Nuclear News on the Newswire

U.S. reactor technologies to be featured at IAEA conference

A virtual side event at the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency will spotlight U.S. reactor technologies. The free event, US Reactor Technologies: Flexible Energy Security for Real-World Challenges, will be held this Thursday, September 24, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. (EDT).

The event will highlight the capabilities of small modular reactors and other innovative reactors for addressing countries’ current needs. It will also examine anticipated challenges in the future, as well as underscore the need to act now.

The event is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. Advanced registration is required.

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IAEA kicks off annual meeting in Vienna

IAEA General Director Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks to socially distanced attendees at the agency’s 64th General Conference plenary session on September 21. Photo: D. Calma/IAEA

With special precautions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Atomic Energy Agency commenced its week-long 64th General Conference yesterday with a plenary session that included remarks from Rafael Mariano Grossi, the agency’s director general.

“The latest IAEA annual projections show that nuclear power will continue to play a key role in the world’s low-carbon energy mix, with global nuclear electrical capacity seen nearly doubling by 2050 in our high-case scenario,” Grossi said, referring to a recently released agency report. “Climate change mitigation remains a key potential driver for maintaining and expanding the use of nuclear power.”

The IAEA conference runs through September 25.

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The NRC’s Operations Center: Exercising authority to respond

One essential lesson from the events at Three Mile Island-2 in March 1979 can be summed up in three words: Preparedness takes practice. The emergency response capacity of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and nuclear plant operators is more than just a set of procedures. Active training and evaluation are required to coordinate effectively with local and state authorities and protect the public in the event of an off-site radiological release.

The NRC’s emergency preparedness and incident response teams work in the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response (NSIR) to support licensees’ mandated emergency preparedness programs. The Operations Center at NRC headquarters is staffed around-the-clock with NSIR officers who can respond to technical questions and evaluate licensee event reports, yet most of its infrastructure typically stands vacant, awaiting activation for an incident or a planned exercise. With full activation of the NRC’s incident response program, the Operations Center comes to life, and teams of staff populate workstations. That process is regularly tested during exercises that involve NRC licensees, state and local responders, and similar incident response centers at each of the NRC’s four regional offices.

No two exercises are the same. Not only is every exercise dependent on variable human performance and every plant located in a unique community, but emergency preparedness benchmarks continually evolve with advancements in technologies and procedures.

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Aging management at Ringhals-3 has improved

A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency have completed a review of the long-term operational safety of Unit 3 at Sweden’s Ringhals nuclear power plant, noting substantial improvements from a previous agency visit in 2018.

The review, which had been requested by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), the Nordic nation’s nuclear regulator, wrapped up September 18.

According to the IAEA, the Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (SALTO) team focused on aspects essential to the safe long-term operation (LTO) of Unit 3—a 1,062-MWe three-loop pressurized water reactor that entered commercial operation in September 1981. (Ringhals houses two additional operating reactors: Unit 1, an 881-MWe boiling water reactor that began operation in January 1976, and Unit 4, an 1,102-MWe PWR that started up in November 1983. Another unit, Ringhals-2, was permanently shut down at the end of last year.)

The original design lifetime of Unit 3 will expire next year, but Vattenfall AB, the plant operator, is planning to extend operation for a total operational lifetime of 60 years.

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NRC to hold webinars in October on used fuel storage facility in Texas

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has scheduled four webinars in October to present its draft environmental findings and receive comments on Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) proposed consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas.

Information for the webinars will be posted on the NRC’s Public Meetings webpage. The webinars will be held at different times of the day to maximize opportunities for the public to participate and are tentatively scheduled for the following (all times are Eastern):

  • October 1, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • October 6, 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • October 8, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
  • October 15, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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IAEA: Nuclear to continue to play key role in low-carbon energy production

The International Atomic Energy Agency has just released its latest projections for energy, electricity, and nuclear power trends over the next 30 years. Compared with the previous year, the new projections are largely unchanged.

In the report's high-case scenario, the IAEA expects a rise in global nuclear electrical generating capacity of 82 percent, to 715 gigawatts. In the low-case scenario, that capacity is expected to drop 7 percent, to 363 gigawatts.

The report is titled Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050.

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HALEU investment is key part of TerraPower’s demo proposal

TerraPower announced on September 15 that it plans to work with Centrus Energy to establish commercial-scale production facilities for the high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) needed to fuel many advanced reactor designs.

The proposed investment in HALEU fuel fabrication is tied to a TerraPower-led submittal to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which was created to support the deployment of two first-of-a-kind advanced reactor designs within five to seven years. TerraPower would like one of those designs to be Natrium, the 345-MWe sodium fast reactor that it has developed with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

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ECA launches “new nuclear” initiative

The board of directors of the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA), an organization known more for its work in advancing the cleanup of Department of Energy sites, is launching a new initiative aimed at supporting the development of new nuclear technologies. As announced by the ECA on September 15, the self-funded, one-year initiative will focus on small modular reactors, micro and advanced reactors, a skilled nuclear workforce, and new nuclear missions around DOE facilities. facilities.

“With growing bipartisan support for nuclear energy in Congress, new federal demonstration projects led by DOE and the Department of Defense, and notable investment from the private sector, local governments want to be meaningfully engaged—and prepared—to match the strengths and needs of our communities with new nuclear opportunities,” the ECA said in its announcement.

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New report explores value of flexible nuclear energy in clean energy systems

A report just released from the Clean Energy Ministerial’s (CEM) Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy (NICE) Future initiative examines the potential roles that flexible nuclear energy generation can play in both current and future clean energy systems.

A product of the initiative’s Flexible Nuclear Campaign for Nuclear-Renewables Integration, the 154-page report, Flexible Nuclear Energy for Clean Energy Systems, includes the views of experts from government agencies, ministries, and industry organizations across the globe.

The report uses the term “flexibility” to mean the ability of an energy source to economically provide services when and where they are needed by end users. Energy services can include both electric and nonelectric applications using both traditional and advanced nuclear power plants and integrated systems, according to the report.

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Hitachi pulls plug on Wales nuclear build project

Artist's concept of the Wylfa Newydd project. Image: Horizon Nuclear Power

Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd. today announced that it is withdrawing from the currently suspended Wylfa Newydd nuclear-build project in northwestern Wales. The announcement dashes the hopes raised last month by reports that Horizon Nuclear Power, the Hitachi subsidiary in charge of the project, was in talks with the U.K. government regarding a possible resuscitation.

Hitachi had put the project on hold some 20 months ago, and in today’s announcement the company cited the length of the suspension and the COVID-19 investment environment as factors in its decision.

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