Research & Applications

Finding fusion’s place

May 27, 2022, 4:38PMNuclear NewsBart Gordon, Tim Peckinpaugh, Mike O’Neill, and Molly Barker
Artist’s rendering of the U.K.'s STEP fusion reactor. (Image: U.K. Atomic Energy Authority)

Fusion energy is attracting significant interest from governments and private capital markets. The deployment of fusion energy on a timeline that will affect climate change and offer another tool for energy security will require support from stakeholders, regulators, and policymakers around the world. Without broad support, fusion may fail to reach its potential as a “game-­changing” technology to make a meaningful difference in addressing the twin challenges of climate change and geopolitical energy security.

The process of developing the necessary policy and regulatory support is already underway around the world. Leaders in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, China, and elsewhere are engaging with the key issues and will lead the way in setting the foundation for a global fusion industry.

McMaster University may host the second USNC microreactor in Canada

May 24, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (Photo: McMaster University)

McMaster University, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), and Global First Power (GFP) have embarked on a new partnership to study the feasibility of deploying a USNC Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) at McMaster University or an affiliated site. The three partners last week announced a memorandum of understanding that will support research on advanced reactor and small modular reactor technologies in support of Canada’s Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 goal.

Penn State wants a Westinghouse eVinci microreactor on campus

May 19, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
Representatives from Westinghouse and Penn State met at Westinghouse headquarters to sign a memorandum of understanding and enter a partnership focused on researching and developing microreactors. From left: Jason Beebe, director of the global transformation office at Westinghouse; Michael Valore, senior director of advance reactor commercialization, Westinghouse; Mike Shaqqo, senior vice president of advanced reactors, Westinghouse; Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research at Penn State; Jean Paul Allain, head of the Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering at Penn State; Geanie Umberger, associate vice president for research and director of industry research collaborations at Penn State; Saya Lee, assistant professor of nuclear engineering; Elia Merzari (back), associate professor of nuclear engineering; and Hilary Ruby, director of transformation for the Americas Operating Plant Services Business Unit at Westinghouse. (Photo: Westinghouse)

Penn State University has announced plans to explore siting a Westinghouse Electric Company eVinci microreactor on its State College campus in central Pennsylvania. Under a memorandum of understanding to perform research and development work that could advance the future commercial deployment of eVinci, a team of researchers in Penn State’s Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering also plans to explore how eVinci could displace some fossil-fueled energy sources on campus.

Defense agency invests in fusion- and radioisotope-powered space propulsion

May 19, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of USNC spacecraft using EmberCore. (Image: DIU)

The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a Department of Defense organization focused on swiftly putting commercial technology to use in the U.S. military, has awarded contracts for two nuclear technologies—compact fusion and radioisotope heat—for spacecraft that could carry a high-power payload and freely maneuver in cislunar space. The objective is to accelerate ground and flight testing and launch a successful orbital prototype demonstration of each approach in 2027.

DOE releases Final EIS for one-of-a-kind Versatile Test Reactor

May 17, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual site layout for the VTR, as shown in the Final EIS. (Image: DOE-NE)

The Versatile Test Reactor, a custom-designed sodium-cooled fast neutron spectrum test reactor, is one step closer to its goal of providing data to accelerate research, development, and demonstration of diverse advanced reactor designs. The Department of Energy released the Final Versatile Test Reactor Environmental Impact Statement (Final VTR EIS) on May 13, and 30 days after its anticipated May 20 publication in the Federal Register, the DOE will issue a Record of Decision on the project.

MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems agree to five-year SPARC collaboration

May 16, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
PSFC director Dennis Whyte (left) and CFS chief executive officer Bob Mumgaard in the test hall at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. (Photo: Gretchen Ertl, CFS/MIT-PSFC)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) recently announced it will expand its involvement in fusion energy research and education under a new five-year agreement with Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a fusion energy company that got its start at MIT and is now building what it says will be the world’s first net-energy fusion machine—the demo-scale SPARC.

“CFS will build SPARC and develop a commercial fusion product, while MIT PSFC will focus on its core mission of cutting-edge research and education,” said PSFC director Dennis Whyte in describing the collaboration.

First experiments in Argonne’s THETA aim to fill liquid sodium data gaps

May 13, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
THETA pictured in Argonne National Laboratory’s METL lab. (Photo: ANL)

The Thermal Hydraulic Experimental Test Article (THETA) at Argonne National Laboratory is now operating and providing data that could support the licensing of liquid-metal fast reactor designs by validating thermal-hydraulic and safety analysis codes. The new equipment has been installed in Argonne’s Mechanisms Engineering Test Loop (METL), and its first experiments are supporting data validation needs of Oklo, Inc., by simulating normal operating conditions as well as protected and unprotected loss-of-flow accidents in a sodium-cooled fast reactor.

Profile published on head of MARVEL project at Idaho National Laboratory

May 12, 2022, 7:03AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Idaho National Laboratory nuclear engineer Yasir Arafat (Photo: INL)

From refugee in Bangladesh to top nuclear engineer at Idaho National Laboratory, ANS member Yasir Arafat has led quite an interesting life, as described in a recent online profile written by Donna Kemp Spangler for the INL website. Arafat is leading the development of the Department of Energy’s Microreactor Applications Research Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) project at INL. The profile notes that MARVEL, which Arafat envisioned soon after joining INL in 2019, is scheduled to be “built and demonstrated at INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility and connected to the world’s first nuclear microgrid within two years.”

