Skip to main content

Why Nuclear Cooperation with “Non-Nuclear” Norway is Important for U.S. Industry

Ted Jones
The following is a guest post by Ted Jones, Director of International Supplier Relations for NEI.

This week, the U.S. Congress received for review a renewal agreement for nuclear energy cooperation with Norway. When the pact comes into force, it will restore nuclear cooperation that lapsed when the original agreement expired in July 2014. Commonly known as a Section 123 agreement after the part of the Atomic Energy Act that governs international nuclear energy cooperation, a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement secures nonproliferation guarantees and provides a framework for nuclear energy commerce.

Given that Norway has no plans to operate a commercial nuclear power plant, some may ask, “What is the importance of Norway to the U.S. nuclear industry?”

The answer lies 75 miles southeast of Oslo in the town of Halden, where the United States helped to build a 20 megawatt test reactor in 1958. Now supported by 19 member countries and partly financed by the OECD, the Halden Reactor Project performs a wide variety of unique tests that are important to nuclear power plant safety and reliability. Currently it hosts 30 test rigs in its core. The users of the Halden Reactor Project span the range of the nuclear community, from licensing and regulatory bodies to suppliers, utility industry and research organizations.

For the U.S. nuclear industry, the Halden Reactor Project is a critical asset. As examples:
  • A joint U.S. DOE program with Westinghouse, GE Hitachi and AREVA to research, develop and test accident tolerant fuel (ATF) relies on access to Halden. The program aims to significantly increase the reaction time for a commercial nuclear reactor operator to deal with beyond-design-basis events such as occurred at Three Mile Island and at Fukushima. The ATF program will send test rodlets manufactured in the United States by General Atomics and Argonne National Laboratory to Halden for testing after the program’s first phase ends in September of this year.
  • Virginia-based Lightbridge plans to use the Halden Reactor Project for irradiation testing of advanced metallic nuclear fuel samples. The Lightbridge fuel design aims to provide greater safety and power while lengthening the fuel cycle duration. "These irradiation tests will generate quantifiable data needed to support licensing of Lightbridge fuel by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and ultimate deployment by nuclear utilities in commercial reactors around the world,” said Lightbridge CEO Seth Grae.
  • The Halden facility is favored not just for fuel safety testing. Of special value to the U.S. operating fleet, it offers flexible capabilities for testing the aging and degradation of reactor components. Aging issues under study at Halden include irradiation-assisted stress corrosion cracking, irradiation-enhanced creep and stress relaxation, and pressure vessel integrity.
Without a U.S.-Norway Section 123 agreement in force, U.S. access to testing at Halden is severely limited. That is because items such as fuel assemblies for testing can be exported from the United States only with a Part 110 license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And a Section 123 agreement is a prerequisite for a Part 110 license.

The Halden Reactor Project underscores the importance of broad international collaboration to U.S. industry competitiveness in an increasingly global market. With congressional approval, the U.S.-Norway Section 123 agreement will preserve this important advantage for the whole U.S. nuclear community.


Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…