Archive for '2011'

    CNG is Key for Oklahoma’s Energy Future

    November 10, 2011 10:38 AM by BrianW

    Speaking from the 2011 Oklahoma Governor’s Energy Conference on Nov. 9, Gov. Mary Fallin unveiled the Oklahoma First Energy Plan. Part of that plan, among other things, is a focus on enhancing the production of fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, while complementing their use with renewables, such as wind energy.

    Going hand-in-hand, Gov. Fallin also announced a new initiative to increase the use of natural gas-powered vehicles (NGV) in the state’s automobile fleet. Fallin, along with Wyoming Gov. Matthew Head, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) stating a desire to purchase NGVs for their state fleets. Fallin said the MOU lays the groundwork for the formation of a Multi-State Request for Proposal, where the states would prepare a formal request to automobile manufacturers to design a NGV and sell it bulk to participating states. The goal of the participating states is to target 5,000 NGV purchases per year, with Oklahoma purchasing or leasing roughly 500 within the next year.

    Fallin said that there has been an ideology that fossil fuels were exhausted and that is simply not the case. She said Oklahoma has always been a leader in the energy sector and with an energy supply revolution taking place in Oklahoma, the state can continue to help lead the nation in energy production.

    “Innovation and cutting-edge technologies are proving that more and more gas than ever previously imagined is right here in the U.S. and in Oklahoma,” she said. “Natural gas is the centerpiece of Oklahoma’s energy future.”

    She did recognize the challenges that lie ahead for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. The conversion costs are steep, there are not enough refueling stations and the demand for CNG vehicles is just not there as of yet.

    “Consumers won’t buy natural gas vehicles because they can only be refueled at a limited number of fueling stations. Gas stations don’t want to add CNG pumps with an only limited number of consumers and CNG vehicles that will be on the road,” she said.

    But, she did say Oklahoma wants to break that cycle with the help of other states and private investors.

    “Other states in addition to Oklahoma are increasingly recognizing that CNG is an important transportation fuel for our future. It is efficient, it is affordable, it is abundant, it is clean and it is provided right here at home in the U.S. and certainly in the state of Oklahoma," she added.

    Chesapeake Energy, the second largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., is one company helping with this transition to CNG.  In 2010, Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake’s CEO, announced plans to convert the company’s entire fleet of 4,200 vehicles to CNG by 2014. In April of this year, Chesapeake announced that its 800th natural gas-powered vehicle had entered service. To help get over the hurdle of not having enough refueling stations, Chesapeake has worked with fuel retailers, such as OnCue Express and Love’s Travel Stops, to add CNG fueling stations to existing establishments. In 2010, Chesapeake and its partners opened 14 CNG stations in Oklahoma, bringing the total of CNG stations in the state to 42. Chesapeake’s top 15 executives, including McClendon, all drive CNG vehicles.

    “The home of the future will have appliances to refuel vehicles with compressed natural gas,” said McClendon at the Governor’s Energy Conference.

    McClendon said in the next 10 years or so, CNG refueling appliances could be affordable in homes. Now, the cost is around $4,000 to add that in a private home. But Chesapeake is working with companies such as GE and Whirlpool to drive down that cost. A project that Fallin hopes to see become successful.

    “We are focusing on the energies of today, as well as tomorrow, to ensure that Oklahoma remains a national leader,” she said.

    EPRI discusses possible implications of 316(b)

    September 1, 2011 1:28 PM by BrianW

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing public comments filed in regards to the proposed 316(b) rule of the Clean Water Act for cooling water structures. The 316(b) rule requires that the location, design, construction and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact. EPA says more than 1,500 facilities nationwide use large volumes of cooling water from lakes, rivers, estuaries and oceans to cool their facilities, including power plants.

    During an August 30 media call hosted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Doug Dixon, an EPRI technical executive who focuses on fish protection, said EPRI submitted over 150 pages of technical comments in regards to EPA’s proposed 316(b) rule. Those comments were supported by additional technical reports, he said.

