Research & Applications

Join ANS for a virtual field trip into outer space

May 17, 2021, 3:00PMANS News

Help ANS celebrate the launch of our newest virtual field trip, “Nuclear Frontiers: Powering Possibility,” which explores the amazing ways that nuclear science is fueling earthly innovation and deep space exploration. The video is part of the Society’s Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World program, which has reached more than 1.5 million K-12 students.

Register now for this special event, to be held on Wednesday, May 19, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. (EDT).

Extraterrestrial Pu found in the ocean sheds light on cosmic events

May 17, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News
The Crab nebula, an iconic Milky Way supernova remnant, as viewed by the Herschel Space Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. (Image: NASA, ESA, and Allison Loll/Jeff Hester, Arizona State University)

Traces of freshly made plutonium and radioactive iron recovered from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean are contributing to an understanding of how heavier elements are created from exploding stars and other cosmic events, according to a National Public Radio report.

First Light fires first shots from gun built for pulsed fusion

May 17, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
First Light Fusion CEO Nick Hawker stands near the target end of the 22-meter-long gas gun. (Photo: First Light)

Inside a new steel-clad facility nicknamed “The Citadel,” First Light Fusion has installed a 22-meter two-stage gas gun—the third-largest such component in Europe.

NRIC wants to know: How could you use a hybrid nuclear energy system?

May 11, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The demonstration program aims to accelerate innovation and deployment of energy concepts at the intersection of industry needs, NRIC’s mission, and the R&D portfolio of CTD IES. (Graphic: BEA)

The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) wants to hear from developers and end users interested in integrated energy systems for advanced reactors. Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), the managing and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, has issued a call for Expressions of Interest for a potential multi-phase demonstration program for innovative uses of nuclear energy, to be carried out by NRIC and the Crosscutting Technology Development Integrated Energy Systems (CTD IES) program. The final date for responses is May 21.

National Academies steers low-dose radiation research in a new direction

May 7, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News

The United States is embarking on a new coordinated federal low-dose radiation research program. With guidance from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science will build a program that integrates the research of past decades, but without treading the same well-worn path. Instead, the new program will focus on how the scientific understanding of low-dose radiation can best be augmented, applied, and communicated.

Groups call for funding boost to DOE energy programs

May 5, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

More than 100 organizations, including the American Nuclear Society, have signed a letter to congressional leaders asking for a multi-billion dollar increase in the Department of Energy’s innovation funding to increase American competitiveness. The letter, dated May 4, was conceived by Third Way, a national think tank that champions modern center-left ideas.

Energy innovation tax credit proposal released

April 29, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe



Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) and Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), both members of the Senate Finance Committee, have released a discussion draft of the Energy Sector Innovation Credit (ESIC) Act, a technology-inclusive energy tax proposal to encourage innovation in the clean energy sector. (A one-pager on the proposal is available online.)

ITER magnet assembly begins

April 28, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
Photo: Bruno Levesy

On April 26, as the ITER Organization announced that magnet assembly had begun with the April 21 placement of the divertor coil in the bottom of the machine, the organization also published an Image of the Week that bears an unmistakable—and unintentional—resemblance to the Olympic rings. The pre-compression rings were being prepped for installation in the ITER Assembly Hall when the serendipitous arrangement was captured by Bruno Levesy, a project manager at ITER.

Accelerators delivered to NorthStar medical isotope facility

April 27, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
NorthStar is capable of producing Mo-99 using non-uranium-based processes. Photo: NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes

Completing a 5,700-mile journey from Belgium, two 24-ton particle accelerators were delivered to NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes’ facility in Beloit, Wis., on April 22, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Photos and a video of the accelerators being received at the facility are included in the report.

Heavy water, light uranium: One sweet contrast

April 26, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s view of heavy water eliciting sweet taste in humans. Graphic design: Tomáš Bello/IOCB Prague

Is isotope science all sweetness and light? Recent headlines on research confirming the sweet taste of heavy water and the creation of the lightest isotope of uranium yet may give that impression. But the serious science behind these separate research findings has implications for human health and for the understanding of the process of alpha decay.

GA’s Christina Back: U.S. “absolutely needs to be in cislunar space”

April 20, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Image: DARPA

The U.S. Department of Defense is aiming to demonstrate a novel nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system above low Earth orbit by 2025. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on April 12 that following a competitive solicitation process, it has awarded a contract to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) for the design of the nuclear reactor that will power the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO). Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin will work on a parallel track to design a spacecraft tailor-made to demonstrate the NTP system.

Brookhaven lab names new nuclear and particle physics directorate lead

April 19, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News


Haiyan Gao, currently the Henry W. Newson Distinguished Professor of Physics at Duke University, will join the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory as associate laboratory director for Nuclear & Particle Physics starting on or about June 1, 2021.

Details: Gao, who has a long history in nuclear physics, will help develop BNL’s collective long-term vision for the next 10 years. She’ll also work across the laboratory and beyond to craft its emerging expertise at the future Electron-Ion Collider, a one-of-kind nuclear physics research facility that will be built at the lab over the next decade.

