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Nuclear Power Daily Update

March 19

Solar and wind energy pollute more, are less efficient, and can’t produce energy as long as nuclear power

Melinda Burns, 3-18-2020, “The Nuclear Choice,” Santa Barbara Independent, https://www.independent.com/2020/03/18/the-nuclear-choice/

A lot of misinformation about our sources of electrical energy has been circulating, claiming nuclear plant construction and maintenance produce lots of CO2. That’s true to some degree, but let’s put that in perspective.

Solar and wind produce two to four times the CO2 produced by a nuclear plant per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. And that doesn’t include energy storage that would be necessitated by reliance on intermittent solar and wind energy. When as-yet-to-be-developed storage is factored in, the CO2 footprint of intermittent sources will be dramatically higher. Nuclear produces electricity that is nearly always available at an average efficiency of 92 percent. Solar and wind 15-25 percent depending on the location and time of year California’s (and Germany’s) dirty secret is that since wind and solar are so intermittent, and we need electricity 24/7, the electricity we are using at night while charging our Teslas comes mostly from natural gas and coal. With nuclear, that would not be necessary. California’s and Germany’s CO2 emissions have gone up or remained flat since they decommissioned nuclear and relied more on solar and wind, while those states and countries who have maintained their nuclear fleets have lowered CO2 emissions from electrical energy production significantly. The fact is that we need solar, wind, and nuclear if we are to have reliable and sustainable low emission electricity. In the words of James Hansen, the NASA scientist who first alerted us to the danger of global warming in 1988, “I don’t see a way forward without nuclear power. Nuclear will make the difference between the world missing crucial climate targets or achieving them.”

Nuclear power grids are vulnerable to public health crisis like the current Covid 19 outbreak. As workers fall ill, plant safety and operations become a concern

Ilaria Grasso Macola, 3-16-2020, “What is the impact of Covid-19 on the power sector?,” Power Technology | Energy News and Market Analysis, https://www.power-technology.com/features/impact-covid-19-power-sector/

The Covid-19 coronavirus was first identified in China’s Hubei province in December 2019 and has since become a global health threat, impacting 140 countries and triggering the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare it a global pandemic. The power industry is among the sectors affected. Power Technology spoke to major stakeholders about Covid-19’s impact on generation and supply.

According to energy industry body Independent Commodity Intelligence Services, nuclear power availability in the EU is expected to remain consistent as many countries, including the UK and Germany, have put in place safety measures to guarantee the continuation of operations. Digital energy solutions provider Lumenaza’s CEO Christian Chudoba told Power Technology: “The German energy industry is coping well, but we see a decline in industrial production. “This doesn’t affect Lumenaza per se or other companies providing digital energy solutions. We are already used to working remotely, and we keep on developing new solutions.” French grid operator RTE expects nuclear availability to stay 3.6GW below the 2015 to 2019 average as well predicting a national drop in nuclear demand. These are symptoms of a bigger problem Covid-19 presents to the nuclear sector, said energy and nuclear policy independent analyst Mycle Schneider. Schneider said: “Covid-19 constitutes an unprecedented threat on sensitive strategic infrastructure, above all the power sector. The largest nuclear operator in the world, French state controlled EDF, announce as early as 10 March 2020 that three of its employees at nuclear facilities had tested positive. “The French case shed light on a fundamental societal safety and security issue that got little attention in the current Covid-19 crisis. Operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants draw on a small group of highly specialised technicians and engineers. “The unparalleled dependence on nuclear power in France—70.6% of electricity production in 2019—makes its power supply system extremely vulnerable to a general public health crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.” Other sources, including the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), believe that the nuclear industry will be fundamental to minimising the pandemic’s effects on energy supply. An NEI spokesperson said: “We know that nuclear power plant operations and the availability of electric service will be tremendously important in minimising the impact of the situation on the general public. We are confident that, based on extensive planning, the industry will continue to operate nuclear plants safely as this event unfolds.” In the renewable energy sector, major concerns revolve around global supply chains, which are considerably slowing down production. Sectors such as the global wind industry said they are already seeing logistical delays. Wind Europe CEO Giles Dickson said: “With Covid-19 we are likely to see delays in the development of new wind farm projects which could cause developers to miss the deployment deadlines in countries’ auction systems and face financial penalties. “Governments should be flexible on how they apply their rules. And if ongoing auctions are undersubscribed because developers can’t bid in time, governments should award what they can and auction the non-awarded volumes at a later stage.” Delays in projects development are also a matter of concern for the solar power industry, especially as solar panel shipment have stopped coming from China.

March 17th cards

Nuclear plants are staying open due to concerns over carbon emissions from coal plants and to stop climate change

Reid Frazier, 3-16-2020, “Owners Of PA’s Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station Will Keep It Open Because Of State’s Climate Plan,” No Publication, https://www.wesa.fm/post/owners-pas-beaver-valley-nuclear-power-station-will-keep-it-open-because-states-climate-plan

The owners of Beaver Valley nuclear power station in Shippingport, Pa. said they are reversing a decision to shut it down next year, citing a climate policy pushed by Gov. Tom Wolf. Akron, Ohio-based Energy Harbor Corp. said Friday it had notified PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator, that it would rescind March 2018 deactivation notices for the two power generating units at the plant, which employs 1,000.  Those units were scheduled to permanently shut down in May and October 2021, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.   But Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s moves to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program intended to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, appear to have changed the company’s course.  In a statement, Wolf said the decision was “very encouraging” as his administration prepares to draft the regulation to enroll the state in RGGI. “Climate change is the most critical environmental threat confronting the world and demands a multifaceted approach,” Wolf said. “Reducing emissions and maintaining existing clean energy resources are primary components in the fight to address climate change, and energy companies like Energy Harbor recognize this.” In October, Wolf signed an executive order mandating the Department of Environmental Protection to draft a regulation to put the state into RGGI. “The decision to rescind the deactivations for Beaver Valley was largely driven by the efforts of Governor Wolf’s administration to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” said Energy Harbor President and Chief Executive Officer John Judge, in an emailed news release.  Judge said the state’s inclusion into RGGI will “begin to help level the playing field for our carbon-free nuclear generators” and will help it market “carbon free energy” to customers. RGGI aims to cut carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change, by requiring polluters to pay for their emissions. The states in the agreement are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and  New Jersey. Virginia just passed a law that paves the way for it to join. Republicans in the state House and Senate have questioned the legality of Wolf’s order, and said they could try to block the plan. Judge signaled that could trip up the company’s plans. “We are excited about the RGGI process implementation in early 2022 but would need to revisit deactivation if RGGI does not come to fruition as expected,” he said.

