Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NRG, Toshiba Form Company to Develop ABWR Projects in North America

NRG Energy Inc. has partnered with Toshiba Corp. to create a new company to pursue new nuclear energy projects. Nuclear Innovation North America LLC will focus on “marketing, siting, developing, financing and investing in advanced design nuclear projects” in the United States and Canada, NRG Energy said in a news release.

In addition to a $300 million investment over the next six years and 12 percent equity ownership, Toshiba Corp. will serve as the prime contractor on all of the joint venture’s projects. Half of Toshiba’s investment will support development of two new South Texas Project reactors (STP 3 and 4). The other half will focus on new projects and accelerating development and deployment of additional Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) projects in North America.

“New advanced nuclear is a key part of the future for affordable, reliable and zero-carbon baseload generation not only in Texas but throughout the United States,” said David Crane, NRG president and CEO. “And after a 30 year hiatus, we believe the most cost effective and risk-managed way to reintroduce nuclear, whether a company is operating in a rate base or a merchant environment, is by working with the companies that have been so successful with on-time, on-budget nuclear construction in other countries.

The new company will utilize expertise NRG Energy has gained developing STP 3 and 4 and Toshiba’s design and construction experience with the ABWR. The company said it will employ a “disciplined approach” to nuclear development and investment in ABWR projects,” with a structure that aligns the interests of the developer and prime contractor “to optimize the schedule, performance and costs of its projects while sharing risk in a manner consistent with the requirements of traditional project finance,” NRG said.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The question is: can Toshiba do an ABWR in the US without GE Hitachi? Doing ABWRs in Japan under Japanese regulations is entirely different than doing it in the US under US NRC regulations.

But I do find this thing fascinating. GE sold the rights to ABWR to Toshiba which in turn bought Westinghouse, GE's biggest nuclear rival. Now GE has just ESBWR in the US and no ESBWR has been built anywhere in the world, unlike ABWR. But the GE experience with ABWR in Taiwan (i.e., Lungmen) pales in comparison to Toshiba's positive experience with ABWR in Japan. Over budget, behind schedule - GE just couldn't get out of its own way.

GE de-nuked itself in the 1990s, placing all its energy eggs in gas turbines and wind mills. Now GE teams up with Hitachi to do ESBWR and GE hasn't done either ESBWR or ABWR in the US. Yup, GE has lots of talented people as someone else here pointed out, but it de-nuked itself, except for GNF fuel supply support for existing BWRs. There's a reason most of the world's reactors are not based on the GE BWR model. GE is bringing in some managers that don't know nuclear power, the NRC, the regs, or anything. Sure, new blood, but if you're not a nuke, you just won't get it.

No long term vision - only short term profit gain guided GE in the 1990s. Going nuke requires long-term discipline. Westinghouse has that. Areva has that. Toshiba has that. Does GE? Can they take a loss before they gain?

Here's another key question: if Obama or Hillary get the White House and kill the DOE's GNEP (which they'll do - they are Democrats), then will GE continue to invest in ESBWR when a substantial part of its current funding is from DOE? Areva doesn't have that problem: they are bankrolled by Nicholas Sarkozy (i.e., France). I doubt Mitshubishi with its APWR or Toshiba with its ABWR have that problem either.

Too bad GE didn't have the foresight to merge its gas turbine business with Rod Adams gas cooled reactor idea. That's my point. No long term foresight. Just next quarter's profit.

Oh well, maybe I have a jaded, pessimistic outlook, but I think there will always be more PWRs than BWRs, unless Toshiba can make a reasonable go at it.

Anonymous said...

The business model in vogue in the last decade or so in this country has two key features: focus on short-term profits, and risk avoidance. This has led to a couple of natural and completely foreseeable (for those with the eyes to see) consequences. The first is that we have sold out a lot of our industrial infrastructure and capability to the highest bidder in the foreign marketplace. This grabs quick profits, drives up share price (in the short term), making shareholders happy (temporarily) and garnering huge bonuses for CEOs and other officers when they cash in their stock options. But it leaves you, long term, with a hollowed-out shell of a company that in the end manufactures paper and sells divisions. The risk avoidance aspect results in little or no investment in industrial infrastructure, so you see a formerly productive industrial landscape replaced with shuttered plants and brownfields, no construction of large baseload facilities, or things like oil refineries or steel mills. Eventually almost all of the things formerly made by those facilities ends up being imported, which in turn leads to record trade deficits, a weak (and getting weaker) currency, greater and greater foreign ownership of US securities and assets, and economic recession.

This "nuclear renaissance" isn't going to happen without a shift in the business paradigm currently practiced in this country. Companies are going to have to step up to the plate and take some risks. And on the government/regulation side, someone with the political courage to do so will have to stand up and say we're going to do this, because it is in the interest of our national security and economy to do so, and tell the obstructionists and intervenors and special interest groups and bureaucrats and various assorted hangers-on to go straight to hell, because we've sat on our bums too long doing nothing while our national infrastructure and capabilities have withered and bled away.

Anonymous said...

