Nuclear News on the Newswire

NASA and DOE sign MOU on interplanetary nuclear propulsion

A “visionary view” of a nuclear thermal propulsion–enabled spacecraft mission. Image: NASA

Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on October 20 signed a memorandum of understanding to continue decades of partnership between the Department of Energy and NASA and to support the goals of NASA’s Artemis program. These include landing the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024 and establishing sustainable lunar exploration—using nuclear propulsion systems—by the end of the decade to prepare for the first human mission to Mars.

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Vogtle project team reports delays, holds to approved start dates

In testimony filed last week with the Georgia Public Service Commission, Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear acknowledge that the “aggressive” target dates set in July for some of the Vogtle construction project’s upcoming milestones have had to be pushed back by a few months. At the same time, however, the companies continue to express confidence in being able to meet the regulatory-approved commercial start dates for the new reactors—November 2021 for Unit 3 and November 2022 for Unit 4.

The testimony was filed in support of Georgia Power’s Twenty-third Semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report, released in August, which covers the period from January 1 to June 30, 2020.

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First Hualong One reactor achieves initial criticality

Unit 5 at China National Nuclear Corporation’s (CNNC) Fuqing nuclear power plant has achieved initial criticality, becoming the very first Hualong One reactor to reach that milestone, the company announced on October 22. If all goes according to schedule, the unit will enter commercial operation later this year.

Fuel loading for Unit 5 began on September 4, following the issuance of the reactor’s operating license by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. The loading of 177 sets of fuel assemblies was completed on September 10.

Also known as the HPR1000, the Hualong One is a Chinese-designed, 1,000-MWe Generation III pressurized water reactor. Fuqing-5’s twin HPR1000, Fuqing-6, is scheduled to start contributing power to the grid next year.

Located in China’s Fujian Province, Fuqing also houses four 1,000-MWe CPR-1000 PWRs, with commercial start dates of November 2014, October 2015, October 2016, and September 2017.

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Bruce Power harvests Co-60 for use against COVID-19

Bruce Power has harvested a second batch of Co-60 this year. Image: Bruce Power

Bruce Power announced on October 22 that it has completed its second harvest of cobalt-60 this year during an outage of Unit 8 of the Bruce nuclear power plant in Kincardine, Ontario, Canada. The company said that with this latest harvest, it will have provided the world enough of the medical isotope to sterilize 20 billion–25 billion pairs of gloves or COVID-19 swabs.

The Co-60 will be sent to Ottawa-based Nordion for processing and distribution over the next several weeks, according to Bruce Power. From there, the isotope will be shipped around the world for use in gamma irradiation to sterilize medical devices such as single-use gowns, surgical gloves, scalpels, syringes, and other critical health care equipment.

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Missouri S&T’s nuclear engineering program gains department status

Missouri S&T’s pool-type nuclear reactor. Photo: Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

Sixty years ago, the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), then known as the University of Missouri at Rolla, was one of the first U.S. institutions to offer a nuclear engineering degree. Now, decades after it was offered as an option within metallurgical engineering, Missouri S&T’s nuclear program has attained new status as the Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Science Department, the university announced on October 20.

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A microreactor at every rest stop?

The MiFi-DC as portrayed in a video released by Argonne.

Electrifying the nation’s trucking industry could reduce consumption of fossil-based diesel fuel, but it would also pose new challenges. A cross-country 18-wheel truck needs five to 10 times more electricity than an electric car to recharge its battery. Where will that electricity come from?

A team of engineers at Argonne National Laboratory has designed a microreactor called the MiFi-DC (for MicroFission Direct Current) that they say could be mass-produced and installed at highway rest stops to power a future fleet of electric 18-wheelers.

Nuclear News reached out to the MiFi-DC team to learn more. The team, led by Derek Kultgen, a principal engineer at Argonne who also leads the lab’s Mechanisms Engineering Test Loop, responded to questions by email. While they emphasized that much more needs to be done before the MiFi-DC could become a fixture at rest stops across the country, the information the team shared sheds some light on the process of designing a tiny reactor for a specific purpose.

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U.S. agency to back NuScale in South Africa

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has signed a letter of intent to support NuScale Power in the development of 2,500 megawatts of nuclear energy in South Africa, according to an October 16 DFC press release.

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Ratliff and Harris: Innovation for safety and reliability

Ratliff

Harris

When Floyd Harris began working at Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant about 24 years ago as a radiation protection technician, robotics and remote monitoring were considered tools for radiation protection and nothing more. Now, teams from across the site, including engineering, maintenance, and operations, rely on the system of robots and cameras Harris is responsible for. “If you want to put those technologies under one umbrella,” says Harris, who now holds the title of nuclear station scientist, “it would be monitoring plant conditions.”

That monitoring is critical to effective plant maintenance. As Plant Manager Jay Ratliff explains, the goal is to “find a problem before it finds us” and ensure safety and reliability. Nuclear News Staff Writer Susan Gallier talked with Ratliff and Harris about how robotics and remote systems are deployed to meet those goals.

At Brunswick, which hosts GE-designed boiling water reactors in Southport, N.C., ingenuity and hard work have produced a novel remote dosimetry turnstile to control access to high-radiation areas, an extensive network to handle data from monitoring cameras, rapid fleetwide access to camera feeds to support collaboration, and new applications for robots and drones.

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Final outage completed at Palisades plant

Palisades: The Covert, Mich., plant reentered commercial operation on October 21 for one last run. Photo: Entergy Nuclear.

Entergy Corporation’s Palisades nuclear power plant returned to service on October 21, following the completion of the Covert, Mich., facility’s final refueling and maintenance outage, which began on August 30.

The company invested more than $86.5 million during the outage, according to Entergy. The plant’s 600 full-time nuclear professionals worked with approximately 800 supplemental workers to replace reactor fuel and to inspect and upgrade hundreds of pipes, pumps, electrical components, and other equipment.

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