New hydrogen based reactors can create more power more efficiently than old school reactors without the harms of older tech

Haley Zaremba 3-15-2020, “Hydrogen: The Secret To Commercializing Nuclear Fusion,” OilPrice, https://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Hydrogen-The-Secret-To-Commercializing-Nuclear-Fusion.html

Scientists around the world are racing towards a green energy solution that is cheap, efficient, and scalable enough to replace fossil fuels before our carbon-based economy steers us past the tipping point towards catastrophic climate change. Solar cells are being improved at breakneck speed, wind turbines are being swiftly scaled up, and geothermal energy is being considered in more and more locations, but few projects are more buzzed about than those concerning the “silver bullet” and “holy grail” energy solutions that are green hydrogen and nuclear fusion. Now, there’s news of a breakthrough solution that involves both. 

The DIII-D National Fusion Facility, which is operated by General Atomics operates on behalf of the United States Department of Energy (DOE), has long been using hydrogen gas into their tokamak, the massive donut-shaped particle colliders used to create nuclear fusion. But now, a new study indicates that there might be a better way: the use of hydrogen ice pellets. “The studies by physicists based at DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) compared the two methods, looking ahead to the fueling that will be used in [International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor] ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in France,” reports Phys.org.

A constant stream of hydrogen is needed to keep fusion reactors running, and the issue of how to do this the most efficiently and effectively is a question with major implications for the potential future of commercial nuclear fusion. This issue will become even more crucial, Phys.org points out, as these reactors continue to scale up, getting bigger and hotter, as we get closer to achieving said commercial nuclear fusion. “As fusion reactors get bigger and hotter it will become harder for the gas to penetrate into the core of the reactor where fusion reactions take place. New methods thus need to be developed to feed the fusion core without degrading the plasma performance.” Enter hydrogen ice pellets. 

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The experiments comparing the traditional injection of room-temperature hydrogen gas with the employment of hydrogen ice pellets show that the latter, somewhat counterintuitively, is better for achieving the ultra-high temperatures needed to fuel the tokamak’s hot inner core to achieve nuclear fusion. “The experiments revealed a significantly higher pressure of plasma—a key to fusion reactions—using hydrogen ice compared to gas injection when the rate of fueling is roughly evenly matched between the two methods,” the report continues.

This breakthrough is just the latest in a number of recent discoveries that are bringing commercial nuclear fusion closer and closer to being a reality. Nuclear fusion is one of the most powerful forms of energy production known to man–it’s what occurs naturally to power our sun and stars. Fusion is much cleaner than nuclear fission, the method used in conventional nuclear power production, because it only required hydrogen as fuel, not radioactive materials that leave radioactive waste that stays hazardous for tens of thousands of years, if not more. Fusion is also several times more powerful than fission. The problem is, while we have managed to create nuclear fusion reactions here on Earth, we haven’t been able to do it efficiently, with experiments consuming more energy to make the reaction happen than the reaction itself creates in almost all cases.

But while commercial nuclear fusion is still out of reach, we’ve gotten a whole lot closer in recent years. Last summer, ITER announced that they were, at the time, just six and a half years away from achieving first plasma in their tokamak. Then, just a month later in August, 2019, Oak Ridge National Laboratory reported another breakthrough, which applies new implementation of AI and supercomputing to successfully scale up nuclear fusion and manage plasma. In October of last year, the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plasma Liner Experiment (PLX) announced their very science-fiction combination of plasma guns, magnets, and lasers in a hybrid approach to fusion that will be up and running later this year. Just last month, Australian startup HB11 began snapping up patents for their own laser approach to fusion.

Now, with the new discovery of a better hydrogen fuel source, commercial nuclear fusion is closer than ever, and the potential implications are impossible to overstate.

March 15th cards

Global warming is the greatest threat to humanity. We must act now to stop it

Doyle Rice 3-13-2020″Planet is ‘way off track’ in dealing with climate change, UN report says,” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2020/03/11/climate-change-world-way-off-track-dealing-global-warming/5021961002/

The planet is “way off track” in dealing with climate change, a new United Nations report says, and experts declared that climate change is a far greater threat than the coronavirus. 

“It is important that all the attention that needs to be given to fight this disease does not distract us from the need to defeat climate change,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday, according to Agence France Presse. 

Although emissions have been reduced with travel curtailed because of the virus, Guterres noted that “we will not fight climate change with a virus. Whilst the disease is expected to be temporary, climate change has been a phenomenon for many years, and and will remain with us for decades and require constant action.

“We count the cost in human lives and livelihoods as droughts, wildfires, floods and extreme storms take their deadly toll,” Guterres said.  

The report confirmed that 2019 was the second-warmest year on record and the past decade the hottest in human history.

Last year ended with a global average temperature that was 1.1 degree Celsius above estimated preindustrial levels, second only to the record set in 2016, when a very strong El Niño event contributed to an increased global temperature atop the overall warming trend.

“We are currently way off track to meeting either the 1.5°C or 2°C targets that the Paris Agreement calls for,” Guterres wrote in the report.

“Greenhouse gas concentrations are at the highest levels in 3 million years – when the Earth’s temperature was as much as 3 degrees hotter and sea levels some 15 meters higher,” said Guterres at a joint news conference with World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas at U.N. headquarters in New York. 

The main greenhouse gases that cause global warming are carbon dioxide and methane, which are emitted from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

“Given that greenhouse gas levels continue to increase, the warming will continue. A recent decadal forecast indicates that a new annual global temperature record is likely in the next five years. It is a matter of time,” Taalas said.

“We just had the warmest January on record. Winter was unseasonably mild in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Smoke and pollutants from damaging fires in Australia circumnavigated the globe, causing a spike in carbon dioxide emissions. 

