[ RadSafe ] Nuclear News - Westinghouse wins first US nuclear deal in 30 years

Perle, Sandy sperle at mirion.com
Wed Apr 9 14:52:11 CDT 2008



Westinghouse wins first US nuclear deal in 30 years

FBI among units probing threat against nuclear plant

Australia could lead safe path to nuclear

Inside Track: Going Nuclear on Energy

US NRC Asks Nuclear Facilities To Check Parts From Supply Co

Tri-State contemplates nuclear plant in Colo.

Meeting at Oconee plant will go over federal safety assessment



Westinghouse wins first US nuclear deal in 30 years


Westinghouse Electric, the nuclear design and build firm sold by the British ­government two years ago, has won its first ­contracts in America for 30 years.


The move underlines the worldwide ­renaissance of atomic power generation as a source of low-carbon energy. The Pittsburgh-based group, which has sought approval for its reactor design to be accepted in Britain, has won a deal from Georgia Power to build two AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle site near Waynesboro, Georgia, for an ­estimated $13bn (£7bn).


Westinghouse, which won the contract with its partner, the Shaw Group, said the project moves the country's nuclear revival "beyond the planning stage" and into a new era.


Steve Tritch, president of ­Westinghouse said: "Nuclear power is now rightfully recognised as a clean, safe and economically competitive source of baseload generation that helps ensure US energy independence."


Westinghouse was bought by BNFL in 1999 but the British government pushed for its sale saying it could leave the public purse facing substantial financial liabilities as it ramped up its business in the light of potential new building opportunities in the US and China. Ministers also expressed concerns that Westinghouse could be compromised if the government had to decide on a design for a new generation of British ­stations so the company was sold to Japan's Toshiba, for £2.8bn.


Westinghouse has submitted its AP1000 design in the UK but will face strong competition from Areva of France .


Last month, Georgia Power's ­parent group, Southern Nuclear, filed an application with the nuclear regulatory ­commission in America for a combined construction and operating license for Westinghouse's AP1000 plant design.


Each reactor can generate about 1,100 megawatts meaning two of this size could generate enough power for one million homes. Two existing reactors at Vogtle are owned by Southern's largest utility and three public power agencies: Oglethorpe Power, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and Dalton Utilities. Georgia Power, along with co-owners of the ­Vogtle nuclear power plant near Augusta, will submit the contract terms to the Georgia public service commission in May to be considered along with other proposals to meet the utility's need for additional ­generation in 2016-2017.


The NRC which has received nine applications to build new reactors expects to receive as many as 22 other applications for 33 new reactors by 2010.



FBI among units probing threat against nuclear plant


Employees evacuated after 'unusual event'


TWO RIVERS - About 450 employees of Point Beach Nuclear Plant were evacuated Tuesday morning after a convenience store clerk reported a man had asked for directions to Nuclear Road, where the plant is located, and then said he "came to blow up the place," according to a press release from Capt. Robert Kappelman of the Two Rivers Police Department.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Point Beach Nuclear Plant, the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department and the Two Rivers Police Department conducted a joint investigation.


Information from the surveillance video at the gas station led authorities to a vehicle parked at the nuclear plant. A 23-year-old man from Hull, Mass., working as a contractor at the plant, had rented the car in Milwaukee.


In an interview with the FBI, the man admitted the conversation took place but said he had stated he "hoped he wouldn't blow up the place" as it was his first day working at the facility. He said he told the clerk "they don't allow (him) to push any buttons, anyway."


His vehicle was searched and no threats were found. No charges are being pursued, according to TR police.


About 500 employees were on site when plant officials were notified of a "credible threat," plant spokeswoman Sara Cassidy said. Those not required to respond to the situation were evacuated to the Point Beach Energy Center at 8:30 a.m., she said. They went back to their jobs at noon.


Operators at the plant declared an "unusual event" at 8:16 a.m. and exited that classification at 12:26 p.m., according to Cassidy.


An unusual event is the least serious of the four emergency classifications defined by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


The man who made the comments did not have a site badge and had no access to the plant's secure, protected area, Cassidy said.


