Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NEI Press Release: Nuclear Energy Facilities Prove Resilience During Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy from space.
NEI Has just issued the following press release concerning nuclear energy facilities impacted by Hurricane Sandy:
Nuclear Energy Facilities Prove Resilience During Hurricane Sandy

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2012--Thirty-four nuclear energy facilities in the path of Hurricane Sandy have responded well and safely to this powerful storm, demonstrating their resilience against severe natural forces.

Careful planning and comprehensive preparations days in advance of the storm paid off at all of the facilities, which were prepared to take the steps necessary to maintain safety against high winds, record flooding and disturbances on the regional electric grid. Highly trained reactor operators and emergency response personnel stationed at the plants throughout the storm were able to take actions beyond their usual duties to protect the power plants and communities that surround them. As Hurricane Sandy moves beyond the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states after knocking out electricity to seven million customers in 13 states, nuclear facility operators are conducting thorough inspections to ensure that all systems and equipment are ready to maintain the facilities in a safe condition.

Of the 34 nuclear facilities from South Carolina to Vermont in Hurricane Sandy’s path, 24 continued to operate safely and generate electricity throughout the event. Seven were already shut down for refueling or inspection, and three in New Jersey or New York safely shut down, as designed, because of storm conditions or grid disturbances. Inspectors from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission have been stationed at each nuclear energy facility to oversee preparation for and recovery from the storm.
“Hurricane Sandy once again demonstrates the robust construction of nuclear energy facilities, which are built to withstand extreme flooding and hurricane-force winds that are beyond that historically reported for each area,” said Marvin S. Fertel, president and chief executive officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute. “Beyond the physical strength of these nuclear power plants, the professional crews that operate and maintain them take exacting precautions as significant storms approach. They also coordinate with local, state and federal emergency response officials.

“Our facilities’ ability to weather the strongest Atlantic tropical storm on record is due to rigorous precautions taken in advance of the storm. In the days prior to Sandy storming the Atlantic coast, nuclear plant operators took a series of actions outlined in their emergency preparedness plans,” Fertel said. “These include securing or moving any equipment that could possibly become airborne due to high winds and verifying that weather-tight doors and water intakes are prepared. Each plant site also has numerous emergency backup diesel generators that are tested and ready to provide electricity for critical operations if electric power from the grid is lost.”
As a precaution, a reactor will be shut down at least two hours before the onset of hurricane-force winds at the site, typically between 70 and 75 miles per hour. If there is a loss of off-site power during or following a hurricane, reactors automatically shut down as a precaution and the emergency backup diesel generators will begin operating to provide electrical power to plant safety systems.

“Actions taken by companies operating reactors in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast once again demonstrate that nuclear energy facilities are well protected against extreme natural events,” Fertel said.

In 2011, 24 reactors at 15 facilities from North Carolina to New England safely withstood Hurricane Irene, a category 3 hurricane. In 2005, Entergy safely shut down Waterford 3 in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hurricane, knocked out off-site power and damaged the regional electrical infrastructure. Florida Power & Light in 2004 safely shut down St. Lucie 1 and 2 in Florida after Hurricane Jeanne caused a loss of off-site power.

During Hurricane Sandy, Exelon Corp’s Oyster Creek reactor in New Jersey, which was shut down before the storm for a refueling outage, declared an alert on Oct. 29. The alert, the second lowest of four Nuclear Regulatory Commission action levels, was in response to high water levels at the facility’s cooling water intake structure. Exelon is in the process of restoring offsite power to the facility. Until then, Oyster Creek is being safely powered by backup diesel-driven electrical generators that have fuel to power the reactor’s safety systems for more than two weeks. The plant’s reactor and used fuel storage pool have ample water supplies for cooling.

The following is a summary of U.S. nuclear power plant performance during Hurricane Sandy (as of 11 a.m. Oct 30):

North Carolina:
Brunswick 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power.

Virginia:
Surry 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power.
North Anna 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power.

Maryland:
Calvert Cliffs 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power.

New Jersey:
Oyster Creek – shut down for refueling outage; alert declared Oct. 29 due to high water level at water intake structure.
Hope Creek 1 -- continued operating at 100 percent power.
Salem 1 – manual safe shut down from 100% power on Oct. 30 due to high water level at water intake structure.
Salem 2 – shut down for refueling outage.

Pennsylvania:
Peach Bottom 2 and 3 – continued operating at 100 percent power.
Three Mile Island 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power.
Limerick 1 and 2 – safely reduced power from 100% to 50% and 22% respectively on Oct. 30 due to storm effects and at the request of the regional electric grid operator.
Beaver Valley 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power.
Beaver Valley 2 – shut down for refueling outage.
Susquehanna 1 – shut down for turbine inspection.
Susquehanna 2 – continued operating at 75 percent power.

Ohio:
Perry 1 – safely reduced power from 100% to 91% on Oct. 30 at the request of the regional electric grid operator.
Davis-Besse – continued operating at 100 percent power.

New York:
Indian Point 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power.
Indian Point 3 – manual safe shut down from 100 percent power on Oct. 30 due to an electric grid disruption.
Ginna – shut down for refueling outage.
Fitzpatrick – continued operating at 100 percent power.
Nine Mile Point 1 – manual safe shut down from 100 percent power on Oct. 29 due to an electric grid disruption.
Nine Mile Point 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power.

Connecticut:
Millstone 2 – shut down for refueling outage.
Millstone 3 – safely reduced power from 100% to 75% on Oct. 29 at the request of the electric grid operator.

Massachusetts:
Pilgrim 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power.

New Hampshire:
Seabrook 1 – shut down for refueling outage, but safely restarted Oct. 30 and is at 20 percent power.

Vermont:
Vermont Yankee – safely reduced power from 100% to 90% on Oct. 30 at the request of the regional electric grid operator.

Nuclear power plants operating in 31 states provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses. Nuclear energy produces more electricity than any other source in Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.

Nuclear energy facilities are designed to withstand natural occurrences greater than those encountered in the regions where they are located. They are built to withstand floods, earthquakes and high winds, and have numerous safety systems that will operate and safely shut the reactor down in the event of a loss of off-site power.

