Research & Applications

Two reports agree: Diverse advanced reactor fuel cycles can succeed

November 23, 2022, 6:39AMNuclear News

Advanced reactors and small modular reactors with strikingly different coolants and sizes offer an array of different benefits, but when it comes to fuel cycle issues, including spent fuel and waste, they have a lot in common with conventional light water reactors. Two reports released within the last week—a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Mathematics (NASEM) consensus committee report two years in the making and a Department of Energy study released by Argonne National Laboratory—address the timely topic of advanced reactor fuel cycle issues. While the NASEM committee ventured to define research and infrastructure needs to support the entire nuclear power fuel cycle, inclusive of new technologies, for decades to come, the DOE report compares the front- and back-end fuel cycle metrics of three reactor designs (from NuScale Power, TerraPower, and X-energy) that have been selected for DOE cost-share–funded demonstrations within this decade. Together, these reports provide assurance that the fuel cycle needs of a fleet of new reactors can be met and point to near-term research and planning needs.

Deploy, deploy, deploy: Achieving our climate goals requires nuclear this decade

November 21, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear NewsJigar Shah

Jigar Shah

The Biden-­Harris administration has committed to decarbonizing the power sector by 2035 and the economy by 2050, while creating good jobs and promoting equity. There’s no question that the lowest-­cost, most reliable grid of the future will require clean, firm baseload power to support intermittent renewable energy.

Nuclear is such a reliable source of firm, flexible baseload power for the grid. Energy mix optimization models show that as penetration of renewables (such as solar and wind) grows, required energy storage capacity also grows, leading to increasing cost competitiveness of dispatchable carbon-­free power sources (including low-­impact hydro, geothermal energy, carbon capture and storage, zero-­carbon fuels like hydrogen, and nuclear). Nuclear power is an essential component of America’s transition to a clean electric grid to maintain reliability, resiliency, and affordability.

Artemis I mannequin crew outfitted with dosimeters for trip around the moon

November 18, 2022, 6:53AMNuclear News
A rendering of Helga and Zohar side by side aboard the Orion spacecraft. (Image: NASA/Lockheed Martin/DLR)

NASA’s Artemis I mission, successfully launched at 1:47 a.m. EST on November 16 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will travel 40,000 miles beyond the moon—farther from Earth than any human-crewed space mission has flown before. The historic trip was launched by the world’s largest rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), nearly 50 years after NASA last sent humans to the moon. And while no humans are on board the Orion spacecraft, two fabricated crew members—“Luna Twins” Helga and Zohar—were assembled with thousands of sensors to obtain the best estimates yet of cosmic radiation exposure to human tissues during space travel.

General Fusion marshals CNL support for Canadian fusion power by 2030

November 17, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
This still image, taken from a General Fusion video, explains the demo plant that will be built near Oxford, U.K. (Image: General Fusion)

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and General Fusion have announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to “develop fusion energy research capabilities within CNL, to support the goal of constructing a potential General Fusion commercial power plant in Canada before 2030.” The plant would follow on a demonstration-scale plant that General Fusion wants to have operating in the United Kingdom by 2027 to validate the performance and economics of the technology.

West Virginia hospital to correct nuclear medicine violations

November 16, 2022, 3:03PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Cabell Huntington Hospital system, based in Huntington, W.V., has begun implementing corrective actions associated with nuclear medicine activities, in line with a settlement agreement reached with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The agreement stems from NRC inspections at the hospital’s facilities that uncovered 14 violations, described in a June 2022 NRC inspection report. As a result of the hospital taking corrective action, the NRC will not impose civil penalties.

Fusion is prioritized in net-zero R&D initiative and IRA funds, but fission factors in too

November 10, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
The U.S. ITER Project Office in Oak Ridge, Tenn. U.S. ITER has received $256 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding. (Photo: U.S. ITER)

Just days before COP27 and the U.S. midterm elections, the White House announced $1.55 billion in Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding for national laboratories and the launch of a Net-Zero Game Changers Initiative based on a new report, U.S. Innovation to Meet 2050 Climate Goals. Out of 37 research and development opportunities identified, fusion energy was selected as one of just five near-term priorities for the new cross-agency initiative. Together, the announcements signal policy and infrastructure support for fusion energy—the biggest chunk of Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC) IRA funding went to ITER, via Oak Ridge National Laboratory—and for advanced nuclear technologies to power the grid and provide process heat to hard-to-decarbonize industrial sectors.