Making emergency planning zones smarter: a risk-informed approach for new reactors

April 16, 2021, 2:52PMNuclear NewsCurtis Smith, Koroush Shirvan, Jason Christensen, and Kurt Vedros

The health and safety of the public and protecting people from the consequences of a significant release of radioactive material has been a top priority since the early days of the civilian nuclear energy program. After World War II, it was realized that the core inventory of radionuclides is a potential hazard. From this knowledge, emergency planning zones (EPZs) for nuclear power plants were established.

DOE touts a MARVEL of a microreactor project

April 15, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
An image from a video released by INL shows MARVEL, to be installed in a concrete pit within the TREAT reactor building. Source: INL

The Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy is spreading the word about plans to build a tiny microreactor called the Microreactor Applications Research Validation & EvaLuation (MARVEL) project inside Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility and have it in operation within the next three years. INL recently released a video that describes how MARVEL could help researchers and industry partners test, develop, and demonstrate the integration of a microreactor’s heat and electricity output with other technologies.

Isotopes hold clue to travel plans of migrating butterflies

April 14, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Scientists studied the migration of six butterflies (from top left to bottom right): American Snout butterfly, Queen butterfly, Cloudless Sulphur butterfly, Empress Leilia butterfly, Variegated Fritillary butterfly, and Southern Dogface butterfly. (Composite photo: IAEA; photo credits: S. Bright, V. Charny, J. Gallagher, J. Green)

While scientists can tag migrating birds, mammals, and other animals to track their movements, the precise migration patterns of butterflies and other insects too small for tagging evaded scientists’ scrutiny for decades. That changed in 1996, when Leonard Wassenaar and Keith Hobson, working at the time as isotope scientists for Environment Canada, demonstrated that isotopic techniques could be used to determine the origin of individual monarch butterflies and deduce the species’ annual migration routes. Now, the same technique is being used to study other butterfly species.

A matter of perspective: Unleashing the power of particle physics

April 14, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn in their lab in Germany in 1913.

Comparing matter to a “lush tapestry, woven from a complex assortment of threads,” physics writer Emily Conover traces the evolution of our understanding of the atom over the past century in the recent Science News article, “How matter’s hidden complexity unleashed the power of nuclear physics.” Conover uncovers how our vision of matter changed from that of a “no-nonsense plaid” to one of an “ornate brocade,” ultimately transforming nuclear physics from an arcane academic pursuit to something that forever changed the world.

GAIN’s leadership begins with the end in mind

April 13, 2021, 12:11PMNuclear NewsChristine King

Christine King is director of the DOE’s GAIN

The possibilities of new advanced nuclear for the future are undeniably exciting. For me, nuclear energy has provided a career filled with lifelong learning and a global community interested in collaboration. Not every industry is fortunate in this regard. As I look to this exciting future of nuclear, I keep coming back to this advice: “Begin with the end in mind.”

In November 2015, the Department of Energy established the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) for just that purpose. At GAIN, we get up every day to imagine what nuclear could be and identify concrete actions we can take to turn vision into reality. No doubt we have a long way to go, but a lot has changed in the short period of time since GAIN’s inception. Today, we are designing demonstration units to build within this decade. Soon, we will be commercializing and deploying these technologies.

TAE records plasma temperature milestone

April 12, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Construction of Norman was completed in 2017. Photo: TAE Technologies

TAE Technologies has announced that it has produced a stable plasma of over 50 million degrees celsius inside a fusion device using a beam-driven, field-reversed configuration. “By generating such stable high-temperature plasmas, TAE has now validated that the company’s unique approach can scale to the conditions necessary for an economically viable commercial fusion power plant by the end of the decade,” the company declared in its April 8 press release. The company added that the results indicate the design’s linear configuration improves plasma confinement as temperatures rise.

The power to save the world … from asteroids

April 12, 2021, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe
In this illustration of the effects of two neutron yields (50 kt and 1 Mt) and two neutron energies (14.1 MeV and 1 MeV), the black dots represent the location of a nuclear device. Dark blue indicates where the asteroid remains solid, while all other colors show where material has been melted or vaporized. The illustration depicts asteroids with 0.8-m and 5-m diameters—much smaller than the 300-m asteroid simulated in the study—to enhance the visibility of the area of the energy deposition. Image: LLNL

A research collaboration between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) has investigated how the neutron energy generated by the detonation of a nuclear device could affect the path and speed of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth by melting and vaporizing a portion of the asteroid. The research, which compared the deflection caused by two different neutron energies—14.1 MeV and 1 MeV, representing fusion and fission neutrons, respectively—is described in an article published by LLNL on April 8.

Artificial intelligence could yield real advances for the nuclear reactors of tomorrow

April 9, 2021, 9:23AMNuclear NewsRichard Vilim

To build a next-generation nuclear reactor, you can teach it how to build itself

The nuclear reactors currently in operation in the United States are beginning to gray around the temples. Built decades ago using technology developed during the middle of the 20th century, these reactors have safely and reliably powered homes and businesses, but they produce waste that must be disposed of properly.