    Currently, the draft rule in place is for existing power plants and EPA has proposed two standards: impingement mortality and entrainment mortality. The impingement standards relates to organisms large enough to become trapped on intake system screens and that must be removed with a fish return system. Plants using more than two million gallons of water a day have two options, said Kent Zammit, EPRI senior program manager for Water and Ecosystems. One is to prove that impingement mortality is reduced by both 69 percent monthly and 88 percent annually. The second is to reduce the maximum design through screen velocity to less than 0.5 feet per second during minimum source water levels, such as low tide.

    Plants using more than two million gallons a day are also subject to an entrainment mortality standard. This standard relates to organisms small enough to go through water intake screens and travel through the plant. Facilities that are using more than 125 million gallons a day of actual flow must also submit a comprehensive entrainment characterization study. This study must evaluate entrainment reduction technologies, including environmental impacts. Compliance would be determined on a case-by-case basis. The agency would also determine whether or not cooling water intake structures would be the best technology available or if the facility would be required to install cooling towers.

    “If there were a national requirement for closed-cycle cooling, the cost to the nation, to the power industry, would be approximately $100 billion to build the towers,” said Dixon.

    Dixon said that as much as 42,000 MW of generation could be lost because plants may not be able to afford cooling towers or lack sufficient space on the plant’s property to build towers.

    “The loss of generation would cause some system violations and would be an impact on our distribution of power,” he said.

    One compliance option is a traveling screen. EPRI said that if traveling screens are used to meet the velocity reduction requirement, they must be modified for entrapment with fish protection measures and a fish return system.

    “If you were required to evaluate entrainment reduction it is one technology you would likely investigate,” said Zammit.” And it could be chosen on a cost benefit analysis."

    Dixon said that EPRI’s comments to EPA included detailed information for traveling water screens. He said a “host of problems” exist with biological monitoring of traveling screens that EPA would have to overcome.

    “The rule does not encourage innovation of additional R&D. It is prescriptive to certain types of technologies and excludes a number of technologies that are on a site-specific basis that have been found to be effective,” he said.

    As part of related litigation, EPA must issue a final rule on July 27, 2012. Following that, the next phase of implementation would begin, or another round of litigation if one or more parties sue after rule is issued.

    For impingement mortality, EPRI said power plants withdrawing more than 50 million gallons a day must submit a range of information that includes source waterbody physical data, cooling water intake structure data, source water baseline biological characterization data, cooling water system data, Impingement Mortality Reduction Plan, performance data and operational status information. That information must be submitted within six months of the rule’s effective date. Results of the Impingement Mortality Reduction Plan would have to be submitted within three and a half years. Facilities withdrawing between two million and 50 million gallons a day have up to three years to submit that information. All existing facilities must be in compliance with eight years from the rule’s effective date.

    For entrainment mortality, facilities withdrawing more than 125 million gallons a day actual flow must submit an Entrainment Mortality Data Collection Plan within six months, complete peer review of the plan within one year and submit study results within four years of the rule’s effective final date. The facility must be in compliance with any requirements no later than eight years from the effective rule date.

    Understanding Fukushima

    June 29, 2011 8:31 AM by Brian Wheeler
    The most important issue being addressed at the 2011 American Nuclear Society (ANS) Annual Meeting are the events that have and are currently taking place at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Rightfully so. Over 20,000 people are either dead or missing and over 100,000 have been displaced from their homes following the events that took place after the 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami. The amount of property damage is expected to be in the $300 billion range. Yet the nuclear crisis has been lead news globally since March 11. The earthquake and tsunami were devastating and the events at the Fukushima plant are hard to understand. And it is very pre-mature to look at possible lessons learned until the industry knows exactly what went wrong.

    As large as the earthquake was, though, the units that were operating at full power, Units 1, 2 and 3, shut down as they should have. The other three units, Units 4, 5 and 6, were in various stages of refueling. When the tsunami struck Units 1 though 4 the cooling systems were rendered inoperable. Hisashi Ninokata with the Tokyo Institute of Technology said that possible seismic damage to the piping systems and the complete structure may never been known due to the damage caused by the tsunami and hydrogen explosions onsite. Ninokata continued by saying that the earthquake caused the loss of offsite power at Fukushima and the damage “severely hampered recovery efforts.”

