Small modular reactors get boost from DOE

The White House on March 22 said a total of $450 million will be made available to support first-of-its-kind engineering, design certification and licensing for up to two small modular reactor designs over five years, subject to congressional appropriations.

Small modular reactors, which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear plants, have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits.

Through cost-share agreements with private industry, the Department of Energy will solicit proposals for promising SMR projects that have the potential to be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and achieve commercial operation by 2022. These cost-share agreements will span a five-year period and, subject to congressional appropriations, will provide a total investment of approximately $900 million, with at least 50 percent provided by private industry.

The full Funding Opportunity Announcement is available at

Japan shuts down last operating reactor

Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari 3, Japan’s last operating commercial nuclear reactor, shut down for regular inspections March 5, 2012, marking the first time in 42 years that Japan has not had a reactor generating electricity, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Prior to the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in March 2011, the country had 50 operating reactors that generated over 44,000 MW, or about 30 percent of the nation’s demand. Plans were in place to increase the share of nuclear power generation to 40 percent by 2017.

Japan has turned to oil- and natural-gas fired plants to make up for the loss. The Ministry of Environment in Japan expects Japan to produce about 15 percent more greenhouse gas emissions this fiscal year than it did in 1990, the Associated Press reported.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Japanese government wants to restart two units in western Japan before demand rises during the summer months.

Emergency Operations Center complete at Beaver Valley station

FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. (FENOC), a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., said construction of the Emergency Operations Facility for its Beaver Valley Power Station has been completed.

FENOC said the new 12,000 square-foot facility supports overall management of activities related to maintaining public health and safety during the unlikely event of an emergency at the plant. The facility also will be used by Beaver Valley’s emergency response organization during quarterly training drills and bi-annual exercises evaluated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure preparedness to respond to an emergency.

Features of the new state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Facility include enhanced technologies that aid in timely monitoring and collection of environmental data; a secured, online database for sharing plant conditions and other event information in real time between company, local, county and state emergency responders; updated computer equipment; and diverse telecommunications technology to enhance communications capabilities. In addition, multiple power supplies ensure the facility will not be affected by a loss of offsite power.

The facility replaces an existing Emergency Operations Facility located on site at the Beaver Valley station in Shippingport, Pa.

GE Hitachi signs MOU to address plutonium in the UK

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) on April 4 signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd. (NNL) to help the UK government look at ways to address its growing stockpile of plutonium.

NNL will provide expert technical input to the potential UK deployment of GEH’s PRISM reactor, which would be specifically designed to disposition the UK’s plutonium while generating 600 MW of electricity. PRISM is based on technology that was demonstrated in a fast reactor in the U.S. called the EBR II, or Experimental Breeder Reactor, that operated for 30 years. Last year, GEH completed the commercialization of PRISM, which began in 1981.

The UK is currently storing more than 87 metric tons of plutonium at the Sellafield nuclear complex in West Cumbria, England. The UK government confirmed its intention to reuse this plutonium in December 2011, declaring that it “remains open to any alternative proposals for plutonium management that offer better value to the UK taxpayer.” The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) announced in February 2012 that it is seeking proposals for alternative approaches to manage the UK’s plutonium stockpile.

GEH is convinced that its PRISM technology provides an innovative solution to the objectives set forth by the NDA—the quickest disposal of plutonium at the best value—while providing substantial environmental and economic benefits. GEH said it is currently working closely with the UK government, including NDA, to detail why it believes PRISM technology is the best choice for the UK taxpayer.

New plant to be built in Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s government on April 11 approved plans to build a seventh nuclear reactor at the Kozloduy nuclear power station, according to Bulgarian newspaper The Sofia Echo.

Kozloduy has two operating, Russian-supplied VVER-1000 reactors that generate about 1,900 MWe, roughly 35 percent of Bulgaria’s electricity, according to the World Nuclear Association. Four other units at Kozloduy were shut down between 2002 and 2006.

In March, the Bulgarian government decided to abandon plans to build a second planned reactor at the Belene plant.

Qualification testing complete for AP1000 reactor coolant pump

Curtiss-Wright Corp., Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC, and the State Nuclear Power and Technology Corp. (SNPTC) of China said they have successfully completed the design, manufacture and qualification of the lead AP1000 reactor coolant pump (RCP). Curtiss-Wright performed qualification of the RCP at its Flow Control business segment’s Electro-Mechanical Division (EMD) facility in Cheswick, Pa.

The companies said the conclusion of qualification testing of the AP1000 RCP, including 50 service cycles and more than 500 total operating hours, clears the way for installation of the RCPs at Sanmen Unit 1 in China, the first AP1000 reactor to be built in the world.

Curtiss-Wright will build 16 RCPs for the first two AP1000 plants in China at its expanded EMD facility. Each plant is supported by two AP1000 reactors, while each reactor holds four reactor coolant pumps.

