Radiation-detecting drone launched; JV formed to mine cryptocurrencies with nuclear

Our pick of the latest nuclear power news you need to know.

Elios 2 RAD (Source: Flyability)

Flyability, a private drone company based in Switzerland with offices in the United States and China, has launched an indoor drone equipped with a radiation sensor specifically designed to make inspections at nuclear power stations, the company said.

Its predecessor already carried a camera with visual and thermal sensors, while the Elios 2 RAD comes equipped with an energy Geiger-Muller detector and can detect radiation in flight through Flyability’s piloting application.

Drones, or Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs), are becoming more sophisticated with higher-resolution imaging, increased autonomy, longer battery life, and lower prices, making them an essential piece of kit for operation and maintenance work in and around nuclear power stations as operators look to keep inspectors away from dangerous, irradiated areas.

“The Elios 2 RAD has the potential to significantly reduce the need for inspectors to be exposed to harmful radiation or to the hazards of confined space entry for the purposes of conducting routine inspections,” said CEO of Flyability Patrick Thévoz.

According to Flyability, over 80% of U.S. nuclear operators are already using the company’s indoor drones for visual inspections. By adding the radiation counter, operators will also be able to collect actionable, high quality does data.

Talen joint venture to mine cryptocurrency using nuclear

Talen Energy Corporation has announced a joint venture with TeraWulf, a U.S.-based bitcoin mining company, to develop up to 300 MW of energy to power its bitcoin mining venture, the company said in a statement.

The joint venture, dubbed Nautilus Cryptomine, will begin by building a 180 MW bitcoin mining facility on Talen’s digital infrastructure campus adjacent to its Susquehanna nuclear power station in Berwick, Pennsylvania.

Nautilus Cryptomine will be powered via a direct interconnection to Susquehanna, the company said.

The companies will invest around $350-400 million in phase 1 of its bitcoin mining operation which is expected to begin mid-year 2022.

Creating new cryptocurrency involves the use of special software that solves increasingly complex mathematical equations. Solving these puzzles rewards the “miners” with new cryptocurrency, but the complexity of the equations increases as the rarity of the currency rises.

As the equation complexity rises, participating computers must work harder to solve them, an increasingly energy intensive process.

According to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, mining for Bitcoin consumes some 80.7 terawatt-hours (TWh) annually (as of early-August) causing concern surrounding increasing emissions as “miners” ramp up operations to find more cryptocurrency.

US legislators call for Byron, Dresden NPPs to be saved

A group of Republican senators and representatives issued a joint statement Aug. 2 calling for legislative leaders to reconvene the Illinois General Assembly as soon as possible to pass legislation to keep Exelon nuclear plants Byron and Dresden online.

The statement, issued by Deputy Senate Republican Leader Sue Rezin (R-Morris) and State Senator Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) along with Deputy House Republican Leader Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), and House Republican Conference Chair Leader David Welter (R-Morris) called for swift action to preserve the state’s energy infrastructure.

“If action is not taken soon, tens of thousands of workers will lose their livelihoods, millions of utility customers across Illinois will begin paying higher energy costs, and we will all suffer an immediate environmental impact equivalent to putting 4.4 million additional cars on the road, emitting carbon and other harmful sources of air pollution,” the statement said.

Low power prices and market rules that give fossil fuel power plants an unfair advantage prompted Exelon to announce in 2019 the closure of the two-unit Byron and Dresden plants later this year while nuclear plants Braidwood and LaSalle are also at risk of premature retirement, the utility has said.

Byron’s and Dresden’s four reactors have a combined capacity of 4.1 GW and are scheduled to be closed later this year.

Georgia Power revises schedule, cost for Vogtle units

Georgia Power has extended its operating schedule for its Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear expansion project and raised the expected cost of the project due to “productivity challenges and additional time for testing and quality assurance,” it said in a statement.

The company currently projects Unit 3 to be in service in the second quarter of 2022 and Unit 4 in the first quarter of 2023, three to four months later than originally forecast.

The company, which has previously blamed rising costs on the effects of COVID-19 after a number of its workers fell ill, also revised the total project capital cost to reflect the new scheduled upwards by $460 million.

The two reactors were originally projected to cost $14 billion and were expected to start generating power by 2016 and 2017. However, repeated delays and complications, including the main contractor filing for bankruptcy in 2017, have sent costs spiraling to more than an estimated $26 billion.

Georgia Power’s share of the total project capital cost forecast is now $9.2 billion, though the company noted that it has not sought approval of any capital costs above the $7.3 billion previously approved, the company said.

“We knew building the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years would be challenging. The project has endured extraordinary circumstances during construction, including the pandemic as the most recent. Through these challenges, we have learned a great deal,” Chairman and CEO of Georgia Power Chris Womack said in the statement.

By Reuters Events Nuclear