    “Long-term station black out was not assumed in the hope that the offsite power would be recovered and diesel generators would be restored soon,” he said. “But it was not true.”

    Joe Colvin, president of the American Nuclear Society, said there are many things that can be discussed and many conclusions that may be drawn about what exactly took place following the impact of the tsunami. But he did say, in his opinion, that the design basis for the facility was not adequate.

    “The plant sustained a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, which was beyond its design basis of 8.2,” he added.

    But the plant was designed for a tsunami of roughly 5.7 meters, which is about 19 feet. The actual tsunami triggered by the earthquake is believed to have been in the range of 48 feet tall.

    “Clearly that is a significant impact difference,” said Colvin.

    The design of the plant placed critical equipment, such as the diesel generators, below grade which caused the loss of that equipment when trying to bring the reactors to a safe shutdown.

    “The elevation of some components was not appropriate to cope with the tsunami,” said Dr. Akira Omoto, Commissioner of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.

    This will be reviewed as the industry tries to understand the events.

    In total, 14 nuclear power units along the coast of Japan were affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Both the Onagawa and the Tokai stations were safe from the looming disaster at Fukushima due to the height of these plants’ sites, added Omoto.

    Still, Ninokata said that the area was never prepared for a 14 meter high tsunami, even with warnings of an impending tsunami. But the quick actions by the manager at the Fukushima Daini plant to distribute the only remaining power line to the unit at Daini without power saved this plant, too, from disaster.

    Impact on U.S. Nuclear Plants
    The United States has 24 operating boiling water reactors and 23 of these plants are of similar design to the Mark 1 reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has launched a task force to perform both a short- and long-term review of all nuclear power plants in the U.S. Resident inspectors have been reviewing plants’ extensive mitigation guidelines, station black out, seismic and flooding issues, as well as severe accident management guidelines. Spent fuel storage pools have also been inspected at both operating and inactive facilities. To date, the task force and resident inspectors have yet to find any issues that would undermine the confidence of the NRC in the continued safe operation and emergency preparedness of the U.S. plants, although the safety review is still in its early stage as is the investigation at Fukushima Daiichi. Michael Weber, deputy executive director for operations at the NRC, said they do expect the near term task force will recommend actions for the Commission’s consideration to enhance both safety and emergency preparedness.

    “The Fukushima event has highlighted the challenges of coping with long-term station blackout and underscored the importance of mitigating its consequences,” said Weber.

    He did add that if there are lessons to be learned from Japan that indicate the NRC needs to make improvements to the regulatory program, they will do so.

    Still a Long Road Ahead
    “The impact of the Fukushima event has led many, many countries, those involved in nuclear energy and those thinking about it, to reexamine the ongoing role of nuclear power in their country,” said Colvin.

    Some countries have already made the decision to end their nuclear programs, such as Germany and Italy.

    “I always find it fascinating that countries will hold votes for referendums before the facts are in,” said Dale Klein, former NRC Commissioner.

    China will continue with its nuclear program to keep up with the large demand for electricity as the nation continues to grow. China did take a slight pause after the Fukushima events, “but have no other choice than to continue” with nuclear energy, said Klein.

    The global community outside of the nuclear industry will still be somewhat concerned with nuclear technology. It is up to the industry to educate the public so they can make an informed decision regarding the use of nuclear power.

    Ironically, the units at Fukushima Daiichi were schedule for closure next year. The disaster has changed the landscape of nuclear power and as the industry attempts to move forward globally, they must adjust.

    “We need to be thinking more broadly,” said Colvin. “We will probably learn lessons that will not only be applied to the technology now, but also the technologies that we look to in the future.”

    As has been said multiple times, understanding what exactly took place at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will take quite some time.

    Seizing the Opportunity

    June 28, 2011 9:00 AM by Brian Wheeler
    “It is an incredibly bright future.”