U.S. nuclear energy facilities have a long history of successfully and safely responding to natural challenges. See "Through the Decades: The History of U.S. Nuclear Energy Facilities Responding to Natural Challenges."
For the latest updates, please follow NEI's Twitter feed: @n_e_i.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tracking Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy from space.
Like millions living along the East Coast of the U.S., everyone here at NEI is keeping a close eye at the track of Hurricane Sandy. Although NEI's offices in downtown Washington, D.C. are closed today, my colleagues and I are still working from our homes in the city and the suburbs. Please follow us all day long on our Twitter feed for the latest news impacting our member companies.

As for the nuclear industry as a whole, there are about 20 facilities located on the East Coast that might be impacted by the arrival of the Hurricane. Last night, Matt Wald of the New York Times posted the following about how the industry has prepared over at the NY Times Green blog:
Among the various immobile pieces of infrastructure in the path of the East Coast hurricane are around 20 nuclear reactors, from Calvert Cliffs in southern Maryland to Pilgrim in Plymouth, Mass., and Vermont Yankee, just north of the Massachusetts line in Vernon, Vt. But the industry and regulatory officials say that this is an anticipated challenge.

At the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s mid-Atlantic office in King of Prussia, Pa., Diane Screnci, a spokeswoman, said that reactors in the region have undertaken routine preparations. “They all have severe weather procedures,’’ she said. “They’ve gone through their procedures, making sure they have appropriate staff able to be on site, and that anything that’s outside is fastened down.’’

“They’re all designed to withstand the natural phenomena, including hurricanes and what comes with hurricanes — high winds, high water, that kind of thing,’’ she said.

Reactors operate under licenses that require them to shut down if conditions are too severe, and some reactor operators could shut down even before they are required to do so if they choose to, she said. But none had done so by Sunday afternoon. The conditions that would require a shutdown differ from plant to plant and involve factors like wind speed and flooding potential.
For more on how the industry prepares for hurricanes, click here for more information from NEI's website. For a look back at how the industry dealt with Hurricane Irene, click here. In October 2011, NEI's CNO, Tony Pietrangelo, wrote an op-ed for Real Clear Energy on how the industry prepares for extreme events like hurricanes. Finally, I'd also suggest viewing this infographic on how nuclear plants endured a number of extreme events in 2011.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nuclear Politics in Missouri

The election this year has focused by and large on the economy and a fair number of important issues have fallen away. They haven’t ceased being important, of course, but politicians follow the interests of the public. One of the issues that has gotten less attention than in previous cycles is energy. In the 2008 contests, the candidates on both sides brought it up at the debates and even nuclear energy got a look (there wasn’t much distance between the candidates – nuclear energy was well supported across the ideological spectrum.)

But this year – not so much in the way of discussion and very little about nuclear energy. So let’s turn instead to what some of the local candidates are talking about.

Over in Missouri, incumbent state Representative Jeanie Riddle (R) and challenger Pam Murray (D) are running in the 20th district, an area that includes the Callaway facility, so nuclear energy is an issue in there.

Surely, there’s some room for disagreement:

Incumbent House Rep. Jeanie Riddle, a Mokane Republican, and Democrat Pam Murray of Holts Summit both support adding another nuclear reactor at the Callaway Energy Center but they disagree on how to do it.
jeanie_riddle
State Rep. Jeanie Riddle
Well, I was expecting more heat, but let’s see what the candidates have in mind. First, Riddle, who supported legislation in support of Callaway last year that passed the House but stalled in the Senate, has developed an interest in attracting small reactor manufacturing to the state:
We want to be the first to do this,” Riddle said, “because it would give us an advantage to becoming a world exporter of this technology. One study shows 8,000 new direct jobs and 8,500 new indirect jobs. It would add $25 billion to Missouri’s economy if our state becomes the lead exporter of these new power plants.”
On her campaign web site, she says, “I want to promote alternative energy sources here and across the nation especially nuclear energy.” 

pam_murray
Pam Murray
Pam Murray is interested in ensuring the Public Service Commission is not left out of the loop in approving new nuclear build.
“More than half of the legislation was devoted to gutting the Missouri Public Service Commission by realigning their budget. It also attempted to limit the amount of regulatory oversight the PSC could apply to telecommunications. It was just a very bad bill,” Murray said.

“It is possible to write a bill that will get the power plant and also protect consumers,” Murray said.
This is the disagreement that writer Don Norfleet is highlighting. I think this is the bill in question, but it doesn’t seem to me overly harsh to the PSC:
An electrical corporation seeking an early site permit from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, upon beginning the permitting process, is required to seek permission from the Missouri Public Service Commission to recover from ratepayers up to $45 million of prudent expenditures on the permit process over a period not to exceed six years.
Murray is all for expansion at Callaway, but is disappointed that bills promoting it have not progressed further.
It is apparent we do not have the representation needed to get this important project completed for our communities! I will work night and day to develop a workable solution to make this a win-win situation for our local governments, our schools, our county and our state!
Exclamation points from original. Riddle and Murray do not seem far apart on the overall issue of nuclear energy in Missouri, but Murray feels she would be a better advocate for Callaway than Riddle. We may assume Riddle thinks the opposite. 

You can see Riddle’s campaign web site here and Murray’s here.

No endorsement here. That’s for Missourians in the 20th district to decide. The doings of nuclear energy are one issue among many they will be considering, some of them, I’m sure, a good deal more important to their daily lives.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

If Nuclear Energy Is Immoral…

Barnaby_Joyce
Sen. Barnaby Joyce
"If we are fair dinkum about reducing carbon emissions, and we want to have a minimum carbon emission form of power, then uranium is where it's going to be."
And as we know, Australia is fair dinkum, but nuclear energy is not part of the equation. The speaker is Senator Barnaby Joyce, who quite rightly wonders why his country is so eager to export uranium if nuclear energy is so -
"Let's be honest, if you think nuclear energy is immoral, why on earth are you exporting uranium?"
What he’s reacting to is the decision to start mining the (plentiful) uranium in the Queensland province. Apparently, that won’t happen right away.
AUA [Australia Uranium Association] communications director Simon Clarke said uranium was already being sold from existing mines in other states.
"But the estimate of the price that would make it viable to build new mines suggest that the market will be ready for new mine capacity in some time from five to seven years," he said.
The decision to allow it after a years-long ban has aroused a bit of controversy, though from this distance it looks small beans. This comments from Australian Conservation Foundation member Dave Sweeney is about as rough as I could find:
DAVID SWEENEY: The mining sector is a whale, the uranium is a minnow. It produces and contributes about $750-800 million a year to the national coffers, or that's what it generates. It sounds like a lot to an individual. It's not much to a mining sector.
Which sounds like something the mining sector will determine, doesn’t it? Not too rough. Take a look here for some resource maps of Australia’s uranium holdings – Queensland is the big province in the northeast.

