« Volkswagen Group & Anhui Jianghuai Automobile (JAC) jointly to develop EVs in China; new JV focused on NEVs | Main | Solaris Bus to offer BAE Systems hybrid electric drive on its vehicles » The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) announced its first round of funding with the selection of 15 application development proposals for full funding and seven proposals for seed funding, representing teams from 45 research and academic organizations. The awards, totaling $39.8 million, target advanced modeling and simulation solutions to specific challenges supporting key DOE missions in science, clean energy and national security, as well as collaborations such as the Precision Medicine Initiative with the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute. Exascale refers to high-performance computing systems capable of at least a billion billion calculations per second, or a factor of 50 to 100 times faster than the nation’s most powerful supercomputers in use today. The application efforts will help guide DOE’s development of a U.S. exascale ecosystem as part of President Obama’s National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). DOE, the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation have been designated as NSCI lead agencies, and ECP is the primary DOE contribution to the initiative. The ECP’s multi-year mission is to maximize the benefits of high performance computing (HPC) for US economic competitiveness, national security and scientific discovery. In addition to applications, the DOE project addresses hardware, software, platforms and workforce development needs critical to the effective development and deployment of future exascale systems. First-round funding (see list below) includes a broad set of modeling and simulation applications with a focus on portability, usability and scalability. A key consideration in the selection process was each team’s emphasis on co-design of the applications with the ECP’s ongoing development of hardware, software and computational capabilities, including physical models, algorithms, scalability and overall performance. Projects will be funded in the following strategic areas: energy security, economic security, scientific discovery, climate and environmental science, and healthcare. Leadership of the Exascale Computing Project comes from six DOE national laboratories: The Office of Science’s Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, and Oak Ridge national labs, and NNSA’s Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia national labs. The full list of application development awards follows: Full Funding: Computing the Sky at Extreme Scales, Salman Habib (ANL) with LANL, LBNL Exascale Deep Learning and Simulation Enabled Precision Medicine for Cancer, Rick Stevens (ANL) with LANL, LLNL, ORNL, NIH/NCI Exascale Lattice Gauge Theory Opportunities and Requirements for Nuclear and High Energy Physics, Paul Mackenzie (FNAL) with BNL, TJNAF, Boston University, Columbia University, University of Utah, Indiana University, UIUC, Stony Brook, College of William & Mary Molecular Dynamics at the Exascale: Spanning the Accuracy, Length and Time Scales for Critical Problems in Materials Science, Arthur Voter (LANL) with SNL, University of Tennessee An Exascale Subsurface Simulator of Coupled Flow, Transport, Reactions and Mechanics, Carl Steefel (LBNL) with LLNL, NETL QMCPACK: A Framework for Predictive and Systematically Improvable Quantum- Mechanics Based Simulations of Materials, Paul Kent (ORNL) with ANL, LLNL, SNL, Stone Ridge Technology, Intel, Nvidia Coupled Monte Carlo Neutronics and Fluid Flow Simulation of Small Modular Reactors, Thomas Evans (ORNL, PI) with ANL, INL, MIT NWChemEx: Tackling Chemical, Materials and Biomolecular Challenges in the Exascale Era, T. H. Dunning, Jr. (PNNL), with Ames, ANL, BNL, LBNL, ORNL, PNNL, Virginia Tech High-Fidelity Whole Device Modeling of Magnetically Confined Fusion Plasma, Amitava Bhattacharjee (PPPL) with ANL, ORNL, LLNL, Rutgers, UCLA, University of Colorado Data Analytics at the Exascale for Free Electron Lasers, Amedeo Perazzo (SLAC) with LANL, LBNL, Stanford Transforming Combustion Science and Technology with Exascale Simulations, Jackie Chen (SNL) with LBNL, NREL, ORNL, University of Connecticut Cloud-Resolving Climate Modeling of the Earth's Water Cycle, Mark Taylor (SNL) with ANL, LANL, LLNL, ORNL, PNNL, UCI, CSU The ECP is a collaborative effort of two DOE organizations: the Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration. As part of President Obama’s National Strategic Computing initiative, ECP was established to develop a capable exascale ecosystem, encompassing applications, system software, hardware technologies and architectures, and workforce development to meet the scientific and national security mission needs of DOE in the mid-2020s timeframe.
