Research & Applications


Heralding a fusion breakthrough and “a new era” for energy

September 13, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Paul Dabbar, former undersecretary for science at the Department of Energy and distinguished visiting fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, is lauding the recent successful test of a 10-ton high-temperature superconducting magnet performed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. In an op-ed published on September 10 in The Hill, Dabbar calls for a new level of investment and support for the commercial fusion sector.

MIT ramps 10-ton magnet up to 20 tesla in proof of concept for commercial fusion

September 10, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News
This large-bore, full-scale high-temperature superconducting magnet designed and built by Commonwealth Fusion Systems and MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center is the strongest fusion magnet in the world. (Photo: Gretchen Ertl, CFS/MIT-PSFC)

A high-temperature superconducting magnet reached and maintained a magnetic field of more than 20 tesla in steady state for about five hours on September 5 at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. Not only is the magnet the strongest high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnet in the world by far, it is also large enough—when assembled in a ring of 17 identical magnets and surrounding structures—to contain a plasma that MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) hope will produce net energy in a compact tokamak device called SPARC in 2025, on track for commercial fusion energy in the early 2030s.

IAEA sends NDT expert team to Beirut to assess building safety

September 7, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News
During the week-long mission, the IAEA team is carrying out practical NDT training with specialized equipment. (Photo: Abel Domato/BAC)

In the aftermath of a devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, in August 2020, an International Atomic Energy Agency team visited the country at the government’s request and found no evidence of artificial radionuclides and no increase in radiation levels. The powerful blast, which was caused by an explosion of improperly stored ammonium nitrate, killed more than 200 people and leveled numerous buildings while leaving other buildings standing with possible structural damage. The IAEA recently announced that a different team of experts has traveled to Lebanon with a new mission: to assist the nation in the use of non-destructive testing (NDT) to check the structural soundness of buildings that were impacted by the explosion.

NuScale simulator installed at new Idaho laboratory

September 3, 2021, 7:06AMNuclear News
A NuScale representative conducts training on the nuclear power plant control room simulator for students and faculty at CAES. (Photo: CAES)

The Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) has announced the opening of the Small Modular Reactor Simulator Laboratory, featuring NuScale Power’s Energy Exploration Center, at its headquarters in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The new lab will increase CAES’s capabilities to train future scientists, engineers, and members of the energy workforce and will be used to educate the public about nuclear energy and reactor technology, according to an August 31 CAES press release.

A fitting situation for first ITER subassembly

September 1, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Taken from above, this photo of the subassembly tool shows the complex system of alignment units used to slowly swing two toroidal field coils (bottom left and right) into position around the vacuum vessel sector. In the background, poloidal field coil #5 sits on the floor of the Assembly Hall, awaiting installation in the assembly pit in mid-September. (Photo: ITER)

Inside the ITER Assembly Hall, aided by a 20-meter-tall sector subassembly tool known as SSAT-2, the first of nine 40-degree wedge-shaped subassemblies that will make up the device’s tokamak is taking shape. On August 30, the ITER Organization announced that all the components of the first subassembly were in place on the SSAT-2. After the wings of the subassembly tool slowly close, locking two vertical coils in place around the outside of a vacuum vessel section that is already wrapped in thermal shielding, the completed subassembly will be ready for positioning in the ITER assembly pit in late October.

Sandia expands software billed as “Swiss Army knife” of nuclear system safety

August 30, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Sandia's Brad Beeny (left) and Larry Humphries examine remnants from a series of lower head failure experiments. Results from these and other experiments are used to inform nuclear accident modeling computer code. (Photo: Randy Montoya)

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have been expanding MELCOR—the severe accident modeling computer code used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to evaluate the safety of light water reactors—to study the small modular reactors and non-light-water advanced reactors that are under development. An article published in Sandia Lab News on August 27 describes in detail how MELCOR is being expanded to work with different reactor geometries, fuel types, and coolant systems.

NorthStar awarded $37 million for Mo-99 production

August 30, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
NorthStar’s RadioGenix system produces the medical radioisope Mo-99 without the use of uranium. (Photo: NorthStar)

NorthStar Medical Technologies of Beloit, Wis., will receive $37 million under two cooperative agreements with the National Nuclear Security Administration for the production of molybdenum-99 without the use of high-enriched uranium. Considered a critical medical radioisotope, Mo-99 is used in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States each day, including the diagnosis of heart disease and cancer.

Conca implores Congress to rethink funding for the VTR

August 26, 2021, 3:02PMANS Nuclear Cafe
(Image: INL)

The nuclear community continues its collective push to restore funding for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project at Idaho National Laboratory for fiscal year 2022. We first heard from the Department of Energy’s Katy Huff, followed by Argonne National Laboratory’s Jordi Roglans-Ribas. Now add Nuclear News opinion columnist James Conca to the list of supporters hoping to change the minds of those in Congress regarding the crucial VTR project.

U.S. Nuclear Nexus created to guide exporters of advanced nuclear technology

August 23, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Companies, universities, and national laboratories across the United States are working together to develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear technologies. To deploy those technologies on a global scale and maximize U.S. efforts to combat climate change, technology developers eyeing the export market must navigate rules and recommendations designed to ensure that international safeguards, security, and nonproliferation standards are met. Understanding and, where appropriate, integrating these standards early in the development process is crucial for streamlining export and technology deployment.

Starting a new era of nuclear innovation with Argonne’s Activated Materials Lab

August 20, 2021, 4:14PMNuclear NewsChristina Nunez
This rendering shows the Activated Materials Laboratory (AML), to be constructed as part of the Advanced Photon Source upgrade that includes the High-Energy X-ray Microscope (HEXM) and the In Situ Nanoprobe (ISN). This new facility will simplify the process of researching nuclear materials. (Image: Argonne National Laboratory)

The lack of a specialized laboratory at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) has slowed efforts to study irradiated materials at the facility. Things will change soon, however, with the addition of the new Activated Materials Laboratory that is planned to be built and operational by 2024.

