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Five ways the Biden DOE is spending tax-payers money big on nuclear energy 

THe Hill, BY SAUL ELBEIN – 12/08/22

The Department of Energy is spending big to keep America’s old nuclear reactors online while laying the foundations of the nuclear energy industry of the future. 

The investment into America’s long-declining nuclear industry — which includes tens of millions of funding announced this week — builds on a far-broader package of federal subsidies invested in the nuclear sector, which remains America’s leading single source of zero-carbon electricity [ not zero in full nuclear fuel cycle].

One program — a $6 billion fund established under the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure plan — will help to keep otherwise uneconomic nuclear plants from shutting down.  

But other programs announced by the Energy Department look beyond the current generation of nuclear plants to build out foundations for the next generation of nuclear energy.  

Here are five nuclear goals that the Energy Department is pouring money into.

Advanced and theoretical research

One grant announced on Wednesday will pay $12 million to fund scientists across America’s national laboratories as they work on advanced research into problems at the edges of our understanding of nuclear physics. 

The five projects funded “span topics like the 3-dimensional internal structure of nucleons, the exotic states of quarks and gluons, the microscopic properties of quark-gluon plasma and neutrino and nuclear interactions,” according to a statement from the Energy Department…………………………….

Training nuclear-electric engineers

The Energy Department is also funding universities to educate “the next generation nuclear security work force.” 

The department announced on Wednesday that $5 million will go to three state universities to help them create curriculum to train electrical engineers to work on nuclear reactors. ……………

Keep old plants online 

The infrastructure legislation passed into law earlier this year contained $6 billion in Civil Nuclear Credits to help keep online nuclear plants that would otherwise be replaced with fossil-fuel infrastructure. 

The Energy Department paid out its first disbursement last month, sending $1.1 billion to keep southern California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant running. …………….

Build nuclear fuel supply chains

The Energy Department is putting $150 million into producing nuclear fuel essential to advanced reactors, officials announced in November.

So-called high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) is uranium that is far more enriched than the nuclear fuel used in current reactors. It’s only low-enriched in contrast to the kinds of enriched uranium used in nuclear weapons.

Since it’s essential to smaller, more efficient nuclear reactors, the Energy Department estimates that the U.S. will need about 40 metric tons of HALEU per year by the end of the decade……………………………

Catching up on fusion 

The Energy Department in October announced $47 million for research into fusion — the process by which stars like our sun create energy.

Unlike fission, fusion energy is created by forcing atoms together, rather than splitting them — a process that releases no radioactive pollution.

But the extreme temperatures and pressures needed to convince atoms to fuse have so far kept fusion as a theoretical energy source, rather than a practical one.

At the superheated temperatures and pressures required for fusion, gas turns into plasma — which is extremely difficult to control.

“We can’t just put it in a vessel because it will melt anything it touches,” said Eugenio Schuster of Lehigh University, who had received $1.75 million to work with researchers on this problem. 

The money helps pay for collaborative experiments between U.S. and international scientists at research “tokamaks” at sites in China, the European Union and South Korea

…………. more


December 9, 2022 - Posted by | politics, USA

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