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.

Menezes confirmed as deputy energy secretary

Menezes

In a bipartisan 79–16 vote, the Senate on August 4 confirmed Mark W. Menezes to be the nation’s deputy secretary of energy. Prior to his confirmation, Menezes had served as undersecretary of energy to both Secretary Dan Brouillette and his predecessor, Rick Perry. An official swearing-in ceremony will take place at a later time.

Before joining the Trump administration in 2017, Menezes was an executive with Berkshire Hathaway Energy. He has also worked on Capitol Hill as chief counsel for energy and environment for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where he served as chief negotiator for the House majority in the enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

EDF fined millions for disseminating misleading information about U.K. nuclear project

The Enforcement Committee of the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) has imposed a fine of €5 million (about $5.9 million) on Électricitéde France for providing false information about the Hinkley Point C new-build nuclear project in the United Kingdom. The committee has also imposed a €50,000 (about $59,000) fine on EDF’s former chairman and chief executive officer, Henri Proglio. According to a July 30 statement from the AMF, the false information was spread via an October 8, 2014, news release.

The AMF is described on its website as an independent public authority that regulates the French financial marketplace and its participants.

China’s Tianwan-5 attains first criticality

Reactor operators bring Tianwan’s Unit 5 to first criticality. Photo: CNNC

Unit 5 at the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China achieved initial criticality on July 27, marking “the completion of the commissioning of the overall system and equipment of the unit,” according to Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation, the plant’s owner and operator.

UAE’s Barakah-1 achieves first criticality

Initial criticality is achieved at Barakah-1. Photo: ENEC

Nawah Energy Company has successfully started up Unit 1 of the United Arab Emirates’ Barakah nuclear power plant, according to an announcement from Nawah’s parent company, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). One of four 1,345-MWe APR-1400 pressurized water reactors at the plant, Unit 1 achieved initial criticality on August 1.

Court upholds Virginia ban on uranium mining

A Virginia circuit court judge has upheld the state’s 38-year-old moratorium on uranium mining, rejecting Virginia Uranium Inc.’s (VUI) argument that the ban was an unconstitutional violation of the company’s rights regarding its Coles Hill property. On July 27, Judge Chadwick Dotson ruled in the state’s favor, declaring that while the mining prohibition does amount to a taking or damaging of private property within the meaning of the state constitution, Virginia had a compelling interest to do so.

Input sought on environmental review of Westinghouse fuel plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is requesting public comment on the scope of the environmental impact statement (EIS) it intends to prepare for Westinghouse Electric Company’s application to renew the operating license for its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility (CFFF), according to a notice published in the July 31 Federal Register. Comments must be filed by August 31 and can be submitted by email to WEC_CFFF_EIS.resource@nrc.gov; by regular mail to Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN–7– A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555– 0001; or by visiting the federal rulemaking website and searching for Docket ID NRC-2015-0039.

The CFFF, located in Columbia, S.C., produces fuel assemblies for use in commercial nuclear power reactors.

Philippines to take another look at nuclear power

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on July 24 signed an executive order that calls for a study to determine the feasibility of introducing nuclear energy into the country’s power generation mix. Citing “the experience of a number of countries” showing nuclear power to be “a reliable, cost-competitive, and environment-friendly energy source,” the order creates the Nuclear Energy Program Inter-Agency Committee (NEP-IAC) to carry out the work.

Senate bill aims to recharge U.S. nuclear industry

Barrasso

Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) on July 29 released a draft bill to revitalize the United States’ nuclear sector—the same day that GOP colleagues in the House introduced similar legislation. According to the senator, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020 (ANIA) would enable U.S. international leadership, preserve America’s uranium supply chain, reduce carbon emissions, and strengthen the nation’s economic, energy, and national security. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, of which Barrasso is chairman, is scheduled to hold a legislative hearing on the draft on August 5.

Fuel supply and reactor licensing bills debut in House

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 29 continued their push for nuclear with the introduction of the Nuclear Prosperity and Security Act (H.R. 7814) and the Modernize Nuclear Reactor Environmental Reviews Act (H.R. 7817). Last month, GOP members of the committee introduced the Strengthening American Nuclear Competitiveness Act and the Nuclear Licensing Efficiency Act.

Trump picks two for spots on FERC

Clements

Christie

The White House earlier this week announced its intention to nominate Allison Clements, a Democrat, and Mark C. Christie, a Republican, to seats on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. If both are confirmed by the Senate, FERC will have a full complement of five commissioners—three Republicans and two Democrats—for the first time since before Cheryl LaFleur departed in August last year.

Agencies sign MOU to strengthen U.S. uranium mining industry

Kristine Svinicki, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, have signed a memorandum of understanding to improve coordination and cooperation in the regulation of the in situ recovery (ISR) process of uranium extraction and to support the goal of establishing a stronger U.S. uranium mining industry.

Exelon, EDF ask NY to okay proposed nuclear deal

Exelon Generation and Électricitéde France have asked the New York Public Service Commission to approve the transfer of EDF’s 49.99 percent ownership interest in Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG) to Exelon, which owns 50.1 percent. CENG is the owner of New York’s Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants, as well as Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs.

DFC drops prohibition on nuclear project financing

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has lifted its ban on financing nuclear power projects abroad. Last month, the DFC proposed the change to its Environmental and Social Policy and Procedures, which had specifically prohibited it from offering such support.

The change, announced by the DFC on July 23, also implements a key recommendation made in an April 2020 report issued by the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group, an interagency initiative to review and modernize U.S. nuclear energy policy.

Former SCANA exec pleads guilty in Summer fraud case

Stephen A. Byrne, former executive vice president of SCANA Corporation, pleaded guilty in federal court on July 23 to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in connection with the failed $9-billion nuclear-expansion project at South Carolina’s Summer plant.

Byrne, 60, had also been president of generation and transmission and chief operating officer at SCANA subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas, overseeing all of SCANA’s nuclear operations, including the construction of the new nuclear units, on which work was stopped in 2017 (NN, Aug. 2017, p. 17).

Senate passes defense bill with advanced nuclear provisions

In an 86 to 14 vote, the Senate on July 23 passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, incorporating by amendment S. 903, the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA). The House of Representatives passed its version of the NDAA, which supports $740 billion in funding for national defense, earlier in the week in a less bipartisan manner, 295 to 125. Members of both chambers will now begin negotiations to hammer out a final bill to send to the president—a process that could take months.

feature Article

Limerick’s safe outage during the pandemic: A refueling success story

Limerick Nuclear Power Plant

Refueling a nuclear reactor under normal circumstances can be a challenging endeavor, with hundreds of maintenance activities and inspections to perform in a short window of time, and more than a thousand supplemental workers on-site to complete the work safely and effectively. But these are anything but normal circumstances.

For good jobs, nuclear blows wind away, report says

A new report from the World Nuclear Association asserts that the nuclear sector provides more and better-paying jobs, as well as more highly trained jobs, than does the wind sector, and by a substantial margin. According to the 20-page report, Employment in the Nuclear and Wind Energy Generating Sectors, nuclear provides approximately 25 percent more employment per unit of electricity generated than does wind.