Xcel to invest $1.8bn in two-plant upgrade
Companies and organisations mentioned: Sandvik Materials Technology, Xcel Energy, Prairie Island NPP, Monticello NPP, San Onofre NPP, NRC, Lockheed Martin, State Nuclear Power Automation System Engineering Company (SNPAS), MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, Bruce Power, AKME-Engineering, Rosatom, Sheffield Forgemasters, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC), Rolls Royce, UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Department of Energy and Climate Change, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Mermec UK
Weekly Intelligence Brief 13 - 19 June 2013
Xcel to invest $1.8bn in two-plant upgrade
As some U.S. utilities are abandoning old nuclear power plants, Xcel Energy says it’s investing $1.8 billion to extend the life of its 40-year-old Minnesota reactors. This comes at a time when three U.S. utilities are closing older nuclear reactors.
At the company’s Prairie Island nuclear plant in Red Wing, Minn., 1,550 contract workers this autumn will replace two massive steam generators — at $280m, its single most costly improvement project. The plant was completed in 1974 at a cost of $350m.
The Minneapolis-based utility’s other reactor, in Monticello, Minnesota, is also is getting a $600m upgrade that aims to keep it running safely and boost its output by nearly 13 per cent.
“What we are facing here is a lot of spending to extend life another 20 years,” Laura McCarten, Xcel’s regional vice president, said last Thursday as she invited community members to see the new seven-story-tall steam generators to be installed at Prairie Island Unit 2.
Xcel engineers say good maintenance at Prairie Island has allowed the original Unit 2 steam generators to run longer than any others in the U.S. industry. They are confident the replacement units, which are similar to those installed in Unit 1 in 2004, won’t suffer from the problems that shuttered the San Onofre reactors.
Two other utilities this year have said they will shut down, or decommission, nuclear power plants, including one in Wisconsin. But Xcel executives say nuclear power remains a critical part of its power generation, which also relies on coal, wind, natural gas and other sources to serve its 1.2 million Minnesota electric customers.
The new, 330-ton steam generators for the Prairie Island plant were assembled in France, arrived by ship and barge, and this fall are to be hoisted through a hatch in the containment building with only inches of clearance.
“We paid a lot of attention to it,” said Terry Pickens, Xcel’s director of nuclear regulatory policy, who noted that the San Onofre equipment has a different design and manufacturer than Prairie Island’s equipment. “We knew we better understand what is going on there.”
Scott Marty, director of Xcel’s steam generator replacement project, said he visited the San Onofre reactors to assess that problem, which has been attributed to unexpected vibration and deterioration of the tubes.
San Onofre is the only U.S. nuclear power plant to shut down because of safety problems related to a steam generator replacement, said Randy Stark, who manages the steam generator program at the utility-supported Electric Power Research Institute.
“The reason for doing these steam generator replacements is to improve safety,” Stark said.
Sandvik to mothball old steam generator tubing mill
Sandvik Materials Technology will adjust capacity and order backlog for steam generator tubing to reflect the current market conditions in the nuclear power industry, the nuclear supplier has reported.
The capacity adjustment of steam generator tubing will be implemented by phasing out the older installed steam generator tubing mill in Sandviken, Sweden, and concentrating all the production to the new steam generator tubing mill in Sandviken, which commenced commercial production in 2012. The older steam generator tubing mill will be mothballed, thus minimizing costs while creating the option to restart production if demand recovers.
The capacity adjustment will take place during the second quarter of 2014, by the time all production of steam generator tubing will be transferred to the new mill.
The order backlog will be written down by 1.1 billion SEK, negatively affecting the order intake in the second quarter by the corresponding amount. The overall net effect on the operating profit due to closure of related currency hedges, as well as impairment and restructuring charges as a result of the capacity adjustment, is estimated to be slightly positive.
The adjustment of steam generator tubing capacity will result in redundancies affecting around 110 full time employee equivalents in Sandviken. Despite this capacity adjustment, Sandvik will still be able to fulfil its present contractual obligations to its customers.
"The nuclear power industry is a key segment for Sandvik, and we will retain our strong position despite this capacity adjustment. Mothballing the older mill minimizes costs, but it also gives us the option to restart production when the market is ready," says Petra Einarsson, President of Sandvik Materials Technology.
Lockheed Martin, SNPAS sign safety systems agreement
Lockheed Martin and China-based State Nuclear Power Automation System Engineering Company (SNPAS) have signed an agreement to prototype, manufacture and qualify nuclear power plant reactor protection systems for China's Generation III reactors. SNPAS is a subsidiary of China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC).