"Unusual event" apparently is an appropriate description of the situation.


"This has never happened before," said Lauretta Krcma-Olson, energy center supervisor.


Groups scheduled to tour the energy center were notified not to come, and the center was closed to the public. 



Australia could lead safe path to nuclear


NUCLEAR power generation is set to expand dramatically across the region in a development that raises safety and security concerns for Australia and should be dealt with by a Federal Government push for stronger international safeguards, a Lowy Institute paper says.


The paper, by the Singapore-based analyst Andrew Symon, says nuclear output across South-East Asia will double in the next eight years and will rise further as countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam begin operating their first plants by 2017 and 2020.


It says "the worst case scenario" of a commercial nuclear accident in the region could cause radioactive fallout in Australia and would require the Government to take a significant role in providing emergency assistance - as it did after the 2004 tsunami and the 2006 Central Java earthquake.


"Nuclear energy development in South-East Asia will touch directly on Australian interests," the paper says.


"Australia has commercial and economic interests as a major world supplier of uranium oxide, the basis for nuclear fuel. However, Australia's interests extend well beyond this to environmental, safety and weapons proliferation, and security matters."


The paper says Australia, which supplies about a fifth of the uranium oxide market, could guarantee fuel supplies in return for assurances that countries will not acquire sensitive technologies - a move that would limit the chances of enriched uranium being acquired by terrorists.


It says a range of federal ministers - not just the energy minister - should raise concerns about nuclear power and ensure plants are built within containment structures that would limit the reach of any radioactive fallout.


"The critical questions for Australian policy are whether South-East Asian countries will want to have their own enrichment and reprocessing capabilities," it says. "Longer term, if South-East Asian nuclear power develops on a much larger scale, as it arguably could, then governments may want to have this capability ... both to achieve economies of scale and reduce mistrust or misunderstanding about weapons ambitions.


"A key concern for Australian policy then is whether to accept a united ASEAN enrichment and/or reprocessing capability, or whether to encourage South-East Asian governments instead to embrace arrangements where the sensitive aspects of the fuel cycle were restricted to a minimum number of sites in the world.


"This could be promoted as a cheaper and safer approach."


Mr Symon, a director of the energy consulting firm Menas Associates, said in the paper that Australia should promote a regional forum - possibly building on the East Asia Summit - to share plans and co-ordinate the future growth of nuclear energy.


Louise Frechette, a former United Nations deputy secretary-general and expert on nuclear security, said yesterday that the region was on the verge of a "nuclear renaissance" and Australia should use its clout as a major supplier of uranium to push for mandatory inspections of plants.


"There is a general movement towards nuclear energy, in South-East Asia and other regions, that poses real challenges when it comes to global governance," she told the Herald.


"There is really no means of verifying whether or not international safety guidelines are being followed. There is no inspection system, other than on a voluntary basis."


Ms Frechette said Australia had strict guidelines for the use of its exported uranium and could credibly encourage its neighbours to agree to international supervision of its nuclear processes.



Inside Track: Going Nuclear on Energy


The mainstream media and petty politicians would have Americans believe that we are faced with a set of mutually exclusive, insoluble problems: energy security, environmental security, giant budget deficits and ever-expanding trade deficits. But these challenges can't be separated-they are all related symptoms of the same basic problem, energy. And thankfully, we don't need an Alexander, great or otherwise, to meet the challenges posed by it. In fact, something of a silver bullet exists: nuclear energy.


How is nuclear power the cure to all that ails us? Here's how: We import ten million barrels of oil every day. That costs us one billion dollars every day, adding $365 billion each year to our trade deficit. Nearly all of that imported petroleum goes into transportation fuels. Replacing all of the imported-oil horsepower with an equivalent amount of nuclear-generated power eliminates nearly 30 percent of the trade deficit. But how do you run cars on nuclear power? The answer can be found in two words: "hydrogen" and "hybrids."


