Two cross-lab teams get funding for computing innovations

On August 4, the Department of Energy announced it will provide $57.5 million over five years to establish two multidisciplinary teams to take advantage of DOE supercomputing facilities at Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The goal is to spur advances in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Funds of $11.5 million have been made available for Fiscal Year 2020, with future funding contingent on congressional appropriations.On August 4, the Department of Energy announced it will provide $57.5 million over five years to establish two multidisciplinary teams to take advantage of DOE supercomputing facilities at Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The goal is to spur advances in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Funds of $11.5 million have been made available for Fiscal Year 2020, with future funding contingent on congressional appropriations.

ARPA-E Energy Briefs highlight innovations and programs

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is at work developing and demonstrating novel energy technologies and connecting those technologies with private-sector investors. The researchers and innovators behind ARPA-E want to tell you all about it in a series of “Energy Briefs” available through the agency’s YouTube channel.

TerraPower looks to turn DOE’s waste uranium into actinium-225

This vial contains traces of actinium within a mixture of thorium and uranium. Photo: Isotek

An article recently published in Chemical & Engineering News describes TerraPower’s efforts to extract actinium-225, a radioisotope with therapeutic potential, from highly radioactive uranium-233 owned by the Department of Energy and slated for disposal. While others are working to ramp up production of Ac-225 by using a linear accelerator or cyclotron, TerraPower hopes to harvest between 200,000 and 600,000 doses a year from U-233 to increase the global supply.

Metal frameworks could capture krypton-85 during reprocessing

Separation of Kr-85 from spent nuclear fuel by a highly selective metal organic framework. Image: Mike Gipple/National Energy Technology Laboratory

According to a story published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on July 24, the capture of gaseous fission products such as krypton-85 during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel could be aided by the adsorption of gasses into an advanced type of soft crystalline material, metal organic frameworks(MOF), which feature high porosity and large internal surface areas that can trap an array of organic and inorganic compounds.

NNSA funding opportunity looks to boost U.S. production of Mo-99 by 2023

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration on July 30 issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to foster commercial-scale domestic production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 without the use of high-enriched uranium. Mo-99 is used in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States every day.

Through the FOA (DE-FOA-0002303), the NNSA is soliciting applications from U.S. companies to help achieve commercial-scale Mo-99 production by December 31, 2023. Companies have until September 30 this year to respond to the FOA with proposals.

Nuclear-powered Perseverance begins seven-month journey to Mars

An Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard launches on July 30 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover went ahead as scheduled on July 30, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:50 a.m. (EDT) . The rover was onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket.

Minutes later, NASA reported that all flight milestones were being met as planned. There are several more milestones to reach before Perseverance—the fifth rover that NASA has sent to Mars—lands on the Red Planet in seven months.

Assembly of ITER begins in Southern France

Those attending the livestreamed July 28 celebration in person (shown here from above) followed recommended social distancing measures.

First-of-a-kind components have been arriving in recent months at the ITER construction site in Cadarache, France, from some of the 35 ITER member countries around the world. The arrival on July 21 of the first sector of the ITER vacuum vessel from South Korea marks the beginning of a four-and-a-half year machine assembly process for the world’s largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as an energy source.

The National Atomic Testing Museum presents Distinguished Lecture Series webinar

Brent Park, NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Photo: NNSA

The National Atomic Testing Museum is hosting a free webinar on July 30 at 9 p.m. (EDT) featuring Brent Park, the National Nuclear Security Administration's deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Registration is required.

The webinar is part of the museum’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Park, a nuclear physicist with 30 years of experience at Department of Energy national laboratories, currently leads the NNSA's efforts to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and reduce the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism around the world.

Grants will enhance nuclear medicine and radiology services in Africa

Representatives from African countries assembled in 2019 at an event hosted by Nigeria to discuss the need for assistance in nuclear medicine and radiology. Photo: NNSA

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded grants totaling $1.5 million to support an increase in medical staff and the building of facilities and equipment in sub-Saharan Africa, the agency announced on July 27.

The grants of $750,000 each were awarded to the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).

One small step for fission—on the Moon and beyond

A reliable energy source is critical for long-duration space exploration. NASA, targeting launch readiness by the end of 2026, has teamed up with the Department of Energy and Idaho National Laboratory to solicit realistic assessments of fission surface power systems designed for deployment on the Moon that could, with little modification, be sent to Mars as well.

Bruce Power to partner with Isogen, BWXT on isotopes production

The Bruce plant near Kincardine, Ontario. Photo: Bruce Power

Bruce Power announced on July 20 that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Isogen, a joint venture of Framatome and Toronto-based Kinectrics, and BWXT ITG Canada to advance feasibility work for the production of molybdenum-99. Mo-99 is the radioisotope most commonly used in nuclear medicine for diagnostic imaging and the detection of disease, along with other medical isotopes that are growing in demand.

