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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Obama Administration announces actions to sustain and advance nuclear energy in US

November 07, 2015

Although overshadowed by the announcement on denial of a Presidential Permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline (earlier post), on Friday, the Obama administration also on Friday announced and highlighted a number of actions to sustain and advance nuclear energy in the US.

In 2014, nuclear power generated about 60% of carbon-free electricity in the United States, and continues to play a major role in efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector. According to the Administration, the continued development of new and advanced nuclear technologies along with support for currently operating nuclear power plants is an important component of the country’s clean energy strategy.

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Joint IEA-NEA report details plunge in costs of renewable electricity; nuclear competitive with other baseload power sources

August 31, 2015

2010 and 2015 LCOE ranges for solar and wind technologies. Source: IEA/NEA. Click to enlarge.

The cost of producing electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar has been falling for several years. A new report, a joint project by the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency, provides in detail the contrasting costs for different power generation technologies around the world and shows that renewable sources can produce electricity at close to or even below the cost of new fossil fuel-based power stations, depending upon conditions such as resources and appropriate market and regulatory frameworks.

The report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity: 2015 Edition, also shows that new nuclear power plants generate electricity more cheaply than other established “baseload” sources—mainly coal- and gas-fired power plants—over the full lifetime of facilities when financing costs are relatively low.

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MIT team proposes ARC fusion reactor: affordable, robust, compact

August 10, 2015

Advances in magnet technology have enabled researchers at MIT to propose a new design for a practical compact tokamak fusion reactor that might be realized in as little as a decade: the ARC (affordable, robust, compact) reactor. The stronger magnetic field makes it possible to produce the required magnetic confinement of the superhot plasma—the working material of a fusion reaction—but in a much smaller device than those previously envisioned.

The reduction in size, in turn, makes the whole system less expensive and faster to build, and also allows for some ingenious new features in the power plant design. The proposed tokamak (donut-shaped) reactor is designed to have 500 MW fusion power at 3.3 m major radius and is described in a paper in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design.

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DOE to award up to $80M to two advanced nuclear reactor projects

August 01, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001313) to support the research, development, and demonstration of advanced nuclear reactor concepts. The announcement represents an early step in increasing investment in nuclear advanced reactor technologies, the DOE said.

DOE will partner with industry to fund up to two awards of approximately $6.0 million each in FY 2015. The Energy Department will invest up to $3.6 million in each project, with a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) providing up to an additional $2.4 million. Recipients will be required to invest $1.5 million as part of the cost share. The funding opportunity allows for multiple-year funding for up to two awards with a total of $40 million in DOE cost share per award.

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ORNL and Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics in CRADA for development of fluoride salt-cooled high-temp reactors

March 19, 2015

Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) are engaged in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) focused on accelerating scientific understanding and technical development of salt-cooled reactors, specifically fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors (FHRs). The project will draw on ORNL’s expertise in fuels, materials, instrumentation and controls, design concepts, and modeling and simulation for advanced reactors, as well as the lab’s experience in the design, construction and operation of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, the only molten salt reactor ever built. (Design began in 1960, construction started early in 1962. The 7.4 MWth test reactor operated successfully from 1965 to 1969.)

Representatives from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) are meeting at ORNL this week; SINAP staff members will describe their plans for building the first salt-cooled test reactor, and the two sides will begin planning the next steps in the shared research project.

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