Nuclear News on the Newswire

Argonne National Laboratory’s fast reactors in Idaho

Idaho’s nuclear energy history is deep and rich. The National Reactor Testing Station (NRTS) began its history as an artillery testing range in the 1940s.1 Following World War II, Walter Zinn, Argonne National Laboratory’s founding director and Manhattan Project Chicago Pile-1 project manager, proposed to the Atomic Energy Commission that a remote location be found for building test reactors. In 1949, he and Roger S. Warner, AEC’s director of engineering,2 developed a list of potential sites from which the NRTS was selected. Over the decades, quite a few companies and AEC national laboratories built 52 experimental and test reactors at the NRTS, including 14 by Argonne.3 (For a brief AEC video on the NRTS, see youtube.com/watch?v=C458NsH08TI.)

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UT–Knoxville, Roane State to receive expanded nuclear education funding

Last week Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Stuart McWhorter, commissioner of the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, announced that the University of Tennessee–Knoxville and Roane State Community College will receive funding from Tennessee’s Nuclear Energy Fund to support existing nuclear programs as well as develop and implement new nuclear education curriculum.

Using its portion of the $50 million Nuclear Energy Fund, the University of Tennessee will establish a new program for non-nuclear engineers to obtain a minor in nuclear engineering at its Knoxville campus. Separate funding for Roane State Community College will allow purchase of laboratory equipment for that school’s inaugural nuclear technology program, which launches in the fall of 2024.

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IAEA issues incident-tracking database fact sheet

Last year, 168 incidents of illegal or unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive materials were reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB). According to the agency, this number is in line with historical averages. These incidents were reported by 31 IAEA member states; as of 2023, a total of 145 member states have participated in the ITDB.

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ORISE report focuses on nuclear engineering degrees and enrollments

There is a mix of good news and bad in the latest Nuclear Engineering Enrollment and Degrees Survey, 2021–2022 Data. According to this report from the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), compiled with data initially released in November 2023 and updated in February 2024, the number of doctoral degrees awarded in nuclear engineering at the end of the 2022 academic year in the United States—211 Ph.D.s—was the highest since the beginning of this survey’s data collection in 1966. However, the overall numbers of nuclear engineering degrees awarded in 2021 and 2022 were at their lowest levels in more than a decade. In addition, both undergraduate and graduate enrollment numbers were down compared with 2018 and 2019.

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NRC finalizes new rule on reactor license renewals

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is issuing a final rule and corresponding update to the generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) the agency uses when considering applications to renew the operating licenses of nuclear power reactors. All four current NRC commissioners voted to approve the rule on May 16.

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Securing the advanced reactor fleet

Physical protection accounts for a significant portion of a nuclear power plant’s operational costs. As the U.S. moves toward smaller and safer advanced reactors, similar protection strategies could prove cost prohibitive. For tomorrow’s small modular reactors and microreactors, security costs must remain appropriate to the size of the reactor for economical operation.

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