    Jim Miller, Chairman, President and CEO of Southern Nuclear Operating Co., and other nuclear executives confidently delivered this message to the hundreds of attendees during the Opening Plenary Session at the 2011 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting. The theme of this year’s conference, “Seizing the Opportunity: Nuclear’s Bright Future.”

    Some may say that the future for nuclear power is anything but bright following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed portions of the East coast of Japan and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Since, the possibility of a nuclear renaissance in the United States has been questioned. But Miller said that in order for the U.S. to keep pace with the growing demand for electricity, new nuclear is needed. Electricity demand is expected to increase 31 percent by 2035. That is one reason there has not been a pause in the construction activities for Vogtle Units 3 and 4. The project is on-schedule and the new Westinghouse AP1000 units are expected to be online in 2016.

    And Southern is not alone. The Tennessee Valley Authority is continuing with construction at the Watts Bar 2 Unit that will add 1,180 MW to TVA’s generation portfolio. TVA conducts the deployment of its nuclear power projects in three phases: a development, or study phase; an engineering and licensing phase; and actual construction. Bill McCollum, Chief Operating Officer for TVA, said the utility will never have more than one nuclear project in each phase at the same time.

    “We manage the way we develop projects and the way we execute them so we can deliver on our commitments,” said McCollum.

    And in order for new nuclear build to be successful, the existing fleet must continue to be operated both safely and reliably. This year TVA was met with challenges when unusual storm events sent tornadoes throughout the southeast region of the U.S. Over 350 transmission lines were tore down and 108 lines were out of service following the outbreak of twisters. Of those lines were the lines that provided most of the off-site power for the three-unit 3,440 MW Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. Diesel generators powered a safe shutdown.

    “The plant was prepared. The systems and equipment functioned as it should have,” said McCollum.

    Watts Bar 2 is expected to be complete and online in 2013. Other than safe operations, in order for the nuclear renaissance to flourish new projects must be completed on time. The nuclear industry has a lot of eyes on it right now and any delays will bring with it harsh criticism. The public must trust the nuclear industry.

    “Nuclear technology struggles with explaining the great goods it can provide,” said U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner William Magwood.

    And the only way to gain the public’s trust and help them understand nuclear power is by taking the lead in communicating the truth. That is also vital to nuclear’s bright future. Within the first three weeks following the events in Japan, ANS members participated in over 250 interviews with the media to discuss the events.

    “As big of a crisis as it is, and continuing to be, I do believe we should be very proud of the response from the country and the industry in attempting to help,” said Dr. Pete Lyons, acting assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

    Leading Today
    The industry will continue to move forward after knowing more about the events in Japan. It will be challenging in a Post-Fukushima nuclear world, but the opportunities are rising. Over $110 million in awards has been granted to 66 U.S. universities for nuclear research. Miller, who is retiring this year, said those students and young people who are just now starting their career in nuclear are starting at the perfect time.

    “The nuclear business in this country and in this world is taking off,” he said.

    That is being seen with the government’s continued support of nuclear energy research and development. Currently, there is a five-year, $67 million program taking place to select two light water reactor small modular reactor designs to move through design certification. Small modular reactors, like the industry as a whole, face challenges. NRC licensing must be complete. And economics will continue to be a challenge especially with gas prices staying low. But Lyons said the industry may see deployment of the country’s first small modular reactor by 2020.

    One success already seen within DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy is the Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, said Lyons. The two main goals of Nuclear Power 2010 were to remove the technical, regulatory, and institutional barriers to building new nuclear power plants in the U.S., and secure industry decisions to construct and operate those plants. Lyons said the industry demonstrated key untested regulatory processes and developed new, advanced, passively safe light water reactors. This, and the selection of sites for new nuclear plants, is leading to a bright future.

    “This new technology is real and there is a ton of energy behind it,” said Ferland.

