Nuclear, Reactors, Reciprocating Engines

NUCLEAR POWER International Mega Sessions cover knowledge retainment, global projects

By Sharryn Dotson, Editor

Attendees of NUCLEAR POWER International got the chance to attend two mega sessions on Wednesday that covered a wide array of topics that affect the nuclear industry, including how to retain the potential loss of knowledge from workforce retirements, an update of projects all over the world, and how to improve operations at nuclear power plant sites.

During the morning mega session of NUCLEAR POWER International, several speakers took a look at different projects around the world. There are 28 new units that have submitted combined operating and construction license applications, with four under construction. Ten units are currently suspended and the rest are still under review.

Germany is phasing out all nine units by 2022 and Switzerland is phasing out five units by 2034. The United Kingdom has 16 operating units with two under construction and France has 56 operating units with a partial phase out scheduled for 2025.

Joel Hjelseth with Westinghouse discussed the new reactors in China at the Sanmen and Haiyang sites. Both projects are using Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors, the same type that are being built at Plant Vogtle in Georgia and V.C. Summer in South Carolina. The containment vessel turbine head (CVTH) was installed at the Sanmen site in January 2013 and at the Haiyang site in March 2013. The digital instrumentation and control system has been delivered for both projects.

John Ferrara of Generation mPower LLC, a unit of Babcock & Wilcox that is over the development of the small modular reactor (SMR), said that the mPower project at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Clinch River project is on schedule to be completed by 2022. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the award in November 2012 for the $452 million program. Generation mPower received half of the money and the second award will be announced shortly.

Clinch River will be a 360 MWe plant made up of two, 180 MWe mPower reactors. The plant will incorporate many different features, including building the reactors underground and building in security.

“The flooding issues have been addressed in the design basis,” Ferrara said. “The plant also doesn’t contain any of the tall containment buildings so it looks more like a warehouse. That also helps with the aircraft impact design.”

The reactor also uses a passive protection system that will keep the reactors cool for 14 days if all offsite power is lost, one of the lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in March 2011. The earthquake knocked out power to the plant, which made it shut down as designed and the backup diesel generators kicked in. The tsunami knocked out the diesel generators which then led to the partial meltdowns.

“Imagine if Fukushima had that,” Ferrara said. “They would have been able to concentrate on other things and just let that plant cool down.”

Ferrara said the company is expecting a 36-month construction cycle. Many of the parts are currently being tested in different facilities around the U.S., they are developing their own fuel, and the control room prototype is in operation at the center in Lynchburg, Va.

Two well-known new builds in North America, Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle and SCANA’s V.C. Summer, are underway as well. The combined operating and construction license was approved for Vogtle in February 2012 and for the Summer project the following month. Both projects are running on similar construction schedules, said Fred Pettus with CB&I, and both projects are using two AP1000 reactors.

Pettus said CB&I was able to use lessons learned from the new builds in China and apply them to the North American projects. “In China, parts of the reactor were built horizontally and then lifted up, but what we found was that the parts were then twisted and shifted,” Pettus said. “With these projects, we built them vertically and then moved them onto the site.”

Though the Chinese and American projects both use the same technology, there are differences in the supply chain issues. “There are not enough vendors that kept the programs in place when the slowdown began with nuclear construction,” Pettus said. “The problem we had was in procuring valves, rebar, pumps, things like that, not the bigger parts like the reactor and containment vessels.”

Vogtle and Summer are expected to begin operations in late 2017, Pettus said.

The afternoon session discussed ways to improve operations and performance at nuclear power plants. The subject covered not only mechanical operations but personnel and cyber safety as well as issues from an engineering, procurement and construction company’s view.

Gary Cannell of Fluor Enterprises discussed a welding repair project at the Hanford Site in Washington State that the company performed in September 2012. A leak was discovered under the pressure vessel and was found to have occurred at the channel end of the vessel about 3 inches from the channel blind. Through a failure analysis, they found that fatigue caused by the design caused cracking which led to the leak. It took two months to repair.

“This was something that had not been done at the Hanford site before,” Cannell said.

Mary Jo Rogers, a partner with Strategic Talent Solutions, gave an example of a workforce safety analysis that helped to improve the culture at an unnamed nuclear power plant in the U.S.

Rogers said the current problem is that there are an abundance of programs and processes and that they add little value to the company. The plant used targeted surveys with multiple methods that provide cross-validation and insight and give clear and easily interpreted results and graphs. The results helped management, supervisors and workers come to a general consensus of how to work together to not only improve safety at the power plants, but how to improve the culture that will help improve safety.

Cybersecurity is a growing threat that is affecting power plants around the world. Software is improving to try and fight against viruses, worms and other cyber attacks, but these threats are always changing. Peter Barletto with Global Process Solutions LLC said that new nuclear power plants need to replace obsolete analog equipment to improve availability and safety; emphasize and grow computer-based systems that are being introduced; and provide newer technologies with substantial advantages over the technologies that they are replacing.

Barletto said there are two paths to take when it comes to improving operations: Either meet the risks head on or wait and see what will happen.

“If they wait and see, I guarantee there will be some serious attacks in the future,” Barletto said.

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