“Record temperatures in Antarctica were accompanied by large-scale ice melt and the fracturing of a glacier which will have repercussions for sea-level rise,” Taalas added.

Professor Brian Hoskins of Imperial College London told the Guardian that “the report is a catalogue of weather in 2019 made more extreme by climate change, and the human misery that went with it.”

It points to a threat that is greater to our species than any known virus – we must not be diverted from the urgency of tackling it by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible.”

March 13th cards

Renewable power has gaps and flaws that nuclear power does not. In order to cut greenhouse gas emissions, we need nuclear power

Paige Lambermont, 3-12-2020, “Why Is Germany Phasing Out Nuclear Power?,” No Publication, https://fee.org/articles/why-is-germany-phasing-out-nuclear-power/

Do most Germans connect the transition to rising energy costs—German households are paying record-high prices for power—and the decrease in domestic energy security as more energy must instead be imported from outside of the country? Do they consider the benefit of preventing the incredibly unlikely event of a nuclear disaster to be more important than thousands of megawatts of clean energy availability?

At present, according to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the four goals of the energy transition are to achieve 40-45 percent renewables in electricity generation by 2025, shutdown the last nuclear power plants by 2022, have 55 percent less greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 than there were in 1990, and achieve 50 percent less primary energy consumption in 2050 than in 2008.

The renewables in electricity goal has already been met when considering domestic production, with 53.8 percent of Germany’s publicly generated electricity being renewables. Roughly 3 percent of this comes from hydropower, 8 percent from biomass, 39 percent from wind, and 3 percent from solar. Domestic numbers don’t tell the whole story, however.

When you look at gross power consumption, only 42.6 percent was renewables in 2018. Energy imports account for a significant portion of Germany’s consumption. In 2018, Germany’s energy import dependency was 63.57 percent, and the vast majority of its imports were oil, gas, and coal. Strict regulations and limited available gas resources make domestic production of natural gas in Germany fairly limited, and the country imports 93 percent of its natural gas.

March 11th Cards

Nuclear energy has bipartisan support in congress and the support of the President. It is politically popular

Chuck Fleischmann, 3-10-2020, “As Bipartisan Support for Nuclear Energy Grows in Congress, Progressives Should Reconsider Their Opposition,” National Review, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/nuclear-power-progressives-should-reconsider-opposition/

Any serious conversation about the future of America’s energy production must include nuclear energy, which accounts for 20 percent of all American energy production and 55 percent of American carbon-free-energy production. Unlike wind and solar, nuclear energy can be reliably supplied on demand, not just when the wind is blowing or when the sun is shining. Nuclear-energy plants also have the advantage of using less land space than solar and wind farms.

In the past year, there has been an increased focus by both parties on global carbon output and the future of our environment. Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) has claimed that “climate change is a major national security threat and a global emergency.” Yet, in his Green New Deal plan, Senator Sanders also calls nuclear energy “a false solution” to the problem. If climate change is the “major national security threat” and the “global emergency” that Sanders claims it is, why is he against our nation’s best chance at reducing carbon emissions?

Not only does Sanders want to kill the largest source of carbon-free energy in the United States, he wants to kill the industry that harvests it — an industry that employs 100,000 people across our nation. These are high-wage, high-skill American jobs, and they would vanish if he had his way.

We are at a critical moment for the future of nuclear energy in the United States and worldwide. Russia and China have both surpassed the U.S. as the world’s leading producers of nuclear reactors. Within the next two years, China is expected to become the second-leading global producer of nuclear energy, and if we do not change course, it will overtake the United States for the top spot on the list by 2030. That would leave us in a weak position to influence the future of nuclear-energy development, and it would mean falling behind China at the moment when we can least afford it.

Thankfully, President Trump, unlike Senator Sanders, has supported the development and deployment of nuclear power. Under Trump’s leadership, the Department of Energy has begun to work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to accelerate the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors, which will be safer and more versatile. In December of 2019, the NRC approved an early site permit for the Tennessee Valley Authority to build a small modular reactor at the Clinch River Site, in my district in Tennessee. In 2018, Congress passed and the president signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which eliminated financial and technological barriers that stood in the way of American nuclear innovation.

Those steps are reflective of a bipartisan consensus growing in Congress, and of a White House willing to support it. The United States cannot afford to continue to backslide from its position as a world leader in nuclear-energy research and development, and Congress has begun to recognize as much. In the past few years, we have made progress on nuclear innovation, and it would be a disservice to all Americans if that bipartisan work were to stop. If Sanders and other progressives want to get serious about actively reducing global carbon emissions, I’d encourage them to reconsider their opposition to the most reliable source of carbon-free energy in the United States.

March 10th cards

Commercially developed nuclear power will power the United States and our ability to rapidly respond to threats around the world This also protects us from offensive cyber operations

Aaron Mehta, 3-9-2020, “Pentagon awards contracts to design mobile nuclear reactor,” Defense News, https://www.defensenews.com/smr/nuclear-arsenal/2020/03/09/pentagon-to-award-mobile-nuclear-reactor-contracts-this-week/

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Monday issued three contracts to start design work on mobile, small nuclear reactors, as part of a two-step plan towards achieving nuclear power for American forces at home and abroad.

The department awarded contracts to BWX Technologies, Inc. of Virginia, for $13.5 million; Westinghouse Government Services of Washington, D.C. for $11.9 million; and X-energy, LLC of Maryland, for $14.3 million, to begin a two-year engineering design competition for a small nuclear microreactor designed to potentially be forward deployed with forces outside the continental United States.

The combined $39.7 million in contracts are from “Project Pele,” a project run through the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), located within the department’s research and engineering side. The prototype is looking at a 1-5 megawatt (MWe) power range. The Department of Energy has been supporting the project at its Idaho National Laboratory.

Pele “involves the development of a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear microreactor to support a variety of Department of Defense missions such as generating power for remote operating bases,” said Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a department spokesman. “After a two-year design-maturation period, one of the companies funded to begin design work may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype.”

“The Pele Program’s uniqueness lies in the reactor’s mobility and safety,” said Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager, in a department statement. “We will leverage our industry partners to develop a system that can be safely and rapidly moved by road, rail, sea or air and for quick set up and shut down, with a design which is inherently safe.”

