Thursday, August 03, 2006

The U.S. Nuclear Renaissance: Forgings Now!

On Tuesday, I wrote about a nuclear fabrication shop in Indiana. Today, there was an equally exciting press release from UniStar Nuclear:

UniStar Companies First to Procure Components for First Potential Nuclear Power Plant in Nearly Three Decades

Constellation Energy ... and AREVA today announced that through their jointly developed UniStar business model they have entered into agreements to procure the long lead materials necessary to construct the first potential U.S. nuclear power plant of a planned U.S EPR fleet. Of the several U.S. companies considering the construction of new nuclear plants, Constellation Energy and AREVA, through the UniStar business model, are the first to procure the necessary raw materials.

This procurement includes 44 heavy forgings for a planned U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) to be supplied by AREVA. The forgings - needed for the reactor pressure vessel and steam generators - will be produced at international facilities. The completed forgings will be manufactured into final components at BWX Technologies' (BWXT) facility in Mount Vernon, Ind., or AREVA's facility in Chalon-St. Marcel.
(My guess is that the "international facilities" that will produce the forgings are at Japan Steel Works.)

My initial reaction this news was that these guys have a lot of guts. After all, they don't have an early site permit, and the design certification papers for the EPR have not been submitted to the NRC yet. One of my coworkers noted, however, that it might not be as big a risk as you would think. After all, there is an EPR under construction in Finland, and one is in the works for France. If nuclear licensing proves too cumbersome in the U.S., UniStar can probably sell the forgings in Europe, maybe even at a profit. A standardized design and a global market can be handy.

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pgunter said...

It is becoming ever more obvious that this so-called "renaissance" is more part ruse than part pipe dream. An agreement to forge materials that can be used in other industries demonstrates little more than that.

David Bradish said...

Call it what you will. You're going to see many more utilities ordering parts way in advance over the next few years.

KenG said...

A minor clarification. These forgings could be used in "other countries" not "other industries". These would still be uniquely nuclear components and do represent an investment in the future of the nuclear industry.

pgunter said...

In fact, new designs are proposed with the use of less "nuclear grade" parts for a host of safety systems and instead rely upon "commercial grade" parts.

That means less quality control and assurance. This all comes out as the "solution" to the nuclear industry's decades old problem of substand and counterfeit parts for safety related systems and components.

A not so minor point and trade off of safety for cost.

Stewart Peterson said...

Safety does not equal reliability.

The current 90%+ capacity factors are a problem, not an advantage, because no power plant reasonably needs more than about 75%. These designs rely not on the parts being reliable, but on the laws of physics. Using commercial-grade components will reduce costs, and that's it.

Unless, Mr. Gunter, little green aliens come down from the planet Zorkon with an anti-gravity beam. Would you like that to be a design-basis accident?
Furthermore, what's so magical about a steam system that happens to be connected to a nuclear heat source? Or, for that matter, an electrical system that happens to be at a nuclear power plant? They're steam systems and electrical systems, nothing more, and need nothing special--especially given these plants' passive safety.