Bechtel to Support Project Management for China Nuclear Jobs

Issue 3 and Volume 5.

By Bob Rucker, Bechtel

U.S.-based Bechtel has signed an agreement to provide project management consulting services to the China Nuclear Power Engineering Co., Ltd. (CNPE), a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corp. Bechtel will support the development and training of CNPE staff and help the organization enhance its ability to manage nuclear projects.

Bechtel completed construction of turbine islands for two 728 MW units at the Qinshan nuclear facility in eastern China, in 2002. Photo courtesy of AECL.
Bechtel completed construction of turbine islands for two 728 MW units at the Qinshan nuclear facility in eastern China, in 2002. Photo courtesy of AECL.

“As an experienced project management company, we have developed proprietary training tools to prepare our own staff for nuclear power plant engineering, procurement, and construction management projects,” said Ahmet Tokpinar, manager of Marketing & Business Development.

Bechtel has provided nuclear design, construction, and operating plant support expertise to 150-plus nuclear plants—more than 74,000 MW—over the past 60 years. Tokpinar said he expects Bechtel to support CNPE in the development of its own project management processes and tools.

Bechtel helped build the first commercial nuclear power plant in China, the Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station, completed in 1994, and was the first U.S. company granted a construction license in the country. Its work also included the largest commercial project to date in China—the 1,450 MW Qinshan plant, completed in 2002. CNPE’s parent company, China National Nuclear Corp., owns Qinshan and is familiar with Bechtel’s experience and project management approach.

Most of the work will be performed in CNPE’s offices in Beijing and in Bechtel’s offices in Frederick, Md., near Washington, D.C.

“This collaboration between Bechtel and CNPE is an important step in broadening international capability in the nuclear industry,” said Greg Ashley, president of Bechtel’s nuclear power business line.

The contract complements an overall plan to expand Bechtel’s power business unit’s work outside of the United States, while allowing the company to deploy experienced employees to improve nuclear project management staff in countries that have ambitious expansion plans, and to expand its understanding of project execution approaches used in those countries.

Getting Back on Track

Nuclear construction is back on track in China after a months-long hiatus following Fukushima, as the Central Government reviewed design and construction plans for new plants. The government ultimately adopted new safety measures to protect against natural disasters, such as flooding, and strengthened emergency preparedness, based on lessons learned from Japan.

“Fukushima slowed down the start of new nuclear power construction but had limited effect on the in-progress construction of current plants,” said Tokpinar. “China and South Korea are now fueling nuclear power’s growth in Asia. They are also the two countries with the infrastructure to design, build, and export nuclear technology.”

Bechtel has supported South Korea’s nuclear power industry since the late 1970s and is consulting on engineering management, technical design reviews and consultations, project controls support, and quality assurance for KEPCO Engineering & Construction Co.’s new 1,400 MW Shin Ulchin Units 1 and 2.

China: The Nuclear Powerhouse

“Worldwide, China is by far the biggest growth area for nuclear energy,” Ashley said.

“By the end of 2010, total installed capacity of nuclear plants in China had reached nearly 12 GW—still meeting only about 1 percent of the country’s demand, but on track to reach 80 GW by 2020,” said Tokpinar. “That will be a more than six-fold increase.”

Nearly 30 nuclear power projects with a combined 29.7 GW are in progress in China, most of them in rapidly growing, energy-hungry coastal areas.

“China has ambitious plans to expand the contribution of nuclear power to its overall energy mix as it reduces the pace of its new fossil power plant construction,” added Tokpinar. “With so much of its power currently coming from coal and oil, China has to really ramp up its nuclear capacity if it wants to reduce emissions and still meet a demand that has been growing at a rate of almost 15 percent per year.”

Tokpinar said Bechtel’s current project management consulting contract is likely the only China work on the immediate horizon for the company, and that Bechtel does not anticipate an EPC role on any of the country’s new plants. Long-term, however, he sees opportunities for partnership as China looks beyond its own borders for nuclear projects in other countries.

“Strong development of their nuclear industry will serve China well as the international nuclear power market expands,” he said.

Bechtel has served the world’s nuclear power market for more than 60 years. The company’s engineers have shaped nuclear technology from the earliest experimental breeder reactor through advances that include passive light-water reactors, liquid-metal reactors, pressure-suppression containment plants, and new methods of radioactive waste vitrification.

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