GA’s delivery of DRACO nuclear rocket design supports FY 2026 in-orbit demo goal

November 10, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
(Image: General Atomics)

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) has completed the baseline design of a reactor and engine for a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) rocket and has successfully tested key reactor components under contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the company announced on November 7. The work was performed under a Track A, Phase 1 contract for the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program; Phases 2 and 3 of DRACO could culminate in a demonstration of the nuclear-propelled spacecraft in cislunar space (the region between the Earth and the Moon) during fiscal year 2026.

Seeds in space: IAEA/FAO experiment goes the distance for better crops on earth

November 8, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft Sally Ride aboard (so named for first American woman to fly in space), launched at 5:32 a.m. EST on November 7, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The rocket is captured just after liftoff in this still image from NASA’s live broadcast of the event.

Seeds from the joint laboratories of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are onboard a Cygnus spacecraft launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia early on November 7. Now orbiting the Earth en route to the International Space Station, the seeds are part of a commercial resupply mission with a payload that includes resources to support more than 250 scientific investigations.

HALEU and the promise of nuclear energy: An interview with the DOE’s Kathryn Huff

November 4, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

Kathryn Huff

Deploying a fleet of advanced reactors in the 2030s means deploying high-assay low- enriched uranium (HALEU) infrastructure now.

The future fleet will need more than 40 metric tons of HALEU by 2030, according to Department of Energy projections. Getting to the 5–20 percent fissile uranium-235 content of HALEU involves either enriching natural or low-enriched uranium (LEU) or downblending high-enriched uranium (HEU).

Because downblending the limited stocks of HEU held at the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory and Savannah River Site is a short-term option at best, the Energy Act of 2020 authorized a HALEU Availability Program to build a sustainable enrichment infrastructure by the time advanced reactors are ready for commercial deployment.

Comments on a request for information reached the DOE in February 2022, just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amplified global energy security concerns. While the war in Ukraine didn’t change the DOE’s plans, it “accelerated everything,” said Kathryn Huff, who leads the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) as assistant secretary. “Our attention is now laser-focused on this issue in a way that it wouldn’t have been in the past.”

Can "sea purslane" flora near nuclear facilities remove cesium from soil?

November 2, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Sesuvium portulacastrum (Photo: David Eickhoff/Wikicommoms)

The authors of a study that was recently published in Advances in Agriculture have recommended that the plant Sesuvium portulacastrum, commonly known as sea purslane, “be cultivated in [cesium]-contaminated soils and near nuclear power plants for phytoremediation.” The researchers found that S. portulacastrum is a “hyper-accumulator” of radioactive cesium isotopes, which are byproducts of nuclear fission reactions in nuclear reactors. The study results suggested that these plants could efficiently remove the toxic metallic chemicals from contaminated soil around nuclear facilities.

Lu-177 production begins at Canada’s Bruce NPP

November 1, 2022, 1:27PMNuclear News
Bruce's Unit 7 is now producing Lutetium-177, used in targeted cancer therapeutics. (Photo: Bruce Power)

An international collaboration between Bruce Power, Isogen (a Kinectrics and Framatome company), and ITM Isotope Technologies Munich SE (ITM) announced they have begun commercial production of lutetium-177 using Unit 7 of the Bruce nuclear power plant in Kincardine, Ontario. According to the companies, this marks the first time a commercial power reactor has been used to commercially produce short-lived medical radioisotopes.

Offshore SMR would feature coastal construction and decommissioning

October 31, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual layout and deployment of a Prodigy SMR Marine Power Station with 12 NuScale Power Modules. (Graphic: Business Wire)

NuScale Power and Prodigy Clean Energy announced on October 26 that they have developed a conceptual design for a transportable, marine-based small modular reactor. The companies plan to present the design to utilities, regulators, and shipyard manufacturers. Prodigy, a Canadian company “specializing in the development of transportable nuclear power plants,” and NuScale signed a memorandum of understanding in 2018 agreeing to pursue the development of an SMR marine facility.

INL infrastructure improvements to support advanced nuclear R&D

October 28, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex. (Photo: INL)

The Department of Energy announced $150 million in Inflation Reduction Act funding on October 25 for infrastructure improvements at Idaho National Laboratory. According to the DOE, the funding will support nearly a dozen projects at INL’s Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) and Materials Fuels Complex (MFC), both of which have operated for more than 50 years. The investments in existing infrastructure assets mean support for nuclear energy research and development, including fuel testing, bolstering the near-term supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), and reactor demonstrations.

