Nuclear News on the Newswire

DOE awards $8.5 million to fund advanced nuclear projects

In its latest financial nod of encouragement to the U.S. nuclear industry, the Department of Energy has announced awards totaling $8.5 million to five industry-led projects, with the aim of accelerating the commercial deployment of advanced reactors and fuels.

The awards are funded via the Office of Nuclear Energy’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity, which, since 2017, has invested more than $215 million in advanced nuclear technologies. Solicitations are broken down into three pathways: first-of-a-kind nuclear demonstration readiness projects, advanced reactor development projects, and direct regulatory assistance.

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NRC heightens oversight at Vogtle-3 project

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will increase its oversight of Vogtle-3—one of the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors under construction at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Ga.—after finalizing two inspection findings involving the unit’s safety-related electrical cable raceway system. Vogtle’s operator, Southern Nuclear, was informed of the decision in a November 17 letter.

The agency had launched a special inspection at Vogtle-3 in June of this year to determine the cause and extent of construction quality issues in the raceway system, which consists primarily of conduits and cable trays designed to prevent a single event from disabling redundant safety-related equipment.

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SwRI demonstrates drone autonomy technology

During the EnRicH 2021 European Robotics Hackathon, Southwest Research Institute’s unmanned aircraft system (UAS or drone) explored and mapped the interior of a nuclear power plant, detecting radiation sources autonomously, without the aid of a human pilot.

SwRI’s UAS technology can potentially assist in life-saving search-and-rescue missions and hazardous inspections at industrial facilities and infrastructure following natural disasters and other incidents.

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Becoming agile and innovative in an evolving nuclear landscape: Changing the industry narrative for a strong future

Last April, Entergy had to close its Indian Point nuclear plant. That’s despite the plant’s being recognized as one of the best-run U.S. nuclear plants. That’s also despite its 20-year license extension process having been nearly completed, with full support from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

This closure was due in large part to opposition by antinuclear environmental groups. These groups also mobilized existing negative public opinion on nuclear energy to get politicians to oppose the plant’s license extension. Another factor is unfair market conditions. Nuclear energy doesn’t get due government support—unlike solar, wind, and hydro—despite delivering clean, zero-emissions energy.

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The U.S. Army’s Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Baltimore District, is home to the North Atlantic Division’s Radiological Health Physics Regional (RHPR) Center of Expertise, which is leading the decommissioning of Army reactors.

From 1956 to 1976, the Army’s nuclear power program operated several small nuclear reactors to confirm the feasibility of their meeting military power needs on land. Three Army reactors were deactivated in the 1970s and placed into safe storage awaiting future decommissioning.

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Power uprate approved for Millstone’s Unit 3

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted Dominion Energy’s request for an increase in the generating capacity of Millstone-3. The Richmond, Va.–based utility had applied for the power uprate last November, requesting an increase of approximately 1.6 percent.

NRC staff determined that Dominion could safely increase the reactor’s heat output, primarily through more accurate means of measuring feedwater flow, according to a November 18 press release. The NRC’s safety evaluation focused on several areas, including the nuclear steam supply systems, instrumentation and control systems, electrical systems, accident evaluations, radiological consequences, fire protection, operations and training, testing, and technical specification changes.

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Countdown to fission on the moon: Candidate designs wanted

NASA and Idaho National Laboratory have just opened a competitive solicitation for U.S. nuclear and space industry leaders to develop innovative technologies for a fission surface power system that could be deployed on the surface of the moon by the end of the decade. Battelle Energy Alliance, the managing and operating contractor for INL, issued a request for proposals and announced the news on November 19. Proposals are due February 17.

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Contract signed for first AP1000 unit in Ukraine

Westinghouse Electric Company and Energoatom, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear utility, signed a contract in Kyiv yesterday outlining the details of an agreement to bring the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor to Ukraine’s Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant.

According to a Westinghouse press release, the contract initiates engineering and procurement of long-lead items for the reactor.

Signing the contract were Patrick Fragman, president and chief executive officer of Westinghouse, and Petro Kotin, Energoatom’s acting president. U.S. charge d’affaires to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, and Ukraine energy minister Herman Halushchenko also attended the event.

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Ukraine to review NuScale safety analysis report

The Department of Energy is funding an independent review of NuScale Power’s safety analysis report (SAR), to be conducted by Ukraine’s State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (SSTC NRS), the Portland, Ore.–based small modular reactor developer announced on November 18.

“Any party interested in deploying an SMR in Ukraine will benefit from this independent review,” NuScale said. “This review will demonstrate the viability, value, and international interest in utilizing NuScale’s SMR technology to produce clean, reliable, and affordable energy.”

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