Research & Applications


First ITER central solenoid module ready for transatlantic journey

June 18, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
ITER CS Module 1 (shown here at right with the General Atomics fabrication team) is being loaded onto a specialized heavy transport vehicle for shipment to Houston, Texas, where it will be placed on a ship for transit to France. (Photo: General Atomics)

After a decade of design and fabrication, General Atomics (GA) is preparing to ship the first module of the central solenoid—the largest of ITER’s magnets—to the site in southern France where 35 partner countries are collaborating to build the world’s largest tokamak and the first fusion device to produce net energy.

Korean team commits to R&D for marine molten salt reactors

June 14, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) has announced that it will develop marine molten salt reactor (MSR) technology with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). SHI president Jintaek Jeong and KAERI president Park Won-seok on June 9 signed an agreement to establish a strategic cooperative relationship and conduct joint research.

DOE backs U.S. stellarator research at Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X

June 10, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics offers an interactive and informative 360-degree panoramic tour of Wendelstein 7-X. (Source: ipp.mpg.de)

U.S. scientists are getting funding to carry out seven research projects at two major stellarator fusion energy facilities located in Germany and Japan, the Department of Energy announced on June 8. A total of $6.4 million has been allocated for seven research projects with terms of up to three years.

Savannah River’s SWPF treats 1 million gallons of waste

June 10, 2021, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
A view of the Savannah River Site’s Salt Waste Processing Facility. (Photo: DOE)

The Salt Waste Processing Facility at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site has performed largely as expected, processing more than one million gallons of radioactive waste during its first eight months of operation, the DOE reported on June 8. The SWPF is being used to treat the majority of the site’s remaining liquid radioactive waste, generated from the production of nuclear materials.

NRC awards $10.7 million in academic grants

June 9, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on June 8 that it has awarded 30 academic grants to 26 academic institutions in 19 states, totaling nearly $10.7 million. The funds will support scholarships, fellowships, and faculty development at four-year universities and colleges, two-year trade schools and community colleges, and minority-serving institutions.

Argonne-led team models fluid dynamics of entire SMR core

June 9, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
This image shows the individual pins in a full-core nuclear reactor simulation. (Image: ANL)

Coolant flow around the fuel pins in a light water reactor core plays a critical role in determining the reactor’s performance. For yet-to-be-built small modular reactors, a thorough understanding of coolant flow will be key to successfully designing, building, and licensing first-of-a-kind reactors.

Oak Ridge brings fusion and fission together for clean energy synergy

June 8, 2021, 12:06PMSponsored ContentORNL
ORNL associate laboratory director Kathy McCarthy at the prototype which led to the Material Plasma Exposure eXperiment (MPEX), a device that will support fusion materials research. Photo: ORNL

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has a long record of advancing fusion and fission science and technology. Today, the lab is focused more than ever on taking advantage of that spectrum of nuclear experience to accelerate a viable path to fusion energy and to speed efficient deployment of advanced nuclear technologies to today’s power plants and future fission systems.

Tiny MARVEL reactor gets final environmental assessment

June 8, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
The MARVEL reactor concept with Stirling engines. (Image: DOE)

The definition of a microreactor is ambiguous. But whether your upper cutoff is 10 MW or 20 MW, the Microreactor Applications Research Validation and Evaluation (MARVEL) reactor that the Department of Energy plans to build is, at 100 kW, on the tiny side of micro.

NRC reports nine abnormal occurrences in FY 2020

June 8, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent to Congress its annual report on abnormal occurrences involving the medical and industrial uses of radioactive material. An abnormal occurrence is defined by law as an unscheduled incident or event that the NRC determines to be significant from the standpoint of public health or safety. The NRC sets specific criteria, most recently updated in October 2017, for determining which events qualify.

U.K. and Chinese national fusion programs can take the heat

June 3, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News
Plasma in MAST. (Photo: UKAEA/EUROfusion)

As governments around the world cooperate on the ITER tokamak and, in parallel, race each other and private companies to develop commercial fusion power concepts, it seems that “game-changing” developments are proclaimed almost weekly. Recently, the United Kingdom and China announced new fusion program results.

U.S. and France commit to “common ambition” on advanced nuclear

June 2, 2021, 3:12PMNuclear News

U.S. energy secretary Jennifer Granholm and French minister for the ecological transition Barbara Pompili issued a joint statement on May 28 in which they pledged to work together to meet shared climate goals.