Rewriting the script: The real story of advanced reactors

August 19, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier
The EBR-II sodium fast reactor at Idaho National Laboratory began operations in 1964 and generated electricity for decades. Soon it will serve as a National Reactor Innovation Center test bed for future advanced reactor demonstrations. (Source: ANL)

At the box office or streaming at home, it’s fear, not truth, that sells. The laws of physics are swept aside, apocalypse is inevitable, and superpowered heroes wait until the last possible second to save the universe. It can make for great entertainment, but in the real world we need to stick with science over science fiction and be wowed by engineering, not special effects.

The truth is, science and innovation are incredible in their own right. From communications and machine learning to space travel and medical advances, technology is evolving in hyperdrive to solve real problems. With climate change and global warming here on earth, we don’t have to go looking for trouble in a galaxy far, far away.

National Ignition Facility experiment achieves record-breaking yield

August 18, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
A color-enhanced photograph of the NIF target bay. (Photo: LLNL/Damien Jemison)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is celebrating the yield from an experiment at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) of more than 1.3 megajoules of energy—eight times more than the yield from experiments conducted this spring and 25 times more than NIF’s 2018 record yield.

Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X stellarator proves its confinement efficiency

August 17, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
The magnet system of Wendelstein 7-X features 50 superconducting magnet coils. (Graphic: IPP)

The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) was founded in Garching, Germany, in 1960, the same year that its Wendelstein 1a stellarator began operation. Wendelstein 7-X is now operating at IPP’s site in Greifswald, Germany, and one of the objectives the device was designed to achieve has recently been confirmed, IPP announced on August 12. Analysis by IPP scientists shows that the twisted magnetic coils of the device successfully control plasma energy losses, indicating that stellarator fusion devices could be suitable for power plants, according to a detailed analysis of experimental results published on August 11 in Nature.

Rensselaer to use DOE funds for nuclear efficiency and safety projects

August 16, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Photo: RPI)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will use $1.5 million in grants from the Department of Energy to lead projects aimed at upgrading nuclear power plant efficiency and safety, the university announced earlier this month. The grants are part of more than $61 million in awards recently announced by the DOE to support nuclear energy research.

The changing landscape of scholarly publishing

August 12, 2021, 12:04PMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian

The academic publishing industry—an industry that was very stable for over a century—is now experiencing a tremendous shift. Attitudes regarding the use, delivery, and costs of publication are at the center of the matter, causing publishers to investigate new publishing models. These changing attitudes require ANS to think differently to improve content offerings while continuing to generate needed revenue. The focus is on two trends: the elimination of author page charges, and the rise of open access publishing. The latter item is a relatively recent phenomenon that has been gaining traction over the past decade, especially in the medical and biology fields, but the former is an issue that has caused friction between authors and publishers for a generation or more.

Nuclear-generated hydrogen could decarbonize marine shipping

August 10, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

On August 4, the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) released a white paper, Bridging the Gap: How Nuclear-Derived Zero-Carbon Fuels Can Help Decarbonize Marine Shipping, containing policy recommendations for a U.S.-led transition away from fossil-based shipping fuels to nuclear-produced fuels and energy carriers like hydrogen and ammonia. According to CATF, in 2018, the international shipping industry accounted for 2.6 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions—more than the international aviation sector. Sector-wide emissions are on pace to triple by 2050.

Setting the record straight on the Versatile Test Reactor

August 9, 2021, 2:50PMANS Nuclear CafeJordi Roglans-Ribas
A rendering of the VTR facility. (Image: INL)

The Department of Energy announced in 2020 its approval of Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, a one-of-a-kind scientific user facility that would support research and development of innovative nuclear energy and other technologies. The decision was well received by the nuclear energy community—after all, the DOE’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee had studied and reported on the need for the VTR and found strong support for the project among reactor developers, federal agencies and national laboratories, and university researchers.

Water-saving technology developed at MIT could clear the air around nuclear plants

August 9, 2021, 12:14PMNuclear News
The right side of the cooling tower of MIT’s reactor has the new system installed, eliminating its plume of vapor, while the untreated left side continues to produce a steady vapor stream. (Image: MIT/courtesy of the researchers)

The white plumes of steam billowing from the cooling towers of nuclear power plants and other thermal power plants represent an opportunity to some—the opportunity to collect a valued resource, purified water, that is now lost to the atmosphere. A small company called Infinite Cooling is looking to commercialize a technology recently developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by the Varanasi Research Group, whose work is described in an article written by David L. Chandler, of the MIT News Office, and published on August 3.

High-energy physics gets DOE funding

August 6, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC) on August 2 announced a plan to provide $100 million over the next four years for university-based research on a range of high-energy physics topics through a new funding opportunity announcement. The objective of “FY 2022 Research Opportunities in High Energy Physics,” sponsored by the Office of High Energy Physics within DOE-SC, is to advance fundamental knowledge about how the universe works.

University infrastructure bill calls for investments in advanced nuclear, workforce

August 4, 2021, 7:07AMNuclear News
A rendering of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s micro modular reactor as proposed for construction on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. (Graphic: USNC)

A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a bill to invest in university nuclear science and engineering infrastructure, establish regional consortia to promote collaboration with industry and national laboratories, and support the development of advanced reactor technology. The National Nuclear University Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2021 (H.R. 4819) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Anthony Gonzalez (R., Ohio), Sean Casten (D., Ill.), Peter Meijer (R., Mich.), and Bill Foster (D., Ill).