Nuclear

New plant in the Netherlands put on hold

Issue 2 and Volume 5.

Dutch utility Delta and its partners EDF and RWE have postponed plans to build a second nuclear power plant in the Netherlands because of the poor investment climate and low electricity prices.

Delta had plans to build a nuclear power plant next to an existing plant near the town of Borssele, but said on Jan. 23 it was delaying these for at least two to three years, citing an uncertain investment climate due to the financial crisis over the past six years.

The new plant would have cost between 5 billion and 7 billion euros, according to Reuters.


Nuclear project reaches “major milestones” in UK

Areva said it has achieved major milestones for EPR construction projects in the United Kingdom by signing new agreements on Feb. 17. The Areva EPR is a 1,600 MW Generation III+ reactor.

Areva signed a cooperation agreement with Rolls-Royce to extend global cooperation which covers the manufacturing of components for new nuclear power plants and other nuclear projects in the UK and beyond. It follows a global agreement signed between the two companies in March 2011.

Rolls-Royce will supply Areva with equipment and technical and engineering services with an objective of £100 million in value for the first of its EPR reactors in the UK, planned to be built at Hinkley Point by EDF.

Areva also signed with EDF a memorandum of understanding relating to the delivery of the nuclear steam supply system and all central instrumentation and control systems for the Hinkley Point C project.

Areva has been selected to build the nuclear steam generating systems for the first four EPR reactors planned for construction in the UK by EDF and is competing for a further two reactors for Horizon Nuclear Power. The group is also in preliminary discussions with NuGen for the construction of two EPR reactors.


Exelon-Constellation merger complete

Exelon Corp. and Constellation Energy said they have completed their merger, effective March 12, 2012.

Upon the closing of the merger, Christopher M. Crane became president and CEO of the combined company, and Mayo A. Shattuck III became executive chairman. The new company retains the Exelon name and remains headquartered in Chicago, with operations in Maryland, Illinois and Pennsylvania. It will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol EXC.

The merged company is now one of the nation’s largest competitive energy products and services suppliers by load with about 164 TWh hours per year, 100,000 business and public sector customers and approximately 1 million residential customers. Exelon will have operations and business activities in 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. The company also has one of the nation’s largest power generation fleets, with approximately 35,000 MW of owned power generation, including more than 19,000 MW of nuclear power.

The three utilities within Exelon – Baltimore Gas and Electric, ComEd and PECO – remain headquartered in Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia. Together, they make Exelon one of the nation’s largest residential electricity and natural gas distribution companies, serving 6.6 million gas and electric customers across three states.

The transaction has been approved by shareholders of Exelon and Constellation. The two companies are combining operations immediately and integration efforts are underway.


Nuclear regulators to issue post-Fukushima orders

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said it has authorized its staff to issue immediately effective orders to U.S. commercial nuclear reactors. This action begins implementation of several recommendations for enhancing safety at U.S. reactors based on lessons learned from the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Two of the orders apply to every U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, including those under construction and the recently licensed new Vogtle reactors. The first order requires the plants to better protect safety equipment installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to obtain sufficient equipment to support all reactors at a given site simultaneously. The second order requires the plants to install enhanced equipment for monitoring water levels in each plant’s spent fuel pool.

The third order applies only to U.S. boiling-water reactors that use GE Mark I or Mark II containment structures. These reactors must improve venting systems (or for the Mark II plants, install new systems) that help prevent or mitigate core damage in the event of a serious accident. Plants have until Dec. 31, 2016, to complete modifications and requirements of all three orders.

The NRC will also issue a detailed information request to every operating U.S. commercial nuclear power plant, and certain parts will apply to reactors currently under construction or recently licensed. The request covers several topics, including:

  • Re-analyzing earthquake and flooding risks using the latest available information;
  • Conducting earthquake and flooding hazard “walkdowns,” where skilled engineers closely examine a plant’s ability to meet current requirements;
  • Assessing the ability of a plant’s current communications systems and equipment to perform under conditions of onsite and offsite damage and prolonged loss of all alternating current (AC) electrical power; and
  • Assessing plant staffing levels needed to fill emergency positions in response to events simultaneously affecting all reactors at a given site.

Each section of the request includes schedules for plants to provide the relevant information to the NRC.


Oldbury plant in UK ceases operation

Construction takes place at the Oldbury station in 1963. Photo courtesy of Magnox Ltd, EnergySolutions and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Magnox’s two-unit, 434 MW Oldbury power station, considered to be the world’s oldest operating nuclear power station, ceased generation at 11 a.m. on Feb. 29, 2012.

After 44 years of safe operation, the site has generated over 137.5 TWh of electricity.

In November 2011, the decision to shut down Unit One was taken after consideration by operators Magnox, EnergySolutions – the owners of Magnox Ltd, and the site owners the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The decision was made on the grounds that further operation was no longer economically viable.

Originally, Oldbury was due to shutdown in 2008. Since the scheduled closure date, the plant has generated an additional 7.4 TWhrs of electricity.

“EnergySolutions are proud to have been part of that journey – including the site’s recent life extensions – and we look forward to working with all at Magnox in the coming years as the focus shifts to safe defueling, decommissioning, and clean-up,” said Richard Waite, president, UK and Europe, EnergySolutions.