But that brings us back to Joyce, who is raring to go on nuclear energy.
Senator Joyce applauded the decision but went further, asking if it was OK to export uranium, then why was it not right to use yellowcake for nuclear power in Australia.
Fair enough.
He said he would welcome a debate on nuclear power in Australia as would many of those in government.
The comments came as federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said yesterday nuclear power was not part of Australia's future.
"The Australian Government has basically said we are committed to all potential forms of clean energy from an innovative point of view, other than nuclear, which is a proven clean energy technology," he said.
Which is true. Australia is very stubborn on this issue, and chatter about starting a discussion has gone on for years. So no need to hope for the formation of the Nuclear Fair Dinkum Commission tomorrow.

Why The Economics Don't Work for Kewaunee Anymore

NEI VP Richard Myers
Over the past 24 hours, we've seen a number of folks online ask the question of why it's no longer economically feasible for Dominion to continue to operate the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin. Earlier today, I put the question to Richard Myers, NEI's Vice President, Policy Development, Planning and Supplier Programs. Here's what he wrote back:
In 2005, when Dominion bought the plant: (1) power prices in the Midwest were in the $40-50/MWhr range; wellhead gas prices were in the $6-10 per million Btu range; and U.S. electricity demand was growing.

Today: (1) power prices in the Midwest are in the $30/MWhr range: gas prices are in the $2-3 per million Btu range; and (3) the U.S. has had 5 years of no growth in electricity demand, thanks to the worst recession in 80 years.
Thanks to Richard for laying out the numbers for us. For a statement from NEI's Marv Fertel on the decision to close Kewaunee, click here. For a a quote from an RBS research note that defended the decision, click here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

UBS on Dominion's Decision to Close and Decommission Kewaunee Power Station

The global equity research group at the investment bank UBS just published a research note concerning Dominion's decision to close and decommission the Kewaunee Power Station:
In 2011, Kewaunee had a loss of -$39Mn in net income, which D[ominion] excluded from operating earnings. Following a roll-off of the above market PPA at the end of ’13, we had projected that earnings would fall by another ~$65Mn driving negative FCF and minimal EBITDA. We agree that the economics of Kewaunee were uniquely challenged given its small size and regionally depressed power prices.
That's a conclusion that pretty much reinforces what Dominion had to say earlier today.

Statement from NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel on Closing of Kewaunee Power Station

Earlier this morning, Dominion announced that it would be closing the Kewaunee Power Station, a 556 MWe nuclear facility located about 27 miles outside Green Bay, Wisconsin.The following is an official statement from Marv Fertel, NEI's President and CEO, concerning the announcement.

"Nuclear energy remains a reliable, cost-effective producer of electricity for America’s homes and our economy. As stated by Dominion, the company’s decision to close Kewaunee is based on the fact that it did not acquire additional reactors in the Midwest markets, so it could not achieve the economy of scale needed to be economical in that low-price power market.

"Dominion is one of the best nuclear energy facility operators in the country and is committed to nuclear energy in other states it serves as part of the company’s electricity portfolio. Nuclear energy is vital to meet America’s growing electricity needs today and to ensure the secure, reliable and low-carbon power for decades to come. Nuclear energy facilities lead the electric utility sector in reliability and are among the lowest cost electricity producers for American families and the economy. They will play a vital role as America transitions to a lower-carbon electricity portfolio."
Kewaunee Power Station, located near Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The following passage comes from Dominion's press release regarding the closure:
"One thing that should be perfectly clear is that the employees of Kewaunee have been doing an outstanding job, and this decision is in no way a reflection on them," (Dominion Chairman, president and CEO Tom) Farrell said. “I want to thank them for all they have done, and Dominion will work to make the transition as smooth as possible for them and their communities.”
For more information on the facility from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, click here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nuclear Takes Charge in Ontario–But Whither Coal?

This is good news worth attending to:

Nuclear generator Bruce Power's Unit 2 sent power to Ontario's electricity grid for the first time in 17 years yesterday, part of Bruce Power's revitalization program and an important step to eliminating the use of coal-fired electricity in 2014.

In Ontario, not all of Canada.

Over the past 10 years, Ontario has decreased its coal reliance by 90 percent, and Bruce Power has increased its nuclear output by 55 percent. Bruce is positioned to generate a quarter of the province's electricity -- enough to power cities the size of Ottawa and London, Ontario combined -- now that Units 1 and 2 are back and its full capacity of 8 units is being realized.

It may not be as obvious to us as it is to Canadians what Bruce Power is trying to do here. So let’s let Bruce Power tell you:

With the return to service of Units 1 and 2, Bruce Power will remain a key player in both reducing and staying off coal, which is one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in North America.

Nuclear energy allows this outcome.

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The above excerpts mention coal about as many times as nuclear energy. I don’t have a brief on coal, really, and certainly not about Canada’s use of it, but surely, divergent views can converge on the fact that coal mining, processing and transportation is a considerable portion of the work force in some states in the U.S.

And coal lately has had a rough ride of it. This chart from the National Mining Association shows that the number of workers engaged in coal mining was almost 82,000 in 2011 – that’s a big number but only about half the 155,000 number in 1985 – and the 2010 number represents something of a comeback. The low was 62,000 in 2003, well less than half the 1985 number.

Although it is nuclear energy that is displacing coal in Ontario, that is not true in the United States. Indeed, if coal is under pressure in this country, it is from natural gas.

Coal won’t win back much of the share of electricity generation that it has lost to natural gas in the U.S., Moody’s Investors Service said.

“Coal will regain a bit of market share as natural gas prices recover somewhat, but most coal-to-gas substitution to date will be permanent,” Anna Zubets-Anderson, a Moody’s vice president and senior analyst, wrote in the report. Production from shale has boosted gas inventories and coal has faced more scrutiny from environmental regulators.

