New U.S.-Japan agreement on HEU-to-LEU conversion

September 29, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
NNSA administrator Jill Hruby (left) holds up the signed MOU on HEU conversion during the agency’s virtual meeting with Japan’s MEXT. (Credit: NNSA)

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT). The MOU describes their commitment to convert the Kindai University Teaching and Research Reactor (UTR-KINKI) from high-enriched uranium fuel to low-enriched uranium fuel. The nuclear nonproliferation–related agreement also calls for the secure transport of all the HEU to the United States for either downblending to LEU or disposition.

IAEA mission to Zaporizhzhia finally launched

August 30, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi (center) with his team of nuclear safety, security, and safeguards experts at the Vienna International Airport on August 29, prior to their departure for Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. (Photo: Dean Calma/IAEA)

After months of urgent entreaties to both the Ukrainian and Russian governments to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency access to the embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi yesterday set off for the facility, accompanied by a team of nuclear security, safety, and safeguards experts.

Zaporizhzhia-5 and -6 disconnected from grid

August 25, 2022, 4:29PMNuclear News
The Zaporizhzhia plant (Image: Energoatom)

Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear plant operator, is reporting that Units 5 and 6 at the Zaporizhzhia plant—currently the facility’s only operational reactors—were disconnected from the country’s power grid early in the morning of August 25.

The Zaporizhzhia site has been under the control of the Russian military since March 4, just days after Russia commenced its invasion of Ukraine.

WIPP rescue teams compete in national competition

August 24, 2022, 12:02PMRadwaste Solutions
WIPP Blue Team participates in a final briefing before beginning a field contest in a recent national mine rescue competition. (Photo: DOE)

Mine rescue teams from the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) finished in the top 15 in competitions at the first-ever joint Coal, Metal, and Nonmetal National Mine Rescue Contest in Lexington, Ky., held on August 7–12.

NNSA to prepare Los Alamos’s fourth site-wide environmental analysis

August 23, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
A view of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Photo: LANL)

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced that, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it intends to prepare a site-wide environmental impact statement (SWEIS) to analyze the potential environmental impacts for continuing operations of the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the next 15 years. The SWEIS will also analyze the environmental impacts of legacy waste remediation being done by the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management at the site.

IAEA’s Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre nears completion

August 22, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Construction of the IAEA’s international training center for nuclear security is expected to be completed by the end of this year. (Photo: C. Daniels/IAEA)

Construction of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s new Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre (NSTDC) is nearing completion in the town of Seibersdorf, Austria, near the capital city of Vienna. The IAEA expects construction to be finished by the end of the year, allowing for the facility to open and be operational by late 2023.

Accusations and dire warnings swirl over Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

August 15, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA's director general, addresses the UN Security Council via video link on August 11. (Photo: IAEA)

Contradictory accusations concerning the artillery shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in war-torn Ukraine continue to be made by the Ukrainians and Russians. Both sides have acknowledged several hits on the facility, including 10 artillery strikes on the plant’s administrative office and fire station on August 11. As the two countries blame each other for the attacks, independent authorities have been unable to verify the opposing claims.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the UN Security Council, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the situation was in “a serious hour, a grave hour.” UN secretary general António Guterres added that it could “lead to disaster.”

Japan-to-U.S. HEU transfer fulfills nonproliferation commitment

August 10, 2022, 3:02PMNuclear News
NNSA administrator Jill Hruby (right) and Ken Nakajima, director of the Institute for Integrated Radiation and Nuclear Science at Kyoto University, in the KUCA control room. (Photo: NNSA)

All high-enriched uranium has been removed from the Kyoto University Critical Assembly (KUCA), according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Safety concerns grow regarding Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

August 5, 2022, 6:50AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Concerns regarding the safety and security of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in war-torn Ukraine have been heightened in recent weeks, with reports of Russian forces using the gigantic facility as a cover from which to launch artillery attacks on Ukrainian forces. On Tuesday, Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, appealed to both Ukraine and Russia to allow IAEA inspectors to visit the plant to examine its condition, make any necessary repairs, and ensure that its nuclear material is being appropriately safeguarded. Grossi said that the situation at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, in which, according to various reports, either two or three of six reactors are currently operating, is “completely out of control” and that the plant’s equipment supply chain has been interrupted.

