Nuclear News on the Newswire

Former NRC chairs issue vaccine timeline recommendation to CDC

Five former chairmen of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission—Stephen Burns, Allison Macfarlane, Nils Diaz, Richard Meserve, and Dale Klein—signed a letter to José Romero, Arkansas health secretary and chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) immunization advisory committee, requesting that the advisory committee update its recommendation for COVID-19 vaccine allocation guidance for the energy workforce (including nuclear energy workers).

Currently, the CDC has four phases for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Those phases are numbered:

  • 1a (the current phase), reserved for healthcare workers and those living in long-term care facilities;
  • 1b, reserved for people 75 years and older and frontline essential workers;
  • 1c, reserved for persons 65 to 74 years old, those aged 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, and other categories of essential workers (this includes energy workers); and
  • 2, for everyone else that was not named in the previous three phases aged 16 to 64.

Go to Article

Glick chosen to head FERC

Glick

This morning, on his first full day in office, President Joe Biden appointed Richard Glick chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Glick joined FERC as a commissioner in late 2017, having been picked for the job by President Trump in August of that year. His term ends June 30, 2022.

“I'm honored President Joe Biden has selected me to be @FERC Chairman, thank you Mr. @POTUS,” Glick tweeted. “This is an important moment to make significant progress on the transition to a clean energy future. I look forward to working with my colleagues to tackle the many challenges ahead!”

Go to Article

NRC issues EA & FONSI for Bellefonte construction permit extension

The unfinished Bellefonte nuclear plant. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued an environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) in connection with its proposed action to extend the completion dates for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bellefonte plant reactor construction permits. If approved by the NRC, the construction permits for Bellefonte Units 1 and 2 would extend to October 1, 2021.

In a notice on the EA and FONSI published in the January 19 Federal Register, the NRC explained the reason for the proposed action. “In its March 31, 2017, and August 28, 2020, letters, TVA noted that it sold the Bellefonte property at auction, the sale of Units 1 and 2 did not close, and the purchaser filed a lawsuit against TVA,” the notice said. “TVA stated that an extension is needed to allow the parties additional time to obtain a decision in the lawsuit.”

Go to Article

Trump leaves space nuclear policy executive order for Biden team

A hot fire test of the core stage for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was not completed as planned. The SLS is the vehicle meant to propel a crewed mission to the moon in 2024. Source: NASA Television

Among the executive orders President Trump issued during his last weeks in office was “Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration,” which builds on the Space Policy Directives published during his term. The order, issued on January 12, calls for actions within the next six months by NASA and the Department of Defense (DOD), together with the Department of Energy and other federal entities. Whether the Biden administration will retain some, all, or none of the specific goals of the Trump administration’s space nuclear policy remains to be seen, but one thing is very clear: If deep space exploration remains a priority, nuclear-powered and -propelled spacecraft will be needed.

The prospects for near-term deployment of nuclear propulsion and power systems in space improved during Trump’s presidency. However, Trump left office days after a hot fire test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket did not go as planned. The SLS rocket is meant to propel crewed missions to the moon in 2024 and to enable a series of long-duration lunar missions that could be powered by small lunar reactor installations. The test on January 16 of four engines that were supposed to fire for over eight minutes was automatically aborted after one minute, casting some doubt that a planned November 2021 Artemis I mission can go ahead on schedule.

Go to Article

NNSA to hold virtual public meetings regarding Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will hold two virtual public meetings on a new environmental impact statement for its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP). The meetings will be held on Monday, January 25, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) and Tuesday, January 26, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET). Participants can join by computer, telephone, or other device. A Notice of Intent contains a full description of the proposal and other options for providing public comment until February 1.

The program: The SPDP EIS will analyze alternatives for the disposition of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using the capabilities at multiple sites across the United States. The NNSA’s preferred alternative, the dilute and dispose approach (also known as plutonium downblending), includes converting pit and non-pit plutonium to oxide, blending the oxidized plutonium with an adulterant, and emplacing the resulting transuranic waste underground in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), in New Mexico. The approach would require new, modified, or existing capabilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Pantex Plant in Texas, and WIPP.

Go to Article

Climate change needs an Operation Warp Speed

The government of the United States should throw its muscle behind ramping up a mammoth, rapid rollout of all forms of renewable energy through Operation Warp Speed, similar to what is being done with COVID-19, Clive Thompson writes in an Ideas column for Wired.

The rollout should include energy sources that we already know how to build—like solar and wind — but also experimental emerging sources such as geothermal and small nuclear, and cutting-edge forms of energy storage or transmission.

Go to Article

Fuel innovation: Powering nuclear modernization

Today’s U.S. commercial nuclear power plants are fueled with uranium dioxide pressed into cylindrical ceramic pellets—and have been for decades. These pellets are stacked inside long fuel rods made of a zirconium alloy cladding. Innovation in nuclear fuel, however, can improve safety, reduce operating costs, and further enable the development of a new generation of non-light-water reactors.

Go to Article

U.S. boosts SMR development in Romania

U.S. ambassador to Romania Adrian Zuckerman (right) and SNN chief executive officer Cosmin Ghita at the January signing. Photo: U.S. Embassy in Romania

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant worth an undisclosed amount to Romania’s nuclear energy authority, Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN), for technical assistance to support the development of small modular reactors in that country, the agency announced on January 14.

The grant will be used to identify a short list of SMR-suitable sites, assess SMR technology options, and develop site-specific licensing roadmaps. SNN has selected Chicago-based Sargent & Lundy to carry out the assistance.

Go to Article

Understanding the ITER Project in the context of global Progress on Fusion

(photo: ITER Project gangway assembly)

The promise of hydrogen fusion as a safe, environmentally friendly, and virtually unlimited source of energy has motivated scientists and engineers for decades. For the general public, the pace of fusion research and development may at times appear to be slow. But for those on the inside, who understand both the technological challenges involved and the transformative impact that fusion can bring to human society in terms of the security of the long-term world energy supply, the extended investment is well worth it.

Failure is not an option.

Go to Article

More adjustments to Vogtle milestone dates likely

The initial shipment of nuclear fuel for Unit 3 arrives at the Vogtle site in December. Photo: Georgia Power

Largely as a result of the continuing COVID-19 crisis, the Vogtle reactor-construction project team expects to further adjust dates for achieving key project milestones, including the start of hot functional testing and fuel load for Unit 3, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power announced on January 11.

The company added, however, that it continues to expect to bring Unit 3 into service this November and Unit 4 into service in November 2022. Additional updates on the project will be provided during Southern’s quarterly earnings call next month.

Go to Article