Lockheed Martin and SNPAS will develop a nuclear safety instrumentation and control platform, based on field programmable gate array (FPGA) technology, for a new generation of Reactor Protection Systems in China. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
"Nuclear safety is the most critical requirement for civilian nuclear power plants. SNPAS is dedicated to developing safe and reliable, advanced instrumentation and control solutions in order to meet China's demand for safe and efficient development of nuclear power," said Qiu Shaoyang, general manager of SNPAS. "We believe that the cooperation between SNPAS and Lockheed Martin will provide safer and more secure technical solutions and equipment for nuclear power plants worldwide."
The unique FPGA-based platform will specifically address safety and regulatory concerns related to software common-cause failures in digital nuclear safety systems. These systems will autonomously and reliably monitor and detect potential failures in the system, ensuring the safe operation and function of the facility. The platform may be applied both in new plant deployment and in safety system upgrades for existing power plants.
Lockheed Martin and SNPAS have submitted a Licensing Topical Report to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and China National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) for generic digital safety instrumentation and control platforms that could be used in U.S., China and international civilian nuclear power plants. The NRC and NNSA are currently reviewing the report.
MDA to help with inspection of nuclear reactor
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, a global communications and information company, has signed a CA$2.2m contract with Bruce Power, an Ontario-based nuclear operator, to help develop inspection and maintenance technologies as part of the design phase of the Bruce Reactor Inspection and Maintenance System (BRIMS).
The objective behind BRIMS is to significantly reduce the durations of nuclear reactor outages by improving the inspection and maintenance technologies used in these difficult environments, which can only be accessed by use of robotics.
"We have been selected to help improve inspection technologies, based on the sound engineering and safety disciplines we have honed through many years of working on space robotics solutions," said Don Osborne, who heads up MDA's robotics business in Brampton.
Land secured for Russian pilot fast reactor
A lease agreement has been signed for land on which the pilot heavy metal-cooled SVBR-100 reactor will be built in Dimitrovgrad in Russia's Ulyanovsk region, wrote a World Nuclear News report.
AKME-Engineering, which is a joint stock company with Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom to develop and commercialise the pilot SVBR-100fast reactor , has agreed to a lease of 15-hectare plot of land adjacent to the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors' (RIAR's) site in Dimitrovgrad.
According to the news report, the lease agreement is valid for ten years. However, Viltaly Zvonkov, head of the Federal Agency for State Property Management in the Ulyanovsk region, commented: "When the power unit and all the infrastructure facilities are built and registered under the project customer's ownership, we will have to conclude a new lease agreement for the same site with AKME-Engineering."
AKME-Engineering director general Vladimir Petrochenko said that in future it will require a site to deploy a construction base, which will be used for the engineering of the facilities for the designated pilot power generating plant.
“I am sure that when the project enters the commercial stage, we will be able to streamline the land area occupied with SVBR-100 nuclear power plants," he said.
Sheffield Forgemasters partners to develop new components; invited to £76m funding plan
UK manufacturers, such as Sheffield Forgemasters, will be invited to apply for funding to help them compete in the nuclear industry. The invitation is part of a larger £76m funding pool to initiate competitive products and services in the UK nuclear energy sector.
The Sharing in Growth program, led by the Sheffield-based Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) with support from industry including Rolls Royce, is partly funded by the UK government. Successful applicants will join a four-year program of business development and training tailored to their own needs, worth around £1m ($1.6m) per project, according to news reports.
One company that is likely to apply for future funding is UK-based heavy forging specialist, Sheffield Forgemasters, which has recently has reported that it will partner with the University of Sheffield and independent research and technology group TWI to create efficient casting solutions for reactor coolant systems.
In a second project, Forgemasters will work in partnership with the University of Sheffield, Rolls Royce and diagnostics specialist Mermec UK to develop hot metrology, non-destructive testing and computer modelling techniques to enhance the manufacture of ultra-large forgings for nuclear power plants.
Both projects are being led by Forgemasters' R&D division, Sheffield Forgemasters RD26 Ltd. Its director, Jesus Talamantes-Silva, said that the outcomes of the projects would influence the design and manufacturing processes for the civil nuclear power sector as well as helping the UK develop its nuclear supply chain.
The projects are part-funded by grants valued at £2.15m ($3.35m) from the UK's Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
The two projects are joining a larger group of 35 nuclear R&D projects, which are sharing £18m ($27m) of support announced in parallel with the UK government's publication of its nuclear industrial strategy back in March at the time of the UK national Budget.
Nuclear power is proving its value and success in difficult weather conditions. Data compiled by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has revealed that in 2014, US nuclear power plants were running at record high efficiency rates, with a 91.7% average capacity rating.
While each decommissioning site’s costs and requirements are bespoke, the costing models should be more flexible and universal so that tenders can be more competitive and stakeholders can budget appropriately.
Seventeen nuclear plants across the United States are undergoing decommissioning. Polls indicate that greater engagement between nuclear operators and state-wide communities are systematically boosting greater support for decommissioning projects across the US.