Research & Applications

NRC probe of NIST reactor fuel failure finds apparent violations

March 21, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
The NIST Center for Neutron Research in Gaithersburg, Md. (Photo: NIST)

In the 13 months since a fuel element failure triggered a scram of the research reactor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR), the event and its causes have been scrutinized by both NIST and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Initial conclusions from an NRC special inspection released on March 16 confirm that while public health and safety was maintained during and after the event, and doses to reactor facility staff were well below regulatory limits, a safety limit was violated when the temperature of the fuel cladding of a single fuel element in the 20-MWt research reactor reached a temperature high enough to partially melt the element.

DOE funds R&D for advanced reactor fuel cycle management

March 14, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a total of $36 million for 11 projects to develop technologies that will limit the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors and will support sustainable domestic fuel stocks. The projects include research into the facilities and systems required to reprocess, recycle, and dispose of spent fuel generated through diverse advanced reactor fuel cycles.

Universities study liquid-fueled nuclear thermal propulsion concept for NASA

March 11, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Ben Campbell, a graduate research assistant and master’s degree student in aerospace systems engineering, works on the Bubbling Liquid Experiment Navigating Driven Extreme Rotation, or BLENDER, device at UAH’s Johnson Research Center. (Photo: UAH/Michael Mercier)

With three commercial teams under contract to produce reactor designs for nuclear thermal propulsion rockets that would use solid high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel to heat hydrogen propellant, NASA’s investment in nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) has increased in recent years. But just as there is more than one way to fuel a terrestrial reactor, other fuels are under consideration for future NTP rocket engines.

UChicago researchers track neutrinos at Dresden plant using world’s smallest detector

March 7, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
Juan Collar led a team of UChicago physicists who built a lightweight, portable neutrino detector to observe the elusive interactions of the ghostly particles. (Photo: Jean Lachat)

Constellation Energy’s Dresden nuclear power plant in Illinois is helping University of Chicago researchers to detect neutrinos in an effort to advance knowledge of the fundamental laws governing particle and nuclear interactions. The researchers are taking advantage of the large number of neutrinos generated by Dresden’s boiling water reactors to conduct experiments, using what UChicago calls the world’s smallest neutrino detector to track and record the ghostlike particles.

French regulator puts ITER tokamak welding on hold

March 3, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
Approval from French regulator ASN is required before ITER vacuum vessel welding can begin. (Photo: ITER)

In a February 28 article posted on the ITER Organization website, Gilles Perrier, head of ITER’s Safety and Quality Department, addressed the decision by French nuclear safety regulator ASN (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire) to delay the anticipated February 1 release of a preset tokamak assembly “hold point.”

TVA, ORNL partner to explore new nuclear, other clean technologies

March 2, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
High-voltage power lines carry electricity generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Photo: Dobie Gillispie/ORNL, DOE)

The Tennessee Valley Authority and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed a memorandum of understanding to advance decarbonization technologies in pursuit of the federal government’s net-zero-by-2050 goal, the utility and the lab announced yesterday in a joint press release.

DOE to award $22 million for cross-cutting accelerator R&D

February 22, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
Instrumentation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source, an accelerator-based facility that provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development. (Photo: ORNL)

Researchers advancing particle accelerator technology for medical, security, energy, and industrial applications have a new funding opportunity announced on February 16 by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (DOE-SC). The funding will support research to advance particle accelerator technology for medical, security, energy, and industrial applications. Grants will be awarded for work focused on innovation, technology transfer, and supply chain resiliency that falls under one of two DOE-SC programs: the Accelerator Stewardship program, which supports cross-disciplinary teams to solve high-impact problems, and the Accelerator Development program, which is aimed at strengthening domestic suppliers of accelerator technology.

Powering our nuclear fleet with artificial intelligence

February 18, 2022, 2:55PMNuclear NewsJ. Thomas Gruenwald, Jonathan Nistor, and James Tusar

We’ve all heard the stories of lost treasures being found in dust-­filled attics, locked away in forgotten wall safes, or hidden in secret compartments of antique desks. Some of these true accounts, such as a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence hidden behind wallpaper or an authentic Van Gogh relegated to collecting dust in an attic, can lead to seven-­ and eight-­figure jackpots when the discoveries are made.

What about our own treasures locked away in long-­forgotten data storage drives or plant process computers? Imagine that you could gain keen insight into every operational issue you have by using the data you’ve been collecting for decades. In a nuclear power plant, data is routinely generated and collected for a myriad of purposes—whether it be for core monitoring, exposure accounting, equipment monitoring, or other reasons. While that data may serve its primary function exceedingly well, the information contained within it and in the aggregate is profoundly richer than most could imagine.

DOE announces $18 million for advanced particle accelerator R&D

February 15, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy has announced an $18 million funding opportunity for research and development in particle accelerator science and technology for nuclear physics research. Provided through the DOE’s Office of Science, the funding is intended to support “efforts essential to developing world-leading core competencies and transformative technologies that significantly advance the state-of-the-art accelerator capabilities.”

JET celebrates sustained fusion energy production

February 10, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear News
The interior of JET with a superimposed plasma. (Image: EUROfusion)

A new record has been set by the world’s largest operating tokamak, the Joint European Torus (JET). According to the EUROfusion scientists and engineers who work on JET at the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, the landmark experiment, announced on February 9, which produced 59 megajoules of fusion energy over five seconds, is powerful proof of fusion’s potential as a clean energy source.

