Savannah River facility prepped for NNSA project

February 7, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
A crane is used to remove equipment during a project to repurpose Building 226-F for an NNSA mission at the Savannah River Site. (Photo: DOE)

Work has begun to prepare the Savannah River Plutonium Processing Facility (SRPPF) at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina for its future national security mission: the manufacturing of plutonium pits for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

IAEA support teams sent to bolster Ukrainian power plants

January 18, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Rivne nuclear power plant in western Ukraine, home to four VVER pressurized water reactors. (Photo: Victor Korniyenko/Wikipedia)

In what it is calling a “major expansion” of its efforts to prevent a severe nuclear accident befalling Ukraine, the International Atomic Energy Agency yesterday announced that it is deploying teams of nuclear security and safety experts this week to the beleaguered nation’s nuclear power plants and the Chernobyl site. (The agency has already stationed a team of experts at Ukraine’s largest nuclear facility, the six-unit Zaporizhzhia plant, which has been under Russian military occupation since last March.)

The mystery of the hidden uranium: Elementary, my dear Watson?

January 13, 2023, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The discovery of a small amount of uranium inside a package of scrap metal bars at Heathrow Airport in London has raised a number of puzzling questions that are being investigated by Scotland Yard, headquarters of the London Metropolitan Police (the Met). Investigators said that the uranium, which was found by Border Force staff during routine screening at the airport on December 29, originated in Pakistan, though it arrived at Heathrow on a passenger flight from Oman and, according to a January 11 report in the Guardian, was bound for an Iranian-owned business with offices in the United Kingdom.

National labs targeted in Russia-based phishing scheme, Reuters reports

January 9, 2023, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Reuters broke an “exclusive” story on January 6 that, “according to Internet records reviewed by Reuters and five cyber security experts, a Russian hacking team known as Cold River targeted three Department of Energy laboratoriesArgonne, Brookhaven, and Lawrence Livermore—with a phishing scheme in the summer of 2022.

Russia building protection over Zaporizhzhia spent fuel tanks, according to Russian news source

December 21, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
This image from a video reportedly shows the start of installation of a protective covering over spent fuel storage tanks at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Image: Telegram/Vladimir Rogov)

Russia has begun construction of protected covering at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to a December 17 report from Russian news outlet RT. The story has been picked up in the West by some news agencies but has not been widely circulated.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, said, “Russia is constructing a protective dome over spent radioactive fuel stores at the [Zaporizhzhia] nuclear power plant as Ukrainian forces continue to target the facility.”

Anti-poaching system adapted for vehicle recognition

December 14, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News
Kerekes leans on the original vehicle recognition system hardware, which required the large solar panels behind him to power it. Kerekes holds the current version, which has been greatly reduced in size from its predecessor. (Photo: Carlos Jones/DOE)

A technology developed to prevent poachers from killing endangered African species is being adapted by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to recognize individual motor vehicles. The capability could help secure checkpoints and track nuclear materials, among other uses.


Zaporizhzhia the focus of Grossi interview

December 1, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe


The ongoing, tense situation surrounding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine was the subject of a recent interview with International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi when he appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes program.

The Zaporizhzhia facility is in an area of Ukraine that became occupied by Russian forces in late February 2022. Though Ukrainian staff remain at the now mostly idle plant, artillery shells have repeatedly landed at and near the plant over the past several months, with Ukrainian officials—along with many Western media outlets—blaming Russia, while Russian officials and media blame Ukraine.

Action from the IAEA: Following months of negotiations with both sides, inspectors from the IAEA, led by Grossi, finally visited the site in late August and early September, and the agency has been monitoring the situation since then with an observation mission at the site. In the interview, which aired on November 20, Grossi did not attribute blame for the shelling to either side.

U.S.-Japan Nuclear Security Working Group resumes meetings

November 16, 2022, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The U.S.-Japan Nuclear Security Working Group (NSWG) convened for its 11th meeting in early November in Tokyo. The group continued its efforts, begun in 2011, to strengthen global nuclear security and enhance international cooperation in peaceful nuclear activities. The meeting was originally scheduled for 2020 but was postponed because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NNSA officials visit Kazakhstan, discuss continued nuclear security

October 17, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News



The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration reported last week that NNSA administrator Jill Hruby and principal deputy administrator Frank Rose completed a trip to Kazakhstan on October 5 to meet with the country’s government officials. The trip served as a chance for Hruby and Rose to thank the officials for the nonproliferation and nuclear security partnership that exists between the United States and Kazakhstan. According to the NNSA, notable achievements under the partnership include Project Sapphire (see more below), the conversion of three research reactors, and efforts to counter nuclear smuggling.

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.