Nuclear News on the Newswire

U.S. nuclear capacity factors: Resiliency and new realities

In the early years of the Nuclear News capacity factors survey, any factor over 70 was deemed excellent; any factor under 50 was considered poor. By that standard, all but two operating U.S. power reactors chalked up excellent performance during 2017–2019. A record 809.4 TWh of electricity was generated in the United States from nuclear energy in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), besting the record of 807.1 TWh set in 2018.

Nuclear News staff developed the capacity factors survey in the early 1980s as a way to identify the most productive reactors in an expanding fleet. Fleet improvement was the industry’s self-identified goal, but no one could anticipate the startlingly rapid pace of improvement, spurred by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), which boosted fleetwide performance to highs that continue today.

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2019 enforcement cases up from 2018, but below five-year average

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently issued its Enforcement Program Annual Report for calendar year 2019, showing that 57 escalated enforcement actions were taken against NRC licensees last year. These actions included notices of violation (NOV ) of Severity Level III or higher, NOVs associated with findings of low-to-moderate, substantial, or high safety significance (color coded as white, yellow, or red findings, respectively), civil penalties, and orders, including confirmatory orders.

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Environmental group petitions to revoke Vogtle-3 license

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), a North Carolina–based antinuclear organization, is claiming that Vogtle-3—one of two 1,100-MWe AP1000 pressurized water reactors currently under construction at the Vogtle nuclear plant near Waynesboro, Ga.—is sinking.

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Final major module for Vogtle-3 installed

The CB-20 module being installed at Vogtle-3. Photo: Georgia Power

A massive water tank has been placed atop the containment vessel and shield building roof at Vogtle-3, one of two AP1000 reactors currently under construction at Southern Company’s nuclear expansion project near Waynesboro, Ga. The installation represents the final module placement for the unit and marks the latest significant milestone to be reached at the Vogtle site.

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Study: Advanced reactors a good fit for Puerto Rico

The Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP), a nonprofit group supporting the use of advanced reactors in Puerto Rico, has released the findings of a preliminary feasibility study undertaken to explore in detail the potential for these devices on the Caribbean island. The 288-page study, Preliminary Feasibility Study for Small Modular Reactors and Microreactors for Puerto Rico, was sponsored by the Department of Energy. The study concludes that small modular reactors and microreactors could be part of Puerto Rico’s energy portfolio and potentially supply a substantial part of a strong and diverse zero-emission energy mix.

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Nuclear Technology publishes latest research on U.S. transient testing capability

View of the top of the TREAT reactor.

The Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) Facility at Idaho National Laboratory was restarted in 2018 after being in safe standby mode since 1994. The June 2020 issue of the American Nuclear Society's Nuclear Technology (NT) journal features seven technical papers related to the benchmarking of the facility. Wade Marcum, a lead researcher on the project and guest editor of June’s NT issue, explained, “The goal of this effort was to understand, to the best of our ability, the expected response of the TREAT reactor upon its restart.”

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Elettra designated an IAEA collaborating center

A collaborating center agreement was signed by Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste and the International Atomic Energy Agency in May. The agreement focuses on advanced light sources and will support countries in research, development, and capacity building in the application of advanced and innovative radiation technologies.

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When a nuclear plant closes

Theresa Knickerbocker, the mayor of the village of Buchanan, N.Y., where the Indian Point nuclear power plant is located, is not happy. What has gotten Ms. Knickerbocker’s ire up is the fact that Indian Point’s Unit 2 was closed on April 30, and Unit 3 is scheduled to close in 2021. The village, population 2,300, is about 1.3 square miles total, with the Indian Point site comprising 240 acres along the Hudson River, 30 miles upstream of Manhattan. Unit 2 was a 1,028-MWe pressurized water reactor; Unit 3 is a 1,041-MWe PWR.

The nuclear plant provides the revenue for half of Buchanan’s annual $6-million budget, Knickerbocker told Nuclear News. That’s $3 million in tax revenues each year that eventually will go away. How will that revenue be replaced? Where will the replacement power come from?

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