If America constructed 104 new nuclear plants, we would add enough base electrical capacity to power every car and truck on the road today, because electricity can convert water into hydrogen (H2O plus electricity equals H2 plus O2) to fuel both modified internal-combustion engines and fuel-cell electric engines. And by adding plugs to existing gas-electric hybrids, owners could refuel their cars at home.


Why 104 new nuclear plants? Because we already have that many in operation. We simply build two thousand additional megawatts of capacity at each current location. Then we avoid the not-in-my-backyard problem. And there's no need to worry about safety: the days of Chernobyl-type facilities are long gone. That was an Edsel. A nuclear plant designed today is a Lexus.


Why hydrogen? Because it is made from water. Not a carbon atom in sight, so no greenhouse gases. When hydrogen is combusted in a modified internal-combustion engine (yes, the technology is off the shelf) or used to power a fuel cell (without combustion), it produces no harmful by-products.


Plug-in hybrids? That's a no-brainer. Adding plugs to basic gas-electric hybrids would allow commuters to "refuel" at home, overnight (when, conveniently, electric rates are lower). As most round-trip commutes are less than fifty miles, not a drop of gasoline would be burned the whole workweek, and not a wisp of greenhouse gasses would be emitted, assuaging European concerns about America's energy use.


So that solves the trade deficit, the energy deficit and the environmental issue. But what about the budget deficit? Easy: We need to increase the capacity of the nuclear plants and secure them against terrorist attack. We need to build the electrolyzers and compressors to be placed at every service station in America, to convert water into compressed hydrogen to fuel cars and trucks. We need to increase the capacity of the power-transmission lines to deliver the larger supply of electricity to the service stations. We need to build the plug-in hybrids and the appliances for rapid recharging.


All of this building and manufacturing adds wages and profits to the economy. The nuclear facilities are built here, with American labor and American equipment. The electric transmission lines are built here, with American labor and equipment. The electrolyzers and compressors and plug-in hybrids should be built here, with American labor and equipment. And these are high-wage positions in engineering, construction and manufacturing.


The added wages and profits mean substantially higher income tax collections (without raising tax rates). On the expense side of the ledger, military spending, to maintain the forward posture of our forces to keep the oil flowing to our country, could be reduced substantially. Increased revenue and reduced spending. That's the sweet sound of deficit reduction that you're hearing.


How much does this all cost? Less than you would think. Far from breaking the bank, it will actually enrich the treasury.


The cost to build it all is $3 trillion over ten years. But, no worries: Establish a federal lending institution, along the lines of Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, to create a secondary market for revenue-based loans originated by existing commercial lenders to the utilities and the hydrogen retailers.


Money would flow into these loans from all around the world, because they would be backed by physical plant and equipment producing the world's most important commodity, power. Money flowing into the United States would stabilize the free-falling dollar. Interest rates would go down. This would make us all richer to boot, as the stock market (in which most people have a substantial portion of their retirement savings), reacting to lower budget deficits, lower interest rates and energy security, would move higher in a sustainable way.


Oh, and the cost of the hydrogen or the plug-in recharge is under three dollars per gasoline-gallon equivalent.



US NRC Asks Nuclear Facilities To Check Parts From Supply Co


BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP)--An audit of a nuclear industry supplier has found some of its parts may not have been properly checked for use in safety-related systems at reactors, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


Nuclear plant operators are being asked to double-check fuses, resistors, capacitors and other parts supplied by Invensys Inc. of Foxborough, Mass., said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.


"The expectation is the (plant operators) would do these checks," said Sheehan. "Before these parts are put in place, they are supposed to undergo a quality-assurance check. This audit found this process was not taking place."


He called Invensys a "significant vendor" to the industry, and said its components are used in recording equipment that tracks the status of plant safety systems.


Robert Williams, a spokesman for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, confirmed the Vernon reactor had received parts from the company. He said quality-control checks are supposed to be performed before parts are shipped from Invensys and after they arrive at nuclear plants.


Resident inspectors at affected nuclear plants have been asked to determine what reactor operators are doing to deal with the issue, Sheehan said.