News Article | August 16, 2016
The first customer for a small modular reactor (SMR) in the U.S. has selected a site located about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID, for construction of a 50 MW unit. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) announced this week that the firm had chosen a preferred site within the boundaries of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Doug Hunter, CEO of UAMPS, made the announcement at the Intermountain Energy Summit being held in Idaho Falls. The 35-acre site is located about six miles south of the Lost River Rest Stop west of the intersection of U.S. Highways 20 & 26 and due north of EBR-1 where atomic energy was first used to generate electricity in December 1951. The site is geologically stable and far enough away from other facilities at the INL that it will not impact their operation. The INL encompasses an area of 890 square miles. The entire facility will eventually include up to 12 50 MW SMRs, turbines, storage for spent nuclear fuel, administrative offices, and transportation access. A rail line from Blackfoot, ID, to the INL may be developed further to support delivery of large reactor components. Officials in Idaho Falls said in a press statement the project could create over 1,000 jobs. Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Energy issued a permit to UAMPS as part of the site selection process. The permit opened the door to the utility to evaluate the alternative locations and make a decision to eventually build on one of them. At the same conference, Mike McGough, Chief Commercial Officer for NuScale, said that the firm is “nearly ready” to submit its SMR for design certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The company has said previously that it expects the application to be delivered to the agency by late 2016. That process will take three-to-four years after which, if successful, UAMPS will apply to the NRC for a COL to build and operate the reactors. UAMPS sells electricity at the wholesale level to utilities in seven western states. It formed the partnership with NuScale in 2013. A federal judge has ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to let the court examine documents sought by former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus that describe shipments of spent nuclear fuel to the INL. U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Winmill said the court will review the documents to determine if they can be released for public review. Andrus, a long time arch foe of nuclear spent fuel R&D at the INL, had sought the documents under a Freedom of Information Act request. However, DOE delivered papers with most of the information blacked out. Andrus is seeking information on several proposed small shipments of spent nuclear fuel that DOE wants to send to the INL for R&D evaluation. The shipments would require a waiver of the 1995 Settlement Agreement which sets terms for progress on cleanup of nuclear waste at the INL. Andrus has argued that no waiver can be granted until DOE can make progress with its Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTW) that is supposed to turn about 1 million gallons of liquid nuclear waste into dry powder which can then be shipped to a geologic repository in New Mexico. Work began on the IWTU in 2005 at an estimated cost of about $160M. Since then costs have escalated to almost $600M and the technology is getting a review by a new site contractor, who took over this year, to find a way to make it work. Andrus filed the lawsuit when he got a pile of paper from DOE with black magic marker streaks instead of the information he wanted from the agency. He claims that granting the waiver would allow DOE to use the INL as an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s commercial reactors which are storing 77,000 tons of spent fuel. In blunt language, Andrus told the Associated Press (AP) this past week that he is suspicious of the DOE’s intentions. “We have to know what’s going on,” Andrus said. “Their stonewalling and reluctance lends credence to my suspicion. That’s all I have right now — a strong suspicion backed up by a history of an agency that has run roughshod over the public for way too many years.” AP reported that the Energy Department argues that the information can’t be made public because it involves internal communications that fall under an exemption to the act. The agency also cited attorney work-product privilege, and attorney-client privilege. Winmill in his 29-page ruling said the Energy Department’s explanation for blacking out pages of documents didn’t say whether the redactions “buried information relating to substantive policy about the transport and storage of large quantities of potentially dangerous nuclear waste, disclosure of which may very well be in the public’s interest.” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has refused to sign a waiver for shipment of the spent fuel. Earlier this year DOE diverted the first shipment from INL to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and also sent the R&D money to evaluate it to that lab. A second shipment is pending. DOE says it wants an evaluation of “high-burnup” fuel by the INL which is why it scheduled the shipments. The Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week that Rita Baranwal is the new director for the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program. Baranwal was Director of Technology Development at Westinghouse. Baranwal brings deep private sector experience to GAIN’s mission of driving advanced nuclear toward commercialization in domestic and global markets. Baranwal takes over a program that is a bright star in the government’s efforts to promote advanced nuclear technologies. Recent accomplishments include. The GAIN initiative, announced at a White House Summit in November 2015, was created to provide support for the nearly 50 advanced nuclear startups that have been established across the U.S. Joshua Freed, a Vice President of the Third Way, a Washington, DC, think tank, wrote in a blog post that GAIN is also supporting the inaugural Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp at University of California, Berkeley. He wrote that the competitive educational program is aimed at helping young innovators develop nuclear-specific entrepreneurial skills. Additionally, the bootcamp includes opportunities for nontechnical students with backgrounds in the arts, communications, policy, and international affairs to participate as well, opening the doors to groups who traditionally have not been a part of the workforce pipeline, but are now understood as having valuable expertise for the future of nuclear.
