More from UWC 2020: Round 2

This year’s Utility Working Conference had a dynamic opening plenary and a packed roster of informative sessions. Following are recaps of some of the 2:00 p.m. (EDT) sessions that took place.

Don't miss Newswire's coverage of the opening plenary and the sessions at 12:00 pm.

More from UWC 2020

This year’s Utility Working Conference had a dynamic opening plenary and a packed roster of informative sessions. Following are recaps of some of the 12:00 p.m. (EDT) sessions that took place.

Look for more meeting recaps later today.

NRC’s Inspector General issues report

Overall findings of a survey of Nuclear Regulatory Commission personnel indicate that while the NRC maintains a few strengths compared to external benchmarks, results have declined since 2015 in a number of areas, according to a recent report from the NRC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The survey was conducted in February 2020 by Willis Towers Watson, a global risk-management, insurance brokerage, and advisory firm that has partnered with the OIG for more than 20 years to assess the NRC’s safety culture and climate, as well as other aspects of employee experience.

Sponsored Content

I&C vendor insights: safety digital technology selection to win the energy market

RadICS-based RPS-ESFAS system

Commercial nuclear power plants in the United States (U.S.) face tough competition from sources of alternative generation (e.g., solar, wind, etc.), cheap natural gas, especially in the unregulated market. It is recognized that 35 percent of the U.S. nuclear power plants, representing 22 percent of U.S. nuclear capacity, are at risk of early closure due to economic factors. Plant operators have been reluctant to adopt modern digital technologies for safety-related systems even though these technologies offer many benefits to improve safety and reliability, as well as achieve operating cost reductions.

UWC 2020: A call for transformational change

Bowing to current COVID-19 realities but buoyed by the success of June’s virtual Annual Meeting, ANS event planners returned to the virtual realm for this year’s Utility Working Conference. Originally scheduled for August 9–12 at Marco Island, Fla., the condensed event was held Wednesday, August 11, wherever registrants’ computer devices happened to be located.

In addition to 26 educational sessions and workshops, UWC 2020 featured an opening plenary session titled “Achieving Transformational Change: A leadership discussion,” moderated by Bob Coward, MPR Associates principal officer and ANS past president (2017–2018). Plenary panelists included representatives from three utilities—Arizona Public Service (APS), Exelon, and Xcel Energy—plus the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Letter from the CEO

The U.S. nuclear supply chain: Time to start the climb

Craig Piercy

Originally published in the August 2020 issue of Nuclear News.

Dear reader:

Let’s face it. The U.S. nuclear manufacturing and supply chain is not what it once was. In the 1960s and ’70s, America was the dominant player in the global nuclear industry. Under the auspices of Atoms for Peace, U.S. companies successfully provided reactor systems and associated services to countries across the world and held significant sway over the course of future nuclear development in the international arena. America was at the top of its nuclear game.

President's Column

What does “clean” mean to you?

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Originally published in the August 2020 issue of Nuclear News.

Have you wondered why, in this age of climate alarmism, nuclear isn’t considered the choice for clean power production? You seldom hear nuclear mentioned in the same context as wind, solar, and hydropower. Yet nuclear is the cleanest and safest form of energy today that is both reliable and scalable.


Supporters of nuclear infrastructure bill testify at Senate hearing

The draft American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020 (ANIA) received support—albeit some of it qualified—from three energy experts at a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on August 5. The legislation had been introduced the previous week by Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.), the committee’s chairman.

Testifying before the committee were Amy Roma, a founding member of the Nuclear Energy and National Security Coalition at the Atlantic Council and an attorney at Hogan Lovells; W. Paul Goranson, chief operating officer of Energy Fuels Inc. and president of the Uranium Producers of America (UPA); and Armond Cohen, executive director of the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). (For more on the CATF, remember to check out next month’s Nuclear News.)

Nuclear has a good mythbuster

There’s a new mythbuster out in the Idaho desert by the name of Don Miley, separating nuclear fact from fiction in the service of science and the Idaho National Laboratory. An article released by INL’s Communications and Outreach staff on August 3—“Nuclear MythBusting: Using Social Media to Set the Record Straight”—explains what you need to know about INL’s new public outreach venture on YouTube. And Miley, a longtime INL tour guide, tells what everyone should know about nuclear technologies in these short videos. Just head to INL’s YouTube channel.

Fuel loading starts at Belarusian NPP

The Belarusian nuclear power plant. Photo: Rosatom

Fuel loading has commenced at Unit 1 of the Belarusian nuclear power plant, according to Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation. The first fuel assembly was loaded into the unit at 11:45 a.m. (local time) on August 7, the company said, adding that a total of 163 assemblies will have been loaded by month’s end.

The plant, Belarus’s only nuclear power facility, houses two 1,109-MWe VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors. Unit 1 is scheduled to begin commercial operation later this year, with a Unit 2 startup slated for 2021.

