Nuclear News on the Newswire

Complaint filed with FERC over Grand Gulf management

The Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC), the New Orleans City Council, and the Arkansas Public Service Commission on March 2 filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against Entergy Corporation, seeking damages of more than $360 million for what they term the utility’s “imprudent operation” of the Grand Gulf nuclear plant.

Located in Port Gibson, Miss., Grand Gulf is a single-unit plant with a 1,433-MWe boiling water reactor. The unit, which entered commercial operation in 1985, supplies power to customers of Entergy Louisiana, Entergy Mississippi, Entergy Arkansas, and Entergy New Orleans.

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Ohio Senate votes to repeal nuclear plant subsidies

After months of unsuccessful efforts by Ohio lawmakers to contend with the fallout from H.B. 6—the now-infamous nuclear subsidies bill signed into law in 2019—the state’s senate on March 3 passed a measure, S.B. 44, to repeal those subsidies. The vote was 32–0.

For those who may need reminding, federal prosecutors on July 21, 2020, arrested Larry Householder, then speaker of the Ohio House, and four lobbyists and political consultants for their involvement in an alleged $61 million corruption and racketeering scheme aimed at guaranteeing passage of H.B. 6, whose subsidies had kept Ohio’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants from premature closure.

H.B. 6 established a seven-year program to charge the state’s electricity consumers fees to support payments of about $150 million annually to the plants’ operator, Energy Harbor Corporation, then known as FirstEnergy Solutions (FES). FES had announced in March 2018 that it would be forced to close Davis-Besse and Perry without some form of support from the state. (The payments to Energy Harbor were blocked last December by an Ohio Supreme Court injunction, which complemented an earlier lower court ruling.)

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China on course to lead in nuclear by 2030, says IEA

China will have the world's largest nuclear power fleet within a decade, an International Energy Agency official noted during a session at the High-Level Workshop on Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Transitions, World Nuclear News reported on March 3.

The workshop was held jointly by the IEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IEA official, Brent Wanner, head of Power Sector Modelling & Analysis for the agency's World Energy Outlook publication, said that as nuclear fleets in the United States, Canada, and Japan reach their original design lifetimes, decisions will have to be made about what will happen after that. Absent license renewals, the contribution of nuclear power could decline substantially in those countries while China’s reactor building program will boost it into the first position.

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Uranium reserve bill reintroduced in House; Grand Canyon mining ban progresses

The House of Representatives produced some good news for the nation’s uranium mining industry in late February, but also some of the opposite variety.

Latta

First, on February 25, Rep. Bob Latta (R, Ohio) reintroduced the Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act (H.R. 1351), initially brought forward by the congressman last July. The bill would direct the secretary of energy to establish and operate a uranium reserve in the United States to ensure the availability of the element in the event of a market disruption and to support U.S. strategic fuel cycle capabilities.

“The United States has fallen behind in the competitive development of nuclear energy, and now we rely heavily on foreign sources of uranium,” Latta stated. “In order to avoid threats to our nuclear supply chain, we need to build up our domestic uranium mining, production, and conversion by establishing a uranium reserve. The Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act would establish a domestic uranium reserve that will result in lower carbon emissions, new jobs and economic growth, and a more secure world.”

H.R. 1351 has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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ANS webinar updates progress at Fukushima

The accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, has sparked many safety improvements in the nuclear industry over the past decade. Lessons from the accident and its aftermath will influence firms and regulators as they consider the future design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear reactors.

An American Nuclear Society webinar, “Nuclear News Presents: A Look Back at the Fukushima Daiichi Accident,” held yesterday was attended by more than 1,550 viewers and generated about 150 questions to the panelists. The attendance was the largest ever for an ANS webinar.

The panelists were Mike Corradini, emeritus professor, University of Wisconsin; Dale Klein, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Joy Rempe, principal, Rempe and Assoc. LLC; Lake Barrett, senior advisor, Tokyo Electric Power Company and Japan’s International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID); and Paul Dickman, senior policy fellow, Argonne National Laboratory.

The webinar’s recording and slides are available here, along with an e-version of the March issue of Nuclear News, which features a cover story on the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

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Virginia’s plan for nuclear in state’s energy strategy released

Virginia’s nuclear-sector stakeholders, led by the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority (VNECA), have drawn up a plan for helping the state reach its goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2045.

Released late last month, Virginia is Nuclear: 2020–2024 Strategic Plan is the result of legislation, SB 549, signed into law last year. The law directed the state’s Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy; Secretary of Commerce and Trade; and Secretary of Education to work with VNECA and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership Authority to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the role of nuclear energy in Virginia’s overall clean-energy strategy.

“The nuclear industry is vital to Virginia, and the Lynchburg region in particular,” said state Sen. Stephen Newman, who sponsored SB 549. “Jobs, economic growth, and clean air are just three of the benefits the state will see from the plan. I am proud of the industry and look forward to seeing them move forward with the plan.”

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Browns Ferry-2 outage to include turbine work, loading of 3D-printed parts

A replacement rotor is lifted and staged for the upcoming Browns Ferry-2 turbine work. Photo: TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority has begun a refueling and maintenance outage at Browns Ferry-2 that includes the largest scope of turbine deck work since the unit’s construction, as well as innovations in fuel assembly components, the utility announced on March 1.

On deck: All three of the 1,254.7-MWe boiling water reactor’s low-pressure turbines will undergo a comprehensive replacement of major components, including new rotors, inner casings, steam piping and bellows, and turbine supervisory instruments, requiring the support of more than 500 additional outage workers. TVA said that 600 crane lifts will need to be performed for some components, such as the rotors, which weigh up to 327,888 lb., and inner casings, which weigh up to 200,000 lb.

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ORISE reports uptick in nuclear engineering master’s degrees

An increase in the number of master’s degrees awarded in the United States in 2019 pushed the total number of nuclear engineering degrees to its highest level since 2016, according to a study conducted by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) that surveyed 34 U.S. universities with nuclear engineering programs. The report, Nuclear Engineering Enrollments and Degrees Survey, 2019 Data, includes degrees granted between September 1, 2018, and August 31, 2019, as well as enrollments for fall 2019. It was released by ORISE in February.

Details: The 316 nuclear engineering master’s degrees awarded in 2019 represented a 21 percent increase over the 2018 total, and a 12 percent increase over the number awarded in 2017. The 194 doctoral degrees awarded in 2019 represented the second-highest level recorded since 1966.

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Strategy for U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear released

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) and the Partnership for Global Security (PGS) have released a joint report laying out a comprehensive strategy for U.S. leadership in the commercialization of next-generation nuclear power.

The 34-page report, U.S. Advanced Nuclear Energy Strategy for Domestic Prosperity, Climate Protection, National Security, and Global Leadership, says that collaboration between government, industry, civil society, and other nations can bring advanced reactors to market to reduce global emissions, provide domestic jobs, and support national security.

The report was released with a 58-minute webinar available on YouTube.

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Fukushima Daiichi: 10 years on

The Fukushima Daiichi site before the accident. All images are provided courtesy of TEPCO unless noted otherwise.

It was a rather normal day back on March 11, 2011, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant before 2:45 p.m. That was the time when the Great Tohoku Earthquake struck, followed by a massive tsunami that caused three reactor meltdowns and forever changed the nuclear power industry in Japan and worldwide. Now, 10 years later, much has been learned and done to improve nuclear safety, and despite many challenges, significant progress is being made to decontaminate and defuel the extensively damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor site. This is a summary of what happened, progress to date, current situation, and the outlook for the future there.

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