« Honda begins sales of Clarity Fuel Cell in Japan; targeting 200 units first year | Main | UQM receives new follow-on order from Proterra to support increased demand for electric buses » The US Department of Energy (DOE) selected 33 small businesses to work directly with DOE national labs to accelerate the commercialization of new clean energy technologies. The department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is investing nearly $6.7 million under Round 1 of the new Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot. For Round 1, the small businesses and laboratories will collaborate on advancing a number of clean energy technologies, including water, wind, bioenergy, solar, buildings, vehicles, fuel cells, geothermal technologies, and advanced manufacturing. The selected small businesses will work with scientists at nine department laboratories: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL); Sandia National Laboratories (SNL); Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); Idaho National Laboratory (INL); Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); Argonne National Laboratory (ANL); and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). SBV is a collaborative, national effort that provides $20 million for US companies to help improve industry awareness of national laboratory capabilities and provide small and mid-size businesses access to the resources available within the national laboratory system. Vouchers range from $50,000-300,000. The companies were competitively chosen from a pool of hundreds of applications. Almost 40% of the businesses represent new DOE-industry partnerships and relationships with the national labs. Building on the tremendous response of Round 1, the department also has begun accepting applications for Round 2 of the SBV pilot. A total of $13 million worth of funding remains; over the course of the year, up to 100 vouchers will be awarded.
The work, published in Science, not only opens the door to expand the use of one of the most efficient energy sources on the planet, but also adds a key step in completing the nuclear fuel cycle—an advance, along with wind and solar, that could help power the world's energy needs cleanly for the future. "In order to solve the nuclear waste problem, you have to solve the americium problem," said Tom Meyer, Arey Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at UNC's College of Arts and Sciences, who led the study. Americium doesn't have the same name recognition as a plutonium and uranium, but researchers have been trying to remove it from nuclear waste for decades. Several groups initially succeeded, only to be met with several subsequent problems down the line, rendering the solution unfeasible. Meyer and his team, including Chris Dares, who spearheaded the project, have found a way to remove the radioactive element without encountering downstream problems that have hindered progress. The technology Meyer and Dares developed is closely related to the one used by Meyer at the UNC Energy Frontier Research Center of Solar Fuels to tear electrons from water molecules. In the americium project, Meyer and Dares adapted the technology to tear electrons from americium, which requires twice as much energy input as splitting water. By removing those three electrons, americium behaves like plutonium and uranium, which is then easy to remove with existing technology. Dares describes that nuclear fuel is initially used as small solid pellets loaded into long, thin rods. To reprocess them, the used fuel is first dissolved in acid and the plutonium and uranium separated. In the process, americium will either be separated with plutonium and uranium or removed in a second step. Meyer and Dares worked closely with Idaho National Laboratory (INL), who provided research support and technical guidance on working with nuclear materials. Most of the experiments were carried out in the laboratories at Idaho, which provided a safe area to work with radioactive material. At present, INL and UNC-Chapel Hill are in discussion about extending the research and to possible scale up of the technology. "With INL working with us, we have a strong foundation for scaling up this technology," said Dares. "With a scaled up solution, not only will we no longer have to think about the dangers of storing radioactive waste long-term, but we will have a viable solution to close the nuclear fuel cycle and contribute to solving the world's energy needs. That's exciting." Explore further: Britain to use spent nuclear fuel for batteries to power deep space craft
News Article | August 29, 2016