This is true. The low cost of natural gas has put some pressure on all baseload energy, including nuclear energy, and since it carries half the carbon emissions of coal, it is more attractive as a coal replacement - if a primary goal is plentiful base load energy with fewer carbon emissions. Nuclear energy would be even better, as Ontario is finding out – it produces no carbon emissions at all – but there you are. (Nuclear uprates, which allow facilities to produce more electricity through equipment upgrades, also has a role here.)

So – it’s natural gas that is applying pressure to the coal industry.

But maybe not. A rather odd op-ed column by the Washington Post’s Charles Lane links the fate of coal to the encouragement of renewable energy sources – and considers this bad because the higher cost of electricity thus generated has an impact on poorer Americans.

I found the column puzzling on its face because it takes a complex set of policy goals, simplifies them until they warp into an unrecognizable shape, then adds an ideological dimension that turns Democrats who support renewable energy into hypocrites. It’s an entertaining show, granted, but deeply weird:

Green energy is not cost-competitive with traditional energy and won’t be for years. So it can’t work without either taxpayer subsidies, much of which accrue to “entrepreneurs” such as [former Vice President Al] Gore, or higher prices for fossil energy — the brunt of which is borne by people of modest means.

I don’t get the quotes around entrepreneurs or grasp the idea that electricity to “people of modest means” could not continue to be subsidized, as is often the case now. The idea is not to punish those folks – if anything, it is the “entrepreneur” class that will help out with the subsidization, along with utilities and government. Lane seems to believe Gore will be personally breaking into shacks and stealing fuses if the United States dares to do anything with “uncompetitive” renewable energy.  But what about nuclear energy – and natural gas? 

Obviously, creative destruction is part of what makes capitalism go. There’s no inherent reason to protect coal mines any more than buggy-whip makers. The biggest threat to coal country comes from vast new supplies of natural gas, not from wind and solar.

The point remains: Government, with its inevitable susceptibility to lobbying and favoritism, should not be picking winners and losers, whether through green subsidies or tax breaks for oil and gas.

In other words, the argument doesn’t work – because natural gas is currently less expensive than coal – but we’ll stick with it anyway.

Additionlly, all energy generators receive government subsidies, depending on how tight you define subsidy – see page xiii of this Energy Information Agency document to compare the figures.

Nuclear energy has been rather unfairly dinged by some commentators for receiving outsized government subsidies, but really, coal and nuclear energy both depend far less on government subsidy than renewable energy types and natural gas – coal and nuclear are mature and well-understood.

See here for more on subsidies – this is a Management Information Services study. The MISI report shows that the main beneficiaries of more than $800 billion of federal energy incentives over the past six decades have been the oil and natural gas industries, and that nuclear energy and renewable technologies each have received about 9 percent of the total incentives provided by the federal government since 1950. (Of course, both came into their own after 1950, nuclear only a little after, but the study accounts for this.)

Another peculiar argument:

Fact is, subsidies for green energy do not so much create jobs as shift them around.

That’s true if we assume that jobs are only generated by subsidies. But that’s not true: nuclear energy and renewable energy do not soak up subsidies like sponges and create genuine additional jobs. So does natural gas. Coal picked up 20,000 additional miners since 2003.

To put it another way: electricity production is not going anywhere. In the absence of a price on carbon emissions – through a carbon tax or cap-or-trade or another mechanism – there’s no particular pressure on the price of electricity besides the usual ones (well, some particular pressures: state and federal regulation can certainly have an impact.)

I think the purpose of Lane’s column is largely an attempt to show that liberals support renewable energy that he supposes mostly benefits wealthy people (because they afford things like solar panels) instead of their traditional working class and union allies, thus opening up charges of hypocrisy. It seems an altogether pointless exercise that dismisses the benefits of renewable energy and elides nuclear energy right out of the picture.

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Just to keep up the bona fides, Lane mentions nuclear energy in passing:

For a sense of where this [favoring renewable energy over “traditional” energy sources] may lead, look at Germany, whose crash program to replace nuclear power with wind and solar is boosting electricity rates. Der Spiegel reports that 200,000 long-term unemployed lost power in 2011 because they couldn’t pay their electric bills.

I wrote about this the other day, so I won’t ride that hobby horse again, except to say that this is a false analogy. America is not like Germany, which is practically unique in its haywire energy policy. And I’d counter that the long-term unemployed are going to have trouble with their electric bills and all their other bills as well. That’s the nature of long term unemployment.

NEI Energy Markets Report (October 8-12, 2012)

Here's a snippet of what went on in the energy markets last week:

Electricity peak prices rose slightly last week at ERCOT and Palo Verde, averaging $32-34/MWh at those hubs. Meanwhile at the Northeast, PJM, and Southwest hubs, prices fell $2, $6, and $11, respectively, to average $38-39/MWh. Gas at the Henry Hub rose 12 cents during the week, averaging $3.38/MMBtu. “Faced with softening fall demand fundamentals, power prices for next day delivery worked mostly lower across the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 11, even as traders looked to rising natural gas prices and climbing outages. ... Cash gas markets also worked higher, adding as much as 15 cents in parts of the West and as much as 25 cents in the East, which offered direct support to power markets. Also lending support, various generating units continue to drop offline, and the outages will accelerate in the coming weeks as units shutter operations for fall maintenance and refueling. ... Several more outages lie around the corner. According to private sources, five nuclear reactors could shut in the next week: SCANA Corp.'s V.C. Summer in South Carolina, Nebraska Public Power District's Cooper plant in Nebraska, Public Service Enterprise Group Inc.'s Salem 2 in New Jersey, Exelon Corp.'s Braidwood 2 in Illinois and Entergy Corp.'s Waterford 3 in Louisiana.” (SNL Energy’s Power Daily – 10/12/12)

Last week’s uranium spot prices were unchanged, according to Ux Consulting, but TradeTech reported a $2.25 drop to an average $43.50/lb U3O8. “Bearish sentiment gripped the spot uranium market this week and the spot uranium price fell dramatically, losing more than 5 percent over the course of this week. Seven transactions totaling approximately 800 thousand pounds U3O8 are reported for the week. Reasons for the bearish outlook among sellers are varied, but the driving force is clearly a pessimistic view about near-term spot demand from both discretionary and ‘have-to’ buyers. The drop in prices failed to stimulate significant buying interest, and instead caused buyers to pull away from the market in anticipation of further price declines.” (TradeTech’s Nuclear Market Review – 10/12/12)

For more of the report click here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NEI Nuclear Performance Report – September 2012

Here's a summary of the performance of the U.S. nuclear fleet in September:

For the third month in a row, U.S. monthly nuclear generation lagged compared to the same periods in 2011. September 2012 nuclear generation was 3.7 percent lower than September 2011 generation and year-to-date nuclear generation was 0.9 percent lower than generation in the same period in 2011, 585.1 bkWh vs. 590.6 bkWh, respectively.

