Nuclear Energy Development Groups Refresh their Vision
- Nuclear Matters, CASEnergy and NAN have united to form single coalition.
- Third Way updated its advanced reactors advocacy effort.
- X-Energy and Transatomic set their sights on Idaho lab for first of a kind units.
Right now nobody really has any idea how an administration led by Donald Trump will deal with nuclear energy. Prospects for a rational approach are not bright. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has been picked by Trump to head DOE, and subject to Senate confirmation, we’ll find out whether he can follow through on his campaign commitment to abolish it.
First, he has to remember the name of the agency, something he forgot in 2011 on national television (video) in a debate with other rivals for the Republican nomination.,
While these uncertainties are simmering in Washington until sometime after January 20th, there’s plenty of activity right now among advocates and developers of nuclear energy technologies.
Nuclear Matters, CASEnergy and NAN unite to form single coalition
To help sharpen the focus on issues important to the industry, the Nuclear Energy Institute is overseeing a consolidation of three longstanding grass-roots-level advocacy coalitions.
The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy) and the Nuclear Advocacy Network (NAN) have joined the newer Nuclear Matters in a single broad-based coalition that will leverage a diverse community of advocates and promote policies favorable to nuclear energy.
“Our efforts to merge and streamline the industry’s advocacy programs come at a time when the very nature of public communications and government relations is changing,” says Maria Korsnick, NEI’s incoming president and chief executive officer.
CASEnergy has for 10 years advanced the national dialogue on the environmental and financial benefits of nuclear energy, speaking to nontraditional audiences. NAN, meanwhile, was formed in coordination with the American Nuclear Society to rally grass-roots activists in support of nuclear energy at critical times.
These organizations have fielded diverse groups of advocates from labor and business groups, environmental groups and local community members, and nuclear industry employees, providing an invaluable collective voice in the dialogue on the benefits of nuclear energy in a carbon-constrained future.
As it embraces CASEnergy and NAN, the new Nuclear Matters will use new communications tools and techniques to communicate the industry’s policies. The consolidated organization will incorporate the strengths of each group.
These elements include an active grass-roots network, people with nuclear energy expertise and influence, and a strong coalition of pro-nuclear advocates.
This is a significant change for Nuclear Matters. In the past it has focused on influence via the mass media. For instance, it successfully communicated with the editorial board of the Akron Beacon Journal to write a pro-nuclear editorial supporting the continued operation of First Energy’s Davis-Besse power station. That took guts and some very effective explanations because the reactor has been a lightning rod for anti-nuclear ire for a very long time.
The new objectives of the consolidated team are to engage in bold, visual storytelling, access new communities, embrace timely issues, counter negative perceptions, and infuse the power of web and social into an overall communications and advocacy strategy.
“Nuclear plants support our critical infrastructure—providing 24/7 reliable clean energy. We must refresh the appeal of nuclear energy to traditional supporters, while meeting the challenge of engaging new and diverse audiences,” Korsnick says.
To help spread the word that “nuclear matters,” join the effort at www.nuclearmatters.com
Third Way updates its advanced reactors advocacy effort
In June of 2015, Third Way released a report identifying 48 companies and research institutions across the country developing advanced nuclear technology.
For the first time each project and its unique technology was catalogued in a central location to provide a snapshot of this emerging industry. These projects included private companies as well as projects with high commercialization potential that are being conducted and/or housed at universities and national laboratories.
Advanced nuclear has captured quite a bit of attention in Washington since that report came out. In November of 2015, the White House, along with Third Way, hosted a Summit on Nuclear Energy and subsequently announced the launch of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program—aimed at helping nuclear innovation start-ups get greater access to the resources and expertise of the national labs.
Congress has also taken part in supporting the advanced nuclear industry, with bills moving rapidly through both the Senate and House to enhance federal R&D efforts and modernize regulations for advanced reactors.
Advanced nuclear innovators are becoming a regular presence in Washington, testifying before Congress, leading working groups with the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and participating in panels on clean energy policy.
However, as in any nascent industry, most of the pioneering innovators in advanced nuclear won’t make it to the end of the commercialization pipeline. That’s just the nature of innovation. The updated map below reflects the cancellation of several projects that were previously featured.
You can review a summary level updated listing of advanced nuclear reactors on the Third Way web site along with a map of their location.
Nuclear Startups Focus on Idaho Lab for First of a Kind Units
Tranatomic – Last September Leslie Dewan, one of the two principals at Transatomic Power, presented her design at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Dewan said at the time her firm aims to build a prototype at the Idaho National Laboratory which has hosted other advanced test reactors in the past.
This week Steve Smith, the COO at Transatomic, confirmed it in an email to this blog;
“INL is our first choice for building a demonstration facility, because of their history with first-of-a-kind technologies, and we would add that their work on the NuScale front has been an encouraging development in this regard. We don’t have any agreements in place with them at this stage, however.”
X-Energy – When X-Energy won a $40M grant from the Department of Energy last January, it was already benefitting from advanced work on TRISO fuel that had been done at the Idaho National Laboratory. Plus, it didn’t hurt that X-Energy had hired several key technologies from the South African PBMR project to work on the U.S. effort. Here’s a view of how the X-Energy reactor systems are tied together.
The key to X-Energy’s collaboration with Southern Nuclear, also a recipient of a $40M grant from DOE for work on advanced reactors, is TRISO fuel. Southern’s interest in development of a Molten Chloride fast reactor depends on successful development of TRISO fuel elements for the reactor. Like Transatomic, X-Energy has indicated an interest in building its first of a kind unit at the Idaho lab.
A C-Level executive at the lab declined to comment in response to an email inquiry from this blog which suggests no formal agreement is in place to build a reactor there though R&D efforts for fuel development and collaboration through GAIN is ongoing.
GE-Hitachi – But wait, there’s more, Southern Nuclear has also partnered with GE-Hitachi on development of the PRISM reactor which was developed at the Idaho lab at a site now known as the Materials Fuel Complex, but in the day of the Integral Fast Reactor, was Argonne West, an element of the Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago.
Eric Loewen, who leads the PRISM effort, is a veteran of work on the IFR. It’s worth noting that while there are ongoing discussions in the UK to build two PRISM reactors to dispose of surplus plutonium, work proving the principle is based on the IFR’s Idaho heritage. So it should come as no surprise that Southern Nuclear may one day be building a test facility on the Arco desert.
NuScale – And as readers of this blog read here first, NuScale is committed to building its first light water SMR for its customer UAMPS at the Idaho lab and has selected a site that will be included in the UAMPS license application to the NRC for a COL. In May 2016 NuScale announced an updated roadmap to achieve that goal.