Nuclear power projects around the world, including construction and maintenance at nuclear power plants, uranium mining operations and waste disposal projects, have slowed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Companies are implementing health checks, allowing some employees to work from home and some operators are reducing power output to the grid due to reduced demand.
Nuclear power plant operators may apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for temporary exemptions from regulations that limit the hours workers can remain on the job, as plant operators cut their staffs in order to control the coronavirus outbreak. The NRC will also issue guidance on what labor and time-intensive tasks qualify for the waiver.
Decommissioning work at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts is continuing, unimpeded by the coronavirus outbreak and related social distancing guidelines. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has also scaled back physical visits to the site, though the NRC continues to perform inspections remotely.
Tokyo Electric Power is now estimating that it will take 12 years and $12.6 billion to remove the melted nuclear fuel from two of the three damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. TEPCO has not yet estimated the removal cost for the third reactor, Unit 1, for which no plan has been developed.
The use of thorium as an alternative nuclear fuel remains challenging for a variety of reasons, including a lack of solid information on its abundance. "One of the issues with using thorium is [that] we do not know the quantity of its availability on Earth, [and] we also do not know the quality of the reserve," said Dominic Ryan, a physics professor at McGill University.
Water pumping stations at the Yangjiang Nuclear Power Station in Guangdong, China, were clogged last week when large groups of acetes, a type of tiny shrimp, clogged the plant's seawater intake filters. The clogs caused automatic reactor shutdowns on March 24 and 25, and have since been resolved.
Canada's federal government and some provincial governments are on track to push forward with joint development and commercialization of small modular nuclear reactors, giving the country an opportunity to be at the forefront of nuclear technology.
Refueling work has slowed at DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in Michigan after several workers have had to be quarantined due to coronavirus exposure. With servicing nuclear reactors considered essential work during the outbreak, hundreds of itinerant nuclear-plant workers have arrived at the site to keep the critical infrastructure project operating.
A US Energy Information Administration report says 20% of electricity in the US is generated by nuclear power, with 12 states of the 30 with nuclear power plants generating more than 30% of their power from nuclear. The report notes that three states -- New Hampshire, South Carolina and Illinois -- generate more than 50% of their power from nuclear.
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