    Still, even with the loan guarantee ceiling for nuclear projects proposed to increase to $54 billion in Fiscal Year 2011 the challenge of financing remains. Nuclear power plants are not cheap to construct. Just last year, Constellation Energy pulled out of negotiations for a $7.5 billion federal loan guarantee to build a nuclear reactor in Maryland with its French partner Electricite de France (EDF) stating that the high estimate of the credit subsidy would force Constellation and its partners to pay the U.S. Treasury 11.6 percent, or $880 million, to obtain the loan guarantee.

    “Such a sum would clearly destroy the project’s economics (or the economics for any nuclear project for that matter) and was dramatically out of line with both our own and independent assessments of what the figure should reasonably be,” a statement from Constellation read.

    Numerous obstacles are still present for the nuclear renaissance. The industry, though, should “Seize the Opportunity” that has arisen to learn from the tragic events in Japan to make sure the U.S. existing fleet and planned reactors will continue to be operated safely. As Magwood noted, to construct these plants is a long process. So there is time to be pro-active and engage with the public. There is time to not only learn lessons from the events in Japan, but to implement them, too. After all, the goal is to have a bright future.

    Coal-Gen Returns to Columbus!

    June 2, 2011 4:57 PM by Brian Wheeler
    The most-up-to date discussions of what is happening in the coal-fired power generation industry will take place when the 11th annual Coal-Gen conference and exhibition gets underway in Columbus, Ohio beginning August 17th and running through August 19th.

    The conference sessions at Coal-Gen 2011 will take place during an uncertain time for the coal-fired power industry. In February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued final Clean Air Act standards for boilers and certain incinerators. And in March, EPA proposed the first-ever national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollution from power plants. Following these rules, many plants are beginning retrofits to comply with the mandates or as part of settlement agreements.

    Pre-conference workshops are offered again this year at Coal-Gen. You may choose from two full-day courses and two half-day courses, all offered on Tuesday, August 16.

    “Capital Investment Analysis at Coal-fired Power Plants: Co-firing with Biomass” is a full-day course that will be taught by John Hynes, partner with Excidian LLC. John’s courses are perennial favorites at Coal-Gen. This course will provide participants with the financial knowledge to analyze power plant projects and to make better business decisions. The course will cover two modules: financial statements and capital investment decision analysis. Much of the day is spent working in groups.

    “Power Plant Construction Management: A Guide to Survival” is the second full-day course on offer. It will be taught by Peter Hessler, president of Construction Business Associates, and Mark Bridgers, a consultant with ContinuumAG. The morning will be devoted to understanding the contract and becoming familiar with its requirements. The afternoon will be devoted to managing safety, quality and the economics of the site works. Success of the course comes from a blend of instruction-provided guidance along with active participation by the attendees.

    The first half-day course is “Specialized Marketing, Sales & Communication Techniques to the Power Generation Market.” This course will be taught by Ravi Krishman, principal consultant with Krishnam & Associates. This course offers specialized marketing techniques and strategies tailored to utility and industrial markets, particularly those with facilities affected by emission control regulations.

    The second half-day course is “Process Instrumentation for Coal-fired Power Plants.” It will be taught by Ravi Jethra, industry manager for Endress + Hauser’s Power group. This course covers operations of a typically coal-fired power plant and the process instrumentation associated with it, specifically level, pressure, flow and temperature. Technologies linked with each of these parameters will be discussed along with relevant applications.

    Coal-Gen’s Keynote Session on the morning of Wednesday, August 17th is intended to help understand the future of existing and planned coal-fired power plants. One featured speaker is Mike Morris, chairman and CEO of American Electric Power, which owns and operates 80 power generating stations in the U.S. Coal-fired generation counts for 66 percent of AEP’s total 38,000 MW of capacity. Morris is leading AEP's efforts to develop innovative carbon capture and storage systems at one or more AEP coal-powered generating plants at a time when research related to carbon capture and sequestration is considered to be one of the best solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Joining Morris will be Fred Palmer, senior vice president of Government Relations for Peabody Energy. At Peabody, Mr. Palmer is responsible for advancing government policies around the globe to unlock the potential for coal as the world's future fuel.