Piercy applauds opening of MSU Facility for Rare Isotope Beams

May 10, 2022, 6:59AMANS News

Piercy at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

When Michigan State University’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) officially opened with a ribbon-cutting event on May 2, ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy was there to celebrate the result of many years of hard work.

“Big congratulations to MSU for bringing this project to fruition on time and on budget,” Piercy said. “FRIB will allow scientists to probe the origins of stars and the fundamental structure of matter and explore new life-saving medical treatments.”

Piercy worked closely with MSU’s FRIB team for several years before and after the university was selected over Argonne National Laboratory to host the facility, and he has seen the project come full circle. He was present at both the groundbreaking in 2014 and the ribbon-cutting ceremony in May.

DOD seeks in-space demo of nuclear rocket engine in FY 2026

May 9, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Department of Defense wants to deploy spacecraft in cislunar space—the area between Earth and the moon’s orbit—with thrust and agility that only nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) can provide. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), through its Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, is looking to private industry for the design, development, fabrication, assembly, and testing of a nuclear thermal rocket engine fueled with high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel to heat a liquid hydrogen propellant.

INL, Wyoming form partnership on advanced energy tech

May 6, 2022, 12:08PMNuclear News
The Wyoming Energy Authority’s Glen Murrell (left) shakes hands with INL’s John C. Wagner at the MOU signing ceremony on May 4. (Photo: WEA)

Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), the management and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, has signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the State of Wyoming to collaborate on the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of advanced energy technologies and approaches, with a special focus on advanced nuclear.

Nondestructive electrical conductivity test detects alkali-silica reaction in concrete

May 4, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Alkali-silica reaction was confirmed at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in 2010. (Photo: NextEra Energy Resources)

Concrete structures built to last for decades, including reactor containment buildings and other nuclear power plant structures, are subject to the alkali-silica reaction (ASR), a reaction between alkali ions found in cement and silica, the two main components of concrete. The reaction forms a gel that absorbs water and expands over time, causing a buildup of pressure within the concrete that can eventually lead to cracking and deterioration.

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have successfully used electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) to detect ASR in the lab and believe it could be used for cost-effective, nondestructive testing at nuclear power plants.

MSU’s FRIB: Ready to accelerate discoveries in nuclear physics and applications

May 3, 2022, 7:16AMNuclear News
An aerial view of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, Mich. (Photo: FRIB)

Michigan State University’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) officially opened yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, elected officials, and guests who had supported the project during its planning and construction, including ANS Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy. They were there to celebrate the completion—on time and within budget—of the world’s most powerful heavy-ion accelerator and the first accelerator-based Department of Energy Office of Science user facility located on a university campus.

DIII-D divertor to test tungsten tiles

April 29, 2022, 7:04AMNuclear News
[CLICK to see entire image] Overview of the SAS-VW program at DIII-D. A research concept map illustrates how intense plasma exhaust power entering the divertor leads to the emergence of impurities that can migrate into the plasma core. After identifying the research requirements for the SAS-VW, a process of engineering design, prototyping, and implementation is performed. (Image: General Atomics)

Researchers at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility (DIII-D) are preparing to test a new method that could enable future fusion power plants to withstand the heat and particle flow created by the fusion reaction, General Atomics reported this week.

Proposed DOE-EM funding would advance technology development

April 28, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Savannah River National Laboratory recently oversaw a demonstration of a new radiological inspection technology called iGART, a ground-based robot that conducts radiological and nuclear inspections. The DOE’s Office of Environmental Management used the demonstration at the Savannah River Site to determine if there is an application value for iGART at SRS or other EM sites. (Photos: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management is looking to continue developing technology to aid in site cleanup activities if its fiscal year 2023 budget request is approved. The $7.64 billion budget request includes about $25 million for EM’s Technology Development Office.

NSTX-U could serve as the model for a pilot fusion plant, PPPL says

April 18, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
PPPL physicist Walter Guttenfelder with figures from the paper he coauthored with members of the NSTX-U team and 23 collaborative institutions worldwide. (Photo: Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications. Collage: Kiran Sudarsanan)

According to the Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, recent simulations and analysis demonstrate that the design of its flagship fusion facility, the National Spherical Torus Experiment Upgrade (NSTX-U), which is currently under repair, could serve as a model for an economically attractive next-generation fusion pilot plant.

From terrestrial to celestial: NETS connects nuclear professionals with space missions

April 14, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear NewsAmy Reed
NETS participants are credited with helping relaunch the nation’s domestic production of Pu-238 to fuel the Mars Perseverance rover. (Photo: NASA)

Connecting nuclear engineers and scientists with space exploration missions has been a focus of the American Nuclear Society’s Aerospace Nuclear Science and Technology Division since its creation in 2008. One of the main ways those connections are made is through the Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS) conference, which the division supports in conjunction with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Purdue University mass-alpha spectroscopy research draws notice

April 14, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Research into the high-resolution detection of plutonium mixtures by Purdue University professor Rusi Taleyarkhan and his team was featured on the cover of the February issue of the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy, published by the British Royal Society of Chemistry.

The published research focuses on novel hybrid mass-alpha spectroscopy technology. Taleyarkhan and his team applied centrifugally tensioned metastable fluid detector sensor technology to the detection of mixtures of plutonium-239/240. This technology can serve as an alternative to conventional alpha radiation spectroscopy sensors and to mass spectroscopy systems, which can take weeks to deploy and are cost-prohibitive, especially when deployed in low-radiation fields for long periods of time.