Research & Applications

Research and test reactor oversight probed by NRC IG after NIST fuel failure

October 11, 2023, 9:45AMNuclear News
A view of the NCNR guide hall, featuring the 30-meter Small Angle Neutron Scattering instrument. (Photo: NIST)

Following the February 2021 radiation release at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) resulting from a fuel failure in the 20-MWt NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) research reactor, NIST investigated the root cause of the incident and developed corrective actions. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s probe of the incident found apparent violations and resulted in a confirmatory order issued in August 2022.

Operations begin at IET multiloop molten-salt test system

October 6, 2023, 12:05PMNuclear News
The Integrated Effects Test at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Wash. (Photo: Southern Company/TerraPower)

Southern Company, TerraPower, and Core Power (a U.K.-based firm focused on developing nuclear technologies for the maritime sector) have commenced pumped-salt operations in the Integrated Effects Test (IET) facility, the Atlanta, Ga.-based utility announced Tuesday, marking another milestone in the development of TerraPower’s first-of-a-kind, Generation IV Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR).

NRC to discuss proposed fusion regulations

October 6, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on October 4 made available preliminary proposed rule language for the licensing and regulation fusion energy systems. The proposed rulemaking, which would amend parts 20, 30, and 51 of Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, would provide a limited-scope, technology-inclusive regulatory framework for a broad array of fusion systems currently under development.

With reactor gone, Halden project lives on in human factors research

October 5, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsPaul Menser

When Norway’s Halden research reactor shut down in 2018, nuclear researchers around the world were forced to scramble. For 60 years, the Halden Reactor Project offered a 25-MWt boiling water reactor for research where scientists could expand their understanding of nuclear fuel reliability, reactor internals, plant procedures and monitoring, and human factors.

MARVEL prototype “fired up” as testing gets underway

September 25, 2023, 2:46PMNuclear News
The electrically heated PCAT replica of the MARVEL microreactor is installed and ready for testing at CEI’s facility in Pennsylvania. (Photo: DOE)

While initial operation of MARVEL, a tiny microreactor that will be installed and operated inside Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility, might not occur until 2025, testing of a nonnuclear prototype is now under way at the New Freedom, Pa., manufacturing facility of Creative Engineers, Inc. (CEI). The Department of Energy announced the start of prototype testing on September 20.

Offshore nuclear power concept under development by BWXT and Crowley

September 21, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual art of the Crowley-designed ship with a BWXT microreactor onboard. (Image: BWXT)

BWX Technologies is teaming with Crowley, a global shipping and energy supply chain company, under a memorandum of understanding to develop a ship with an onboard microreactor that could deliver power to users on shore via buoyed power cables. The concept, announced by both companies on September 20, is envisioned as a zero-carbon energy option for defense and disaster needs.

Nuclear-powered carbon management options evaluated in DOE report

September 20, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
Conceptual art of a direct air capture CO2 removal system. (Image: DOE)

Given how much carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere from fossil fuels, replacing those fuels with clean options like nuclear energy is urgent, but could be likened to shutting the barn door after the proverbial horse has bolted. But what if you could also round up excess CO2 already in the atmosphere? That’s the goal of direct air capture (DAC) and other so-called negative emission technologies—to capture climate warming CO2 for use in products or processes or for permanent storage.

NRC to hold workshop on AI regulatory applications

September 18, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding the “Data Science and AI Regulatory Applications Workshop,” tomorrow to discuss the agency’s activities for the safe and secure use of artificial intelligence in NRC-regulated activities.

Jumping hurdles: ARPA-E and the path to advanced reactor deployment

September 15, 2023, 3:31PMNuclear NewsJenifer Shafer and Robert Ledoux

The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), a branch of the Department of Energy, is tasked with driving the research and development of cutting-edge energy technologies. The agency’s core emphasis is on mitigating emissions, increasing energy efficiency, reducing imports, ensuring energy systems resiliency, and offering transformative solutions for the management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel (SNF). Its mission is instrumental in ensuring the United States retains its technological superiority in the design and implementation of new energy technologies. Efforts in SNF research also benefit prior investments in ARPA-E’s MEITNER (Modeling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration) and GEMINA (Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets) programs, which seek to substantially decrease the capital and operational expenditures associated with advanced reactors (ARs).