    The Keynote Session is rounded out by Robert Fisher, senior vice president of fossil generation for Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA is in a period of transition, reducing its reliance on coal-fired generation and making plans to add more nuclear generating capacity. Mr. Fisher is responsible for the operation, maintenance, engineering, fuels and outage activities of TVA’s 11 coal-fired power plants, 87 peaking combustion turbines and six combined cycle units, totaling 22,647 MW of capacity.

    Following the Keynote Session, three days of conference sessions get underway with tracks focusing on new generation; environmental, regulatory and carbon capture and sequestration issues; asset optimization; coal supply, handling and by-products; emerging clean coal technologies; and circulating fluidized bed combustion options.

    On Thursday, August 18th, a plenary session titled “Boiler MACT: What It does, What It Means, How It Affects You” will help shed light on the looming Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) regulation for coal-fired power plants. Speakers from the Institute of Clean Air Companies, Edison Electric Institute, both the U.S and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and engineering firm Burns and McDonnell will discuss the implications of this proposed rule.

    On Friday, August 19th, three mega-sessions will take place. One session will focus on coal combustion residuals management and issues, such as closing ash ponds and converting to dry ash handling. A second morning mega-session will give the audience on update on regulations facing coal generation facilities such as MACT, coal combustion residuals, National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and greenhouse gas emissions and their impact.

    A third mega-session takes place Friday afternoon and will focus on how engaging with the public early and often to understand the importance of CCS implementation can be beneficial to the community.

    If your company generates electricity, you can qualify for discounted registration fees for Coal-Gen. For a single $500 payment, your company may send an UNLIMITED number of personnel to Coal-Gen. Registration includes access to the Keynote Session, mega-sessions, all conference sessions and delegate lunches. For complete details on the Power Generators’ Discount Program, contact David Wagman at davidw@pennwell.com or call him at 918-831-9866.

    Full Coal-Gen conference registration and exhibition details are available online at http://www.coal-gen.com/ .

    Areva: Utilizing Lessons Learned

    April 13, 2011 2:52 PM by Brian Wheeler
    The Areva EPR, or Evolutionary Power Reactor, has been criticized by opponents since construction began in 2005 on the Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) reactor in Finland. Despite this, Areva continues to construct new plants worldwide and believes Generation III+ plants can be built, on-time and on-budget. But the completion of OL3 is nearly three years behind schedule and 50 percent over budget.

    I spoke with Michael Rencheck, chief operating officer for Areva Inc. Rencheck said the company doesn’t take comfort in the overruns at OL3 and when they look at the schedule, it is not an unexpected schedule for a first-of-a-kind plant build. He said the reactor manufacturer had “bumps and bruises on the first plant,” but they are now capturing lessons learned in a formal program and incorporating them into the design, planning, construction, and startup and operation of new plants.

    “We have really progressed a long way from the initial days at Olkiluoto,” he said.

    Areva is building four nuclear reactors globally: OL3 in Finland, a third reactor at the Flamanville plant in France and Taishan Units 1 and 2 in China. All are expected to be completed in the 2012 to 2013 timeframe. Despite rumors of further delays at OL3, the main civil engineering work has been completed and all four steam generators have been installed in the reactor building.

    Areva has acknowledged the problems at OL3 and is applying lessons learned to cut construction times and, in turn, lower costs. Rencheck said Areva is now using a three-dimensional model of the EPR that uses actual commodities, along with construction times and data based on engineering, planning and installation.

    “It is a very powerful tool for to help us look at the implementation of construction techniques and the optimization of how we engineer the plant,” he said.

    To help address issues related to incomplete design and engineering work prior to the start of construction, Areva is using these models in projects currently being constructed. For example, at Flamanville it took 47 weeks to complete the nuclear island base mat, the first foundation as workers proceed with build up. At Taishan, workers have cut that time to 10 weeks. Taishan is showing a threefold reduction in the amount of engineering hours needed to complete, too. At 52 percent complete, Taishan 1 and 2 needed 50 percent fewer engineering hours than either Olkiluoto or Flamanville.