Proton acceleration success paves way for Belgian research reactor

The radio frequency quadropole has been matched with the ion source and the low-energy beam transmission line at UCLouvain, an SCK-CEN partner site. Photo: SCK-CEN

The MYRRHA accelerator team has successfully sent a proton beam through the radio frequency quadrupole (RFQ) of a project billed as “the world’s first large-scale accelerator-driven system.” MYRRHA, which stands for Multi-purpose hYbrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications, will be built at SCK-CEN’s site in Mol, Belgium, and will consist of a subcritical lead-bismuth eutectic (LBE)–cooled nuclear reactor driven by a high-power linear accelerator (LINAC).

Irradiation helps Mauritius develop heat-tolerant tomato varieties

The country of Mauritius is using nuclear technology to develop new tomato varieties that can thrive in hotter temperatures. The new high-yielding and heat-tolerant tomato seeds have been distributed to the country’s farmers, helping to protect a national industry valued at US$14 million annually, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on July 15.

The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), assisted the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (FAREI) in Mauritius to develop new tomato varieties using irradiation.

Russia builds lab for developing quantum artificial intelligence

A quantum computer, such as this 50-bit version that IBM demonstrated at the International Consumer Electronics Show in 2018, is capable of solving tasks inaccessible to the most powerful “classic ” supercomputer. (Photo: IBM)

Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, and the Russian Quantum Center (RQC) on July 7 announced the creation of the first laboratory in Russia to research and develop machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) methods on quantum computers, specializing in the application of these technologies in the nuclear industry. An agreement was signed between the RQC and Tsifrum, a Rosatom subsidiary that was created in 2019 to support the implementation of Rosatom’s digitalization strategy.

Feature Article

The ongoing effort to convert the world’s research reactors

The Ghana Research Reactor-1, located in Accra, Ghana, was converted from HEU fuel to LEU in 2017. Photo: Argonne National Laboratory

In late 2018, Nigeria’s sole operating nuclear research reactor, NIRR-1, switched to a safer uranium fuel. Coming just 18 months on the heels of a celebrated conversion in Ghana, the NIRR-1 reboot passed without much fanfare. However, the switch marked an important global milestone: NIRR-1 was the last of Africa’s 11 operating research reactors to run on high-enriched uranium fuel.

The 40-year effort to make research reactors safer and more secure by replacing HEU fuel with low-enriched uranium is marked by a succession of quiet but immeasurably significant milestones like these. Before Africa, a team of engineers from many organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, concluded its conversion work in South America and Australia. Worldwide, 71 reactors in nearly 40 countries have undergone conversions to LEU, defined as less than 20 percent uranium-235. Another 31 research reactors have been permanently shut down.

Pandemic puts physical sciences at a “tipping point”

A new report from the American Institute of Physics declares the physical sciences to be at a “tipping point” between a “perilous” future and a “vibrant” one as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The 28-page report, Peril and Promise: Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Physical Sciences, outlines several areas where the scientific community has been tested by the pandemic and examines what the future could look like for the workforce, infrastructure, and conduct of research. Further, the report challenges leaders in government, academia, the private sector, and other areas who depend on the physical sciences to craft specific recommendations to address the pandemic’s impacts.

Researchers develop novel approach to modeling as-yet-unconfirmed rare nuclear process

According to a recent story published by AAAS, researchers from the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams Laboratory at Michigan State University have taken a major step toward a theoretical first-principles description of neutrinoless double-beta decay.

IAEA teams with Japanese university on boron neutron capture therapy R&D

The accelerator-based BNCT system under construction at Nagoya University, shows the electrostatic proton accelerator (on the left) and beam transport line toward the neutron production target (on the right). Photo: Nagoya University

The International Atomic Energy Agency has signed an agreement with Japan’s Okayama University that provides a three-year framework for enhanced cooperation in boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT), the IAEA announced on June 24. BNCT is a noninvasive therapeutic technique for treating invasive malignant tumors.

X-rays size up protein structure at the “heart” of COVID-19 virus

Overlapping X-ray data of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease shows structural differences between the protein at room temperature (orange) and the cryogenically frozen structure (white). Graphic: Jill Hemman/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A team of researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge and Argonne national laboratories has performed the first room-temperature X-ray measurements on the SARS-CoV-2 main protease, the enzyme that enables the virus to reproduce.

The X-ray measurements mark an important first step in the researchers’ ultimate goal of building a comprehensive 3D model of the enzymatic protein.

DOE awards research grants to early career scientists

The Department of Energy on June 23 announced the selection of 76 scientists from across the United States—26 from the DOE’s national laboratories and 50 from U.S. universities—to receive significant funding for research as part of the DOE Office of Science’s Early Career Research Program. The effort, now in its 11th year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.