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Lighting the path for next-generation PRA leaders in nuclear engineering

Our next-­generation leaders must begin to think more creatively, using risk-­informed solutions to ensure safe, resilient, sustainable, and socially responsible technological advancements to usher in an era void of technological accidents. Probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) research and education provide nuclear engineering students with the scientific expertise and viable skill sets essential for meeting the growing demand for risk analysts in nuclear energy domains.

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Industry, IAEA form panel to address global challenges

More than a dozen of the world’s leading nuclear industry executives have teamed up with the International Atomic Energy Agency to form the Group of Vienna, with the aim of using nuclear technologies to address global challenges, including climate change, disease, and hunger.

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IAEA and European Union extend nuclear safety agreement

Some of the major achievements of the nuclear safety cooperation agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Union (EU) include more than 100 nuclear safety review missions, environmental remediation at former uranium sites in Central Asia, and more effective radioactive waste management in Africa.

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Matthew Denman: On Probabilistic Risk Assessment

Matthew Denman

Probabilistic risk assessment is a systematic methodology for evaluating risks associated with a complex engineered technology such as nuclear energy. PRA risk is defined in terms of possible detrimental outcomes of an activity or action, and as such, risk is characterized by three quantities: what can go wrong, the likelihood of the problem, and the resulting consequences of the problem.

Matthew Denman is principal engineer for reliability engineering at Kairos Power and the chair of the American Nuclear Society and American Society of Mechanical Engineers Joint Committee on Nuclear Risk Management’s Subcommittee of Standards Development. As a college student at the University of Florida, Denman took a course on PRA but didn’t enjoy it, because he did not see its connection to the nuclear power industry. Later, during his Ph.D. study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his advisor was Neil Todreas, a well-known thermal hydraulics expert. Todreas was working on a project with George Apostolakis, who would leave MIT to become a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The project, “Risk Informing the Design of the Sodium-Cooled Fast Reactor,” was a multi-university effort funded through a Department of Energy Nuclear Energy Research Initiative (NERI) grant. Todreas and Apostolakis were joined in this project by a who’s who of nuclear academia, including Andy Kadak (MIT, ANS past president [1999–2000]), Mike Driscoll (MIT), Mike Golay (MIT), Mike Lineberry (Idaho State University, former ANS treasurer), Rich Denning (Ohio State University), and Tunc Aldemir (Ohio State University).

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Agencies assess power system performance during February freeze

To prevent future winter storms from causing the kind of widespread, lethal power outages wrought by February’s frigid blast through Texas and other states, the electric and natural gas industries need to bolster their winterization and cold weather preparedness and coordination, a just-released preliminary report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and North American Electric Reliability Corporation concludes.

The two agencies had announced on February 16 that they planned to open a joint inquiry to identify problems with the performance of the bulk power system during the storm and to offer solutions. A team of FERC and NERC staff members presented the report at a FERC meeting on September 23.

A presentation of the report, February 2021 Cold Weather Grid Operations: Preliminary Findings and Recommendations, is available.

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NRC brainstorms ways to simplify microreactor licensing

The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently released a draft white paper outlining strategies for streamlining microreactor licensing. The paper is to be used to facilitate discussion at an upcoming advanced reactor stakeholder public meeting.

“This paper,” the document emphasizes, “has not been subject to NRC management and legal reviews and approvals, and its contents are subject to change and should not be interpreted as official agency positions.”

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Effort to overturn Montana’s pronuclear law advances

A Montana citizens group received the go-ahead this week to collect signatures for a ballot initiative that could wind up repealing a recently enacted law that allows the state legislature to okay the construction of nuclear power facilities without direct input from the public.

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