However, Pele is not the only attempt at introducing small nuclear reactors to the Pentagon’s inventory.

A second effort is being run through the office of the undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment. That effort, ordered in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, involves a pilot program aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of a small nuclear reactor, in the 2-10 MWe range, with initial testing at a Department of Energy site in roughly the 2023 timeframe.

If the testing goes well, a commercially developed, Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensed reactor will be demonstrated on a “permanent domestic military installation by 2027,” according to DoD spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews. “If the full demonstration proves to be a cost effective energy resilience alternative, NRC-licensed [reactors] will provide an additional option for generating power provided to DoD through power purchase agreements.”

The best way to differentiate between the programs may be to think of the A&S effort as the domestic program, built off commercial technology, as part of an effort to get off of local power grids that are seen as weak targets, either via physical or cyber espionage. Pele is focused on the prototyping a new design, with forward operations in mind — and may never actually produce a reactor, if the prototype work proves too difficult.

According to an Oct. 2018 technical report by the Nuclear Energy Institute, 90 percent of military installations have “an average annual energy use that can be met by an installed capacity of nuclear power of 40 MWe or less.”

Replacing all local power with a nuclear reactor isn’t necessary for the department’s goals, but one or more reactors in the 2 to 10 MWe range, located on base, would ensure that if the local power grid goes down, critical functions will still be able to operate.

“The concern here is that, obviously, installations need energy, they need power,” Ellen Lord, the department’s acquisition head, explained last week at the annual McAleese conference. “Typically they are tied to the grid; what if the grid goes down, what if your generators don’t have fuel to work on for awhile? So, what we’re doing is looking at small nuclear modular reactors.”

This isn’t the first time the DoD has looked into small nuclear reactors. The 2010 NDAA directed the department to study the feasibility of nuclear power for military installations, but a study concluded that the reactors available at the time were simply too big.

However, new developments in the commercial sector are opening up more options.

According to Dr. Jonathan Cobb, a spokesman for the World Nuclear Association, small nuclear reactors come in three flavors. The first, small modular reactors, sit in the 20-300 MWe range and are approaching the point they will appear on market.

The second category sits from 10-100 megawatts, and have been used in transports such as icebreakers. According to Cobb, a pair of 32 MWe reactors, based on icebreaker technology, are being used aboard the Akademik Lomonosov, a Russian “floating power plant.”

The third category, covering what the Pentagon appears most interested in, is a category known as microreactors. The challenge, Cobb said, is that this group is the furthest behind technologically, with demonstrations of commercial systems targeted for “the second half of the 2020s,” putting them in the “ballpark” of what DoD is looking for with its A&S effort.

he Pentagon is looking to take steps against the possibility that a cyberattack could take down the crucial infrastructure at its bases, both domestically and overseas, per a top department official.

According to the NEI study, the reduced size and increased simplicity of microreactors mean a procurement and manufacturing cycle could take “between 3 and 5 years from the order of long lead materials to the delivery of the largest component, with a nominal target of 4 years. Most of the components will need to arrive on-site at least 6 months prior to startup in order to support the achievement of construction milestones.”

“How they then would be developed to commercial applications may depend not only on industry developments, but also on establishing an effective regulatory environment. Most likely though we would be looking at microreactors coming into a commercial basis in the 2030s,” Cobb explained.

“While more recent large scale plants have made greater use of modular construction, for microreactors in particular we’d expect them to be produced as virtually finished factory-built units. There’s every possibility that as microreactors move towards commercialism the companies developing them may choose to collaborate with existing players in the nuclear industry.”

However, Edwin Lyman, director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has concerns about the availability of fuel to power a proliferation of small nuclear reactors. He noted, “there are no clear plans for manufacturing the quantity of high-assay low enriched uranium, much less the production of high-quality TRISO [TRi-structural ISOtropic particle] fuel, that would be able to meet timelines this decade.”

American companies Westinghouse (0.2-5 MWe), NuScale (1-10 MWe), and UltraSafe Nuclear (5 MWe) are all developing reactors with less than 10 MWe output, while Sweden’s LeadCold (3-10 MW3) and a U.K. consortium led by Urenco (4 MWe) are also working on developing similar systems.

Lord, for her part, would not rule out working with foreign allies on the nuclear program in some way, saying “We always talk with our partners and allies about collaboration. We have many umbrella vehicles, if you will, to do that, particularly with [National Technology and Industrial Base] countries — U.K., Canada, Australia. We have a little bit of an easy button there for working back and forth with technical information.”

As complicated as the A&S domestic effort may be, the idea of developing a mobile reactor for use abroad will likely be significantly more complex — and not just from a technological perspective.

Lyman believes that the department’s past efforts have “consistently underestimated”the “spectrum of mission risks posed by these microreactors,” mostly around the technical challenges of keeping the radioactive fuel safe and operational in battlefield conditions.

“Fielding these reactors without commanders fully understanding the radiological consequences and developing robust response plans to cope with the aftermath could prove to be a disastrous miscalculation,” warned Lyman.

Defense News reveals how an international team was given 24 hours to extract radioactive material from an African country in the throes of battling Boko Haram.

Security would remain a major factor as well, with the risk of nuclear material from a reactor falling into the hands of terrorist groups needing to be accounted for. While the nuclear material likely to be used in these reactors is “highly impractical” for a pure nuclear weapon, Lyman warned that an enemy could still seek the material and use it in some form of dirty bomb scenario which could deny American forces access to a specific area; additionally, security protocols would need to be put in place to deal with the transfer of the reactors.

However, Marc Nichol, NEI’s Senior Director of New Reactors, believes the refueling process should be fairly simple, with the non-mobile reactors sought by A&S likely having a 10 year lifespan in between refueling needs and the mobile reactors brought back whole to the U.S. when they need a refresher.

“The idea is these would be refueled back in the United States at a centralized facility designed and equipped to do this work. No one is envisioning that these would be refueled in the field,” Nichol said. “Because they would be in a specialized facility here in the United States, there would be safety and security protocols in place for that. We have a lot of experience handling used fuel for our commercial reactors.”

