Coal, Nuclear, Reciprocating Engines

California PUC to investigate San Onofre shutdown

Issue 11 and Volume 116.

San Onofre Nuclear Station
San Onofre Nuclear Station

The California Public Utilities Commission unanimously voted to begin an investigation into the extended outages of units 2 and 3 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Part of that investigation will include whether to immediately remove all costs related to the plant from the rates of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, and to refund any costs already collected since Jan. 1, 2012.

The investigation will look into the causes of the outages, the utilities’ responses, the future of the units and the resulting effects on the electric service at just and reasonable rates.

SONGS has been shut down since January after tube wear was found in both units. A report from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that the turbine manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, did not properly test the tubes prior to installation.

Southern Co., KBR form alliance to market clean coal technology

Southern Company and KBR have formed an alliance to market a clean coal technology known as Transported Integrated Gasification worldwide.

The coal gasification process was developed by Southern Co. and KBR with support from the U.S. Department of Energy. The technology reduces the CO2 emissions of a coal-fired plant to levels comparable to a gas-fired power plant.

Southern Co. Chairman Tom Fanning said the technology is a way for the U.S. to preserve coal-fired generation as a low-carbon source of power.

The market for such a technology could be great, the company said. In China alone, power producers plan to build more than 300,000 MW of new coal-fired generation by 2035.

Coal-fired plant receives stay on regional haze plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a 45-day extended administrative stay for PNM Resources to address a regional haze program under the Clean Air Act for the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico. The stay is set to expire Nov. 29.

The stay is expected to provide additional time to consider an alternative between the New Mexico Environment Department’s plan and the EPA’s plan, but the stay does not extend the September 2016 compliance date of the federal implementation plan. The federal plan includes a requirement to install selective catalytic reduction technology on all four units at the plant. The federal plan is expected to cost $750 million.

Three nuclear units in Canada sending power to grid

The 660 MW Point Lepreau nuclear power plant in New Brunswick, Canada, on Oct. 26 successfully synchronized to the power grid for the first time since 2008. The station is now in the final stages of commissioning after a refurbishment project.

Plant owner NB Power needs one more approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to increase reactor power to above 35 percent.

On Oct. 25, Unit 1 at Bruce Power nuclear plant in Ontario began commercial operations, the final step in the refurbishment of the unit, while Unit 2 was synchronized to the grid on Oct. 16. Work will continue on final commissioning activities on Unit 2, with its return to commercial operations expected in the near term.

Georgia Power completes conversion to natural gas

Plant McDonough-Atkinson
Plant McDonough-Atkinson

The third and final of Georgia Power’s 840 MW natural gas combined-cycle units at Plant McDonough-Atkinson in Smyrna, Ga., became operational Oct. 28.

The three units represent one of the largest generation sources on Georgia Power’s system, and are capable of producing more than five times the electricity of the coal units that were replaced.

Georgia Power, a unit of Southern Co., placed the first natural gas unit on-line in December 2011, and the second on April 26 of this year.

At the height of construction, more than 2,000 contract and construction workers were involved in building the new units.

Georgia Power retired the two coal units at Plant McDonough-Atkinson on Sept. 30, 2011 and Feb. 29, 2012. Removal of the historic stack at the plant has begun, and will be complete by June 2013.

All new generation in September came from wind and solar

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said 300 MW of wind and 133 MW of solar came online during the month of September, accounting for all new generating capacity added to the U.S. grid that month.

Some of the solar projects include NRG Energy and MidAmerican Renewables’ 50 MW Phase 5 Agua Caliente Solar Project expansion in Arizona, K Road Ventures’ 25 MW McHenry Solar Farm in California and Zongyi Solar America’s 20 MW Tinton Falls Solar in New Jersey.

The new wind projects include EDF Group’s 140 MW Phase 1 Pacific Wind in California, Forsyth Street Advisor LLC’s 57.6 MW Phase 1 Horse Butt Wind Farm in Idaho and KODE Novus I LLC 80 MW Phase 1 Novus Wind Farm in Oklahoma.

Santee Cooper to retire six units

The Santee Cooper Board of Directors on Oct. 19 voted to retire six electric generating units, two oil-fired units and four coal-fired units, at its oldest stations. The vote comes after the Board considered Santee Cooper’s generation resource needs and the cost of complying with new emission limits for mercury.

“As we evaluated the anticipated costs of complying with new regulations and the generation resources we anticipate needing, it became clear that the best action for our customers and the state is to authorize the retirement of these units at Jefferies and Grainger,” said Board Chairman O.L. Thompson.

Four units will be retired at Jeffries Generating Station, which began operating in 1954 and has a capacity of 398 MW.

The other two units set to be retired are at the Grainger Generation Station. Grainger came online in 1966 and has a capacity of 170 MW.

Partnership formed to build gas-fired generation in Canada

TransAlta and MidAmerican Energy are joining forces to develop, build and operate new gas-fired generation in Canada.

The partnership will focus on several opportunities for new gas-fired power plants in Canada, including the 800 MW Sundance 7 Project in Alberta. All development and construction or acquisition of approved projects will be funded on a 50-50 basis.

Calgary-based TransAlta will be responsible for construction management, operation and maintenance of all approved projects.

MidAmerican Energy is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, which is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett.

The CEO of MidAmerican, Greg Abel, said the company has been looking for an opportunity to invest in the Canadian power generation market, where the potential for growth is strong.

Two regional nuclear emergency equipment centers in the works

Two regional centers for critical equipment are under development, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

All companies that operate nuclear energy facilities approved a contract to develop two regional response centers managed by Pooled Equipment Inventory Co.

The regional response centers will be located near Memphis and Phoenix and will be capable of delivering supplemental emergency equipment within 24 hours of an extreme event, enabling them to safely manage a loss of electrical power and/or cooling water supply. The equipment includes a full set of portable safety equipment, radiation protection equipment, electrical generators, pumps and other emergency response equipment.

The centers are expected to be operational by August 2012. The startup cost, to be shared by all U.S. companies operating nuclear power plants, is approximately $40 million.

Dominion to sell Kewaunee nuclear plant

Dominion Resources said it plans to decommission the Kewaunee Power Station next year.

The announcement comes after the company was unable to sell the 556 MW nuclear power plant in Carlton, Wisc.

The plant will stop all power production in the second quarter of next year as it moves ahead to a safe closure, the company said.

Tom Farrell, chairman and CEO of Dominion, said the decision was based purely on economics.

Two utilities – Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Alliant Energy – now buy power from the nuclear plant. After the closure, those obligations will still be met through power purchases on the open market.

The nuclear plant began operation in 1974. Last year, the plant’s operating license was renewed by the NRC for another 20 years.

The sale is contingent upon approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Virginia Public Service Commission.