Power & Operations

The modern safety case for nuclear energy

May 5, 2023, 7:02AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

This month’s Nuclear News takes a look at nuclear’s reliability as an energy source, along with its contributions to the overall resiliency of our electricity grid. Capacity factors in the U.S. remain at an all-time high, and nuclear’s strength in maintaining a functional electricity distribution system in times of stress, whether by storm or war, is gaining public acceptance and appreciation.

Earlier this spring, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hosted its first in-person Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) since the onset of COVID. Though well organized and informative, it was easy to sense the frustration of attendees—over things like the stringency of the NRC’s proposed Part 53 regulatory framework for advanced reactors and the perceived lack of preparedness for the coming onslaught of license applications. There was a general sense, as one friend put it, that the commission is “wrapped around the axle of administrative procedures and precedents.”

Westinghouse unveils SMR version of AP1000

May 4, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear News
Rendering of a Westinghouse AP300 plant. (Image: Westinghouse)

At a virtual press conference this morning, Westinghouse Electric Company president and chief executive officer Patrick Fragman announced the launch of the AP300 small modular reactor, a 300-MWe, 900-MWth single-loop pressurized water reactor based on the company’s larger AP1000 unit. Fragman was joined at the conference by David Durham, president of energy systems for Westinghouse, and Rita Baranwal, the firm’s chief technology officer. The company also released a short video introducing the AP300 on YouTube.

Hot functional testing completed at Vogtle-4

May 3, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Vogtle-4 turbine building in March. (Photo: Georgia Power)

Georgia Power has announced another key milestone for the Vogtle nuclear expansion project near Waynesboro, Ga.—the completion of hot functional testing at Unit 4. This achievement marks another significant step toward commercial operation for the Generation III+ AP1000 reactor, which is projected to enter service late in the fourth quarter 2023 or in the first quarter 2024.

Gallup poll: Support for nuclear grows

May 1, 2023, 3:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Noted pollster Gallup reports that Americans’ support for nuclear energy is greater now than at any time since 2012, with 55 percent of the U.S. adult population “strongly” or “somewhat” in favor of using nuclear energy to generate electricity. That number is up substantially from the 44 percent who supported nuclear in 2016. Today, 25 percent of U.S. adults strongly favor nuclear, while 30 percent somewhat favor it. Gallup conducted its 2023 survey March 1–23 via landline and cellular telephones with a random sample of 1,009 adults living throughout the United States.

Reliable electricity from nuclear

May 1, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

Steven Arndt

In our daily lives, most of us take for granted that electricity will be available. We pull up to our garages in our cars and push the garage door opener and it works. Our refrigerators stay cold. Our houses stay warm. Our lights come on when we flip the switch. But reliable electricity doesn’t happen by accident. One of the most important parts of our industrial infrastructure, a reliable electric grid is achieved through deliberate design that uses a mix of sources that can achieve reliability, low cost, and other specific attributes like low environmental impact. Maintaining a reliable electric grid requires planning, analysis, and understanding of what is happening in the world. Many of the traditional grid reliability standards no longer recognize the reality of today’s constrained electric grids, nor do they account for fuel supply, weather, or the high penetration of renewables.

U.S. nuclear capacity factors: Credits where due

April 28, 2023, 3:03PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

Forty years ago, Nuclear News published an analysis of U.S. nuclear plant operations over the three years that followed the Three Mile Island-2 accident in 1979, scrutinizing capacity factors as a measure of how well a reactor was performing compared to its potential. The purpose: “To call attention to the units that have had the best results, and to explore the question: What have the personnel at these top units been doing right?”

DOE issues revised consent-based siting document

April 27, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy released an updated version of its consent-based siting process on April 25. The DOE will use the process to engage with willing communities to site one or more consolidated interim storage facilities for commercial spent nuclear fuel, reducing the number of locations where spent fuel is stored and easing the burden on U.S. taxpayers.

KAERI, Alberta to consider SMRs for province

April 21, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
Joo Han-Gyu, KAERI president, on teleconference with Albertan ministers Brian Jean and Rajan Sawhney during the signing of the MOU. (Photo: KAERI)

The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and the government of Alberta have agreed on a comprehensive cooperation framework to explore the viability of using small modular reactors to help decarbonize the province—Canada’s biggest energy producer and its biggest polluter. The announcement comes the same week that Alberta’s United Conservative Party government released a climate plan aimed at reaching net zero by 2050.

Canada completes second phase of IMSR design review

April 21, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
A rendition of Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR. (Image: NRC)

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed phase two of its prelicensing vendor design review for Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), the Ontario-based advanced nuclear technology firm announced Tuesday. Phase one of the VDR commenced in April 2016 and was completed in November of the following year.

Germany’s “senseless act of folly”

April 20, 2023, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe


The recent shutdown of Germany’s three remaining nuclear reactors is “a senseless act of folly, against all the science and available evidence.” So writes Lincoln Hill, director of policy and external affairs at the Nuclear Industry Association, in a strong opinion piece on CapX, a publication of the London-based Centre for Policy Studies.