The capacity factor in September 2012 was 88.2 percent compared to 91.6 percent in September 2011. The average capacity factor for the nuclear fleet for the nine months of 2012 was 87.7 percent compared to 88.9 percent for the same period in 2011.

Nineteen units have refueled or are currently refueling during Fall 2012 as of October 17th compared to 16 units in Fall 2011 as of the same date. The FitzPatrick and Palo Verde 2 units are refueling after completing 702 days and 518 days of continuous operation, respectively, from their previous refueling outages.

For more of the report click here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Seabrook Nuclear Plant Not Impacted by New England Earthquake

The USGS is reporting that a minor earthquake struck Maine near the town of Lake Arrowhead shortly after 7:00 p.m. this evening. The nuclear power plant closest to the epicenter of the quake, Seabrook, which is in the midst of a refueling outage, declared an unusual event in response. The following is an official statement from NextEra Energy, the owner of the plant:

This evening, by procedure, Seabrook Station declared an unusual event due to the seismic activity felt throughout the region. An unusual event is the lowest of four Nuclear Regulatory Commission emergency classifications.

The plant has been and is currently shut down in a planned refueling outage. There has been no impact to the plant from the earthquake and our outage activities have not been affected in any way. We expect to exit from the unusual event shortly.

By way of background, Seabrook is designed to withstand the strongest earthquake ever experienced in New England, and then some.
Thanks to the team at NextEra Energy for getting out the word.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Taking Media on a Tour of TMI

Guest Post by NEI’s Senior Media Relations Manager Mitch Singer

Exelon and NEI host a tour for news media at Three Mile IslandLast week, NEI’s media team partnered with Exelon to host a sizable and impressive contingent of reporters for a tour of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We had representatives from The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Reuters, Bloomberg, National Journal and Climate Wire. We were delighted to be able to help the journalists see first-hand the facility’s industrial robustness and strong security presence and to interact directly with some of TMI’s dedicated professionals.

My NEI media team colleague Tom Kauffman, a former reactor operator at Three Mile Island, joined me on the tour. Tom was actually working at TMI at the time of the accident in 1979, so be brings a wealth of perspective for the touring reporters. Ralph DeSantis, TMI’s Manager of Outreach Programs, led the tour, and he was aided by Craig Nesbit, Exelon’s Vice President for Communications, and Dave Tillman, Communications Manager for Exelon Corporate.

Early in the tour, our hosts led the reporters into the operator training simulator. Operators at every nuclear plant in the U.S. re-train once every five weeks, and they are challenged by ever-differing scenarios.

The reporters were very engaged, peppering our tour guides with thoughtful queries. I spent time with one reporter, who had been based overseas for more than a decade, discussing security. He’d visited nuclear plant sites in Europe, but never toured a U.S. nuclear plant. We discussed how the nuclear industry’s security enhancements have been recognized by many independent groups as having the best security in the industrial infrastructure; how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and companies conduct comprehensive security drills; and how the Department of Homeland Security uses the nuclear industry’s security posture as a template for other industries.

As we rode on a bus from the training center across the bridge to the island, DeSantis pointed out how the flood barriers that have been in place since the plant was built go beyond anything that would be necessary in the event of a worst-case flood. He cited as an example a record storm in the area a few years ago and how at its highest level the water in the Susquehanna River never came near to breaching the site’s flood wall.

Everyone received a great history lesson when we went through the unit 2 control room. The accident at TMI brought a lot of helpful lessons to the entire nuclear industry, including the formation of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, based in Atlanta. DeSantis pointed out the differences and changes in the control room circa 1979 to the control rooms of today. One thing that stood out is that certain gauges in control room Unit 2 more than 30 years ago were not within sight of the operators. You had to walk around to another part of the room. Not the case in the control rooms of today.

At lunch the reporters gathered around Ralph and the other Exelon executives and asked a lot of questions. One reporter was most focused on post-Fukushima enhancements and asked a great question regarding whether the cleanup effort at TMI offered lessons to the Japanese. Our hosts spoke extensively to the subject. They mentioned that after the TMI accident the Japanese came to the plant, and how there’s been some discussion with them post-Fukushima. They pointed out how advances in technology, including robotic cameras, are of great help in cleanup efforts at Fukushima. We also discussed the differences in training and safety protocols between Japan and the U.S. with the group.

With the travel time to and from the nation’s capital, it made for a long day but a rewarding one. NEI wants to thank the journalists who took part for taking the time to become better informed about one of the energy technologies they cover.

Visit NEI’s Facebook page to see a photo album from the tour.

Singapore: Not All Nuclear News Is Good

From Singapore:

Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said a pre-feasibility study has concluded that current nuclear energy technology is not suitable for use in Singapore, even though the latest designs of nuclear power plants are much safer than older designs which remain in use in many countries.

Not exactly a  good time story for nuclear energy advocates.

Konstantin Foskolos, project adviser from Switzerland, said: "Singapore should wait for a reactor technology that cannot have a severe accident like in Fukushima - where the probability of such an accident is practically zero. Fukushima reactors belong to a technology which is 30,40 years old. They cannot compare with today's reactors. This zero probability for an accident can be achieved by different kinds of technology, which are currently under scrutiny and under development."

None of this really adds up – if Foskolos feels that current technology is not like that of Fukushima Daiichi, and less prone to accidents, then what’s the problem? If it’s a question of risk, then where does one draw the line? In 2009, power lines owned by a subsidiary of Singapore Power (may have) toppled over in Australia, causing a fire that killed 119 people. I say “may have” because I don’t believe the cause of the fire was determined definitively – the point is, power lines in dry country carries a risk.