Finally, there may be political challenges involved in deploying such systems. Some partner nations may balk at the idea of hosting a nuclear reactor, no matter how small. For instance, it is easy to picture the U.S. seeking to put a system for potential deployment, or as a power backup on a local base, in Japan, a key location for America’s force posture to counter China; such a move would likely be met with strong hostility, if not from politicians than from local protesters.

“I think most of these issues — including who would have regulatory authority and where liability would reside — have yet to be resolved,” said Lyman.” And even if the legal pathway were clear, there could be significant public opposition in certain host countries to deployment of these reactors if solely under U.S. authority.”

Costs, meanwhile, should not be a major factor for a while, as the dollar value associated with both the early design contracts and a potential prototype should be fairly small. NEI estimates the program needs around $140m in FY21 funds to keep everything rolling smoothly. In addition, Nichol said, DoD should begin to prepare the Army to take over the project once SCO hands it off; NEI believes $12m in FY21 funds should cover those early needs.

March 9th cards

SMR reactors are the next wave of nuclear power. They are being designed and tested in many nations. The US has a potential chance to ride a new wave of energy production

Lois Parshley, 3-7-2020, “When it comes to nuclear power, could smaller be better?,” Grist, https://grist.org/climate/when-it-comes-to-nuclear-power-could-smaller-be-better/

Huge computer screens line a dark, windowless control room in Corvallis, Oregon, where engineers at the company NuScale Power hope to define the next wave of nuclear energy. Glowing icons fill the screens, representing the power output of 12 miniature nuclear reactors. Together, these small modular reactors would generate about the same amount of power as one of the conventional nuclear plants that currently dot the United States — producing enough electricity to power 540,000 homes. On the glowing screens, a palm tree indicates which of the dozen units is on “island mode,” allowing a single reactor to run disconnected from the grid in case of an emergency.

This control room is just a mock-up, and the reactors depicted on the computer screens do not, in fact, exist. Yet NuScale has invested more than $900 million in the development of small modular reactor (SMR) technology, which the company says represents the next generation of nuclear power plants. NuScale is working on a full-scale prototype and says it is on track to break ground on its first nuclear power plant — a 720-megawatt project for a utility in Idaho — within two years; the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has just completed the fourth phase of review of NuScale’s design, the first SMR certification the commission has reviewed. The company expects final approval by the end of 2020. The U.S. Department of Energy has already invested $317 million in the research and development of NuScale’s SMR project.

NuScale is not alone in developing miniature reactors. In Russia, the government has launched a floating 70-megawatt reactor in the Arctic Ocean. China announced plans in 2016 to build its own state-funded floating SMR design. Three Canadian provinces — Ontario, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan — have signed a memorandum to look into the development and deployment of small modular reactors. And the Rolls-Royce Consortium in the United Kingdom is working on the development of a 440-megawatt SMR.

Proponents say the time is ripe for this new wave of nuclear reactors for several reasons. First, they maintain that if the global community has any hope of slashing carbon dioxide emissions by mid-century, new nuclear technologies must be in the mix. Second, traditional nuclear power is beset with problems. Many existing plants are aging, and new nuclear power construction is plagued by substantial delays and huge cost overruns; large-scale nuclear power plants can cost more than $10 billion. Finally, advocates say that as supplies of renewable energy grow, small modular reactors can better handle the variable nature of wind and solar power as SMRs are easier to turn on and leave running

Critics of nuclear power, however, contend that small modular reactors suffer from many of the same problems as large reactors, most notably safety issues and the unresolved problem of what to do with long-lived radioactive waste. And opponents say that even in a smaller form, nuclear power is expensive — it’s one of the costliest forms of energy, requiring substantial government subsidies to build and run, not to mention insure. NuScale’s SMR is offering an artificial 6.5 cent-per-kilowatt-hour cap as an incentive to get its first project off the ground. Yet in September, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced that it had accepted a bid of electricity coming from renewables, with storage capacity that can deliver round-the-clock supply, at 2 cents a kilowatt-hour.

M.V. Ramana, the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the University of British Columbia, says that as renewable prices plummet, nuclear power just can’t compete. More than a third of U.S. nuclear plants are now unprofitable or scheduled to close. Globally, nuclear energy now only supplies 11 percent of electricity, down from a record high of 17.6 percent in 1996. After the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, Germany decided to close its nuclear industry altogether, and countries like Belgium, Switzerland, and Italy have declined to replace existing reactors or move forward with plans for new ones.

March 8th cards

SMR reactors designs can minimize the problems and safety hazards of the old designs and can be used to produce energy for other sectors of the renewable energy sector like hydrogen cards

Lois Parshley, 3-7-2020, “When it comes to nuclear power, could smaller be better?,” Grist, https://grist.org/climate/when-it-comes-to-nuclear-power-could-smaller-be-better/

But companies and scientists backing the development of small modular reactors say the technology offers a new way forward for nuclear power, one that overcomes many of the drawbacks of traditional, larger reactors. SMRs are much less likely to overheat, the proponents say, in part because their small cores produce far less heat than the cores in large reactors. Innovative designs in SMR technology can also reduce other engineering risks, like coolant pumps failing. NuScale says its SMR has far fewer moving parts than traditional reactors, lowering the likelihood of failures that could cause an accident.

Building smaller reactors also allows them to be mass-manufactured at a central facility and transported more easily, making it possible to install SMRs in remote locations where a conventional reactor isn’t feasible. (SMRs are generally designed to produce 50 to 300 megawatts of electricity, compared to the typical 1,000 megawatts of traditional large-scale reactors.) Perhaps most importantly, proponents argue that SMRs cost much less and can be built more quickly than large nuclear reactors, opening up new markets in the developing world.

“We are about as safe and simple as you can get,” says NuScale cofounder and chief technology officer José Reyes.

Making reactors smaller isn’t a new idea; in fact, the first civilian SMR was commissioned as early as 1955. It was built in Elk River, Minnesota, overran its budget by $9.8 million, and operated only three-and-a-half years before cracks appeared in its cooling system. Since then, commercial reactor sizes have only grown.

