Nuclear News on the Newswire

Framatome, Ultra Safe partner to manufacture TRISO and FCM fuel

Framatome and Ultra Safe Nuclear announced on January 26 that they intend to form a joint venture to manufacture commercial quantities of tristructural isotropic (TRISO) particles and Ultra Safe’s proprietary fully ceramic microencapsulated (FCM) fuel.

The companies have signed a nonbinding agreement to integrate their resources to bring commercially viable, fourth-generation nuclear fuel to market for Ultra Safe’s micro-modular reactor (MMR) and other advanced reactor designs.

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Nuclear energy: enabling production of food, fiber, hydrocarbon biofuels, and negative carbon emissions

In the 1960s, Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory initiated a series of studies on nuclear agro-­industrial complexes1 to address the needs of the world’s growing population. Agriculture was a central component of these studies, as it must be. Much of the emphasis was on desalination of seawater to provide fresh water for irrigation of crops. Remarkable advances have lowered the cost of desalination to make that option viable in countries like Israel. Later studies2 asked the question, are there sufficient minerals (potassium, phosphorous, copper, nickel, etc.) to enable a prosperous global society assuming sufficient nuclear energy? The answer was a qualified “yes,” with the caveat that mineral resources will limit some technological options. These studies were defined by the characteristic of looking across agricultural and industrial sectors to address multiple challenges using nuclear energy.

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Contract for Darlington SMR project signed

Wilmington, N.C.–based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Canadian firms Ontario Power Generation, SNC-Lavalin, and Aecon announced this morning the signing of a contract for the deployment of a BWRX-300 small modular reactor at OPG’s Darlington nuclear site in Canada. According to the announcement, it is the first commercial contract for a grid-scale SMR in North America.

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First Light Fusion wants to operate a net gain inertial fusion machine in 2027

Ignition and net gain at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) in December 2022 focused global attention on the prospects of inertial fusion energy (IFE). First Light Fusion and the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) acknowledged the achievement as they announced plans on January 25 to design and build a demonstration facility known as Machine 4 at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxford, U.K., using First Light’s “projectile approach” to IFE. Construction is expected to begin in 2024, and operations are “likely to commence” in 2027.

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A fateful day for nuclear waste policy: January 31, 1998

Next week will mark 25 years since January 31, 1998, a familiar date to most in the nuclear community, and revisited in today’s #ThrowbackThursday post with an article from the March 1998 issue of Nuclear News. “Those in the nuclear power industry are aware of the significance of the date January 31, 1998. ln the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, that date was set as the deadline for the U.S. government—more specifically, the Department of Energy—to begin taking possession of and responsibility for spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants nationwide” (NN, March 1998, p. 59).

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NRC announces setback to Diablo Canyon license renewal

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced January 24 that it will not resume its review of Pacific Gas & Electric’s withdrawn Diablo Canyon license renewal application. This decision is a new setback in the long-running effort to extend the life of the plant.

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Reflections on a year in D.C.

Matt Marzano
2022 ANS Congressional Fellow

Each year, the American Nuclear Society Congressional Fellow enters the halls of the Congress bringing with him or her a unique background and perspective, but also a common interest in shaping policy by drawing on his or her expertise to inform decision makers. For me, crossing that threshold had to wait, as I started my fellowship term amidst a surge in the pandemic. Awaiting the return to in-­person work and drinking from the proverbial firehose in this new role, I quickly realized that effective congressional staffers are those who are able to communicate accurately and concisely, adeptly navigate complex policy issues, and exhibit selflessness and dedication in service of their members’ priorities. As part of the clean air, climate, and energy team for the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, chaired by Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.), I was fortunate to be surrounded by staffers who demonstrated these qualities and helped smooth a steep learning curve.

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National laboratories: Open for business like never before

The Department of Energy’s commitment to breaking down market barriers with initiatives, programs, and access to facilities is making it simpler and more efficient than ever for industry to partner with national laboratories. It is especially timely, as the country continues to face evolving security, economic, and clean energy challenges. Partnering opportunities via the DOE’s Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and Strategic Partnership Projects (SPPs) are particularly prevalent in the commercial nuclear community and have seen a tremendous amount of funding and support dedicated to advancing the development, demonstration, and deployment of new reactor technologies.

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DARPA’s nuclear rocket demo gets a boost from NASA’s Mars ambitions

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have announced they will collaborate on plans to launch and test DARPA’s Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO). DARPA has already worked with private companies on the baseline design for a fission reactor and rocket engine—and the spacecraft that will serve as an in-orbit test stand—and has solicited proposals for the next phase of work. Now NASA is climbing on board, deepening its existing ties to DRACO’s work in nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) technology—an “enabling capability” required for NASA to meet its Moon to Mars Objectives and send crewed missions to Mars. NASA and DARPA representatives announced the development at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech Forum in National Harbor, Md., on January 24.

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NRC proposes GEIS revision for renewing reactor licenses

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on January 24 that it has directed staff to publish a proposed rule that includes an update to the license renewal generic environmental impact statement (GEIS), which is used by the agency when considering applications to renew operating reactor licenses.

The proposed rule, to appear in the Federal Register in the near future, is a response to an NRC order that concluded the license renewal GEIS did not analyze the environmental impacts of a subsequent license renewal term (from 60 to 80 years of operation).

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