Research & Applications

MARVEL prototype “fired up” as testing gets underway

September 25, 2023, 2:46PMNuclear News
The electrically heated PCAT replica of the MARVEL microreactor is installed and ready for testing at CEI’s facility in Pennsylvania. (Photo: DOE)

While initial operation of MARVEL, a tiny microreactor that will be installed and operated inside Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility, might not occur until 2025, testing of a nonnuclear prototype is now under way at the New Freedom, Pa., manufacturing facility of Creative Engineers, Inc. (CEI). The Department of Energy announced the start of prototype testing on September 20.

Offshore nuclear power concept under development by BWXT and Crowley

September 21, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual art of the Crowley-designed ship with a BWXT microreactor onboard. (Image: BWXT)

BWX Technologies is teaming with Crowley, a global shipping and energy supply chain company, under a memorandum of understanding to develop a ship with an onboard microreactor that could deliver power to users on shore via buoyed power cables. The concept, announced by both companies on September 20, is envisioned as a zero-carbon energy option for defense and disaster needs.

Nuclear-powered carbon management options evaluated in DOE report

September 20, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
Conceptual art of a direct air capture CO2 removal system. (Image: DOE)

Given how much carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere from fossil fuels, replacing those fuels with clean options like nuclear energy is urgent, but could be likened to shutting the barn door after the proverbial horse has bolted. But what if you could also round up excess CO2 already in the atmosphere? That’s the goal of direct air capture (DAC) and other so-called negative emission technologies—to capture climate warming CO2 for use in products or processes or for permanent storage.

NRC to hold workshop on AI regulatory applications

September 18, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding the “Data Science and AI Regulatory Applications Workshop,” tomorrow to discuss the agency’s activities for the safe and secure use of artificial intelligence in NRC-regulated activities.

Jumping hurdles: ARPA-E and the path to advanced reactor deployment

September 15, 2023, 3:31PMNuclear NewsJenifer Shafer and Robert Ledoux

The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), a branch of the Department of Energy, is tasked with driving the research and development of cutting-edge energy technologies. The agency’s core emphasis is on mitigating emissions, increasing energy efficiency, reducing imports, ensuring energy systems resiliency, and offering transformative solutions for the management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel (SNF). Its mission is instrumental in ensuring the United States retains its technological superiority in the design and implementation of new energy technologies. Efforts in SNF research also benefit prior investments in ARPA-E’s MEITNER (Modeling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration) and GEMINA (Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets) programs, which seek to substantially decrease the capital and operational expenditures associated with advanced reactors (ARs).

DOE-supported nuclear data benchmarking will support diverse missions

September 15, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science announced $5.8 million in funding on September 13 for five projects to benchmark nuclear data for a range of nuclear science investigations and applications, including energy, space exploration, and nonproliferation. Four of the five funded projects include participation from Brookhaven National Laboratory.

In split from Euratom, U.K. will spend nearly $812 million on domestic fusion R&D

September 13, 2023, 12:06PMNuclear News

Having decided “to not associate to the Euratom Research and Training program (Euratom R&T) and, by extension, the Fusion for Energy Program,” the government of the United Kingdom announced plans on September 7 to support its homegrown UK Fusion Strategy by investing up to £650 million (about $811.8 million) through 2027 in a suite of research and development programs to support the country’s fusion sector and strengthen international collaboration. The funds are in addition to the £126 million (about $157.3 million) announced in November 2022 to support U.K. fusion R&D.

New research funding will leverage machine learning and AI for fusion energy

September 12, 2023, 9:27AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy announced $29 million in funding for seven team awards for research in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data resources for fusion energy sciences on August 31. In all, 19 institutions will build algorithms to address high-priority research opportunities in fusion and plasma sciences using interdisciplinary collaborations of fusion and plasma researchers teamed with data and computational scientists.

Hungary’s ATOMKI orders 3D printer for nuclear research

September 6, 2023, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Freemelt ONE 3D printer.

Hungary’s Institute for Nuclear Research (ATOMKI) is set to take delivery this year of a 4.6 million Swedish krona ($414,300) electron-beam 3D printer for nuclear material science research.

The printer—the Freemelt ONE model—is manufactured by Freemelt, a Swedish company.

Research plans: ATOMKI intends to use the printer for “research in surface science [and] surface topology, which means creation of new surface structures and composite materials via non-adiabatic [not occurring without heat loss or heat gain] alloying,” according to Kalman Vad, a senior research associate at ATOMKI. “The open architecture and free parametrization of the properties of the [electron] beam makes Freemelt ONE an ideal tool for research purposes.”

Project Pele in context: An update on the DOD’s microreactor plans

August 28, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

Deploying microreactor technology for military applications could have huge impacts on logistics and reliability for the military of the future, and on the commercial use of similar technologies. That’s why the Department of Defense is developing Project Pele—a high-temperature, gas-cooled and TRISO-fueled microreactor, transportable within mobile shipping containers—for testing at Idaho National Laboratory in 2025.