NRC and GAO seem to clash on urgency of “dirty bomb” danger

July 26, 2022, 12:06PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Source: GAO | GAO-22-103441

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to “add security features to its licenses to make it harder for people to use a fraudulent license to purchase radioactive material,” which could then be used to make a “dirty bomb,” according to a Government Accountability Office report exclusively obtained by NBC News. The recent report was publicly released on the GAO website.

A dirty bomb, also known as a radiological dispersal device, is a bomb made with conventional explosives to spread illicitly obtained radioactive materials, such as materials intended for generating nuclear power, conducting research, treating cancer, or sterilizing medical instruments. Such a weapon in the hands of a terrorist group or other “bad actor” could cause “hundreds of deaths from evacuations and billions of dollars of socioeconomic effects,” according Preventing a Dirty Bomb (GAO-22-103441).

Iran’s use of advanced enrichment centrifuges raises concerns

July 12, 2022, 9:31AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Fordow fuel enrichment site in Iran. (Source: MDAA)

Iran has begun enriching uranium to a purity level of 20 percent using advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, a pilot facility located underground near the city of Qom. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran made the public announcement on June 10, although it reported the news to the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency two weeks before, according to NBC News.

NNSA cancels M&O contract for Pantex and Y-12, to hold separate contract competitions

May 23, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
The Pantex Plant in Texas (Photo: NNSA)

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced last week that it is canceling its November 2020 contract solicitation for management and operation of the Pantex Plant and Y-12 National Security Complex and terminating the contract award announced in November 2021 for the two sites. The NNSA intends to hold two new competitions for separate contracts to manage each site.

NNSA launches infrastructure initiative to adapt to climate change

May 18, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News
The NNSA's ERICA initiative aims to provide resources to develop resiliency against climate-related obstacles like the 2021 shuttering of the Pantex Plant due to the polar vortex. (Image: NNSA)

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration is establishing an Energy Resilient Infrastructure and Climate Adaptation (ERICA) initiative, which will help position it to deal with climate issues. In a recent press release, the NNSA noted that ERICA will help it to meet the requirements of federal legislature and executive orders, along with the DOE’s climate adaptation, energy resilience, and sustainability goals in support of the agency’s national security missions.

The initiative was outlined in President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget request for the DOE.

Indictment related to Wolf Creek computer hack unsealed

April 4, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
The Wolf Creek nuclear power plant. (Photo: Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp.)

The Department of Justice recently unsealed an indictment charging three Russian nationals with attempting, supporting, and conducting computer intrusions that targeted the global energy sector between 2012 and 2017. One of the targets was Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, operator of the single-unit 1200-MWe Wolf Creek nuclear plant near Burlington, Kans.

U.S. lawmakers back regional fuel bank for Middle Eastern nations

February 16, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News



Sens. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) have introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. government to adopt a policy that would permit any Middle Eastern state access to nuclear fuel via a regional fuel bank, provided it agrees to abstain from uranium enrichment and reprocessing.

Modeled on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan, the proposed regional fuel bank would allow the commercial development of nuclear power throughout the Middle East while at the same time eliminating the need for dangerous and destabilizing domestic nuclear programs, according to a February 11 press release from the legislators.

NNSA’s NEST team prepares for Super Bowl

January 31, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

Los Angeles residents may see low-altitude aircraft near the sites of Super Bowl LVI activities on February 1 and 2. That’s when the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will send a Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) helicopter to measure expected background radiation as part of standard preparations to protect public health and safety for the National Football League’s biggest game.

More information and video footage of NEST’s work is available online.

NRC issues $50,000 fine for security-related violations at Oyster Creek

January 28, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News
HDI was issued a confirmatory order by the NRC for regulatory violations at Oyster Creek. (Photo: Exelon)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a confirmatory order to Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI) following an alternative dispute resolution mediation session regarding security-related violations at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey Township, N.J. A subsidiary of Holtec International, HDI is decommissioning Oyster Creek, which permanently ceased operations in 2018.

Savannah River employees honored with Secretary of Energy Achievement Awards

January 28, 2022, 7:00AMRadwaste Solutions
A cask of HEU arrives at the H Canyon facility. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy announced yesterday that Secretary of Energy Achievement Awards were presented to a team of Savannah River Site employees for the completion of the multiyear Target Residue Material (TRM) campaign to support global nuclear security goals.

SRS is a 310-square-mile site located in South Carolina. It encompasses parts of Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale counties and is bordered on the west by the Savannah River and the state of Georgia.