In 2000, the Department of Energy funded a project at Oregon State University, among others, to study a multi-application small light water reactor. In 2007, the university granted NuScale exclusive rights to the design of SMR, as well as the continued use of their test facility. In 2011, Fluor Corporation, a multinational engineering firm, invested in the company. In 2018, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the first phase of review for the design. NuScale now has more than 529 patents granted or pending and close to 400 employees.

Many of the SMR designs in development simply shrink the systems of large-scale nuclear plants, using less fuel. NuScale’s reactor will be just 76 feet high. More than 125 NuScale reactors could be put in a traditional reactor’s containment building, though the company plans to deploy them in groups of 12.

NuScale’s system is also integral, meaning the fuel, steam, and generator will all be in one vessel. “This reduces the risk of accidents because there are less pipes to break,” says Reyes, the company’s cofounder. The technology also uses the core’s heat to drive the coolant flow, eliminating the need for coolant pumps and moving parts that could fail. Each reactor will be self-contained, with multiple reactors sharing a cooling pool.

If a traditional nuclear reactor’s cooling water is lost, its fission can increase, running away until it explodes, as happened in 1986 at Chernobyl in Ukraine. Even after a reactor is turned off, heat from the radioactive decay of fission can melt cores, as occurred in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, when a tsunami damaged the generators pumping water through the shut-down reactors. That’s why NuScale engineers have also built relief valves on the reactor vessel, which open when power is lost and release steam into the vessel, where it condenses, recirculates, and provides cooling. Without the need for pumps, Reyes says, “Even under worst case scenarios, where we lose all off-site power, the reactor will safely automatically shut down and remain cool for an unlimited time.” He adds, “This is the first time that’s been done” for commercial nuclear power.

In 2015, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a utility that provides power throughout six states in the West, agreed to build the first NuScale reactor. With financial support from the Department of Energy, the utility has selected a site within the department’s Idaho National Laboratory, near Idaho Falls, Idaho. “The process is very long, very tedious, and very expensive,” says Ross Snuggerud, NuScale’s chief of engineering operations. “There’s a $1.4 billion barrier to getting the design approved that the government’s created.” Still, Reyes says the company plans to have the reactors operational by 2027.

In Derby, England, the Rolls-Royce Consortium is working on another SMR design — this one for a 440-megawatt reactor, slightly outside the range usually considered small, although Rolls-Royce believes it is the “sweet spot” for achieving economies of scale. The consortium plans to deploy its SMRs on former industrial sites, perhaps even on the grounds of shuttered large-scale nuclear power stations. The design is still in early phases, with Rolls-Royce saying that operation of its reactor is at least a decade away. To date, Rolls-Royce has received £18 million from the British government, and is requesting £200 million more.

Despite the financial and regulatory hurdles, both Rolls-Royce and NuScale anticipate a large market, including selling reactors to African and South American countries, where less robust grid systems might not support the energy load of traditional large-scale reactors. Even in developed countries, SMRs might provide the ability to generate electricity in new places. Canada, for instance, recently announced a plan to explore potential SMR sites in remote locations in the far North that currently rely on diesel to generate electricity.

Another way to make SMRs profitable may be to use them not just to generate electricity for the grid, but to develop advanced reactors that can also produce hydrogen or desalinate water. NuScale says that using excess energy for desalination may be a lucrative market, helping offset desalination’s comparatively high electricity costs.

SMR opponents maintain that no matter the size, nuclear power has unresolved cost and safety concerns. To realize savings through mass manufacturing, there would need to be a standardized SMR design, critics say; currently, there are dozens. And SMRs would also have to be built in large quantities. But for a company to invest in making reactors and their components, it would need a reliable market, and many private investors are still wary of the new technology. Andrew Storer, CEO of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Center, which forecasts markets for nuclear power manufacturers, says, as far far as supply chain companies go, “We’re advising people, ‘Don’t invest yet.’”

Recent experience supports skepticism. Westinghouse worked on an SMR design for a decade before giving up in 2014. Massachusetts-based Transatomic Power, a nuclear technology firm, walked away from a molten salt SMR in 2018, and despite an $111 million dollar infusion from the U.S. government, a SMR design from Babcock &Wilcox, an advanced energy developer, folded in 2017. While the Russians have managed to get their state-funded SMR floating, its construction costs ran over estimates by four times, and its energy will cost about four times more than current U.S. nuclear costs.

Eventually, every nuclear conversation turns to radioactive waste and safety. SMRs using a pressurized water reactor will continue to generate highly radioactive spent fuel, yet no country has a permanent solution for how to safely store this kind of waste. The U.S. has been looking for a place to put a permanent nuclear waste repository since 1982; in the meantime, 70 percent of the United States’ spent fuel is sitting in cooling pools, many of which are aging and vulnerable, and often in quantities much larger than what is considered safe.

Because NuScale hopes to replace coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and the UK, perhaps even building on the grounds of shuttered power plant sites in more populated areas, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering eliminating some standard safety measures, including a requirement for an emergency evacuation zone and the need for backup power. NuScale says that because SMRs contain smaller quantities of radioactive materials and can be sited underground, their risks are lower and they require less security staff.

This has raised sharp criticism from nuclear experts. Even the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has generally supported nuclear power, says, “It would be irresponsible for the NRC to reduce safety and security requirements for any reactor of any size.”

The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the need for new, carbon-free energy is urgent.

Nuclear proponents have argued net-zero emissions will be impossible to achieve fast enough without relying on nuclear energy. But there’s no consensus in energy policy that this is true: Renewable energy has expanded faster than expected, and as energy storage technology continues to improve, its potential is only growing.

“What really needs to happen at this point is for there to be competition among low-carbon energy sources, to see who can deliver the most benefit for carbon reduction at the least cost,” says Peter Bradford, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “I don’t have a problem with the government underwriting research in a different energy technology, as long as the research is proportional to the promise it has shown.”

March 7th cards

Traditional green tech isn’t enough to slow global warming. Only adding nuclear power can stop the impending climate disaster

Dan B. Poneman, 3-3-2020, “The real trade-offs attached to going green with nuclear energy,” Harvard Gazette, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/03/the-trade-offs-attached-to-going-green-with-nuclear-energy/

Must we go nuclear to go green? What will be the trade-offs — and the risks — if we do? These were the central questions Monday night, as former Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz and former Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan B. Poneman ’78, J.D. ’84, discussed “Nuclear Energy: Climate and the Bomb” at an Institute of Politics Forum at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. In a wide-ranging conversation, moderated by Meghan O’Sullivan, Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, viability and safety as well as expedience and practicality were all on the table.

