The FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in New York avoids closure as Exelon Generation (NYSE: EXC) said it will assume ownership of the plant from Entergy (NYSE: ETR).
As part of the $110 million agreement, Entergy will transfer FitzPatrick’s operating license to Exelon. The New York Power Authority agreed to transfer the decommissioning trust fund and liability for the plant to Entergy. Once regulatory approvals are obtained and the deal is finalized, Entergy will then transfer the fund and associated liability to Exelon. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2017 pending approvals from state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the New York State Public Service Commission.
“I would like specifically to thank our employees who have continued to operate this plant safely and reliably, despite the uncertainty they have faced about a potential shutdown,” said Entergy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Leo Denault. “The pending sale of FitzPatrick is in the best interests of all of our stakeholders: employees, owners, customers and communities, including New Yorkers who will benefit from the plant’s continued clean, safe and reliable energy production.”
Entergy announced in 2015 that it would shut down the single-unit, 838-MW FitzPatrick plant by January 2017 due to the plant losing money. New York regulators and officials worked on plans to save the plant, but Entergy said it was too little, too late. In July, Entergy and Exelon began talks of selling the plant in order to keep it operating.
“Saving FitzPatrick is an enormous win for Central New York and the entire state, preserving hundreds of jobs and maintaining a reliable, carbon-free power source for New Yorkers,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “FitzPatrick’s continued operation is essential both to the regional economy and our nation-leading efforts to power the state with 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.”
Exelon agreed it would move forward with a scheduled refueling outage in January, and regulators passed the state’s Clean Energy Standard in August. Exelon said if the standard was passed, it would reinvest millions into its upstate nuclear plants, including approximately $400-$500 million in operations, integration and refueling expenditures in spring of 2017. The utility also said it did not expect any changes to staffing levels at the plant, which normally staffs around 600 people. Exelon operates two other nuclear plants in upstate New York: Ginna and Nine Mile Point. Nine Mile Point is adjacent to FitzPatrick.
Proposed Duke Energy Nuclear Reactors Pass Safety Evaluation
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff completed its final safety evaluation report for combined licenses for two planned reactors at the William States Lee site in South Carolina.
The report says there are no safety aspects that would preclude issuing the licenses for construction and operation of the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards provided the results of its independent review to the commission in Dec. 14, 2015. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued the final impact statement in December 2013. A mandatory hearing on the application is expected to take place later this year. Following the hearing, the commission will vote on whether to authorize staff to issue the licenses.
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) submitted the application to build and operate the reactors on Dec. 12, 2007. The NRC certified the 1,100-MW AP1000 design in 2012.
EDF’s CEO Allegedly Knew of Hinkley Point C’s Delay Before Board Vote
EDF’s CEO reportedly knew the UK government wanted to review the Hinkley Point C nuclear contract days before the company’s board voted to move on with the project, according to Reuters.
EDF’s board voted July 28 to push forward with the $24 billion, 3.2-GW project. Hours later, Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, delayed the project until the government had more time to review the contract and said it would make a decision in early autumn.
EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy claimed he was caught off-guard by May’s decision, but Reuters reports he was informed on July 21 about the decision to delay and again on July 27 before the board meeting. In emails allegedly sent to Reuters, Lévy said the French government on July 21 had “warned us that in light of her very recent arrival, the new British prime minister has asked for ‘a few days’ before deciding on the project.”
EDF then had to cancel a contract signing ceremony planned for July 29 with UK officials and China, according to DigitalLook. China General Nuclear bought a 33 percent stake in the Hinkley Point C project.
Renewable, Nuclear Power Projected to Rise in North America
If the U.S. Clean Power Plan (CPP) survives in court, power produced with renewable and nuclear resources in North America will grow from 38 percent in 2015 to 45 percent in 2025, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The agency pointed to the recent agreement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to produce half of their power supplies from low-carbon resources by 2025.
The projection assumes implementation of the CPP, which was placed on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court, will begin in 2022.
“The extension of certain tax credits, significant cost reductions, and recognition of future CPP requirements result in a large increase in renewable generation between 2015 and 2025,” EIA said Tuesday.
During the same period, coal-fired generation will drop 13 percent while the share of power produced with natural gas rises 4 percent, EIA said.
Mexico accounted for 6 percent of total generation produced in North America in 2015. Canada accounted for 13 percent while U.S. generation represented 80 percent of all power produced in North America last year.
About 80 percent of Canada’s power already comes from low-carbon resources, primarily due to the nation’s vast supply of hydropower capacity. Canada will be adding more wind and solar capacity as it gradually phases out all coal-fired generation. However, the nation’s nuclear capacity is expected to decline with retirements and its use of gas-fired generation is expected to rise.
