• Nuclear powerWith plutonium-238 sample, ORNL restores U.S. capability dormant for nearly thirty years

    With the production of fifty grams of plutonium-238, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have restored a U.S. capability dormant for nearly thirty years and set the course to provide power for NASA and other missions. There are currently only thirty-five kilograms, or about seventy-seven pounds, of plutonium-238 set aside for NASA missions, and only about half of this supply meets power specifications. This is only sufficient to power two to three proposed NASA missions through the middle of the 2020s.

  • Nuclear powerWith Diablo Canyon’s future unclear, California’s nuclear age may come to an end

    California’s nuclear power age may be coming to an end, as the company which owns the last operating nuclear power plant in the state said it would seek to extend the aging plant’s operational license. The Diablo Canyon plant faces daunting safety, business, and environmental challenges. Thirty years ago it was seen as key to California’s energy future, but worries about earthquakes, concerns about the environment, and cost-attractive energy alternative make Diablo Canyon’s future bleak.

  • Nuclear wasteRock salt serving to store nuclear waste may not be as impermeable as previously thought

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, stores low-level nuclear waste in salt beds beneath the ground. For decades there has been a proposal to build a permanent central repository under Nevada’s Yucca Mountains. This has renewed interest in rock salt as an alternative permanent storage solution for high-level nuclear waste. Researchers found that rock salt, used not only by the United States, but also by Germany, as a subsurface container for radioactive waste, might not be as impermeable as thought, or as capable of isolating nuclear waste from groundwater in the event that a capsule or storage vessel failed.

  • Radiation risksAt the nanoscale, concrete proves effective for nuclear containment

    By Anne Wilson Yu

    One of the main challenges faced by the nuclear industry is the long-term confinement of nuclear waste. Concrete is one of the barrier materials commonly used to contain radionuclides, both in nuclear reactors and nuclear waste-storing facilities. New research shows concrete is a strong choice for the long-term confinement of nuclear waste.

  • Nuclear wasteFinnish company to construct final disposal facility of spent nuclear fuel

    The Finnish government has granted a license to Finnish company Posiva for the construction of a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel. The spent fuel assemblies will be encapsulated and placed in the bedrock at a depth of about 400 meters for permanent disposal. The waste will be stored for around 100,000 years before its level of radioactivity begins to dissipate. “This is the world’s first authorization for the final repository of used nuclear waste,” Finland’s Economy Minister Olli Rehn said.

  • Nuclear powerInspired by cats’ eyes, new camera can look inside nuclear reactors

    Currently 11 percent of electricity worldwide is generated by nuclear reactors. There are 435 reactors in operation with another 71 under construction. Engineers, drawing inspiration from the eyes of cats, have created a new camera that can see radiation coming from nuclear reactors — boosting safety, efficiency, and helping during nuclear disaster emergencies.

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  • Nuclear power safetyDeveloping nuclear cladding to withstand Fukushima-like meltdown conditions

    Like much of the rest of the world, thousands of scientists and engineers watched in March 2011 as Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors exploded. The fuel’s cladding, a zirconium alloy used to contain the fuel and radioactive fission products, reacted with boiling coolant water to form hydrogen gas, which then exploded, resulting in the biggest nuclear power-related disaster since Chernobyl. Challenged by this event, two research teams have made progress in developing fuel claddings that are capable of withstanding the high temperatures resulting from a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA), like that at Fukushima.

  • Nuclear powerCyber vulnerability of civil nuclear facilities underestimated

    The risk of a serious cyberattack on civil nuclear infrastructure is growing, as facilities become ever more reliant on digital systems and make increasing use of commercial off-the-shelf software, according to a new report. The report finds that the trend to digitization, when combined with a lack of executive-level awareness of the risks involved, means that nuclear plant personnel may not realize the full extent of their cyber vulnerability and are thus inadequately prepared to deal with potential attacks.

  • EnergyFusion energy is economically viable: Study

    Fusion energy offers the tantalizing possibility of clean, sustainable, and almost limitless energy.  But can it be an economically viable option? A team of researchers have calculated the cost of building, running, and decommissioning a fusion power station and how this compares to current fission nuclear power plants. They concluded that a fusion power plant could generate electricity at a similar price to a fission plant.

  • Radiation risksAnimals have returned to Chernobyl

    In 1986, after a fire and explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released radioactive particles into the air, thousands of people left the area, never to return. Now, researchers have found that the Chernobyl site looks less like a disaster zone and more like a nature preserve, teeming with elk, roe deer, red deer, wild boar, and wolves. The findings are a reminder of the resilience of wildlife.

  • EnergySmall-scale nuclear fusion may be a new energy source

    Nuclear fusion is a process whereby atomic nuclei melt together and release energy. Because of the low binding energy of the tiny atomic nuclei, energy can be released by combining two small nuclei with a heavier one. Fusion energy may soon be used in small-scale power stations. This means producing environmentally friendly heating and electricity at a low cost from fuel found in water. Both heating generators and generators for electricity could be developed within a few years, according to researchers.

  • FukushimaFukushima disaster was preventable: Study

    The worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown never should have happened, according to a new study. Researchers distilled thousands of pages of government and industry reports and hundreds of news stories, focusing on the run-up to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011. They found that “arrogance and ignorance,” design flaws, regulatory failures, and improper hazard analyses doomed the coastal nuclear power plant even before the tsunami hit.

  • Nuclear fuelSuccessful tests may lead to faster creation of new nuclear fuels

    Idaho National Laboratory recently completed the first successful test of fabrication equipment in the Experimental Fuels Facility (EFF) at INL’s Materials and Fuels Complex. Specifically, they finished the first extrusions of depleted uranium — a process of shaping material by forcing it through a die. The test serves to restore a metallic fuel fabrication capability that has not been used in the United States since the 1980s.

  • Nuclear energyInteractive tool roots discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence

    Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than speculation. Over the last two years, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has developed the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Cost Calculator, an online interface that provides a nuanced look at the economic costs of nuclear power. The calculator provides a simple gateway into the physics-laden universe of nuclear economics. A user can slide more than sixty moving scales to tweak inputs like uranium price or reactor construction time, and then watch the expected price shift.

  • CybersecurityFusion Centers important in promoting cybersecurity

    Fusion centers were created after 9/11 to serve as primary focal points for state, local, federal, tribal, and territorial partners to receive, analyze, and share threat-related information. States can promote cybersecurity and enhance their capabilities by heightening the importance of cybersecurity as a mission of fusion centers, according to a paper released the other day by the National Governors Association (NGA).