“We’ve had good news on the cost of renewable energy,” said O’Sullivan in her introduction. “But there’s a growing realization that the nature and the scope of the crisis demands more.”

Tackling the topic first, Moniz agreed. “Even in the four-plus years since [the global] Paris [Agreement on climate],” he said, “the challenge has been recognized as much greater” than was once thought. Growing evidence, he said, has shown that slowing carbon emissions will not suffice to halt climate change. “We see increasingly now it’s got to be net zero emissions,” which requires carbon removal as well.

Current renewable energy technology is simply not up to the task, both speakers agreed. Although Moniz cited improvements in batteries to store energy from renewables, he noted that they currently only focus on hours of storage. With energy sources like solar or wind varying drastically from summer to winter and hydroelectric potentially vulnerable to drought, “you’d better figure out seasonal storage,” he said

Nuclear, which is carbon-neutral, is one answer. “Is it essential? No,” said Moniz. “I can think of other ways around it. But does nuclear help a solution enormously? Yes.”

“You can take all the wind and all the solar you want, and it’s not going to solve the problem.”

— Dan B. Poneman

Poneman made the point more forcefully. “You can take all the wind and all the solar you want, and it’s not going to solve the problem,” he said. “We’ve got to get out of the zero-sum game where renewables push out nuclear.”

With public concerns about safety, particularly in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, both acknowledged that security and reliability are essential to winning public support. However, said Poneman, new technologies may show a way forward. He cited new reactor designs that use safer substances such as molten salts, liquid metals, or gas as coolants and liquid fuels that expand if they overheat, “passively shutting themselves down.” Additional safety features like off-site electricity would specifically avoid what happened in Japan, he said.

Such new reactors would likely be smaller and modular, constructed in manufacturing facilities as opposed to being built on site. Such construction would assure quality, said Moniz. However, both explained, they would need to prove their commercial viability to move forward. This, said, Poneman, would require a “public-private partnership.”

“We’ve got to be pragmatic and build coalitions,” added Moniz. “We’ve got to get away from the rigidity of ‘I’ve got the answer.’”

The stakes, both stressed, are high, in part because any talk about nuclear energy not only takes into consideration global safety, but also touches on the possibility that the enrichment process used for nuclear fuels can be a cover for additional enrichment to produce weapons. The ideal, said Moniz, would be for all countries seeking assistance in developing nuclear power programs to enter agreements like the one between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates, in which the UAE agreed never to seek to enrich its own fuel.

However, both noted this kind of treaty is not likely. Because the U.S. is no longer the sole provider of nuclear reactors or fuel, “we cannot call the shots,” said Poneman. “If we say no, they can go to Korea or France or Russia or China.”

That does not mean there is no international consensus, said Moniz. Even with the U.S. pulling out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal, he said, Tehran is still allowing verification by IAEA inspectors. “Iran recognizes that the foundation of the international community having confidence that they are not doing a weapons program relies on them staying with that,” he said. [The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Iran is dramatically ramping up production of enriched uranium after the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to abandon the accord, the IAEA confirmed in a report that also criticized Tehran for blocking access to suspected nuclear sites.]

Perhaps a way forward, Moniz suggested, would be to urge other advanced nuclear powers to adopt the “gold standard” of the U.S.-UAE agreement and, when that isn’t feasible, focus on verification. Enforcing these standards, said Poneman, calls for the U.S. to reconsider nuclear as a global reality, and to resume our role in its development. “If you care about nuclear safety and you care about nuclear security, you have to want U.S. leadership,” he said.

March 6th Cards

SMR’s can be built with the benefits of the large reactors for less cost, no pollution of fossil fuels, and quickly

Daniel Cooper, 3-5-2020, “The case for making tiny nuclear reactors,” Engadget, https://www.engadget.com/2020/03/05/ge-small-modular-nuclear-reactor/

In the US, the electricity powering your home was probably generated by burning natural gas, a fossil fuel. As coal becomes unfeasible, renewables work toward scale and nuclear is benched, gas remains the go-to for power companies. Industry analysts talk about gas as the “bridge,” the fuel we can burn now to buy us time to develop our carbon-free future.

Gas plants are cheap to build and run, have a smaller emissions footprint than coal and many see them as a safe bet, both economically and safety-wise. But General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy has started the ball rolling on an alternative that would cost the same as a gas plant, at around $2,000/kW, but not use gas. Instead, it would use a small nuclear reactor that, the company claims, is safe, cheap and, crucially, quick to build.

As we explained last year, nuclear power isn’t without its problems — or critics — but it does offer large volumes of base-load power with no carbon emissions. And time is running out for us to dramatically cut carbon emissions or face environmental disaster. That means, after decades of hostility, some lawmakers are coming around to the idea of a revival.

GEH’s solution is the BWRX-300, a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) the company says has all of the benefits of nuclear with fewer downsides. By making it cost-competitive as a gas plant, GEH hopes that power companies will compare the two and pick its offering. After all, natural gas still releases carbon into the atmosphere, and there’s a desperate need to reduce emissions. Even after the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement, the rest of the world still has an eye on its targets.

The BWRX-300 isn’t a new reactor, as such, more a shrunken-down version of GEH’s existing Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). It has the same safety features as its bigger sibling, including the ability to passively cool itself for up to seven days without power, so the sort of coolant-loss incidents that affected Fukushima shouldn’t happen here.

Rather than occupying a space measured in square miles, an SMR could sit on an area of less than two acres. Christer Dahlgren, principal engineer on the project, said that the reactor itself could sit on the grass field of a soccer pitch. But the “Small” in its name doesn’t relate to its footprint, but how much power it generates.

To be “small,” an SMR’s output must be less than 300 MW, which is actually a benefit here. After all, most nuclear power plants have to get bigger to justify their ballooning budgets, especially in the West. Not to mention power-hungry industrial businesses could theoretically build their own reactor where needed.

