• Nuclear wasteStudying the basic science of nuclear waste

    Approximately 300 million liters of highly radioactive wastes are stored in hundreds of underground tanks at the Hanford Site in Washington and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. These wastes are extremely complicated mixtures of salts and sludges that have been exposed to ionizing radiation for decades. Their chemistry is dominated by interactions at solid-liquid interfaces that are poorly understood. A more thorough understanding of the chemistry of radioactive waste is key to treating this unwanted byproduct of winning the Second World War and the cold war.

  • Nuclear powerAs nuclear power plants close, states need to bet big on energy storage

    By Eric Daniel Fournier and Alex Ricklefs

    Nuclear power plants saw their heyday in the early 1970s and were praised for their ability to produce large amounts of electricity at a constant rate without the use of fossil fuels. We are now observing a trend whereby long-running nuclear power plants are shutting down, and of utilities moving toward renewable electricity generation, such as solar and wind. Can utilities supply electricity around the clock using these alternative generation sources? And crucially, can energy storage technologies provide the power on demand that traditional generators have done? It is clear that energy storage is the major limitation to achieving a carbon-free electricity grid. Careful planning is needed to ensure that energy storage systems are installed to take over the baseline load duties currently held by natural gas and nuclear power, as renewables and energy efficiency may not be able to carry the burden.

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  • Nuclear powerFukushima and the oceans: What do we know, five years on?

    A major international review of the state of the oceans five years after the Fukushima disaster shows that radiation levels are decreasing rapidly except in the harbor area close to the nuclear plant itself where ongoing releases remain a concern. At the same time, the review’s lead author expresses concern at the lack of ongoing support to continue the radiation assessment, which he says is vital to understand how the risks are changing.

  • Nuclear powerDiablo Canyon nuclear plant to be shut down, replaced by renewables, efficiency, storage

    An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth (FOE), and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency, and energy storage resources. FOE says the agreement provides a blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy.

  • Nuclear powerU.S. court asked to block restart of aging, damaged Indian Point nuclear reactor

    Friends of the Earth and other environmental organizations have filed an emergency petition with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit asking that the court compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to prevent Entergy from restarting an aging Indian Point nuclear reactor which was found to have unprecedented parts failure in its critical core cooling system. Entergy, the owner and operator of Indian Point, has repeatedly stated that it intends to start the reactor within days. The Indian Point reactors’ licenses expired in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and the plant is operating beyond its 40-year life span while the NRC considers whether to extend the license for an additional twenty years.

  • Nuclear powerNew material promise to make nuclear fuel recycling cheaper, cleaner

    Researchers are investigating a new material that might help in nuclear fuel recycling and waste reduction by capturing certain gases released during reprocessing. Conventional technologies to remove these radioactive gases operate at extremely low, energy-intensive temperatures. By working at ambient temperature, the new material has the potential to save energy, make reprocessing cleaner and less expensive. The reclaimed materials can also be reused commercially.

  • Nuclear accidentsNumber of thyroid cancers in Belgian children rises post-Chernobyl

    Thyroid cancer is usually rare among children, with less than one new case per million diagnosed each year. Exposure in Belgium to radioactive fallout from the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident may have increased the incidence of thyroid cancer in those exposed as children.

  • Nuclear powerNRC asked to shut down Indian Point nuclear plant

    Located twenty-six miles from New York City, in the right weather conditions a radiation release at Indian Point nuclear power plant could reach Times Square in as little as ninety minutes, making evacuation of New York City impossible and rendering the area uninhabitable for a long time. Critics of the agiing plant say that the disappearance and disintegration of more than 1 in 4 critical bolts holding the Indian Point nuclear reactor cooling system together is far more serious than owner, Entergy, admits.

  • Nuclear accidentsFukushima’s lesson: Better real-time monitoring of spent fuel pools is a must

    The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident should serve as a wake-up call to nuclear plant operators and regulators on the critical importance of measuring, maintaining, and restoring cooling in spent fuel pools during severe accidents and terrorist attacks, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

  • Nuclear accidentsDecommissioning Fukushima: Mapping boron distribution in molten debris

    Decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant just got one step closer. Japanese researchers have mapped the distribution of boron compounds in a model control rod, paving the way for determining re-criticality risk within the reactor.

  • Nuclear powerTurbulent mixing research makes advanced thermal reactors safer

    Researchers are working to make advanced thermal reactors safer by establishing trusted uncertainty guidelines regarding advanced reactor turbulent mixing processes. “The overall goal of this project is the efficient management of heat transfer and being able to predict what’s going to happen in accident scenarios from a thermal hydraulics standpoint,” one researcher said. “A lot of what I’m doing in this research is focused on establishing uncertainty in the predictive tools that we have for measuring those accident scenarios.”

  • ChernobylWhat we learned from Chernobyl about how radiation affects our bodies

    By Ausrele Kesminiene

    The world has never seen a nuclear accident as severe as the one that unfolded when a reactor exploded in Chernobyl on 26 April 1986, sending vast amounts of radiation into the skies around Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. The planet had experienced massive releases like this before, in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. But Chernobyl-related radiation exposure had a more protracted character. It was the first time in history that such a large population, particularly at a very young age, was exposed to radioactive isotopes, namely iodine-131 and cesium-137, not just through direct exposure, but through eating contaminated food as well.

  • ChernobylMore money for nuclear safety pledged on Chernobyl 30th anniversary

    The EU and other global donors have pledged an additional $99 million to help secure the Chernobyl power plant, as ceremonies in the Ukraine mark thirty years since the disaster. The money will be used to construct a new spent nuclear waste storage facility, adding to the €2 billion already donated to helping clean up and secure the Chernobyl site. A new giant $1.7 billion steel structure will be placed over the nuclear reactor this year to prevent further radioactive leaks. The old concrete structure was put together after the meltdown, but experts say it is not leak-proof and that, in any event, it is beginning to show its age.

  • ChernobylThe legacy of Chernobyl -- 30 years on

    By Awadhesh Jha

    The 26 April 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. For many, especially those born since 1986, it is a word they know without appreciating the full significance of what happened on that day. For others, it was a life changing catastrophe which resulted in largest release of radioactivity in the history of nuclear energy.

  • Nuclear wasteDealing with irradiated nuclear graphite

    Since the beginning of the nuclear power industry, a large number of channel uranium-graphite nuclear power reactors was built across the world. To date, they all are on the output stage of the operation or decommissioning preparation. Approximately 250,000 tons of irradiated graphite are accumulated in the world, including ~ 60,000 tons in Russia. Due to the specificity of irradiated graphite, the treatment of this type of radioactive waste has not been determined yet.