Mr Iswaran said: "Singapore needs to continue to monitor the progress of nuclear energy technologies, and to strengthen our capabilities to understand nuclear science and technology. It is also important to track related developments in areas such as emergency response and radioactive waste disposal. Then we can assess the implications of evolving nuclear energy technologies and regional nuclear energy developments for Singapore. This will also strengthen our operational preparedness and our existing capabilities in radiation and incident response."

You really don’t need a million reasons to do something – or not do it – but it’s interesting regardless that Singapore looked at nuclear energy. Currently, Singapore generates about 80 percent of its electricity from natural gas, almost all of which it imports. The goals here are energy diversity and independence – and maybe balancing its trade portfolio while it’s at it. I couldn’t find much on renewable energy – maybe Singapore is too small for it to make much sense at the scale it requires. This abstract for a report seems to think so.

Ah well – moral of story: can’t win ‘em all.

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But why leave on the down note?

Poland will pursue its plan to build the country's first nuclear power station, a government member said on Monday, playing down suggestions from commentators that the 50 billion zlotys ($15.8 billion) investment might be scrapped.

And:

European Union member Poland wants to develop nuclear power to reduce its dependence on highly polluting coal. It aims to launch a 3 gigawatt nuclear plant by 2023 and double that capacity by 2030.

GE-Hitachi, Westinghouse and AREVA are all angling for some of the work. Hope they all get some.

Friday, October 12, 2012

NEI Energy Markets Report (October 1-5, 2012)

Here's a snippet of what went on in the energy markets last week:

Electricity peak prices fell slightly last week at ERCOT and Palo Verde, averaging $32/MWh at those hubs. Meanwhile at the Northeast and PJM hubs, prices rose $7 to average $40 and $45/MWh, respectively. “Next-day power markets were mixed to conclude the first week of the new month Friday, Oct. 5, as traders looked to cover short positions ahead of the impending weekend but also with choppy demand outlooks and recent ho-hum moves for natural gas also coming into play.” (SNL Energy’s Power Daily – 10/8/12)

West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell 54 cents to average $90.81/bbl last week. “EIA projects average household expenditures for heating oil and natural gas will increase by 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively, this winter (October 1 through March 31) compared with last winter. Projected household expenditures are 5 percent higher for electricity and 13 percent higher for propane this winter. Average expenditures for households that heat with heating oil are forecast to be higher than any previous winter on record. The forecast for higher household expenditures primarily reflects a return to roughly normal winter temperatures east of the Rocky Mountains compared with last winter's unusual warmth.” (EIA’s Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook – 10/10/12)

For more of the report click here.

The Irresistible Chaos of German Energy Policy

heart of glass
"It should make you think..."
Stefan Guttler in Werner Herzog's Heart of Glass (1976)
The news out of Germany could be better, but your feeling about it may depend on how much sympathy you have for a country that keeps shooting its own feet:
Germany's surcharge for renewable energy will rise by almost half next year, a government source told Reuters on Wednesday, intensifying the burden for consumers from the country's shift away from nuclear power.
Reuters could have avoided the nuclear energy angle, but make no mistake – the decision to shut the nuclear plants before renewable energy sources were really ready to take over has done no one any favors.

This story in Der Spiegel (in English) makes the point the German way – bluntly:
With the new rates, German citizens will be paying a total of more than €20 billion ($25.7 billion) next year to promote renewable energy. This is more than €175 for an average three-person household, a 50 percent increase over current figures. And then there are the additional charges a consumer pays for the electricity tax, the cogeneration assessment, the concession fee and value-added tax.
And remember, the majority of Germany’s nuclear facilities (a bare majority – 9 of 17) are still operating, reducing the nuclear share of electricity generation from about 25 percent to 17 percent. So Germany is running on the fumes, so to speak, of an industry it intends to close down by 2022 – and not well.

Think there might be a political price?
In a government statement issued in June 2011, Chancellor Angela Merkel promised that prices would remain stable. "The EEG assessment should not increase above its current level," she told the German parliament, the Bundestag. Economics Minister Rösler said that there could even be "room for decreases." The environment ministers, first Norbert Röttgen and then Peter Altmaier, behaved as if Germany's phase-out of nuclear energy was not going to cost anything, even as they handed out billions in subsidies to owners of homes with solar panels and wind-farm operators.
In the interim, prices are going up and Germany has switched on plants using brown and black coal. See here for more. Renewable energy sources are up, too, with biomass and wind providing about 20 percent, also higher than nuclear energy, but without a grid that can handle sporadic generation well.
All this has caused some chaos:
What some grid operators, power plant owners and scientists are doing today is nothing short of flabbergasting. There are power plants that are not connected to the grid, power masts without lines, and power lines leading to nowhere.
This is a little overstated, but the Der Spiegel story is a real hair raiser and well worth a full read. It barely mentions nuclear energy, but it’s there in the negative space.
The prospects are so poor that energy providers have little interest in building new power plants. Under current conditions, even the most modern and efficient combined steam and gas power plants are not recovering billions in investment costs.

What this amounts to is that companies will be compensated in the future for keeping their backup power plants up and running. As the government considers writing a bill to this effect, electricity consumers will once again be the ones to foot the bill.
And this is only the first full year of the transition.

The German director Werner Herzog made a movie back in the 70s called Heart of Glass about a small town that loses its ability to make a special kind of glass, causing the townspeople to lose their minds. But that wasn’t an intentional loss. This is. Call it Heart of the Atom.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Japanese Double Whammy

Hekinan

Haninonen, Japan's largest coal facility

A double whammy for energy companies in Japan: it’s really breathtaking:
Japan's new tax on carbon emissions will cost utilities about 80 billion yen ($1.02 billion) annually from 2016, adding to their already high costs of running power stations after the Fukushima crisis shut most of the country's nuclear plants, a government backed think-tank said.
Leaving aside the value of a carbon tax, about which reasonable minds can disagree, that’s a lot of money. For a country that has recently had to switch on some coal and oil plants to spell the nuclear energy shutdown, it just feels – mean. And as long as the companies pay the levy, it doesn’t actually help reduce carbon emissions.