NN Asks: What fuels your commitment to nuclear technology?

February 8, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear NewsKelly Hartless

When I came to work at BWX Technologies immediately after getting my degree in chemical engineering from the University of Virginia, I was amazed to see how nuclear energy could be harnessed to both power and protect our country. Since then, I’ve come to see that nuclear energy can do even more. The nuclear industry’s next tasks are to address climate change, propel us to other bodies in the solar system, and provide power when we arrive. Recently developed coated fuels are an enabling technology for these tasks.

INL team assembles microreactor prototype

February 7, 2022, 3:04PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The MARVEL microreactor prototype in the INL machine shop. (Photo: DOE)

A full-scale, electrically heated prototype for the Department of Energy’s Microreactor Applications Research Validation and Evaluation (MARVEL) project was fabricated in just nine months, according to an article published by Idaho National Laboratory on January 31. The article explains in part how a team from the lab’s machine shop created the prototype.

Bruce Power, General Fusion, and NII see fusion in Ontario’s future

February 3, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
General Fusion is aiming to operate a fusion demonstration plant in 2025. (Photo: Bruce Power/General Fusion)

Bruce Power, General Fusion, and the Nuclear Innovation Institute have signed a memorandum of understanding to evaluate the potential deployment of a fusion power plant in Ontario, including in a region on the shores of Lake Huron comprising three counties—Bruce, Grey, and Huron—that has been dubbed the Clean Energy Frontier. Together the three organizations plan to build on existing clean energy technologies and expertise in the region and lead stakeholder and public outreach activities to raise awareness of the potential benefits of fusion energy.

TerraPower seeks fast reactor data through time-tested U.S.-Japan research ties

February 1, 2022, 3:02PMNuclear News
A rendering of the Natrium plant. (Image: TerraPower)

Natrium, a 345-MWe sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system, was developed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. TerraPower is planning to build the first Natrium demonstration reactor by 2028 with 50-50 cost-shared funding of about $2 billion from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. And for the requisite data and testing of reactor components to support that deployment, TerraPower is looking to Japan—a country with decades of experience developing sodium fast reactor designs and testing infrastructure.

Burning plasma state achieved at Lawrence Livermore Lab

January 27, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
An illustration of the two inertial confinement fusion designs reaching the burning plasma regime, as published in a recent article in Nature. (Image: LLNL)

One of the last remaining milestones in fusion research before attaining ignition and self-sustaining energy production is creating a burning plasma, where the fusion reactions themselves are the primary source of heating in the plasma. A paper published in the journal Nature on January 26 describes recent experiments at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) that have achieved a burning plasma state.

Bruce Power completes installation of Lu-177 production system

January 27, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
Bruce nuclear power plant in Ontario, Canada. (Photo: Bruce Power)

Bruce Power and Isogen, a partnership between Kinectrics and Framatome, have completed the installation of Isogen’s isotope production system (IPS) at Unit 7 of Bruce’s CANDU nuclear power plant in Ontario, Canada, making it the first power reactor in the world with installed capability to produce lutetium-177.

House committee passes bipartisan university research infrastructure bill

January 21, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

A bipartisan bill to ensure that U.S. universities are equipped to play a key role in supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technology and applications has been passed by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The National Nuclear University Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2021 (H.R. 4819) would boost investment in new and existing university nuclear science and engineering infrastructure, establish regional consortia to promote collaboration with industry and national laboratories, and support the development of advanced reactor technology and the workforce required for commercial advanced reactor deployment.

Nuclear technique for mosquito control breeds success in Cuba

January 18, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
Schools distributed information about the pilot trial in their communities, and schoolchildren participated in the biweekly release of sterilized male mosquitoes. (Photo: Manuel Fernández, Cuban Agency of Nuclear Energy)

Cuba’s plan to use the sterile insect technique to tackle the spread of dengue—a viral, mosquito-borne disease—relies on expertise and technology from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The technique is not new, having been used to control different insect-vector diseases in diverse regions of the world.

Ultra Safe Nuclear and ORNL strengthen bonds with 3D printing technology

January 14, 2022, 11:58AMNuclear News
Kurt Terrani observing a chemical vapor infiltration furnace at ORNL during densification of additively manufactured nuclear-grade silicon carbide. (Photo: Carlos Jones/ORNL/DOE)

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), a Seattle-based reactor developer, has licensed an additive manufacturing technique developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to print refractory materials into structural and core components for the company’s microreactor designs.

Shadow corrosion is reproduced in University of Michigan lab

January 14, 2022, 9:36AMNuclear News
[CLICK TO VIEW FULL IMAGE] The diagram at left illustrates the experimental setup and the resulting zirconium oxide layer of varying thickness. The second diagram shows the circular zirconium alloy sample that is affected by the band of nickel alloy and radiation. Finally, the electron image at right shows a band of oxidation on the zirconium alloy sample. (Images: Peng Wang, Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory)

A longstanding issue in boiling water reactors—shadow corrosion on zirconium alloy fuel rods and fuel channels—has been reproduced in the Michigan Ion Beam Laboratory as part of an effort to understand and prevent the phenomenon. Research led by Peng Wang, a University of Michigan assistant research scientist in nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, was published in the January 2022 issue of the Journal of Nuclear Materials and described in a recent university news article.