Support for nuclear up in the US; DOE awards $22.1 million to nuclear tech

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The Indian Point Energy Center nuclear power plant in Buchanan New York, closed since April 2021. (Source: Reuters/Mike Segar)

Support for nuclear technology as a source of electricity in the United States is at its highest level since 2012, according to a Gallup poll.

The poll was taken March 1-23 of a random sample of 1,009 people living in all 50 states and the district of Columbia.

Fifty-five percent of U.S. adults said they “strongly” or “somewhat” favor the use of nuclear energy, a four-percentage-point increase from a year earlier, the poll noted.

Forty four percent of Americans “strongly” or “somewhat” oppose such use, down from 47% in 2022.

U.S. citizens tend to be more amenable to the use of nuclear energy when oil prices have been high and less open to it when oil prices are low, the study noted.

Public support for the technology hit a high in 2010, a year before the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, at 62%.

Some 25% strongly favor nuclear power use, 30% somewhat favor it, while 22% each strongly and somewhat oppose its usage, the poll showed.

The attitude toward nuclear power is divided among political lines, with 62% of Republican voters, 46% of Democrat voters, and 56% of independents favoring its use to generate electricity.

Democrat support has increased to 46% in 2023 from 39% in 2022, while Republican and Independent support remained steady year on year.

DOE awards grant to advanced nuclear tech

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $22.1 million to 10 industry-led current and advanced nuclear reactor demonstration projects, the DOE said in a statement.

The awards will help advance nuclear technology and ensure nuclear power continues to play a crucial role in President Joe Biden’s emission reduction and climate change goals, the DOE said.  

Two of the projects are aimed at expanding clean hydrogen production with nuclear energy and another is focused on bringing a microreactor design closer to deployment.

Other projects intend to tackle nuclear regulatory hurdles, improve operations of existing reactors, and facilitate new advanced reactor developments, it said.

The projects are funded through the office of Nuclear Energy’s industry funding opportunity announcement (iFOA) which, since 2018, has invested more than $230 million into 48 projects from 31 different companies across 18 states.

To date, 28 of the projects have been completed successfully.

The hydrogen project teams include General Electric Global Research and Westinghouse Electric Company, while other project teams include work by X-Energy, EPRI, 3M Company, and Constellation Energy Generation.

Four projects will look at how to breakdown regulatory hurdles and include teams from RhioCorps, Analysis and Measurement Services Corp., General Atomics, and Terrestrial Energy.

ORNL develops AR radiation tool

Researchers at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed an augmented reality (AR) tool that creates accurate visual representations of ionizing radiation, the laboratory said in a statement.

The tech has been licensed by Teletrix, a firm that creates advanced simulation tools to train the nation’s radiation control workforce.

Ionizing radiation has enough energy to knock electrons off atoms or molecules, creating ions, and is linked to cancer and other health problems.

Occupational exposure is a common occurrence for many radiological workers, the ORNL said.

“This technology will allow radiological workers to better understand the environments they work in, enabling a safer and more informed workforce,” ORNL deputy for science and technology Susan Hubbard said.

“We combined physics-based data with a gaming interface that provides a visual platform to make something invisible look and feel real – we took science and cinematography and brought them together,” said ORNL’s Michael Smith.

The development team expected the technology to be used for radiological survey, radiation source search, and radiological workflow, the statement said.

Microsoft signs fusion PPA with Helion

Microsoft has a reached an agreement with Helion Energy to buy electricity from its first fusion power plant, the company’s first customer and the first consumer to sign a power purchase agreement for electricity generated by fusion, Helion said in a statement.

Helion is one of amongst the more than 30 companies and government research laboratories looking at fusion, the process that powers the sun and stars but has still not been successfully exploited on Earth to generate electricity.

Constellation will serve as the power marketer and will manage transmission for the project, which Helion believes will be online by 2028 with power generation of 50 MW or greater after a 1-year ramp up period.

“This collaboration represents a significant milestone for Helion and the fusion industry as a whole,” said Helion CEO David Kirtley.

“We are grateful for the support of a visionary company like Microsoft. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident in our ability to deliver the world’s first fusion power facility.”

Helion has previously built six working prototypes and was the first company to reach 100-million-degree plasma temperatures with its sixth prototype.

The seventh prototype will demonstrate the ability to produce electricity by 2024, the company said.

Experiments to date have used more energy than they have produced, but expectations that the technology could one day generate net power without any significant waste have many claiming that successful fusion power generation could completely overturn the current energy industry.

By Reuters Events Nuclear