Now, to be fair, the government wants to put the money into renewable energy sources. I don’t really understand well enough where the government’s interests intersects with those of industry. Furthermore, the story doesn’t explain whether this money will subsidize industry efforts in a public-private partnership or go forward as a government project. I read a report suggesting that the government could lower other taxes, but it was speculative. Other details just, um, detail the pain.
A nationwide safety shutdown of the country's nuclear power plants since last year has added an estimated 3.1 trillion yen to the cost of importing fuel for oil, gas and coal power stations in the 12 months through March next year.
And if a country is importing its energy resources, what’s the result? 

These rising costs may cause a trade deficit for the second straight year through March 2013, the institute said.

And ratepayers?
Utilities have mostly funded their energy purchases through debt, and have avoided passing on the cost to consumers, except for Tepco which was nationalized this year, but the new taxes could force a change of heart.
 That could be bluster on the part of the energy companies, but the money does have to come from somewhere. Again, there are some plausible relief notions mentioned here and there, but very vaguely. It’s really all bad all the way through.

Don’t get me wrong. Carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, even the flow of free enterprise can bring about carbon emission reductions while limiting the financial pain caused to ratepayers.

But Japan has a viable solution – not a total solution, but a good one. To paraphrase the sheriff in the John McCain ad a couple of years ago, Turn on the dang nuclear facilities.

Friday, October 05, 2012

What Is Said About Nuclear Energy–and What It Means

WIPP

Storing Used Nuclear Fuel at WIPP

From Konrad Szymanski, a European Parliament MP:
“Commissioner [Gunther] Oettinger is responsible for energy policy across all 27 EU countries. It would be extremely disappointing if this became an exercise in forcing Germany’s position on nuclear energy down the throats of other countries.”
I’ve never cared for that phrase, popular during the health care debate, and would be surprised if Szymanski actually used it in whichever language he was speaking when he said it.

What he’s talking about is a European Union report about the stress tests performed on nuclear energy facilities there. The report does not recommend closing any plants; it does recommend spending up to 25 billion Euro (about $32 billion) to make them “safer.” This hasn’t gone over well.
The report is misleading because it conveys the impression that plants are unsafe and a lot of work is needed to make them safer, while in reality the situation is not that dramatic. Moreover, the methodology by which the commission reached this result isn’t clear and the commission is making recommendations in a domain where it really has no powers.
When you start talking about 25 billion anythings, you might as well say 50 or 75 billion – it’s all more than can be reasonably estimated in a fairly tight timeframe. The report might better have left out cost estimates; including them just makes the German Oettinger, who chaired the committee that oversaw the stress tests, vulnerable to charges like those from Szymanski.

The report will be up for discussion in parliament in about two weeks, but so far, the reaction has been very poor.
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From Ron Litzinger, Southern California Edison President :
"We have concluded that Unit 2 at San Onofre can be operated safely. This plan will get San Onofre Unit 2 back to providing reliable and clean energy to Southern Californians."
This is unalloyed good news, though not one without caveats. San Onofre has been offline with generator problems for eight months, but tests show that one of the two reactors can run at 70 percent power without issue. That’s what Litzinger is announcing.

The caveats:
"The agency will not permit a restart unless and until we can conclude the reactor can be operated safely," NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane said. "Our inspections and review will be painstaking, thorough and will not be rushed."
Which is what you want to happen.
The plan "is a reckless gamble that flies in the face of the utility's claim that it puts safety ahead of profits," the advocacy group Friends of the Earth, which is critical of the nuclear power industry, said in a statement.
To FOE, this would be true of an issue-free facility that’s been turning out electricity for many years. It’s the group’s default position. Just on the level of common sense, putting profits ahead of safety will only lead to tears – not to mention corporate ruin.

Notably, an attempt earlier this year to gather enough signatures (not by FOE) to put an initiative on the ballot to close San Onofre (and Diablo Canyon, another California facility) failed utterly.

Always shouting upwind on a rainy, cold night, our FOE.

So – let’s see how the NRC inspections go.
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From Jack Volpato, Eddy-Lea Alliance board member:
"The Department of Energy wants this to happen. There are nuclear rods around the country just sitting on a pad, costing $5 to 10 million a year to keep an eye on."
Well, all right, they’re not just sitting on a pad decaying away, they are in used fuel casks, but we get what Volpato is saying. Eddy and Lea are counties in New Mexico that have seen a boomlet in nuclear energy activity. None of it has anything to do with making electricity for New Mexicans, but with byproducts and used fuel.

There is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, that has been a big local success story, even inspiring the Blue Ribbon Commission investigating the back end of the fuel cycle to recommend using the WIPP-derived community consent-based approach to siting consolidated used fuel storage sites (and a permanent repository, too.) That’s what AREVA is helping with.

So who’s better than Lea and Eddy counties to attract a consolidated used fuel storage site? It worked out exceedingly well once with WIPP, why not again?
The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance has selected French firm AREVA to help create an above-ground interim storage facility to store nuclear fuel on 1,000 acres between Carlsbad and Hobbs. The facility is being billed as a safe way to temporarily house used fuel from nuclear power plants.
Early days of course, but involving AREVA at this point shows real seriousness to make it work. What we can say is: good. Go for it, New Mexico.

I got sidetracked but that corner in southeast New Mexico also hosts or will host the International Isotopes uranium deconversion facility and Urenco’s uranium enrichment plant. That’s not a coincidence, either, but a subject for a future post.

NEI Energy Markets Report (September 24-28, 2012)

Here's a snippet of what went on in the energy markets last week:

Electricity peak prices rose across the country last week, except at the Northeast hub, where they fell $8/MWh. “As traders closed their books on September and dealt the first daily product for October, power prices drifted in mixed directions in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. on Friday, Sept. 28. ... Across the U.S., demand remains a muted driver as the mild fall air keeps weather-related demand balanced between cooling and heating needs. However, a growing number of outages continued to lend power prices a push higher, especially with natural gas prices once again on the rise, meaning replacement generation is likely to cost more, too.” (SNL Energy’s Power Daily, 10/1/12)

Average nuclear plant availability fell one percent last week, to 83 percent nationwide. Beaver Valley 2 began a planned refueling and maintenance outage September 24. Brunswick 1, Nine Mile Point 1, and Monticello returned to service after brief maintenance outages. (Platts)

For more of the report click here.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Nuclear Reactor on Crystal River

progress-energy-crystal-river

Crystal River 3

No one wants drilling rigs to topple into the ocean. Or coal mines to leak toxic and/or explosive gases into tunnels. Or windmills to wipe out populations of bats. There are risks to virtually any human endeavor, of course, and there are benefits to balance against them, but the goal is always to minimize risk and maximize benefits. If the risk can be close to zero and the benefits considerable, that’s of course ideal if difficult to achieve.