The shipment of the first two RCPs for Sanmen 1 is expected to occur in the second quarter of 2012.

Areva renews contract to operate waste storage facility in France

Areva has renewed its operating contract of the Aube Storage Center for Andra, the National Radioactive Waste Management Agency, Eastern France, for three years plus two optional years, for up to 10 million Euros ($13.2 million). Areva has been the industrial operator of the Aube Storage Center for 20 years.

The contract includes the storage and conditioning of low and intermediate level waste packages.

Fuel assemblies completed for Sanmen 1

The Sanmen nuclear power plant in Zhejiang province, China. Photo Courtesy of Westinghouse Electric Company LLC
The Sanmen nuclear power plant in Zhejiang province, China. Photo Courtesy of Westinghouse Electric Company LLC

Westinghouse Electric Co. in March completed fabrication of all 157 fuel assemblies and related components needed to operate the first-ever AP1000 nuclear power plant, Sanmen Unit 1, in Zhejiang province, China.

The fuel assemblies were completed at Westinghouse’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in Columbia, S.C., and delivered to the Sanmen Nuclear Power Co., also in Columbia, for later shipment to China. Sanmen Unit 1 is scheduled to begin generating electricity in 2013.

Sanmen 1 is the flagship AP1000 plant. Seven more AP1000 reactors are already under construction: one more at Sanmen; two at Haiyang site in Shandong Province, China; two at Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle site in Georgia; and two at the SCE&G V.C. Summer site in South Carolina.

B&W names new president and CEO

James Ferland, Babcock & Wilcox president and CEO. Photo courtesy of B&W.
James Ferland, Babcock & Wilcox president and CEO. Photo courtesy of B&W.

The Babcock & Wilcox Co. said James (Jim) Ferland has been appointed president and chief executive officer, effective April 19, 2012. Ferland has succeeded Brandon C. Bethards who stepped down as president and CEO of B&W, also on April 19, 2012.

Bethards retired from B&W at the company’s annual meeting of stockholders on May 8, 2012. B&W said Bethards will remain an advisor to the company for 12 months following the 2012 annual meeting to ensure a seamless transition.

Ferland has also been appointed to the B&W Board of Directors, effective upon becoming president and chief executive officer.

Ferland most recently served as president of the Americas division at Westinghouse Electric Co. Ferland was also recently named incoming president and chief executive officer for Westinghouse as of April 1, but resigned from the company on April 3.

Prior to joining Westinghouse Electric Co., Ferland served as senior vice president of Utility Operations for PNM Resources, Inc. in Albuquerque, N.M. Before joining PNM, Ferland served as vice president, Global Nuclear Field Services for Westinghouse.

TVA board approves Watts Bar construction changes

The Watts Bar nuclear plant near Spring City, Tenn.
The Watts Bar nuclear plant near Spring City, Tenn.

The Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors on April 26 approved continuing with construction of the second generating unit at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in accordance with a revised estimate.

The revised estimate for completing Watts Bar Unit 2 was announced in early April after TVA put new leadership in place and conducted a seven-month analysis of the project. The estimate includes additional funding of $1.5 billion to $2 billion, bringing the total cost to complete the project between $4 billion and $4.5 billion, with a most likely estimate of $4.2 billion. Completion is now expected between September and December 2015.

“The TVA board has been kept apprised of the review at Watts Bar Unit 2,” Chairman Bill Sansom said. “Our concurrence today to complete the facility is not only one of support for nuclear energy as an important part of TVA’s balanced energy mix to meet the needs of our seven-state region. It also is an endorsement of the leadership and actions by Tom Kilgore as president and CEO and his team on issues of importance to TVA and to the Tennessee Valley.”

Seismic research project to take place near SONGS

The San Onofre plant near San Clemente, Calif., is SCE's largest source of electricity. Photo courtesy of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The San Onofre plant near San Clemente, Calif., is SCE’s largest source of electricity. Photo courtesy of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Southern California Edison (SCE) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego said they will collaborate on a project to gather seismic data off the coast of the two-unit, 2,200 MW San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The work, part of SCE’s seismic research projects for SONGS Units 2 and 3, will involve data-gathering and analysis technologies.

Scripps scientists will lead the project, which will include collecting and processing data from 2-D and 3-D multichannel seismic reflection and refraction off San Onofre State Beach. Offshore seismic research is conducted with specially equipped boats that tow cables, or streamers, with underwater microphones at regular intervals.

Besides evaluating the existing and potential faults in the area, the seismic reflection and refraction surveys will image the offshore structures at an unprecedented resolution, and will allow scientists to test between the alternative hypotheses for the tectonic deformation observed off San Onofre.

Both units at SONGS are currently shut down for inspections, analysis and tests. Unit 2 was taken out of service Jan. 9 for a planned outage. Unit 3 was taken offline Jan. 31 after station operators detected a leak in one of the unit’s steam generator tubes.

The research project will begin later this year and continue through 2013.

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