Can Toshiba reference the existing DCD for the US ABWR? Is this GE proprietary information and will they have to develop a new DCD for a Toshiba ABWR?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of whether Toshiba can take credit for the GEH ABWR DCD, I heard that the digital I&C software management / QA plans used for the Lungmen ABWR are not acceptable under current US NRC guidance. Don't know if this is true, but apparently they don't meet requirements in BTP 7-14 of NUREG-0800, RG-1.152, and RG-1.168 - 1.173. BTW, the NRC also rejected Mitshubishi's APWR software management / QA plan because they didn't have the full scope of software engineering plans for digital I&C: SVVP, SSP, SCMP, etc.). I found that out from the NRC Adams Library, but darn, I don't have the accession number right now. I've said before that the biggest stumbling block for new nukes will be the NRC's paranoia over digital I&C, including common mode / common cause failure and cyber security. The NRC is going out to liberal democrat university professors to evaluate all this digital I&C stuff, and since these university professors are anti-nuke to begin with, no digital I&C will ever be safe for new nukes, no matter how much Markov analysis you apply and no matter how statistically valid your testing is. Never mind the fact that commercial jets controlled by digital I&C aren't falling out of the skies and medical digital I&C isn't killing scores of hospital patients. Never mind that the Candus are all digital. The NRC is plain paranoid.

I agree with the 2nd anonymous guy (I being the 1st): "Tell the obstructionists and intervenors and special interest groups and bureaucrats and various assorted hangers-on to go straight to hell."

Anonymous said...

10 CFR Part 52 is not clear about whether Toshiba can claim the GE ABWR Certification. There are numerous issues that would have to be resolved to do so.

Applicants who wish to use the Appendix A certification need access to all of the information that was docketed in the certification process. Since part of the information is proprietary to GEH (e.g., Tier 2 design details) there will have to be an agreement with GEH for Toshiba to access that information OR Toshiba will have to negotiate with the NRC a means where an amendment to the ABWR DCD can be created using Toshiba design information to replace the proprietary GEH design information.

The end result is that each COL applicant will incorporate by reference either GEH Tier 2 material or newly developed Toshiba material for Tier 2 details.

Departures from the GEH certification are allowed but it will be very difficult to follow the rules of the departure process when you can't evaluate your departures against the proprietary material in the certified design without GEH making the information available.

A Toshiba amendment to the ABWR certification for use by Toshiba ABWR applicants could end up taking more time than the initial ABWR certification by GEH.

My perception is that the best business case for Toshiba and their COL applicants is to make a deal with GEH for the intellectual property associated with the GEH certification.

The other option is prepare a new version of an ABWR and then get at the end of the line and wait for NRC certification. This strategy would make GEH more competitive since you don't have to wait to use the GEH certified design.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick question on comment #4 here: what is NEI doing to confront the NRC over the regulatory uncertainty with regard to software QA / Cyber Security for digital I&C systems? No, don't talk about Cyber Security details (I don't want to know). Just answer the question: what are you guys doing to combat the "analysis is paralysis" approach that the anti-nuke university professors are using whom the NRC has asked to study digital I&C software QA and Cyber Security issues. Like the guy said, planes controlled by digital I&C aren't falling out of the sky, so what's the NRC's problem? The expense and voluminous paperwork required by this one area has the potential to stymie all new nuclear growth in the US. The NRC is applying standards to digital I&C that it would have never and did never apply to analog I&C. Com'on guys - make the NRC understand: planes are NOT falling out of the sky due to digital I&C problems!

David Bradish said...

Last anon, I've asked your questions to our cyber security team and hope to have an answer next week.

Matthew66 said...

Last anonymous poster, passengers flying from Beijing to London Heathrow on that ill-fated BA Boeing 777 might beg to differ about planes falling out of the sky whilst using digital I&C.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, David; I don't want to know any cyber details, but my goodness, all this analysis - we'll never build anything at this rate!

To Matthew66, thanks for the info about that Beijing to Heathrow airline flight. Do you have a link? Having worked with analog and digital I&C for 30+ years, digital is superior, but nothing is 100% safe.

Anonymous said...

Matthew66, I looked into the January 17th event of the Boeing 777 that crash landed at Heathrow. Here is the links to the AAIB report:

http://www.aaib.dft.gov.uk/sites/aaib/cms_resources/S1-2008%20G-YMMM.pdf

I don't see digital I&C being cited as the smoking gun for this crash. There is evidence of some damage to the high pressure fuel pumps and some small debris in the fuel tanks. A check of the various digital controllers (the EECs and QAR, and the FQPU - all digital I&C) showed no abnormalities. Am I missing something here?

In other words, it does NOT appear that a software bug in the firmware of the digital I&C components mentioned above caused the crash, but the UK's AAIB is still investigating.

But I'll bet the manufacturer of those devices is going through the FMEA and the embedded software code for these devices very studiously.

Hmmmmmm....I wonder if someone might have energized a cell phone or some other EMI emitting device during landing. EMI is another problem and that's why the NRC has Reg. Guide 1.180. But I can't imagine that the manufacturer wouldn't have taken measures to prevent such EMI from being able to impact the digital I&C for fuel flow. After all, these planes travel in thunderstorms, and what emits more EMI than that?!

Anonymous said...

There is another aspect about opening up the ABWR DCD that should be considered. The DCD was developed and approved in a different era, when regulators and vendors alike were looking to stay alive. There are some interesting aspects of the ABWR DCD that won't fly today. For instance I recall that the ABWR was licensed to allow "boiling transition" to occur in some anticipated operational occurrences, unlike any other operating BWR in the US. In particular, the loss of power to the pumps is a nasty event in which boiling transition may occur in internal recirculation pump plants when considering LICENSING evaluations (reality and licensing are miles apart). I have a feeling that the NRC will want to correct some perceived "wrongs" from the dark ages of the 1990's if GEH or Toshiba open up the door by significantly revising the DCD.