Nuclear News on the Newswire

EPW Senate staffer and former reactor operator nominated to the NRC

Marzano

President Biden has selected Matthew Marzano as his choice to fill the open seat on the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The panel of commissioners has had a vacancy since Jeff Baran’s term as commissioner ended in June 2023.

Marzano currently serves as an Idaho National Laboratory detailee for the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, advising EPW on policy matters relating to clean air, climate, and energy. Most recently, he advised the committee’s chairman on the ADVANCE Act, legislation designed to prepare the NRC for an expected surge in new nuclear reactor oversight.

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America’s voting public shows inertia on climate change, but nuclear support is up

A new report based on what its authors call “the definitive American public opinion surveys on climate change and the environment” has found a statistically significant increase in the percentage of survey respondents who think nuclear power is a good way to generate electricity, relative to a survey that asked the same question in 2013. That’s despite evidence that “Americans’ views on climate change have remained remarkably steady.” The new report, Climate Insights 2024: American Understanding of Climate Change, is the product of a 27-year polling partnership led by the Political Psychology Research Group at Stanford University and Resources for the Future (RFF), and it was released July 15.

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NRC chair voices support for Philippines under 123 Agreement

Hanson

The United States is fully engaged in supporting the development and peaceful use of nuclear energy in the Philippines through its new 123 Agreement, Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Christopher Hanson said during a visit to the nation last week.

“We’re going to see a real increase in the tempo of engagement from the U.S. on the nuclear safety aspects,” Hanson said during a media roundtable in Makati City.

New partnership: Hanson’s visit to the Philippines followed the entry into force on July 2 of the landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement (known as a 123 Agreement) between Washington and Manila to utilize nuclear energy safely. It establishes the legal framework for significant nuclear cooperation with other countries—in areas such as technical exchanges, scientific research, and safeguards discussions—as long as the partner adheres to a set of strong nonproliferation requirements.

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Kairos’s Hermes 2 passes NRC safety review

Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has completed its final safety evaluation for Kairos Power’s application to build its Hermes 2 molten salt–cooled reactor test facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the agency announced July 22. Earlier, and independently, the NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) reviewed safety-related aspects of the Kairos application and provided its review to the Commission on July 17. The evaluation concluded that there are no safety aspects that would preclude issuing a construction permit for the facility, but that can’t happen until the NRC staff issues its final environmental assessment later this summer and the Commission assesses the staff’s work (under newly streamlined procedures for mandatory hearings) this fall before voting on whether to authorize a construction permit.

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Power outages, water shortages impact Ukraine plant

Security watchdogs with the International Atomic Energy Association are reporting continuing issues at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant due to the military invasion from Russia.

IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi said in his weekly briefing on Ukraine that Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant staff experienced another power outage in the nearby city of Enerhodar—where most of the workers live—and a shortage of tap water that has also affected the plant.

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Gavrilas named NRC’s executive director for operations

Gavrilas

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has named Mirela Gavrilas, currently head of the agency’s Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, executive director for operations, effective July 28.

The EDO position is the highest-ranking NRC career position, with responsibilities for overseeing the agency’s operational and administrative functions and serving as the chief operating officer.

“Mirela is extraordinarily qualified for this top leadership position, based on her technical expertise, communication and management skills, and demonstrated ability to modernize work processes and metrics,” said Christopher Hanson, NRC chair. “She is well poised to lead the NRC staff as we tackle challenges and embrace new opportunities, particularly after the recent passage of the ADVANCE Act.”

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