Nuclear worker data examined in new low-dose radiation health effects study

August 24, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

A group of researchers analyzed recent updates to the International Nuclear Workers Study (INWORKS) and published their findings—“Cancer mortality after low dose exposure to ionising radiation in workers in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States (INWORKS): cohort study”—in the journal BMJ on August 16. The multinational research team, led by David B. Richardson of the University of California–Irvine, reports “evidence of an increase in the excess relative rate of solid cancer mortality with increasing cumulative exposure to ionizing radiation at the low dose rates typically encountered by French, U.K., and U.S. nuclear workers [and] evidence in support of a linear association between protracted low dose external exposure to ionizing radiation and solid cancer mortality.”

Bruce Power, Nordion to increase Co-60 production

August 22, 2023, 12:03PMNuclear News
Bruce Power and Nordion will increase Co-60 production at the Bruce nuclear power plant in Ontario. (Photo: Bruce Power)

Bruce Power, the utility in Ontario, Canada, and health-care company Nordion announced that they are working to increase the production of cobalt-60 to meet increasing world market demands. The companies said they will increase the amount of Co-60 Bruce Power is able to produce in its reactors “by innovating a new adjuster component configuration.”

Veto or no veto, UIUC forges ahead with microreactor plans

August 21, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual art of USNC’s MMR, as proposed for construction on the UIUC campus. (Graphic: USNC)

It’s been almost 35 years since Illinois last added a nuclear power reactor to the grid (Braidwood-2, a pressurized water reactor operated by Constellation, reached commercial operation in October 1988). And it’s been 63 years since a research reactor reached initial criticality at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The university’s TRIGA Mark II started up in August 1960 and was shut down in 1998. For about 25 years, UIUC—the flagship public university in a state that generates more power from nuclear energy than any other—has lacked an operating research reactor.

Physics-informed CNN for temperature field monitoring in advanced reactors

August 18, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear NewsVictor Coppo Leite, Elia Merzari, April Novak, Roberto Ponciroli, and Lander Ibarra

Advanced reactors are promising energy systems that can enable the world to transition to a more sustainable energy matrix. These concepts are potentially more fuel efficient and safer, compared with previous generations of nuclear reactors. Many designs, like high-­temperature gas reactors (HTGRs) and molten salt fast reactors (MSFRs), target high outlet temperatures, allowing for their operation in processes where high heating is required, such as for hydrogen production and desalination.

U.S. agrees to share data, expertise with NEA Data Bank

August 17, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
DOE assistant secretary for nuclear energy Kathryn Huff and NEA director general William D. Magwood IV affirmed U.S. membership in the NEA Data Bank at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo: OECD NEA)

The United States has joined the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) Data Bank, a decision that marks “a significant stride in international collaboration for nuclear energy research, safety, and knowledge exchange,” according to the August 16 NEA announcement. “As a country renowned for its scientific and technological excellence, the United States will undoubtedly enrich the Data Bank's repository of data, software, and benchmarks and enhance its role in fostering responsible nuclear development.”

DOE invests $112 million in computational fusion energy research

August 15, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science announced $112 million in funding on August 14 for 12 projects designed by fusion scientists, applied mathematicians, and computer scientists to apply high-performance computing and exascale computers to complex fusion energy problems.

The list of projects and more information can be found on the Fusion Energy Sciences homepage.

Cracking the code to transition a ‘paper reactor’ to a practical reactor

August 11, 2023, 3:44PMNuclear NewsYasir Arafat
PCAT is prepared for transport from INL to Pennsylvania for testing. (Photo: INL)

As global concerns about climate change and energy sustainability intensify, the need for cleaner and more efficient energy sources is more critical than ever. Nuclear power consistently emerges as an important part of the solution, driving the development of innovative technologies. While numerous fission technologies were built and proven in the early days of nuclear energy, times and regulations have changed. Between the 1950s and mid-1970s, Idaho National Laboratory built 52 reactors—then paused for five decades. Can this nation return to the frontier once again, embarking on new fission technologies? With a mature regulatory environment and increasing public support, how quickly can a new non–light water system be deployed in modern times?

General Fusion presses toward goal of magneto-inertial breakeven by 2026

August 11, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News
General Fusion’s current plasma injector (PI3) is the 25th in a series of prototypes developed by the company. (Photo: General Fusion)

General Fusion announced on August 9 that it will build a fusion machine called Lawson Machine 26 (LM26) at the company’s new headquarters in the city of Richmond, British Columbia, near Vancouver. The machine is intended to achieve fusion conditions of over 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025 and progress toward scientific breakeven by 2026 to support the company’s vision of commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s.

NRC report looks at uranium-zirconium fuel system

August 8, 2023, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a new report, Metal Fuel Qualification--Fuel Assessment Using NRC NUREG-2246, “Fuel Qualification for Advanced Reactors,” which documents experience with the zirconium-clad ceramic fuel system in fast reactors and presents the fuel qualification case for a data-supported fuel design and set of operating conditions. The research includes identifying as-fabricated conditions (e.g., dimensions, chemistry) and in-pile conditions (e.g., linear heat generation rates, burnup, temperature) and anticipated operational occurrences.