Nuclear News on the Newswire

Stress corrosion cracking and welding nonconformities are behind ITER’s fresh delays

The ITER Organization is working on a new baseline schedule for the magnetic confinement fusion experiment launched in 1985 and now under construction in southern France. First plasma was scheduled for December 2025 and deuterium-tritium operations for 2035 under a schedule approved in November 2016 that will soon be shelved. In addition to impacts from COVID-19 delays and uncertainty resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine, ITER leaders must now factor in repair time for “component challenges.”

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Westinghouse, Studsvik to expand capabilities at Springfields site

Westinghouse Electric Company has announced the signing of a long-term technology license agreement with Swedish engineering services firm Studsvik to develop a metals recycling and treatment facility at Westinghouse’s Springfields site.

Located near Preston, Lancashire, in northwestern England, Springfields is the United Kingdom’s only site for nuclear fuel manufacturing, supplying all its advanced gas-cooled reactor fuel. According to Westinghouse, Springfields fuel is responsible for about 32 percent of Britain’s low-carbon electricity generation. In addition, the site exports other nuclear fuel products to customers around the globe.

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What about the waste?

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

It’s always the first question asked. So, what is your approach? You have options.

You could go the “Yucca Mountain is the law of the land” route. But you’ll soon run into an immutable political truth. Nevada’s early presidential caucuses make it highly unlikely that any candidate would ever take a favorable position on Yucca unless it enjoyed commensurate support in the state. Not convinced? Nevada Gov. Stephen Sisolak signed a bill in August that replaces their closed caucus system with a primary during the first week in February, thereby putting the state in competition with Iowa and New Hampshire to be the “first primary” of the 2024 election. Face it: While you weren’t looking, Nevada secured its consent rights over Yucca Mountain; it’s just written in a different part of the law.

You could also double down on reprocessing/recycling and argue that we need some sort of Manhattan Project. But that requires convincing Congress that it’s a good idea for the government to build large, first-of-a-kind, multibillion-dollar fuel cycle facilities, the economics of which will be based on the estimated price of uranium (or thorium?) some number of decades from now. Good luck with that. As much as a grand solution to the fuel cycle may appeal to our engineering instincts, the funding simply isn’t there—there are no checks left in Washington’s checkbook.

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Fusion energy radwaste management considerations

The question of what to do with the radioactive waste has been raised frequently for both fission and fusion. In the 1970s, fusion adopted the land-based disposal option, primarily based on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to regulate all radioactive wastes as only a disposal issue, following the fission guidelines. In the early 2000s, members of the Advanced Research Innovation and Evaluation Study (ARIES) national team became increasingly aware of the high amount of mildly radioactive materials that 1-GWe fusion power plants will generate, compared with the current line of fission reactors. The main concern is that such a sizable inventory of mostly tritiated radioactive materials would tend to rapidly fill U.S. repositories—a serious issue that was overlooked in early fusion studies1 that could influence the public acceptability of fusion energy and will certainly become more significant in the immediate future if left unaddressed, as fusion moves toward commercialization.

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Got Fuel? Prospective HALEU enrichers and buyers talk goals and timelines

Whether commercial demand for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel ultimately falls at the high or low end of divergent forecasts, one thing is certain: the United States is not ready to meet demand, because it currently has no domestic HALEU enrichment capacity. But conversations happening now could help build the commercial HALEU enrichment infrastructure needed to support advanced reactor deployments. At the 2022 American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting, representatives from three potential HALEU enrichers, the government, and industry met to discuss their timelines and challenges during “Got Fuel? Progress Toward Establishing a Domestic US HALEU Supply,” a November 15 executive session cosponsored by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy Division and the Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division.

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Mobile unmanned systems: Automating operations, increasing efficiency, and reducing risk in nuclear

Mobile unmanned systems, also known as MUS, encompass a range of robotic devices, including drones, ground vehicles, crawlers, and submersibles. They are used for a wide range of industrial and defense applications to automate operations and assist humans or completely remove human workers from hazardous conditions. Robotics are ubiquitous in industrial manufacturing. Military robots are routinely employed in combat support applications, such as reconnaissance, inspection, explosive ordnance disposal, and transportation. Drones are used in many industries for security and monitoring, to conduct aerial inspections or surveys, and to capture digital twins. Wind and solar farms use MUS technologies for day-to-day operations and maintenance.

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Rethinking operations through digital control room design

Since the inception of commercial nuclear power in the United States, every control room in every nuclear plant has looked essentially the same. You will see fixed alarm tiles, red and green lights, rows of switches, and analog meters. Until about a decade ago, you would even have seen paper charts (now replaced by digital versions of those same charts). Licensed operators have shown through a proven operating history that this control room design is safe and effective. Genius definitely went into the complexity of circuits and placement of switches and indications in the design, but things have come a long way over the years, and new technology, updated plant designs, and the need to improve efficiency and maintain reliability have impacted staffing and the role of operators. A control room update is long overdue. So, what lies ahead for the future of nuclear control room design? What possibilities exist for the next generation of plants?

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Nuclear energy remains transformational, 80 years after Chicago Pile-1

At a moment of global crisis, in a windowless squash court below the football stadium bleachers at the University of Chicago, a group of scientists changed the world forever.

On December 2, 1942, a team of researchers led by Enrico Fermi, an Italian refugee, successfully achieved the world’s first human-­created, self-­sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Racing to beat Nazi Germany to the creation of an atomic weapon, the team of researchers, working as part of the Manhattan Project, split uranium atoms contained within a large graphite pile—Chicago Pile-­1, the first nuclear reactor ever built.

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CP-1 at 80: The events of December 2, 1942

On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the first controlled nuclear chain reaction, Nuclear Newswire is back with the second of three prepared #ThrowbackThursday posts of CP-1 coverage from past issues of Nuclear News.

On November 17, we surveyed the events of 1942 leading up to the construction of Chicago Pile-1, an assemblage of graphite bricks and uranium “pseudospheres” used to achieve and control a self-sustaining fission reaction on December 2, 1942, inside a squash court at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field.

Today we’ll pick up where we left off, as construction of CP-1 began on November 16, 1942.

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