• Energy SecurityFrance Sets to Invest in Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

    By Lisa Louis

    France plans to invest in small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). Some experts question whether this is ecologically and economically sensible, but it may be that France’s interests in SMRs is as much about geopolitical strategy as it is about energy.

  • Nuclear wasteFuture Solutions for Spent Nuclear Fuel

    Nuclear technology has been used in the United States for decades for national defense, research and development, and carbon-free electric power generation. Nuclear power is a key element of the U.S. response to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, nuclear energy, as an essential form of electricity production, generates radioactive waste in the form of spent nuclear fuel. Spent nuclear fuel must be handled, stored, and ultimately disposed of in a manner that won’t harm the environment.

  • Nuclear safetyExtending Nuclear Power Accident Code for Advanced Reactor Designs

    Nuclear power is a significant source of steady carbon-neutral electricity, making the design and construction of new and next-generation nuclear reactors critical for achieving the U.S.’s green energy goals. A number of new nuclear reactor designs, such as small modular reactors and non-light water reactors, have been developed over the past 10 to 15 years.Sandia Lab researchers have been expanding their severe accident modeling computer code, called Melcor, to work with different reactor geometries, fuel types and coolant systems.

  • Radiation detectionGPS-Carrying Rat Snakes Monitor Radiation at Fukushima

    Scientists found a new way to keep track of radiation level at the Fukushima Exclusion Zone: rat snakes, which are common in Japan. The snakes’ limited movement and close contact with contaminated soil are key factors in their ability to reflect the varying levels of contamination in the zone.

  • Nuclear powerSmall Modular Reactors May Mitigate Climate Change

    By Ranjit Devraj

    The consequences of carbon emissions from the large-scale burning of fossil fuels are all around us, from relentless wildfires to scorching heatwaves to devastating floods to destructive megadroughts. There is renewed interest in nuclear energy, specifically in the new generation of small modular reactors.

  • Nuclear wasteStudying Spent-Fuel Canister to Support Long-Term Storage

    Nuclear waste is stored in more than sixty dry-cask storage sites in thirty-four states. These facilities store the majority of the more than 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in the United States, including nearly 80,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.

  • Nuclear powerA First: 3D Printed Nuclear Reactor Components Now Installed at a Nuclear Plant

    3D-printed fuel assembly brackets have been installed and are now under routine operating conditions at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Unit 2 in Athens, Alabama.

  • Nuclear powerThe U.S. Army Tried Portable Nuclear Power at Remote Bases 60 Years Ago – It Didn’t Go Well

    By Paul Bierman

    The U.S. military’s Camp Century was a series of tunnels built into the Greenland ice sheet and used for both military research and scientific projects. The military boasted that the nuclear reactor there, known as the PM-2A, needed just 44 pounds of uranium to replace a million or more gallons of diesel fuel. Heat from the reactor ran lights and equipment and allowed the 200 or so men at the camp as many hot showers as they wanted in that brutally cold environment. The PM-2A was the third child in a family of eight Army reactors, several of them experiments in portable nuclear power.

  • Energy securityWhy “Nuclear Batteries” Offer a New Approach to Carbon-Free Energy

    By David L. Chandler

    Much as large, expensive, and centralized computers gave way to the widely distributed PCs of today, a new generation of relatively tiny and inexpensive factory-built reactors, designed for autonomous plug-and-play operation similar to plugging in an oversized battery, is on the horizon. These microreactors, trucked to usage sites, could be a safe, efficient option for decarbonizing electricity systems.

  • Nuclear powerSmall Modular Reactors Competitive in Washington’s Clean Energy Future

    As the Clean Energy Transformation Act drives Washington state toward carbon-free electricity, a new energy landscape is taking shape. Alongside renewable energy sources, a new report finds small modular reactors are poised to play an integral role in the state’s emerging clean energy future.

  • Radiological threatsUse of Radioactive Materials in Commercial Applications Has Increased

    The use of high-risk radioactive materials in medical, research, and commercial applications has increased by about 30 percent in the U.S. in the last 12 years, and the government should improve security, tracking, and accountability to reduce health and security risks — while also supporting the development of nonradioactive alternatives to replace them — says a new report.

  • Nuclear powerImproving the Safety of Next-Generation Reactors

    On 11 March 2011, in response to a massive earthquake, the nuclear reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi automatically shut down, as designed. The emergency systems, which would have helped maintain the necessary cooling of the core, were destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. Because the reactor could no longer cool itself, the core overheated, resulting in a severe nuclear meltdown. Since then, reactors have improved exponentially in terms of safety, sustainability and efficiency. Unlike the light-water reactors at Fukushima, which had liquid coolant and uranium fuel, the current generation of reactors has a variety of coolant options, including molten-salt mixtures, supercritical water and even gases like helium.

  • Nuclear powerNuclear Micro-Reactors

    The idea of a nuclear power plant today evokes images of large cooling towers and expansive, warehouse-size buildings. Such facilities generate about a fifth of electricity in the United States without emitting greenhouse gases. A different picture of nuclear energy is emerging, however, in the form of micro-reactors that could fit on the back of a truck or inside a rocket to space. The promise of these micro-reactors is to provide the same reliable, zero-carbon power in remote settings or to support electrical power grid recovery.

  • Nuclear threatsU.S. Should Make Monitoring and Detecting Nuclear Threats a Higher National Priority

    To address current and evolving nuclear threats, the U.S. needs a higher prioritized and more integrated program for monitoring, detecting, and verifying nuclear test explosions, nuclear weapon stockpiles, and the production of fissile material, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences.

  • Nuclear storageStrengthening Nuclear Storage Research

    Today, nuclear power utilities store over 80,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel across the nation. Since the fuel will remain in dry storage longer than was expected, scientists are working to better understand exactly how the fuel behaves under extended storage conditions, how the canisters age, and the forces the two would undergo when shipped and stored for long periods.