Because SMRs are modular, their components could be prefabricated at a factory and shipped to the site for assembly. Not only would that speed up construction but make it possible to mass-produce components for better economies of scale. And by building each reactor in sequence, each module would make up a component for a bigger power station.

Dahlgren said that two things cause typical reactor costs to spiral, the first is concrete, which takes a long time to cure. Pouring a concrete pad for a single-car garage takes around 28 days to cure in ideal weather. Most nuclear plants require orders of magnitude more, so construction workers hang around while nature to take its course.

Jon Ball, GEH’s EVP of Nuclear Products said it was this problem that sent GEH back to the drawing board. “The number one driver in projects going over budget and over schedule is concrete, and issues with concrete.” So the BWRX-300’s design uses only a fraction of the concrete and steel to avoid these issues.

Concrete’s slow curing time often affects the other issue around financing projects like this: interest. For every day the hardware isn’t working, the project incurs fees that you’ll eventually have to return to your backers. The longer it takes to build a reactor, the longer you’ll be paying back the people writing the checks.

In the UK, the Heysham 2 station took nine years to build, while construction of Hinkley Point C started in late 2017 and is expected to finish in 2025. Even the most efficient of nuclear builds can take up to four years to complete, like Reactor 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. Dahlgren says that GEH expects its first SMR to take just 30 months, or 2.5 years to build.

Dahlgren pointed to the benefits of this short construction time: You could have a larger plant built in sections. “You can complete that [first] plant,” he explained, “and it starts paying for itself,” while you build the second, third and so on.

Concrete containment chambers are crucial in nuclear reactors — the reason Chernobyl was such a disaster was that it didn’t have one. Those in SMRs are different from other reactors, since GEH is using a metal containment cylinder surrounded by (less) concrete. Another change is that the reactors themselves will be sunk into pill-shaped shafts up to 100 feet deep in the ground. It’s thought that this will help reduce the volume of concrete used, and ensuring greater protection from any “external events,” while maintaining the same level of safety.

There’s one more benefit that Ball says could be crucial to think about in our future — the number of coal plants due to close by 2050. “This plant was sized at 300 MW because it fits in very well,” he said, suggesting that SMRs could be built next to dead coal plants. That would enable the new plants to take advantage of the existing power lines and local infrastructure.

These claims are, for now, just that, so take them with a pinch of salt. Until regulators give their blessing, this is simply an idea, albeit one with enormous backing by a major US corporation. GEH’s Ball says that the path to regulatory glory will be easy because the BWRX-300 is simply a shrunk-down version of its existing reactor. If officials agree, the first plant in the US could be operational as early as 2027.

GEH is also working with a number of companies across the world to explore the potential of SMRs. They include a Czech-owned power company, Ĉez, and Synthos, a Polish manufacturer of synthetic chemicals. The former is to bolster its energy generation for grid use, and the latter is interested in powering its operations with its own plant.

For all of the SMR’s innovations, it still has the same fundamental issues as other nuclear reactors. There’s the risk of an accident, albeit a small one, and how it deals with waste products. Nuclear waste is highly radioactive, toxic to humans and dangerous in the wrong hands, and there are still questions about safe, long-term storage.

Anti-nuclear campaigners believe the risks from nuclear are too great to justify any further investment. Their argument is that renewable energy from solar, wind and others, coupled with improvements in energy efficiency, will provide more than we need. But that doesn’t necessarily factor in the world’s ever-increasing hunger for power, especially for all the new electrified products.

GEH isn’t the only company working on an SMR: The Portland-based NuScale is further along in the regulatory process. At the end of last year, it announced it had reached the fourth stage of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s extensive certification process. If successful, it could have approval as early as the end of this year, with construction starting not long afterward.

We won’t know how successful SMRs can be until we start to see these systems actually built. That could be a few years away, but if the technology’s backers can demonstrate it can hit its cost and construction targets, things could change, dramatically.

March 5th Cards

Next generation of nuclear reactors coming now. Huge opportunity for new power production

Sci Tech Daily, 3-5-2020, “Advanced Reactor Technologies to Accelerate the Next Generation of Nuclear Power,” SciTechDaily, https://scitechdaily.com/advanced-reactor-technologies-to-accelerate-the-next-generation-of-nuclear-power/

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Tennessee Valley Authority have signed a memorandum of understanding to evaluate a new generation of flexible, cost-effective advanced nuclear reactors.

Under the agreement, ORNL and TVA will collaborate on ways to improve the economic feasibility of potentially licensing, building, operating and maintaining one or more advanced nuclear reactors, such as a small modular reactor, at TVA’s 935-acre Clinch River site in East Tennessee. Such advanced reactors offer the potential of lower-cost carbon-free energy through reduced construction times and greater operational flexibility. TVA has not made a decision to build and would first need approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a specific design.

The research performed at ORNL through DOE’s national programs has enabled multiple utilities to innovate and improve power generation through the development and use of new materials, processes and state-of-the-art technologies.

“We are combining our world-leading research capabilities and TVA’s operating expertise to accelerate the next generation of cost-effective nuclear power,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “Nuclear has long been a key component of the U.S. energy portfolio, and growing demand for emission-free electricity requires that we innovate to ensure safe, affordable and efficient nuclear power for generations to come.”

“Nuclear generation plays an important role in providing clean, reliable power at TVA,” TVA President & CEO Jeff Lyash said. “This partnership with ORNL supports TVA’s mission for innovation and will allow us to better explore potential future nuclear technologies that benefit the 10 million people across seven states and help lead nuclear energy’s future in the United States.” 

The partnership will take advantage of ORNL’s scientific expertise and its unique facilities including the High Flux Isotope Reactor, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

This new effort builds on decades of collaboration between TVA and ORNL, leveraging nuclear capabilities and assets from both organizations, including a 2016 effort using modeling tools developed at ORNL to predict the first six months of operations of TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power plant. Specific areas of importance that will be evaluated by the participants of the MOU include, but are not limited to:

 “As a pioneer in nuclear energy and home of the world’s first continuously operating reactor, ORNL continues its commitment to innovation in nuclear science and technology,” said Alan Icenhour, associate laboratory director for Nuclear Science and Engineering at ORNL. “We look forward to partnering with TVA and the potential for introducing a new nuclear energy era.”

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.