Nuclear, Retrofits & Upgrades

Nuclear safety overhaul in Japan to create independent agency

Issue 4 and Volume 4.

Japan will create a more independent nuclear safety agency in April 2012 and plans to scrap the two organizations currently in charge of nuclear oversight. The moves are part of an overhaul of the nation’s nuclear safety agencies in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami which damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station in March.

The Financial Times newspaper said the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission are adjuncts of the industry ministry and that ministry officials have ties with electric utilities and nuclear equipment makers. The newspaper said a collusive environment has been highlighted by reports that the ministry and utilities worked together to rig public hearings into nuclear energy.

The government reportedly removed the head of NISA and two other high-ranking industry ministry bureaucrats on August 4. Officials reportedly said the nuclear watchdog agency needed to be separate from the agency that sets energy policy.

The government also confirmed plans not to expand Japan’s nuclear generating capacity and said it would test the country’s 50 remaining reactors.

GE-Hitachi signs deal with Exelon for maintenance service work

GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) signed a $150 million integrated outage contract with Exelon Nuclear to maintain all 12 of Exelon’s boiling water reactors (BWR) at seven nuclear power plants in Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. GE was the original designer of the BWRs for Exelon.

Terms of the contract include providing services for assisting with refueling floor activities and performing under-vessel and inspection services. The agreement runs through the end of the spring outage season in 2015.

The contract covers:

  • One BWR at the Clinton Power Station, Clinton, Ill.;
  • Two BWRs at the Dresden Generating Station, Morris, Ill.;
  • Two BWRs at the Lasalle Generating Station, Marseilles, Ill.;
  • Two BWRs at the Quad Cities Generating Station, Cordova, Ill.;
  • Two BWRs at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Delta, Pa.;
  • Two BWRs at the Limerick Generating Station, Pottstown, Pa.; and
  • One BWR at the Oyster Creek Generating Station, Forked River, N.J.

Reactor maintenance contract awarded to B&W

The Babcock & Wilcox Co. (B&W) said its Babcock & Wilcox Canada Ltd. unit booked a contract worth around $40 million from Bruce Power to perform fuel channel maintenance on its Unit 3 nuclear reactor during a scheduled plant shutdown in November 2011.

Bruce Power in Ontario, Canada, is the largest nuclear facility in North America and is comprised of eight Candu reactors with a total output capability of 7,276 MW.

GEH signs MOU with Poland’s Energoprojekt Warszawa

GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Polish engineering firm Energoprojekt Warszawa SA to discuss the feasibility of partnering on future reactor projects.

This MOU is the latest in a series of preliminary agreements that GEH has signed with Polish suppliers as the government prepares to develop the country’s first two nuclear generating stations as part of an effort to diversify its energy supplies.

Under the latest MOU, both companies will explore how Energoprojekt Warszawa could provide specific engineering services to GEH for the potential development of new nuclear power plants in Poland.

Poland’s largest utility Polska Grupa Energetyczna SA is still considering several reactor designs for the projects and the government expects to begin construction of the first nuclear power plant in 2016, and has targeted 2020 as the commercial date of operation for the first plant.

Reactors in Canada are approved for safety

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) said four new nuclear reactors at the planned 4,800 MWe Darlington plant in Ontario are unlikely to cause adverse environmental effects.

In October 2009, a three-member joint review panel was mandated by the minister of the environment and the president of the CNSC to assess the environmental effects of the planned nuclear plant and review the application for a license to prepare a site.

The Ontario government in June 2009 stopped work toward building new nuclear reactors due to unacceptable bids from abroad and a lack of confidence in the future of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL) at the time. AECL was acquired by Candu Energy in June 2011.

The Canadian government must now decide whether to allow Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to move on with the project. OPG has not picked a company to manufacture the reactors.

NUCLEAR POWER International heads to Vegas

More than 1,200 companies from all sectors of the power industry exhibit each year and more than 19,000 attendees come together at POWER-GEN International and NUCLEAR POWER International.

Now in its fifth year and co-located with POWER-GEN International, the world’s largest power generation event, NUCLEAR POWER International 2011 heads to Las Vegas, Nev. December 13-15 to provide the industry with up-to-date information and products for the nuclear power business.

NUCLEAR POWER International 2011 will take place during an uncertain time for the nuclear power industry. Critics have questioned the safety of nuclear energy following the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. During NUCLEAR POWER International 2011, conference sessions will discuss the events at Japan, the lessons learned from the events and techniques for effective communication during crisis events.

Conference sessions will also provide the latest updates on nuclear projects around the world, innovations in new build design and construction and the challenges of operating a plant beyond 60 years.

Registration information and a full conference schedule can be found online at www.nuclearpowerinternational.com

NRC issues Final Safety Evaluation Report for AP1000

A cutaway view of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor. Graphic courtesy of Westinghouse Electric Co.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said the design of Westinghouse Electric Co.’s AP1000 pressurized water reactor is safe in its Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER) issued August 9.

The report comes after the company submitted design changes in Revision 18 of the AP1000 Design Control Document and a confirmatory Revision 19 that resolved all remaining confirmatory items and technical issues. The amended design now moves into the final rulemaking stage for granting of design certification.

This is the second time through the design certification process for the AP1000 design. The NRC officially granted design certification to the reactor in 2006, but the design has been modified to meet new and additional NRC requirements, including those that require it to withstand the impact of an airplane crash on the shield building.

Until the reactor has full approval from the NRC, it can not be used in U.S. nuclear power plants. It has already been shipped to nuclear plants in China and has been picked for use in power plants in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.

NRC spokesman Scott Burnell told the New York Times that commissioners plan to decide whether to approve the reactor design toward the end of this year or early next year.

Watts Bar nuclear plant will finish late, TVA says

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in eastern Tennessee. Photo courtesy of TVA.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said the current pace of construction at the $2.5 billion, 1,180 MW Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor means it “will not meet” the project’s 60-month timetable.

Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum said TVA is reviewing the overall construction and licensing schedule and will take a “deliberate approach that will extend commercial operation” at Watts Bar 2 from late 2012 into 2013.

McCollum said construction progress, along with a licensing delay related to an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing on an unspecified aquatic issue and integrating safety modifications from the Fukushima accident in Japan, will affect the schedule.

McCollum said TVA is working with contractors and will develop a detailed timetable for completion and will assess the impact on costs. “When the NRC issues a final report on Fukushima-related changes, a more accurate assessment of costs will be made,” he said.

TVA began building Watts Bar 2 in 1972 and the unit was deferred in 1988. Work to finish the unit resumed in 2007 and is currently about 86 percent complete. TVA received a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license for fuel at the plant for use in Unit 2 and the new fuel began arriving this summer.

License for Southern may be delayed until early 2012

Southern Co. may not receive its federal license to build two Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle until early 2012, later than the end-of-2011 goal the company had hoped for to build what could become the country’s first new nuclear plant in a generation, according to a new timeline from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Associated Press reported that two steps remain before Southern and its partners Oglethorpe Power Corp., the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the City of Dalton could start construction. First, NRC members must vote to formally approve the AP1000 reactor slated for use at Plant Vogtle and other sites.

A senior NRC staff member reportedly said in a memo released August 10 that assuming the NRC’s commissioners vote to approve the reactor, it could take until January to publish the rules for the AP1000 in the Federal Register. The reactor design would be considered formally approved once those rules have been published for 30 days.

Second, the NRC’s commissioners must vote on whether to give Southern Co. permission to start building the new Georgia reactor units. Southern has said that a delay into early next year should not affect the schedule to bring the new reactors online by 2016 and 2017.

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