    “That is all the product of putting these models in place, taking the lessons learned and adopting them,” said Rencheck.

    The EPR is now being completed faster than older generation reactors, he said. The Generation 2 – N4 1,500 MWe reactors built in Germany took anywhere from 103 months to 150 months from first concrete to fuel loading. The Generation 2 1,400 MWe reactors were completed no faster than 69 months. Now, after looking into problems at OL3, the 1,650 MWe EPRs in China are due to be completed in 46 months.

    “We gain efficiency and do what is best for the area to build the plant,” said Rencheck.

    Areva does not modularize everything, one of the lessons learned from the first two plants, Rencheck said. He said that there is less of a need to modularize when you do not have to import components. Areva is performing studies of 500 areas to determine where modularization makes the most sense. Rencheck said the company had approached the first new build with the impression that the global supply chain would be robust enough and found that it was not.

    After spending a lot of time at Olkiluoto and Flamanville, Rencheck said Areva feels better about the supply chain now when progressing forward. And with plans to build an EPR in the U.S., Areva wants to localize production wherever possible to eliminate any possible supply chain issues, while providing jobs. And that can be seen with the development of the Areva Newport News manufacturing facility for heavy components. The goal is that 90 percent of the U.S. EPR reactors will be "Made in America" using U.S. workers.

    “We still think there are challenges there but we have our internal set up and processes established,” he said.

    Globally, Areva now has around 20 reactors either being constructed or planned. Rencheck said Areva is improving the timelines negotiating to finalize deals in the U.K., India and China for Taishan 3 and 4. And in Finland, where they have had to address the majority of these challenges, Areva is looking at the possibility of completing another EPR. Using the lessons learned, Rencheck said he thinks it may give Areva a strong position moving forward.

    Nuclear continues to be part of Obama’s plan

    February 14, 2011 4:07 PM by Brian Wheeler
    While many will be talking about President Obama’s plan to make cuts in many government programs in his $3.7 trillion budget proposal, the nuclear power industry will be talking about how the President plans to boost the use of nuclear energy in the States. During his Jan. 25 State of the Union address , Obama issued a new challenge. That challenge is by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.

    “Some folks want wind and solar. Other wants nuclear and clean coal and natural gas. To meet this we will need them all,” he said.

    The release of his fiscal year 2012 budget proposal shows his continued support of nuclear energy being apart of his clean energy standard. Obama’s budget, which requires approval by Congress, calls for an additional $36 billion in government-supported loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors in the U.S. The $36 billion is on top of the $18 billion that the Department of Energy already possesses. In Feb., Obama awarded the first loan guarantee for a nuclear plant. The award of $8.3 billion for two additional reactors at the Vogtle plant in Georgia is conditional until the plant receives the combined construction and operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is expected sometime this year. So that leaves about $10 billion remaining of guaranteed money, enough for only one project, unless Congress approves the new budget allowing for more money to be allocated to build new, clean-energy-producing nuclear reactors. And if approved, the loan guarantees could possibly help with the construction of new reactors and help meet the total of four to eight plants online by the 2016-2020 timeframe as the Nuclear Energy Institute projects.

    Also listed in the FY2012 budget proposal, the President has asked for $853 million for nuclear energy research, which includes small modular reactors . Globally, the International Atomic Energy Agency projects up to 97 small modular reactors to be built by 2030. The U.S. nuclear industry wants to keep pace with other countries that are developing advanced reactors, such as India and Japan, and continued research is needed in order to do that.

    So now the industry must wait to see what Congress thinks of Obama’s proposal. And although the budget provides $29.5 billion total to the Department of Energy, a 12 percent increase since 2010, it is clear that the President believes nuclear power will have to play a role in the United States’ future plans for power generation.

    The uncertain future of AECL

    January 18, 2011 10:59 AM by Brian Wheeler
    The window to the future of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) is far from clear. AECL, the owner and developer of the Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) reactor technology, has been searching for an investor for the past two years to help move the technology forward. Now, the two potential parties that were interested in purchasing the commercial divisions of AECL have reportedly backed away from the negotiations.