DOE to ship Savannah River waste to Texas under new HLW interpretation

The Department of Energy’s demonstration case of how it applies its interpretation of high-level radioactive waste is set to go forward, as the department issued an environmental assessment (EA) report, Final Environmental Assessment for the Commercial Disposal of Defense Waste Processing Facility Recycle Wastewater from the Savannah River Site (final EA), and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for the disposal of the waste at an off-site facility.

Based on the final EA, the DOE intends to ship up to 8 gallons of recycle wastewater from the Savannah River Site’s Defense Waste Processing Facility (DWPF) to the Waste Control Specialists disposal facility in Andrews County, Texas, starting within the next 12 months. Under the final EA, up to 10,000 gallons DWPF recycle wastewater may be disposed of at a licensed facility outside of South Carolina.

UWC Virtual Summit takes place today - Register now!

The 2020 Utility Working Conference Virtual Summit promises to be a valuable experience for all attendees—and may exceed previous in-person UWC meetings in some ways.

“This program overall is the most aggressive and complex that we have ever put together,” said Vince Gilbert, this year’s technical program chair, who has been actively involved with the UWC since 1998.

The normally three-day event is being shortened to a one-day online meeting—August 11—due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Don't miss out on this unique event. Register now for the virtual summit.

Can't participate live? No problem, you can access all of the sessions afterward on demand at your convenience.

McNamee stepping down from FERC

McNamee

Bernard McNamee, one of the four current members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has announced that he will be leaving the agency next month, narrowing its majority to two Republicans to one Democrat. As Newswire reported on July 30, the White House intends to nominate Republican Mark C. Christie to fill McNamee’s seat and Democrat Allison Clements to fill FERC’s remaining Democratic seat.

NIA: Repeal restriction on foreign ownership, control, domination of U.S. reactors

A new report from the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, U.S. Nuclear Innovation in a Global Economy: Updating an Outdated National Security Framework, argues for the repeal of the Atomic Energy Act’s restriction on foreign ownership, control, or domination of nuclear reactors—the so-called FOCD provision.

Remembering Vice Admiral Wilkinson on the 102nd anniversary of his birth

We owe a debt of gratitude to Dennis Wilkinson, born 102 years ago today. Dennis did so much for the nuclear power industry—both in the Navy and in the commercial sector. When people first met him, he invariably stuck out his hand, grinned, and said, “Hi, I’m Dennis.” No pretense, no pomposity, no self-importance. Supremely confident and brilliant, he was also compassionate and warm with an engaging sense of humor. Many people he met became life-long friends, as he often said that “friendship is forever.”

The Nuclear News Interview

Penfield and Enos: Outage planning in the COVID-19 era

Penfield

Enos

Energy Harbor’s Beaver Valley plant, located about 34 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Pa., was one of many nuclear sites preparing for a scheduled outage as the coronavirus pandemic intensified in March. The baseline objective of any planned outage—to complete refueling on time and get back to producing power—was complicated by the need to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

While over 200 of the plant’s 850 staff members worked from home to support the outage, about 800 contractors were brought in for jobs that could only be done on-site. Nuclear News Staff Writer Susan Gallier talked with Beaver Valley Site Vice President Rod Penfield and General Plant Manager Matt Enos about the planning and communication required.

Beaver Valley can look forward to several more outages in the future, now that plans to shut down the two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, each rated at about 960 MWe, were reversed in March. “The deactivation announcement happened in the middle of all our planning,” Enos said. “It’s a shame we haven’t had a chance to get together as a large group and celebrate that yet.”

While the focus remains on safe pandemic operations, the site now has two causes for celebration: an outage success and a long future ahead.

U.K.’s RWM launches geological disposal research office

RWM’s new research office will study geological disposal of nuclear waste in the U.K.

Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), the U.K. government organization tasked with planning for a geological disposal facility (GDF) for radioactive waste in the United Kingdom, announced on August 4 that, in partnership with the University of Manchester and the University of Sheffield, it has established the Research Support Office (RSO) to “harness the U.K.’s vast array of research capabilities in geo-disposal science and technology.”

The new office is to provide RWM with independent research to help guide the organization in designing and building a U.K. deep geological facility for the permanent disposal of high- and intermediate-level waste.

Two cross-lab teams get funding for computing innovations

On August 4, the Department of Energy announced it will provide $57.5 million over five years to establish two multidisciplinary teams to take advantage of DOE supercomputing facilities at Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The goal is to spur advances in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Funds of $11.5 million have been made available for Fiscal Year 2020, with future funding contingent on congressional appropriations.On August 4, the Department of Energy announced it will provide $57.5 million over five years to establish two multidisciplinary teams to take advantage of DOE supercomputing facilities at Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The goal is to spur advances in the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Funds of $11.5 million have been made available for Fiscal Year 2020, with future funding contingent on congressional appropriations.

ARPA-E Energy Briefs highlight innovations and programs

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is at work developing and demonstrating novel energy technologies and connecting those technologies with private-sector investors. The researchers and innovators behind ARPA-E want to tell you all about it in a series of “Energy Briefs” available through the agency’s YouTube channel.