable and reliable electricity supplies,” said WNA Director General Agneta Rising.

Ohio counties oppose repealing H.B. 6 without a replacement bill

All six commissioners from Ohio’s Lake and Ottawa counties—home to the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear plants—joined forces last week to express their opposition to an immediate repeal of the Ohio Clean Air Program Act (H.B. 6), which was tainted by last month’s scandal involving former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder and four associates.

Signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in July last year—rescuing Perry and Davis-Besse from premature closure—H.B. 6 has become the subject of multiple calls for repeal since Householder’s July 21 arrest, including one from DeWine himself.

Generation IV International Forum hosts MSR webinar

The Generation IV International Forum (GIF) is hosting a free webinar on August 26 on the topic of “Molten Salt Reactor Safety Evaluation—A U.S. Perspective.”

The webinar, which is intended for policy makers, managers, regulators, students, and the general public, will start at 8:30 a.m. (EDT). Registration is required.

Kazatomprom to continue reduced uranium production through 2022

Kazatomprom is extending uranium production cuts. Photo: Kazatomprom

Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium production company, will continue “flexing down” production by 20 percent through 2022, compared to the planned levels under subsoil use contracts, the company announced last week. It will also maintain its 20 percent reduction against subsoil use contracts in 2021, with no additional production planned to replace volumes lost in 2020 due to measures taken to combat COVID-19.

Kazatomprom does not expect to return to full subsoil use contract production levels until a sustained market recovery is evident and demand and supply conditions signal a need for more uranium, the company noted.

After decades, Democrats' platform endorses nuclear energy

In its recently released party platform, the Democratic Party says it favors a “technology-neutral” approach to energy that includes “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage,” Robert Bryce writes in an article published Sunday on the Forbes blog. The statement marks the first time since 1972 that the Democratic Party has said anything positive in its platform about nuclear energy, according to Bryce.

NNSA site tour continues for administrator

NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty spoke during the agency's 20th Anniversary Celebration event that recognized milestones at the Pantex Plant. Source: NNSA

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, NNSA administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty is continuing with her trip to visit NNSA’s eight laboratories, plants, and sites.

Last week, Gordon-Hagerty was at the Pantex Plant, in Amarillo, Texas, for a 20th Anniversary Celebration of the NNSA.

So far, the tour of sites, which began in July, has taken Gordon-Hagerty to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.; Sandia National Laboratories and the NNSA Albuquerque Complex in Albuquerque, N.M.; and Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M., in addition to the Pantex Plant. She is expected to complete the tour by year’s end.

Senators press Trump for answers on Saudi nuclear capabilities

Van Hollen

Amid news stories of possible undeclared nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia and China's involvement with them (see here and here, for instance), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) on August 19 led a bipartisan group of senate colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump requesting more information on the matter.

Cosigners included Sens. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.), Susan Collins (R., Maine), Tim Kaine (D., Va.), and Jerry Moran (R., Kan.).

Ontario backs plan to keep Pickering operating through 2025

Pickering nuclear power plant

The government of Canada’s Ontario province is supporting a plan by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to extend the life of the Pickering nuclear power plant, the province’s Ministry of Energy, Northern Development, and Mines announced recently. Currently, all six operating reactors at the facility, located in southern Ontario, are scheduled to close at the end of 2024.

First Barakah unit is connected to grid

Nawah Energy Company, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (TRANSCO), has connected Unit 1 of the Barakah nuclear power plant to the United Arab Emirates’ power grid, according to an August 19 announcement from Nawah’s parent company, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC).

Barakah, located in the Al Dhafrah Region of Abu Dhabi, houses four 1,345-MWe APR-1400 pressurized water reactors. Unit 1 achieved first criticality earlier this month.

Extended operation sought for Finland’s Loviisa plant

Finnish energy company Fortum Power and Heat Oy has initiated an environmental impact assessment procedure for the two reactors at its Loviisa nuclear power plant with the aim of operating the units for 20 years beyond their current license expiration dates of 2027 (for Unit 1) and 2030 (for Unit 2).

Report: Utilities need greater access to grid threat information

The National Commission on Grid Resilience (NCGR) has released a report recommending a series of actions to better address threats to the bulk power system in the United States. While noting that “substantial progress has been made in a short time” toward improving grid resilience, the report declares that “more needs to be done, and in record time.”

DOE funds EPRI welding work to support NuScale demonstration

The Department of Energy announced on August 14 that $5.1 million would go to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to develop modular-in-chamber electron beam welding capabilities to support reactor pressure vessel welding for NuScale Power’s small modular reactor design. The project has a total value of nearly $6.5 million, of which the DOE will provide about $5.1 million.

More from UWC 2020: Round 3

This year’s Utility Working Conference Virtual Summit, held on August 11, had a dynamic opening plenary and a packed roster of informative sessions. Following is a recap of a 4:00 p.m. (EDT) session that took place.

Don't miss Newswire's coverage of the opening plenary and the sessions at 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. (EDT).


Shaping a regulatory framework to support future innovation

Session organizers Amir Afzali and Brandon Chisholm of Southern Company crafted a session titled “Advanced Reactors: Innovation in Nuclear Technology Needs Agile, Efficient, and Predictable Regulatory Framework” in the Regulatory Relations track of the UWC Virtual Summit. The panel discussion was focused on how to enable innovation in a regulated industry to support advanced reactor deployments within 10 years. “The right regulatory framework can enable innovation, and right-sizing the regulatory requirements incentivizes innovation,” Chisholm said during his opening comments.

Regulator releases report on Flamanville-3 pre-operational safety

The Flamanville nuclear plant. Photo: EDF

The French nuclear safety authority, Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), has released an International Atomic Energy Agency report on a pre-operational safety review team (pre-OSART) mission conducted in 2019 at the Flamanville nuclear plant to review the safety status of its Unit 3 EPR reactor, currently under construction.

According to the report, the pre-OSART mission at Flamanville-3 reviewed the following areas: leadership and management for safety, training and qualification, operations, maintenance, technical support, operating experience feedback, radiation protection, chemistry, emergency preparedness and response, accident management, human-technology-organization interaction, and commissioning. The review was performed by a team from Canada, Finland, Germany, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United States, along with IAEA staff members and observers from Russia and South Korea.