“France and the United States share common goals and common resolve in fighting climate change and working toward reaching the ambitious target set forth by the Paris agreement,” the statement read. “We are united in a common ambition on both sides of the Atlantic: achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Reaching this common objective will require leveraging all currently existing emission-free technologies available to us while simultaneously intensifying research, development, and deployment across a suite of zero-emissions energy sources and systems. Ensuring that these energy systems are efficient and reliable, integrating larger shares of renewables coupled with nuclear energy, which is a significant part of today’s electricity production in both our countries, will be crucial to accelerate energy transitions. Reaching this common objective will also require a wide variety of favorable financing conditions across the range of zero-emitting power sources and systems.”

“Now is the time” for more ATR capacity: A conversation with Lightbridge

May 28, 2021, 12:06PMNuclear News
A photo of a prototype Lightbridge fuel assembly. (Photo: Lightbridge)

Operators at the Advanced Test Reactor at Idaho National Laboratory have begun a nine-month outage to perform a core internals changeout. When the ATR is restarted in early 2022, the top head closure plate of the pressurized water test reactor will have new access points that could permit the irradiation of more fuel and material samples in the reactor’s high-flux neutron conditions.

Nine-month outage preps ATR for years of continued operation

May 26, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Operations personnel working above the Advanced Test Reactor on the reactor top area. The small cylindrical section in the center of the platform has access ports for refueling and experiment loading and unloading during routine outages. (Photo: INL)

The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at Idaho National Laboratory is getting an overhaul that will keep it off line for nine months. When the ATR is restarted in early 2022, the one-of-a-kind pressurized water test reactor—which is operated at low pressures and temperatures as a neutron source—will be ready for another decade or more of service, with the potential for more experimental capacity in years to come.

Nuclear techniques to monitor—and prevent—plastic pollution

May 25, 2021, 12:04PMNuclear News
Plastic waste on a Galapagos beach. Sunlight, wind, and waves break down large plastic debris into smaller and smaller pieces to become microplastics. (Photo: F. Oberhaensli/IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has created a new program, NUclear TEChnology for Controlling Plastic Pollution (NUTEC Plastics), to address the global environmental impact of plastic pollution in oceans. It uses nuclear technology to monitor pollution and also to decrease the volume of plastic waste by using irradiation to complement traditional plastic recycling methods.

Pebble bed reactors, friction, and cooling

May 25, 2021, 9:31AMANS Nuclear CafeLaura Simmons

When one of the largest modern earthquakes struck Japan on March 11, 2011, the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant automatically shut down as designed. The emergency systems, which would have helped maintain the necessary cooling of the core, were destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. Because the reactor could no longer cool itself, the core overheated, resulting in a severe nuclear meltdown.

Since then, reactors have improved exponentially in terms of safety, sustainability and efficiency. Unlike the light-water reactors at Fukushima, which had liquid coolant and uranium fuel, advanced reactors have a variety of coolant options, including molten-salt mixtures, supercritical water, and gases such as helium.

SHINE plans new isotope production facility in the Netherlands

May 24, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
A rendering of the SHINE medical isotope production facility planned for construction in Veendam, the Netherlands. (Image: Shine)

SHINE Medical Technologies plans to locate its European medical isotope production facility in the Netherlands after a yearlong search and a review of more than 50 proposals from sites across Europe. The company announced on May 20 that construction at the site should begin in 2023 with commercial production starting in late 2025.

DOE announces funding for advanced reactor fuel cycle and reprocessing R&D

May 21, 2021, 7:06AMNuclear News
This figure, included in the ONWARDS funding opportunity announcement, shows how ARPA-E R&D programs address different stages of advanced reactor development. (Figure: ARPA-E)

The Department of Energy has announced up to $40 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program to conduct research and development into technologies for reprocessing and ultimately disposing of used nuclear fuel. The program, “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems” (ONWARDS), announced on May 19, targets both open (once-through) and closed (reprocessing) fuel cycles to reduce the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors tenfold when compared to light water reactors.

Planning ahead for advanced reactor safeguards and security

May 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Nonproliferation, safeguards, and security were on the agenda for the fifth public information-gathering meeting of the National Academies’ Committee on Merits and Viability of Different Nuclear Fuel Cycles and Technology Options and the Waste Aspects of Advanced Nuclear Reactors. Moderated by committee chair Janice Dunn Lee and NAS study director Charles Ferguson, the two-day public meeting was convened on May 17 and was to be followed by a closed committee session on May 19.