    CBC News reported that one of the key shareholders of Bruce Power Corp., the only company officially left in the running as of Jan. 1, was opposed to buying AECL. According to a Canadian Press report, Bruce Power's CEO told staff that the firm had dropped out of the bidding process.

    So where does the AECL go from here? That is a question that no one seems to know an answer to.

    Currently there are 18 operating reactors in three Canadian provinces: New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec. Three reactors are in the middle of refurbishment projects. And Canada has plans for more reactors. Ontario Power Generation had plans to build up to four new reactors that could generate up to 4,800 MW at the Darlington station. But due to the to the uncertain ownership future of AECL that project has been stalled.

    In the December issue of Nuclear Power International magazine, Pierre Gauthier, president of Alstom in the U.S. and Canada, told me that “there is still a need for at least 2,000 MW.” “(And) we know the Ontario government would like to have this supplied by additional nuclear power plants.”

    And Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid seems to agree. He told The Toronto Star that Ontario still has plans to build two new reactors, but that the province won’t become part of a new ownership group in AECL.

    But the AECL does not only develop reactors for the Canadian market. To date, there are 29 Candu reactors in seven countries, according to the World Nuclear Association. And one of the goals of a new ownership would be to continue the exportation of the technology to increase the nuclear renaissance wave.

    “We are hoping that the decision in Ontario will be made very soon," said Dr. Neil Alexander, president of the Organization of CANDU Industries. "And that would be us on the front end of the wave in the Western countries in new build.”

    But, “I think we would all understand someone not wanting to buy a machine worth billions of dollars that is expected to operate for 60 years from someone who’s ownership remains uncertain.”

    And uncertain, it certainly does appear to be.

    Duke and Progress merger could produce largest regulated nuclear fleet

    January 10, 2011 3:29 PM by Brian Wheeler
    On Jan. 10, Duke Energy and Progress Energy announced a $13.7 billion plan to merge the two utilities. If approved, the merger could result in the United States’ largest regulated nuclear fleet.

    Currently, Duke Energy operates seven reactors at three sites in North and South Carolina. Between the Oconee, Catawba and McGuire stations Duke has a total nuclear capacity of roughly 6.7 GWe. Duke also has plans to build two AP1000 reactors at the William States Lee in South Carolina. The application for this site was submitted in 2007 and Duke anticipates a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the 2013 timeframe, said company spokesperson Rita Sipa. But Sipa does not expect the merger to change the course of the application process and Duke “will continue to move forward.”

    Progress Energy brings roughly 4.3 GWe of nuclear capacity to the merger. Progress operates five reactors at four sites in the Carolinas and Florida. Like Duke, Progress is also in the license application process with the NRC. Progress has proposed two sites to build new reactors. Two AP1000 reactors are planned at its Levy County site in Florida, although it has been delayed pending the receipt of a license.

    Even though, they are still pursuing the combined construction and operating license and the company is keeping that option available for the future and that “will not change with merger” said Progress Energy spokesperson Mike Hughes. Progress also submitted a combined construction and operating license in 2008 for two additional reactors at its Shearon Harris plant in North Carolina.

    If the merger is completed, the NRC would have to review license transfer applications for the operating reactors. And NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell said that the regulator has a well-established process in place to ensure the proposed license transfers meet regulations. Proposed reactor applications would have to be updated to reflect the new applicant, as well.

    But the two companies are not even to that point yet. The completion of the merger could take up to a year. Yet, Hughes said they do not see that process as a “stumbling block anyway” due to both companies’ strong history and experience in nuclear operations.

    “Being part of the nations regulated nuclear fleet and part of a much larger company gives us a great foundation from which not only to enhance existing nuclear operations but to also pursue new nuclear,” he said.

    With a combined enterprise value of $65 billion, the company that will be known solely as Duke Energy looks to have the capital to move forward with new nuclear in the U.S.

    For now, Duke and Progress will continue to operate their respected plants as is.


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