DOE-supported nuclear data benchmarking will support diverse missions

September 15, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Science announced $5.8 million in funding on September 13 for five projects to benchmark nuclear data for a range of nuclear science investigations and applications, including energy, space exploration, and nonproliferation. Four of the five funded projects include participation from Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Project Pele will “nurture” a second microreactor: X-energy’s Xe-Mobile

September 14, 2023, 3:06PMNuclear News

The Department of Defense announced on September 13 that it has awarded a contract option to X-energy for the “enhanced engineering design” of a microreactor that could serve as the transportable power source envisioned by the Strategic Capabilities Office’s (SCO) Project Pele. The DOD expects the award for one year of work to “allow a thorough analysis of design options,” resulting in a preliminary engineering design and “initiation of a regulatory preapplication process.”

In split from Euratom, U.K. will spend nearly $812 million on domestic fusion R&D

September 13, 2023, 12:06PMNuclear News

Having decided “to not associate to the Euratom Research and Training program (Euratom R&T) and, by extension, the Fusion for Energy Program,” the government of the United Kingdom announced plans on September 7 to support its homegrown UK Fusion Strategy by investing up to £650 million (about $811.8 million) through 2027 in a suite of research and development programs to support the country’s fusion sector and strengthen international collaboration. The funds are in addition to the £126 million (about $157.3 million) announced in November 2022 to support U.K. fusion R&D.

New research funding will leverage machine learning and AI for fusion energy

September 12, 2023, 9:27AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy announced $29 million in funding for seven team awards for research in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data resources for fusion energy sciences on August 31. In all, 19 institutions will build algorithms to address high-priority research opportunities in fusion and plasma sciences using interdisciplinary collaborations of fusion and plasma researchers teamed with data and computational scientists.

Hungary’s ATOMKI orders 3D printer for nuclear research

September 6, 2023, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Freemelt ONE 3D printer.

Hungary’s Institute for Nuclear Research (ATOMKI) is set to take delivery this year of a 4.6 million Swedish krona ($414,300) electron-beam 3D printer for nuclear material science research.

The printer—the Freemelt ONE model—is manufactured by Freemelt, a Swedish company.

Research plans: ATOMKI intends to use the printer for “research in surface science [and] surface topology, which means creation of new surface structures and composite materials via non-adiabatic [not occurring without heat loss or heat gain] alloying,” according to Kalman Vad, a senior research associate at ATOMKI. “The open architecture and free parametrization of the properties of the [electron] beam makes Freemelt ONE an ideal tool for research purposes.”

Project Pele in context: An update on the DOD’s microreactor plans

August 28, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

Deploying microreactor technology for military applications could have huge impacts on logistics and reliability for the military of the future, and on the commercial use of similar technologies. That’s why the Department of Defense is developing Project Pele—a high-temperature, gas-cooled and TRISO-fueled microreactor, transportable within mobile shipping containers—for testing at Idaho National Laboratory in 2025.

Nuclear worker data examined in new low-dose radiation health effects study

August 24, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

A group of researchers analyzed recent updates to the International Nuclear Workers Study (INWORKS) and published their findings—“Cancer mortality after low dose exposure to ionising radiation in workers in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States (INWORKS): cohort study”—in the journal BMJ on August 16. The multinational research team, led by David B. Richardson of the University of California–Irvine, reports “evidence of an increase in the excess relative rate of solid cancer mortality with increasing cumulative exposure to ionizing radiation at the low dose rates typically encountered by French, U.K., and U.S. nuclear workers [and] evidence in support of a linear association between protracted low dose external exposure to ionizing radiation and solid cancer mortality.”

Bruce Power, Nordion to increase Co-60 production

August 22, 2023, 12:03PMNuclear News
Bruce Power and Nordion will increase Co-60 production at the Bruce nuclear power plant in Ontario. (Photo: Bruce Power)

Bruce Power, the utility in Ontario, Canada, and health-care company Nordion announced that they are working to increase the production of cobalt-60 to meet increasing world market demands. The companies said they will increase the amount of Co-60 Bruce Power is able to produce in its reactors “by innovating a new adjuster component configuration.”

Veto or no veto, UIUC forges ahead with microreactor plans

August 21, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Conceptual art of USNC’s MMR, as proposed for construction on the UIUC campus. (Graphic: USNC)

It’s been almost 35 years since Illinois last added a nuclear power reactor to the grid (Braidwood-2, a pressurized water reactor operated by Constellation, reached commercial operation in October 1988). And it’s been 63 years since a research reactor reached initial criticality at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The university’s TRIGA Mark II started up in August 1960 and was shut down in 1998. For about 25 years, UIUC—the flagship public university in a state that generates more power from nuclear energy than any other—has lacked an operating research reactor.