Blue Ribbon Commission issues report on used nuclear fuel

A rendering of repository tunnels with used fuel containers. Photo courtesy of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future on Jan. 26 released its final report to the U.S. Energy Secretary, detailing recommendations for creating a safe, long-term solution for managing and disposing of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

The report is the culmination of nearly two years of work by the commission and its subcommittees, which met more than two dozen times since March 2010, gathering testimony from experts and stakeholders, as well as visiting nuclear waste management facilities both domestic and overseas.

The commission, co-chaired by former Congressman Lee H. Hamilton and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, was tasked by Energy Secretary Steven Chu with devising a new strategy for managing the nation’s sizable and growing inventory of nuclear waste.

The strategy outlined in the Commission report contains three crucial elements. First, the Commission recommends a consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities, noting that trying to force such facilities on unwilling states, tribes and communities has not worked.

Second, the Commission recommends that the responsibility for the nation’s nuclear waste management program be transferred to a new organization; one that is independent of the DOE and dedicated solely to assuring the safe storage and ultimate disposal of spent nuclear waste fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

Third, the Commission recommends changing the manner in which fees being paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund – about $750 million a year – are treated in the federal budget to ensure they are being set aside and available for use as Congress initially intended.

The report also recommends immediate efforts to commence development of at least one geologic disposal facility and at least one consolidated storage facility, as well as efforts to prepare for the eventual large-scale transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste from current storage sites to those facilities. The Commission noted that it was specifically not tasked with rendering any opinion on the suitability of Yucca Mountain, proposing any specific site for a waste management facility, or offering any opinion on the role of nuclear power in the nation’s energy supply mix.

The United States currently has more than 65,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at about 75 operating and shutdown reactor sites around the country. More than 2,000 tons are being produced each year. The DOE also is storing an additional 2,500 tons of spent fuel and large volumes of high-level nuclear waste, mostly from past weapons programs, at a handful of government-owned sites.

The Commission’s full report is available at: www.brc.gov


Point Lepreau receives license renewal

The Point Lepreau station generates about 635 MW from its single CANDU reactor.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) said on Feb. 17 it is renewing the Power Reactor Operating License issued to New Brunswick Power Nuclear (NBPN) for its 635 MW Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, for the period between Feb. 17, 2012 until June 30, 2017. In addition, the Commission grants NBPN permission to proceed with fuel reload and restart of the reactor.

The Commission, in making its decision, considered information presented for a public hearing held on Oct. 6, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario and on Dec. 1 and 2, 2011 in Saint John, New Brunswick. During the public hearing, the Commission received and considered submissions from NBPN and 37 intervenors, as well as CNSC staff’s recommendations.

The Commission is satisfied that the licensee meets the requirements of section 24 of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The Commission concluded that NBPN is qualified to carry out the activities that will be permitted under the renewed license and that it will make adequate provision for the protection of the environment, the health and safety of persons, and the maintenance of national security and measures required to implement international obligations to which Canada has agreed.

With this decision, the Commission has recommended the completion of a site-specific seismic hazard assessment. The Commission further requires that NBPN share the results of this assessment as part of its public information program.


Entergy plant cited for regulatory violations

The 798 MW Palisades plant in Michigan has been operating since 1971. Photo courtesy of Entergy.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Feb. 14 issued three violations to the Palisades nuclear power plant. One violation is for a “substantial safety significance” issue and two others are for a “low to moderate safety significance” issue. These violations will result in additional NRC inspections and oversight of the facility. The single-unit, 798 MW plant in Covert, Mich. is operated by Entergy Nuclear Operations.

The violation resulting in a substantial significance to safety is related to a Sept. 25 electrical fault caused by personnel at the site which resulted in a reactor trip, the loss of half of the control room indicators, and actuation of safety systems that were not warranted by actual plant conditions. The NRC said this made the reactor trip more challenging for the operators and increased the possibility of a serious event occurring. The NRC conducted a Special Inspection and determined the plant failed to have adequate work procedures for the electrical panel maintenance work to ensure the job was done successfully.

The violations resulting in a low to moderate significance to safety are related to a coupling failure in the service water system. The system is comprised of three motor driven pumps which provide cooling to safety related equipment such as containment air coolers and diesel generators. Last August one of the service water pumps failed due to cracking in one of the couplings. This was a repeat of a previous equipment failure that occurred in 2009. The NRC conducted a Special Inspection and concluded the plant failed to prevent recurrence of the cracking condition and failed to completely consider the properties of the steel used in a past modification of the couplings.

After consideration of the information, the NRC staff has characterized the Sept. 25 violation as “yellow”, or as a finding of substantial significance, and the Aug. 9 violations as “white”, or having a low to moderate safety significance.

The yellow and white inspection findings will place the plant in the “Degraded Cornerstone Column” of the NRC’s Action Matrix as of the fourth quarter of 2011. This will not only result in additional oversight at Palisades, but will also include a NRC supplemental team inspection to independently determine whether Palisades understands the root cause and contributing causes of the risk significant issues; has identified the extent of the condition and extent of cause; and has taken the appropriate corrective actions to prevent recurrence. In addition, the NRC will evaluate if the site considered whether any safety culture component caused or significantly contributed to the issues.

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