"We are following up to see whether or not these quality-assurance checks have or will be taking place at these plants through our problem identification and resolution inspection," he said.


He said the inspection breakdown did not indicate the parts were bad. "There is no reason to think these parts are not at the level they should be."


Williams said the plant had not been formally notified by the NRC about the problem. "But based on the correspondence we've seen between the NRC and Invensys we did a preliminary review and have put this into our corrective action procedures," he said.


Invensys has supplied parts to many U.S. nuclear plants, including those owned by Vermont Yankee owner Entergy (ETR), Dominion Nuclear (DOM), Constellation ( CEG) and Exelon (EXC).


"Invensys has taken immediate corrective action to rectify the situation in that these parts are no longer provided as safety-related and we will be providing separate notification to each of the nuclear customers listed in (the report)," Invensys said in a statement.


"It should be noted that the subject materials were all controlled and provided in accordance with the approved ... procedures which include requirements for inspections verifying the appropriate manufacturer, part number, markings and other physical characteristics," it said. 



Tri-State contemplates nuclear plant in Colo.


Topeka - The main utility company behind the controversial proposal to build coal-fired power plants in western Kansas also is considering constructing a nuclear plant.


Recently, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association directed its staff to study whether to build a nuclear power plant in southeastern Colorado and to consider potential partners to help pay for construction.


In Kansas, Tri-State, which is based in Westminster, Colo., has partnered with Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and a Texas company in the proposal to build two 700-megawatt coal-burning plants near Holcomb.


The $3.6 billion project was rejected by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' administration because of concerns about the plants' annual emission of 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and its effect on climate change.


The Legislature has approved a bill to reverse that decision and build the plants, but Sebelius vetoed that measure. Supporters of the plants continue to work on ways through the Legislature and courts to get around Sebelius' opposition.


Meanwhile, Tri-State's board of directors is looking toward the development of a site near Holly, Colo., where the company already has secured water rights for a plant that could be either coal-fired or nuclear.


"We are looking into the long-term," Tri-State spokesman Lee Boughey said. "We need to evaluate different resources."


Boughey said Tri-State's interest in possibly building a nuclear plant would have no effect on its proposal in Kansas, nor was it prompted by concerns that the Holcomb project will not get off the ground.


Tri-State sells power to 44 rural cooperatives that serve 1.4 million people in Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska and Wyoming.


The company says it needs the Holcomb project because of increased demand in eastern Colorado.


But Stephanie Cole, a spokeswoman for the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said Tri-State and other utilities should look toward conservation to reduce demand and the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind.


"Our position is that rather than assuming that we need more plants, we need to aggressively pursue conservation, efficiency and renewables," she said.


Under the Holcomb project, Tri-State would own one of the 700-megawatt units, while Sunflower and Golden Spread Electric Cooperative of Texas would own the other. Only about 200 megawatts of the total 1,400 megawatts of power would be used in Kansas.



Nuke plant operations to be discussed

Meeting at Oconee plant will go over federal safety assessment


Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials will meet with management at Oconee Nuclear Station on Thursday to discuss the agency's annual assessment of the facility.


The meeting, at 10 a.m. at Duke Energy's World of Energy at the nuclear station, is open to the public.


Oconee Nuclear Station operated safely overall, according to an annual assessment letter from the NRC to David Baxter, site vice president at Oconee Nuclear Station.


The letter cited some issues of low to moderate safety significance from 2006, because issues remain on a facility's record for a period of time.


Those issues have been addressed and corrected, said Jason Walls, a Duke spokesman.


The letter also cites one concern that remains under staff review by the agency, regarding excessive cycling of main steam safety valves.


The unresolved item is part of a continuing analysis by the agency to determine if there are any potential operational issues with the valve, Walls said.


The valve was never stuck open but the agency is analyzing if it could happen under certain conditions, Walls said. The NRC is continuing an analysis to get more information on the situation, he said.



Sander C. Perle 
Mirion Technologies, Inc., Dosimetry Services Division 
2652 McGaw Avenue
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