Illogical: Hill is emphatic is criticizing Germany’s move as an antiscience action that is ideologically driven and harmful to the cause of battling climate change. He calls it “the single worst decision Europe has taken in the fight against climate change, and one for which we all are paying the price.”

He points out that Germany’s former chancellor, Angela Merkel, “ostensibly” made the decision to phase out nuclear energy as a reaction to the Fukushima accident in Japan. However, Japan itself is seeking to “restart its 30-GW nuclear fleet, even as Germany finishes shuttering a fleet of 20 GW.”

Poland powers forward with nuclear plans

April 19, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Germany may have walked away from nuclear energy, but just across the border, Poland continues to stride confidently toward it.

After solidifying plans in February for deploying Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactors in Poland, Polskie Elektrownie Jądrowe (PEJ) on April 13 submitted an application to the Ministry of Climate and Environment for a decision-in-principle regarding the nation’s initial nuclear project—construction of an AP1000 plant at a site some 40 miles northwest of Gdansk, the capital of Poland’s Pomeranian province.

French, European power analysis for first quarter

April 19, 2023, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Although the first quarter of the year saw some of the French nuclear fleet return to service, it was not at the rate originally anticipated, according to data analysis company EnAppSys. France’s nuclear availability, the company noted, was expected to reach a maximum of 50 GW by the middle of the first quarter, but that goal was not reached due to several reasons, including the need for additional repairs and maintenance when stress corrosion cracking first appeared in several reactors last year. Workforce strikes at nuclear operator Électricité de France also led to widespread employee walkouts from nuclear power plants.

Industry to G7: Back current fleet, speed deployment of advanced units

April 18, 2023, 12:22PMNuclear News
Representatives of six nuclear organizations sign a declaration in Sapporo, Japan. Seated, left to right, are George Christidis (representing CNA chief executive officer John Gorman), Shiro Arai, Maria Korsnick, Tom Greatrex, Yves Desbazeille, and Sama Bilbao y León. (Photo: World Nuclear Association)

G7 governments should support life extension for today’s power reactor fleet, restart operable units, and accelerate the deployment of advanced reactors, states a joint declaration issued April 16 at the Nuclear Energy Forum, a first-of-its-kind colloquy held on the margins of the G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment in Sapporo, Japan.

Germany completes nuclear phaseout; better news from Finland

April 17, 2023, 3:13PMNuclear News
The Neckarwestheim nuclear power plant in Germany.

Ignoring a last-minute plea from a long list of scientific luminaries (including Nobel laureate Steven Chu and climate scientist James Hansen) to reconsider, as well as recent polls showing pronuclear sentiment among a majority of its population, Germany shut down its last three operating nuclear power plants late Saturday, ending 60-plus years of electricity generation from fission. (Germany’s first nuclear power plant, Kahl, was commissioned in 1961 and closed in 1985.)

Holtec seeking state aid for Palisades restart

April 17, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

The Palisades nuclear power plant may have entered retirement, but it’s not dead yet. Plant owner Holtec International is continuing with its unprecedented effort to restart the Covert, Mich., single-unit facility, shuttered 11 months ago by previous owner Entergy.

DOE offering $450 million for clean energy deployment on mine lands

April 10, 2023, 3:05PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy last week announced up to $450 million in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to advance clean energy demonstration projects at current and former mine sites. The law, officially the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, was signed by President Biden in November 2021.

Plan for two additional Natrium units announced

April 7, 2023, 9:29AMNuclear News

Portland, Ore.–based PacifiCorp—owner of the soon-to-be-retired Wyoming coal plant selected in 2021 as the future site of TerraPower’s Natrium reactor demonstration project—has released its 2023 Integrated Resource Plan, which recommends the addition of two more Natrium units to the company’s generation resource mix by 2033.

First step in Rolls-Royce SMR design assessment completed

April 6, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
Rendering of a Rolls-Royce SMR plant. (Image: Rolls-Royce SMR)

The United Kingdom’s nuclear regulators—the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the Environment Agency, and Natural Resources Wales (NRW)—have announced the completion of step one of their generic design assessment (GDA) for Rolls-Royce SMR’s 470-MWe small modular reactor design and the start of step two, which is expected to last 16 months.

Bruce Power issues C$600 million in green bonds

April 5, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
The Bruce nuclear power plant. (Photo: Bruce Power)

Canada’s Bruce Power, operator of Ontario’s eight-unit Bruce nuclear power plant, has announced the issuance of C$600 million (about $446.3 million) in green bonds in support of the company’s net-zero-by-2027 goal. (Investopedia defines green bonds as fixed-income instruments specifically earmarked to raise money for environmentally friendly projects.)

Vogtle-3 connects to grid

April 3, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in February. (Photo: Georgia Power)

Unit 3 at the Vogtle nuclear power plant has been successfully synchronized and connected to the electric grid, Georgia Power announced on April 1. The unit—one of two Westinghouse-supplied AP1000s at the Waynesboro, Ga., plant’s nuclear expansion site—becomes the first new U.S. power reactor to start up in seven years.