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DOE Office of Nuclear Energy Nuclear Industry Advisory & Assistance Services Support

Sigma Science, Inc. (Sigma) provides nuclear industry advisory and assistance services (A&AS) to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) at various locations under a 5-year, $49M Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract (May 2022 through April 2027). To date, Sigma has been awarded eight task orders (TOs) under this IDIQ.

A&AS Task Orders Overview

Support for the Civil Nuclear Credit Program Task. The first TO awarded under this contract was the Support Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program Task. The scope of work was broken into two phases between June 2022 and June 2025. Currently, the scope is focused on commercial nuclear reactors applying for government credits through the CNC Program, this is estimated as potentially 15 reactors through 2025. The Sigma team thoroughly reviews all existing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation required for continued operations at the reactors under consideration for credit and document any gaps in coverage, including continued storage of spent fuel. 

Under this TO, Sigma is currently providing staff resources for technical leadership, licensing, environmental and regulatory compliance, and additional reach back to the broader Sigma team as needed for additional technical support in specific review areas. The Sigma team developed a standardized process for evaluating the selected reactors. 

Sigma Science drafted the proposed Phase I process, submitting it to DOE for approval in the summer of 2022. Phase I was initiated shortly thereafter and the review began with the initial applicants. Historical material review as well as other publicly available material provided the technical information necessary to complete the initial phase of reviews. Once documented, the Sigma team supported the development of the initial DOE Environmental Impact Statement, the Record of Decision, and other associated materials. This work completed in the summer of 2023. In the spring of 2023, Phase 2 was initiated by the DOE for other commercial interested parties. In preparation, the Sigma team modified the process developed for lessons learned in Phase 1. The Sigma team will execute the process for each DOE selected reactor during Phase II.

U.S. Generation IV International Forum Chair Support. The second TO awarded was the provision of Generation IV expert advice to DOE NE leaders and managers. This advisory scope was performed as needed from September 2022 through October 2023 and provided expert policy advice to the U.S. GIF Chair. It also included participation in and provision of expert advice and interpretations during staff meetings, GIF industry meeting participation, and support for the development and implementation of 2022 GIF Industry Forum. 

In addition to meeting participation, committee assignments, and events, our Sigma-provided policy expert, Dr. John Kelly, provided advice for Generation IV reactor technologies, multilateral international endeavors, industry engagement, and federal practices.

Independent Review of the Fortis Protype Railcar Body Design. This task order required the performance of an independent design review of the Fortis Prototype Railcar Body. The prototype Fortis railcar is an eight-axle, flat-deck railcar that can transport large containers of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. 

The Sigma Team’s review approach followed traditional design review processes, including independent subject matter expert reviews and a collective team review. The Sigma task team assembled for these reviews included the task lead and engineering experts in mechanical engineering, civil/structural engineering, and nuclear engineering. Deliverables under this task—including the Individual Design Review, Team Design Review, and reports—were submitted on time.

Support for Nuclear Fuel Cycle Knowledge Management Project. Another key scope under this contract is the provision of expert advice to DOE NE leaders and programs. This TO required Sigma Science subject matter expert participation in the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Knowledge Management meeting in Washington, DC, in January 2022. The scope included providing expert participation in knowledge management panels and roundtables.

Use of Numerical Models to Predict Fuel Rod in Dry Storage Performance During an Earthquake. Under this latest scope of work, the Sigma Team will provide technical assistance and expertise in the support of the DOE back-end nuclear fuel cycle. Two Phases are assigned under this TO—

  • Phase 1—Review an anticipated Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) shake test of a model dry storage system 
  • Phase 2—Develop an analytical model and gather information on EOL commercial fuel in dry storage during typical earthquake conditions

Phase 1 effort involves seismic and test experts to review plans associated with the SNL test, as well as conducting studies on the resources needed, and their integration, to ascertain nuclear fuel rod behavior in a seismic condition, knowing post-irradiation mechanical properties. Phase 2 will involve the modeling and benchmarking the results of the SNL shake test, including modeling and analysis of generic storage systems, in use domestically, and the seismic effects anticipated for end-of-life nuclear fuel.

Interim Storage Spent Nuclear Fuel Advisor. The Sigma Senior Analyst supports DOE NE by providing ideas and guidance in the development and execution of a consent-based sited approach to a federal interim storage facility. Scope includes drafting/reviewing Requests for Information, Requests for Proposals, memos, talking points, and other materials related to nuclear waste and interim storage; drafting/reviewing community engagement plans; and providing advisement to DOE NE on the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, Interim Storage, assistance to DOE NE in updating program plans, collecting and analyzing data, and other strategic counsel as requested. 

NE-8 Review Panel. With the start of the Consent Based Siting process, the design of the CISF, and the delivery of the ATLAS rail car, NE-8 is slowly transitioning from a research and development program to an office that is ready to deliver on the management of UNF and high-level waste (HLW). NE-8 is developing and will execute an integrated plan that clearly lays out the direction DOE will follow over the short-, medium-, and long-term. Over the last 50 years the U.S. has tried many different variations for the management of Spent Nuclear Fuel and HLW. As part of Sigma’s support effort, an expert group will be formed to review the proposed NE-8 plans and identify lessons learned from previous programs. Additional support tasks will be added as required.