In Mexico, generation from renewable and nuclear resources is expected to rise from 21 percent in 2015 to 29 percent in 2025, driven primarily by the growth of wind, solar and hydropower capacity.
NRC Inspection Team Headed to Westinghouse Nuclear Fuel Plant
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is sending an augmented inspection team (AIT) to the Westinghouse nuclear fuel fabrication plant in South Carolina to look into an accumulation of an excessive amount of uranium-bearing material.
An air scrubber, which removes unwanted material from a number of processes at the plant, was undergoing annual inspection and cleanout when an unexpectedly large amount of material was found inside the scrubber. Further analysis showed the materials had uranium levels in that area that were higher than allowed under NRC requirements. The NRC said there were no safety-related consequences as a result of the accumulation, but the potential for such consequences may have existed.
“This incident did not involve employee contamination or a nuclear criticality, but it shows the need for Westinghouse management to review some aspects of their operation,” said NRC Region II Administrator Cathy Haney. “Our inspection will evaluate these issues thoroughly and ensure they are being properly addressed.”
The six-member AIT will review the circumstances, identify the cause or causes and ensure that Westinghouse took appropriate corrective actions. They are expected to spend several days at the facility before continuing an in-office review of the findings. An inspection report will be issued within 30 days of completion of the inspection.
Amec Foster Wheeler Continues Environmental Assessment for NuGen Nuclear Project
Amec Foster Wheeler will continue to provide environmental support to NuGeneration Limited (NuGen) for a planned 3.8-GW (gross) nuclear power plant at Moorside, Cumbria.
The company will undertake modeling and assessment work so NuGen can submit an environmental impact assessment in support of a Development Consent Order application and environmental permit applications in 2017. This builds on the company’s successful delivery of the initial phases of the environmental impact assessment program, site characterization, two major consultation stages and initial work on the site’s environmental permits.
Amec Foster Wheeler’s environmental and radiological experts utilize experience in areas such as hydrology, ecology, hydrogeology, radiological assessment, air quality and noise and vibration. The team has helped assess impacts of proposed nuclear builds at Hinkley Point, Sizewell, Wylfa and Moorside.
“The NuGen and Amec Foster Wheeler partnership has worked successfully over a number of years and NuGen is pleased to continue this partnership as the environmental impact assessment and operation permits are prepared ahead of delivery in early 2017,” said Paula Madill, NuGen’s Head of Environment.
NYPSC Approves Clean Energy Standard
The New York State Public Service Commission (NYPSC) approved the Clean Energy Standard designed to boost renewables and nuclear power in the state.
Commissioners stated their majority vote centered around three main points: grid reliability, keeping carbon emissions low and maintaining jobs. The standard would allow tradable credits for nuclear, solar and wind utilities estimated to be worth $965 million in the first two years. The state set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and generate half of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
“This is not an anti-gas movement, but one that recognizes the importance of fuel diversity as an integral part of a utility system,” said NYPSC Chair Audrey Zibelman. “We believe the actions we are taking today we can all be proud of.”
Commissioner Diane Burman spoke of the blackouts in 1977 and 2003 and the fear of the unknown during the events.
“These are sharp reminders of the need for a reliable and resilient grid,” Burman said. She did say she understood the “concerns and passions of those who oppose nuclear power,” but also noted that many of the public comments from those against it were from people who did not live near plant sites.
“All of the comments for nuclear were from people who lived near nuclear plant site communities,” Burman said. “I gave more weight to those comments.”
Commissioner Gregg Sayre said he lives within 15 miles of Ginna nuclear plant and that the plant has been a “good neighbor.” He went on to say there are no plans to keep the standard around forever, but that the thousands of lost megawatts of nuclear generation cannot be replaced by renewables.
Utilities, scientists, environmentalists and industry and labor groups commented for the proposed standard that would value nuclear’s carbon-free generation attributes and help support financially-struggling plants in the state. The standard would also give incentives to renewable energy and distributed energy projects.
Entergy (NYSE: ETR) announced it would shut down the FitzPatrick nuclear plant in upstate New York by 2017, and Exelon (NYSE: EXC) threatened to shut down the Nine Mile Point and Ginna nuclear plants if the standard was not passed. Exelon is in talks with Entergy to potentially buy FitzPatrick and keep it operating.
Indian Point nuclear plant was initially not included in the standard because there was a provision that required plants to be fully licensed. Indian Point’s license expired, but the plant can continue operating under a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission provision that allows operation so long as the license renewal process is underway. Governor Andrew Cuomo has vehemently been against relicensing Indian Point due to its close proximity to New York City. However, that provision, along with another that required plants to prove they are struggling, were both removed.