I know all of this is obvious, but it’s nice occasionally to see it reaffirmed publically.
“The review found that the current repair plan appears to be technically feasible,” said Alex Glenn, incoming president of Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, “but significant risks and technical issues still need to be resolved, including the ultimate scope of any repair work.
Glenn is talking about a crack in a containment dome at Progress Energy’s Crystal River 3 facility in Florida. Progress (which is now part of Duke Energy) wanted to figure out how much it would cost to fix the problem and hired an outside company, Zapata Consulting, to review the situation.
The cost? A fair amount.
The Zapata report estimated the repair cost at approximately $1.49 billion. Progress Energy's prior assessment indicated expected repair cost of $900 million to $1.3 billion, with the costs trending up.”
And if Zapata is correct, trending up is what those costs are doing. As with many reports, Zapata offered scenarios to estimate how much the process would cost if it went extremely well and if it went very badly.
Under the worst-case scenario, Zapata estimated that the cost could be $3.43 billion with a 96-month schedule.
That’s a lot of money and we would be naïve to think that Progress Energy will not consider its options. Crystal River 3 has been operating since 1977 and has paid its way.
“We have not made a final decision on whether to repair or retire CR3,” Glenn said in a statement on Monday. “The decision and schedule will be driven by the final analysis. We will carefully analyze and settle each finding as we continue to evaluate the technical and licensing implications, estimated costs and the time required to make the repair. We will proceed with a repair option only if there is a high degree of confidence that the repair can be successfully completed and licensed within the final estimated costs and schedule.”
The shuttering of any nuclear energy facility means the loss of a lot of carbon emission free baseload electricity generation – 860 megawatts in this case, with an uprate pending if it returns to service. And it may yet return to service – Progress Energy will figure out what’s best for its customers.

But if Progress Energy decides to retire the reactor, that’s that. No company runs unsafe nuclear reactors; and no company can afford to lose money. There’s just no upside.

Guest Post: Advancing Nuclear Energy Innovation, Technology


AREVA CEO Mike Rencheck (right), along with MOX Services Executive Vice President and Deputy Project Manager Steve Marr (center), answer questions about the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility for NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel (left).
Yesterday, a group of NEI executives led by our President and CEO Marv Fertel, traveled to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to personally see the progress being made on the construction of a nuclear fuel fabrication facility that will be jointly managed by the Shaw Group and AREVA.

Once construction is complete, the facility will begin to mix weapons grade plutonium with uranium -- a process that will eventually eliminate 68 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium from U.S. and Russian stockpiles. NEI Senior Vice President Scott Peterson, who accompanied Fertel on the tour, provided us with the following report.
Nearly 60 years ago, the U.S. government began production at its first reactor at the government’s sprawling Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C., launching a legacy of research and technology innovation.

That mission continues today with construction of a nuclear fuel fabrication facility that will mix weapons-grade plutonium with uranium to produce electricity and continue reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles both in the United States and Russia.

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s plutonium disposition program will eliminate 68 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium in the United States and Russia, or about 8,500 warheads each. The two countries will eliminate the material for weapons use by converting it to mixed-oxide fuel for use in commercial reactors.

NEI executives joined the Shaw-AREVA leadership team at the site on Tuesday to survey progress at one of America’s first advanced-technology nuclear energy projects. One fuel assembly—comprised of 95,400 finger-tipped sized fuel pellets—will power 9,000 homes.

“This project is on the forefront of rebuilding America's infrastructure and providing energy solutions for future generations,” NEI Chief Executive Officer Marv Fertel said after touring the project. “The Shaw-AREVA consortia has created thousands of jobs and is developing a highly skilled workforce that is steeped in quality assurance work that is required in nuclear energy projects.

“Coupled with new reactor construction in Georgia and South Carolina, this region is leading the future of nuclear energy, which is the only large-scale, 24/7 and clean-air electricity source on the power grid. The mixed-oxide fuel facility will contribute to a secure, domestic source of fuel for nuclear energy facilities while furthering our government's commitment to reduce the Cold War weapons stockpile.”

The project has myriad advantages that make it attractive to local economies and suppliers in nearly every state:
  • As many as 2,700 workers have been building the facility, including about 1,000 skilled craft workers. Project managers have been tremendously successful in recruiting highly skilled, nuclear-qualified welders, which is providing a benchmark for organized labor at two Georgia Power reactors in Burke County, Ga.
  • The project is helping drive the expansion of U.S. manufacturing, with $790 million in contracts awarded to 8,900 small businesses in some 40 states. Ninety percent of the components in the fully automated fuel manufacturing process will be U.S. sourced.
  • Shaw-AREVA MOX Services is proving the value of modular construction for nuclear energy facilities. Even as civil construction continues at the massive facility, engineers and mechanics are assembling and testing key systems in a huge warehouse near the construction site. This same approach is being used by Shaw to build four reactors in Georgia and South Carolina.
  • The commitment to safety is clear among the Shaw-AREVA MOX Services team. At the current rate, workers at the site this week will reach 12 million hours without a lost workday accident. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the project, has not identified any needed safety improvements at the project.
Four advanced Westinghouse reactors are being built within 75 miles of Aiken, S.C—construction projects also managed by Shaw. Those projects will take advantage of lessons learned in modular construction, craft worker training and quality assurance from the mixed-oxide fuel facility.

“This is the beginning of the nuclear energy renaissance,” says Steve Marr, executive vice president and deputy project manager for the MOX facility. “We are leading the way both in technology evolution and innovation at the MOX project.”
Thanks to everyone at Shaw AREVA for helping to arrange the tour. For a video concerning the facility and the important work it does, click here. For a slideshow of photos from the tour, see below or click here.