Tokamak Energy bets its spherical design will deliver fusion energy in the early 2030s

October 27, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

Tokamak Energy’s ST40, which achieved plasma temperatures of 100 million °C earlier this year. (Photo: Tokamak Energy)

Tokamak Energy on October 26 announced plans to construct a high field spherical tokamak using high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets. Dubbed the ST80-HTS, the machine would demonstrate multiple technologies required to achieve commercial fusion energy, the company says. Tokamak Energy plans to complete the ST80-HTS in 2026 to demonstrate spherical tokamak operations and inform the design of its successor, a fusion pilot plant called ST-E1 that the company says could deliver electricity into the grid in the early 2030s and produce up to 200 MWe.

Temperature milestone: Earlier this year, the company’s ST40 spherical tokamak reached the commercial fusion energy plasma temperature threshold of 100 million °C with what was reported as the highest triple product (an industry measure of plasma density, temperature, and confinement) of any private fusion energy company. The ST40 achieved those results with a plasma volume of less than one cubic meter, which is 15 times less volume than any other tokamak that has achieved the same threshold.

General Atomics unveils a fusion pilot plant concept

October 24, 2022, 3:07PMNuclear News
A rendering of the GA fusion pilot plant. (Image: GA)

General Atomics (GA) announced on October 20 that it has developed a steady-state, compact advanced tokamak fusion pilot plant concept “where the fusion plasma is maintained for long periods of time to maximize efficiency, reduce maintenance costs, and increase the lifetime of the facility.”

Holtec, Hyundai launch accelerated program to complete SMR plant design

October 24, 2022, 9:16AMNuclear News
Kris Singh (left), president and CEO of Holtec International, and Young-Joon Yoon, president and CEO of Hyundai E&C. (Photo: Holtec International)

Holtec International and Hyundai Engineering & Construction (a Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary) have signed an accord to accelerate the completion of Holtec’s SMR-160 small modular reactor development program, as well as to collaborate on diverse clean energy technologies.

Southern Company, TerraPower complete multiloop molten salt test system

October 21, 2022, 7:33AMNuclear News
The Integrated Effects Test at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Wash. (Photo: Southern Company/TerraPower)

“The world's largest chloride salt system developed by the nuclear sector” is now ready for operation in TerraPower’s Everett, Wash., laboratories. Southern Company, which is working with TerraPower through its subsidiary Southern Company Services to develop molten chloride reactor technology, announced on October 18 that the Integrated Effects Test (IET) was complete. The multiloop, nonnuclear test infrastructure follows years of separate effects testing using isolated test loops, and it was built to support the operation of the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) at Idaho National Laboratory that the companies expect will, in turn, support a demonstration-scale Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR).

GAIN funds companies’ work with ORNL on reactor siting and reprocessing

October 13, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
An aerial view of ORNL’s main campus. (Photo: ORNL)

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced the three recipients of its fourth and final round of 2022 vouchers on October 10. The vouchers were awarded to Curio Solutions, which is developing a spent fuel recycling process, and to two companies that are separately investigating advanced reactor siting—Elementl Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The funds for each award will go directly to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

U.K. picks a coal power station for its fusion pilot, but still needs a design

October 11, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production, shown here in an artist's rendition, is a government-backed prototype fusion energy plant planned for operation in the U.K. in the early 2040s. (Image: UKAEA)

The U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and Tokamak Energy announced on October 10 that they signed a framework agreement to collaborate on developing spherical tokamaks for power production. This news is a complement to last week’s announcement from the U.K. government that the West Burton A coal-fired power plant site in Nottinghamshire has been selected as the future home of STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), the U.K.’s planned prototype fusion energy plant. The government is providing £220 million (about $250 million) of funding for the first phase of STEP, which will see the UKAEA produce a concept design by 2024.

It's Hydrogen Day: Time to celebrate a growth year for nuclear-produced H2

October 7, 2022, 9:31AMNuclear News

Tomorrow, 10/08, is Hydrogen Day, in recognition of the atomic weight of hydrogen: 1.008. Newswire first covered Hydrogen Day in 2021 after the Department of Energy announced its Hydrogen Shot goal to lower the price of clean hydrogen by 80 percent, to $1 per kilogram, within the decade. Now, backed by industry partnerships, new legislation, an eye-popping $7 billion in federal funds for regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs), a new draft strategy, and on-site progress to pair electrolyzers with nuclear plants, the potential for nuclear-powered production of clean hydrogen is clearer than ever.