Nuclear, Reactors

Westinghouse signs nuclear power MOU with Czech firm

Issue 1 and Volume 5.

Westinghouse Electric Co. said the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Czech company Vitkovice a.s., in preparation for the potential construction of Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power plants in the Czech Republic, has been completed.

According to the agreement, Westinghouse intends to procure components from Vitkovice if their AP1000 reactor is selected for the completion of the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant. Such equipment includes steelwork for the containment vessel and shield building, various sub-assemblies for structural and mechanical modules, and major components of the reactor circuit.


Mexico will build natural gas-fired plants instead of nuclear

Mexico is ending plans to build up to 10 new nuclear reactors in the country, opting instead to build natural gas-fired power plants.

Bloomberg reported that state-owned oil producer Pemex found evidence of up to 300 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Coahuila region in the past year, and the country will reportedly seek private investment of about $10 billion during five years to expand its natural gas pipeline network. Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) plans to invest 66.3 billion pesos ($4.9 billion) in 2011 and 90.4 billion pesos ($670.3 million) in 2012, mainly in six new plants that use fossil fuels and is reconfiguring other facilities to use natural gas, the article said.

The country was considering nuclear power as part of plans to boost capacity to 86 GW within 15 years, from about 50 GW, and now prefers gas for cost reasons.


Shaw renews nuclear power maintenance contract with Exelon

The Shaw Group Inc. said it has renewed a contract with Exelon Generation Co. to provide maintenance, modifications and construction services to its fleet of nuclear generating plants. Exelon’s nuclear power fleet includes 17 nuclear reactors in 10 sites; six sites in Illinois, three sites in Pennsylvania and one site in New Jersey.

Shaw began providing fleetwide nuclear maintenance service to Exelon in 2001.

The undisclosed value of the long term contract will be included in Shaw’s Plant Services segment’s backlog of unfilled orders in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012.

Nuclear power fuel contract awarded to Areva

Areva signed an integrated fuel and related services contract with Xcel Energy to supply the 610 MW Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant in Minnesota. The approximately $500 million contract covers uranium, conversion, enrichment, fuel design and fabrication, and related engineering services.

Under the agreement, Areva will provide six fuel reloads which corresponds to a decade of fuel supply, with deliveries beginning in 2015. The contract includes transition of the Monticello plant to use Areva’s Atrium 10XM boiling water reactor fuel. This will be the first time that Xcel Energy will use Areva fuel in its plants.


Decommissioning of Fukushima nuclear plant to take 30-40 years

Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant training to secure electricity with a power source car. Photo taken on Dec. 7, 2011 and courtesy of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan are expected to be decommissioned in 30 to 40 years, according to a recently released roadmap.

The roadmap, drafted by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy; and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, received approval from the government Dec. 21.

The reactors had reached cold shutdown Dec. 16, and TEPCO said it will now shift its focus to stabilizing the plant. The temperatures inside units 1, 2 and 3 fell below the boiling point in September.

The roadmap is split into three phases, with the primary targets focusing on removing fuel from all four used fuel pools within ten years; the removal of melted fuel from the damaged reactor cores inside units 1, 3 and 4; and the demolition of the reactor facilities. Workers must remove debris from atop units 1, 3 and 4 before decommissioning can continue.

Fuel from the used fuel pool on top of Unit 4 will start being removed within the next two years, while fuel removal at Unit 3 will begin by the end of 2014. The company plans to develop a used fuel removal plan for Unit 1 based on lessons learned from work on units 3 and 4, while for Unit 2, TEPCO will develop a plan once the inside of the reactor building has been decontaminated and the condition of existing used fuel handling equipment has been assessed.


Major component shipped for planned plant in U.S.

Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 with unit 4 backfill, circulating water pipes and nuclear island, and in the background, Vogtle operating units 1 and 2 taken in Nov. 2011. © 2011 Southern Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Toshiba Corp. on Dec. 1 said that it shipped the condenser for the 1,154 MWe Vogtle Unit 3 AP1000 nuclear power plant that is being constructed for Georgia Power, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Co. The condenser is the first shipment from Toshiba of a major component for a new generation of nuclear energy plants under construction in the U.S. The condenser of a nuclear energy plant is a key component that condenses the steam used to drive the turbines and generators back into water.

In April 2008, Westinghouse Electric Co., Toshiba’s subsidiary, was awarded an engineering, procurement and construction contract to provide two AP1000 nuclear energy plants for Southern Co.’s Vogtle Units 3 and 4. The condenser destined for Vogtle Unit 3 was designed by Toshiba and, with the provision of technical and quality control support by Toshiba, manufacturing was consigned to BHI Co., Ltd, a Korean engineering company. Toshiba will supply the condenser for Vogtle Unit 4 as well.

Vogtle unit 3 is scheduled to start operation in 2016 as the first AP1000 in the U.S.


AP1000 nuclear reactor certification amended by NRC

An artist rendering of an AP1000 plant. Photo courtesy of Westinghouse Electric Co.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has voted to approve a rule certifying an amended version of Westinghouse’s 1,154 MWe AP1000 reactor design for use in the United States. The amended certification, which will be incorporated into the NRC’s regulations, will be valid for 15 years.

“The design provides enhanced safety margins through use of simplified, inherent, passive, or other innovative safety and security functions, and also has been assessed to ensure it could withstand damage from an aircraft impact without significant release of radioactive materials,” said NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko.

The Commission has also found good cause to make the rule immediately effective once it is published in the Federal Register. NRC rules normally become effective 30 days after publication.

The design certification process provides for public participation and early resolution of safety issues for proposed reactor designs. NRC certification, in the form of a final rule, means the design meets the agency’s applicable safety requirements. If an applicant for a nuclear power plant license references a certified design, the applicant need not submit safety information for the design. Instead, the license application and the NRC’s safety review would address the remaining safety issues specific to the proposed nuclear power plant.

Westinghouse submitted an application for certification of the original AP1000 standard plant design on March 28, 2002; the NRC issued a rule certifying that design on Jan. 27, 2006.

Westinghouse submitted an application to amend the AP1000 on May 27, 2007. The NRC’s extensive technical review of the amendment request focused on ensuring the agency’s safety requirements have been met. This transparent process, including input from the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, led to the NRC issuing a final safety evaluation report on the amended AP1000 in August. The NRC issued a proposed rule for the amended design in January. Stakeholders provided more than 12,000 comments on the proposed rule; the NRC staff considered these comments in developing the final rule.

The Shaw Group congratulated Westinghouse on receiving the final certification for the AP1000.

“The final design certification of the AP1000 reactor from the NRC is a testament to the nuclear industry’s dedication to safety and dependability in reactor design,” said J.M. Bernhard Jr., chairman, president and chief executive officer of Shaw. “The AP1000 design is a significant advancement in the safety of nuclear energy, and now with the design certification in place, the technology will play an important role in providing safe, clean and reliable energy for our future.”

The NRC is currently reviewing six Combined License applications that reference the amended AP1000 design. The NRC has certified three other standard reactor designs: the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, System 80+, and AP600. The agency is currently reviewing applications to certify three additional reactor designs.

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