In an innovative partnership tiny X-Energy, a start-up, has teamed with one of America’s biggest nuclear utilities, Southern Co., to collaborate on the development and commercialization of a design of a high temperature gas-cooled reactor. Two firms which have received individually $40 million cost sharing grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for work on advanced nuclear reactor technologies has joined forces. The objective of the partnership is to come up with more options to produce designs with high levels of performance. The firms have set a target to achieve commercial success by the 2030 time frame. X-Energy and Southern Co. have signed a memorandum of understanding that pools their efforts. What’s interesting about the partnership is that the DOE grants support two very different types of advanced reactors. X-Energy is working on a pebble bed high temperature gas cooled reactor. Southern Co. is developing a molten chloride (salt) fast reactor. Both firms bring to the table sets of partners that read like a who’s who of nuclear energy. X-Energy is working with BWXT, Oregon State University, Teledyne-Brown Engineering, SGL Group, and two DOE labs – INL and ORNL. Southern has partnerships with TerraPower, the Electric Power Research Institute, Vanderbilt University, and ORNL. As one the biggest nuclear utilities in the country, Southern has broken new ground for the second time. First, it sought and won a $40 million cost sharing grant from DOE for advanced R&D work. Second, it brought to the table an innovative small startup seeking to leverage its similar DOE grant, and equity investments, with a larger partner and potential customer. X-Energy’s pebble bed work involves TRISO fuel in the form of 200,000 ceramic clad enriched uranium pebbles inside the reactor pressure vessel. Helium is heated there to very high temperatures and some pebble bed designs have specified outlet temperatures as high as 500C or more. In addition to the fuel and reactor design issues, X-Energy will also need work on materials which can stand up to the high heat. MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering has a resource web site on pebble bed reactors which provides additional insights into the history of the technology and some of its perceived advantages. Southern’s work plans to use molten chloride salts as a primary coolant at low pressure. It is a less known version of the molten fluoride salt reactor. TerraPower, one of Southern’s partners, has been exploring options for design of a molten chloride salt reactor since last year when it announced the effort during a nuclear energy conference at ORNL. While few technical details of the design have been released, this online discussion posted in January 2016 by thorium reactor expert Kirk Sorensen explores some of what’s known about the technology in general. In press statements reported by World Nuclear News, the CEOs of both X-Energy and Southern talked about bringing an advanced nuclear reactor to market. X-energy CEO Kam Ghaffarian said, “We are thrilled to have Southern Nuclear involved in our project. I founded X-energy in 2009 out of a desire to make a significant and lasting contribution to clean energy generation in the US and around the world. This relationship firmly puts us on that path.” Southern Nuclear chairman, president and CEO Stephen Kuczynski said, “Our relationship with X-energy builds upon the DOE awards we each received and puts the industry on a strong path to providing clean and safe nuclear enrgy for generations to come.” He added, “We understand fully the time and manpower it will take to bring the first advanced reactor to market and feel confident that pursuing this goal together will best leverage our combined research and commercial operation experience to do so.” The collaboration of so many high profile nuclear energy players on advanced reactor designs adds a new layer of interest to the many entrepreneurial efforts going on elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada. While DOE had emphasized the development of public / private partnerships through its GAIN program at INL, it appears another path is opening for developers, and that is to partner with a major nuclear utility. The question now becomes whether other large US nuclear utilities will look at Southern’s model and invest in an R&D partnership with an entrepreneurial developer. The benefits to the developer are the deeper pockets of the the utility and a potential customer for its efforts if to makes it to the finish line with a successful NRC safety design review. Southern CEO Steve Kuczynski has spoken frequently about an objective of the US having 40% of its electricity coming from nuclear reactors by 2040. The firm is building two new Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000 reactors in Georgia and will complete them to enter revenue service before the end of this decade. Other large nuclear utilities have expressed interest in small modular reactors (SMRs) which are based on conventi0nal light water reactor technologies and which have a strong case for passing an NRC review. UAMPS, a Utah electric cooperative, is the first customer for a 50 MW SMR design by NuScale which is slated to be built in Idaho. Up to 12 of the units may eventually be built at the site which is about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID, on the grounds of the Idaho National Laboratory. At one time TVA was working with B&W to design and license that firm’s 180 MW mPower SMR, but opted instead to seek an NRC early site permit for the Clinch River plant without selecting a specific vendor. Original Post