“The work in New York is not done,” said Nuclear Matters co-chair and former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH). “Several of the existing facilities have refueling and capital investment decisions to make. It is important that the order be issued and the CES implemented in an expeditious manner.”
DOE Extends Savannah River Site Nuclear Maintenance Contract
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) extended the current contract with Fluor Corp. (NYSE: FLR) at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.
DOE extended the management and operating contract for an additional 22 months. The contract is currently being executed by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC. (SRNS), a Fluor-led partnership, together with SN3 Stoller Newport News Nuclear and Honeywell.
“As always, Fluor succeeds in the nuclear space through its continued focus on safety and security by modeling excellence and delivering results across all elements of the SRNS organization,” said Bruce Stanski, president of Fluor’s Government Group. “It is also a validation of our employees’ good work to make the world safer and the assurance that DOE has in our ability to successfully accomplish the project’s mission.”
SRNS was first awarded the maintenance and operating contract in January 2008 after an open and competitive bidding process. The Savannah River Site supports and maintains the nuclear weapons stockpile as well as processing and storing nuclear materials in support of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
Loviisa Nuclear Plant Refueling and Maintenance Outage Begins
Fortum will soon start the annual refueling and maintenance outage at its Loviisa nuclear plant in Finland.
The Unit 1 outage is set to begin August 7, followed by servicing of Unit 2. Unit 1 will undergo the extensive inspection outage performed every four years and Unit 2 is scheduled for a so-called short refueling outage. The entire outage procedure is estimated to be finished in eight weeks.
At Loviisa 1, reheaters and safety valves in the initial steam line will be replaced. At Unit 2, the generator’s rotor will be replaced and major overhaul of stator conducted. One quarter of the fuel will be replaced. In addition to normal periodic maintenance tasks and refueling, the most significant work on both units this year is the modernization of high-pressure turbines and replacement of main transformer and generator breaker.
A total of 950 external contractors are involved in Loviisa’s annual outage and ongoing modernization projects. There are approximately 500 Fortum employees and some 100 permanent contractors working at Loviisa.
UK Nuclear Power Project Faces new Delays, Hurdles
PARIS (AP) – A major nuclear power project in Britain is facing more hurdles as the government announced an unexpected delay and unions at EDF, the French energy firm that will build the plant, argued it would be so expensive as to put the company itself at risk.
French unions say the 24-billion-euro ($27 billion) project, which the EDF board approved late Thursday, is far too high and could go over-budget. The French government, which pushed for the project and owns a majority stake in EDF, didn’t comment on the company’s decision.
Three major French unions said in a statement Friday “we know the success conditions are not all met” for the Hinkley Point power plant project. They have taken legal action against EDF’s management to repeal the decision and delay the project. The court decision is expected on Sept. 22.
EDF faces harsh criticism over the cost of the project, with some observers saying the company might not be solid enough to face the investment effort.
French unions also pointed out “technical uncertainties” as the British project is based on a new technology called EPR, which has yet to go online anywhere in the world.
Similar projects currently under construction in France and Finland are years behind schedule and face billions of dollars in cost overruns.
In Britain, speculation grew about the project’s future after the British government announced it will take time -at least until early autumn- to consider the details of the project.
The British GMB union immediately denounced it as “unnecessary hesitation” putting 25,000 new jobs at risk. “It is a gross error of judgment and must be reversed,” GMB national secretary for energy Justin Bowden said.
The Confederation of British Industry welcomed EDF’s green light. Josh Hardie, the business lobby’s deputy director-general, stressed that “action is needed on key infrastructure projects” such as Hinkley Point.
The two reactors could ultimately produce 7 percent of British electricity, according to EDF.
The French company is to build the plant in conjunction with Chinese state-owned company CGN, which takes one third of the cost of construction.
CGN said in a statement it “respects” the British government’s “need to familiarize itself with a project as important to the UK’s future energy security”.
KHNP to Supply Experts for UAE Nuclear Plant Project
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) agreed to send additional nuclear plant personnel to the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant project in the United Arab Emirates.
KHNP and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) signed an operating supports services agreement where KHNP will supply main control room operators and local operators to support ENEC’s operating unit, Nawah Energy Co. KHNP is supplying four APR-1400 nuclear reactors for the project, slated to begin operations in 2020.
As part of the agreement, an estimated 400 KHNP experts will support operations at Barakah every year until 2030. The workers must pass regulatory exams to be licensed to operate and manage the APR-1400 reactors in the UAE under regulations of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation.
“We are entering a crucial phase in the development of the Barakah plant and we are looking forward to working with the experts from KHNP to ensure the operational readiness of the Barakah plant,” said ENEC CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi.
Construction of the four reactors is more than 66 percent complete.
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