Power & Operations


The man held responsible for the Chernobyl accident has died

November 2, 2021, 3:41PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Bryukhanov

Viktor Bryukhanov, the man blamed for the Chernobyl disaster, has died at age 85.

Bryukhanov was in charge of the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine when the devastating accident occurred in 1986. Afterward, he was held responsible and was imprisoned.

Bryukhanov's death, on October 13 in Kiev, Ukraine, was announced by a representative of the now-closed nuclear plant, according to a report in the New York Times. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease, in addition to having had several strokes following his retirement in 2015.

The sentencing: In 1987, Bryukhanov was found guilty of gross violation of safety regulations, creating conditions that led to the steam explosion that released a radioactive dust cloud into the atmosphere. Reports also mentioned that he failed to ensure correct and firm leadership in the difficult conditions of the accident and displayed irresponsibility and inability to organize. He was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp along with a five-year sentence for abuse of power, which ran concurrently.

STP’s Mobile Work Management platform offers innovation for efficiency

October 29, 2021, 3:59PMNuclear NewsAmanda Sitka

The STP Nuclear Operating Company operates the South Texas Project Electric Generating Station, located eight miles west of Wadsworth, Texas. One of STP’s core values is innovation—a value that is evident in the organization’s 2021 Nuclear Energy Institute Top Innovative Practice (TIP) award–winning mobile work management (MWM) platform, which strives to utilize technology to bring efficiency to the field for nuclear professionals.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission

October 26, 2021, 12:06PMNuclear NewsSteven P. Nesbit

Steven P. Nesbit

Depending on where you reside on this nuclear technology world of ours, you may care a great deal, or not at all, about who happens to be sitting on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at any given point in time. If you live on the Department of Energy continent or the Academia continent, it’s probably not a big deal. If you are on the Nuclear Power Plant Operator continent or the Vendor continent (which are actually part of the same landmass), it is quite important. If you are on the NRC island, it’s huge.

The NRC comprises five presidentially appointed, U.S. Senate–confirmed commissioners who are commonly referred to as “the Commission,” and approximately 3,000 federal employees referred to as the staff. The Commission oversees the NRC staff; together, they license and regulate the nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials to provide reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety. The president of the United States designates one of the commissioners to serve as chairman, the principal executive officer of and the official spokesperson for the agency.

Georgia Power again pushes back Vogtle project start dates

October 25, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
Vogtle-4 containment as it appeared last month. Photo: Georgia Power

In what has become for nuclear advocates an all-too-familiar refrain, Georgia Power has made another revision to the Vogtle nuclear expansion project schedule. The company now predicts a Unit 3 in-service date in the third quarter of 2022 and a Unit 4 in-service date in the second quarter of 2023, representing a three-month shift for each unit.

Microreactor planned for U.S. Air Force base in Alaska

October 25, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
An F-35A Lightning II takes off from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska on July 1, 2021. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

The Department of the Air Force has selected Eielson Air Force Base as the site of a stationary microreactor that “will provide the installation with a clean, reliable, and resilient nuclear energy supply technology for critical national security infrastructure,” the department announced on October 15.

Inspecting nuclear facilities with unmanned aerial systems

October 22, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear NewsMonica Rivera Garcia

Over the past decade, unmanned aerial systems (UASs), more commonly referred to as drones, have played an increasing role in the day-to-day activities of the energy sector. Applications range from visually inspecting wind turbines, flare stacks, pipelines, and facilities to evaluating vegetation encroachment near power lines. Although the benefits of UASs have been reported in these industries, their use in the nuclear community has only recently been explored. For instance, a drone was sent into a waterbox at a Duke Energy facility to inspect for leaks.1 And at Fukushima Daiichi, a drone was used to conduct a post-accident radiation survey inside Unit 3, and drones are being investigated for use inside the damaged containments.2

DOE awards $50 million cost share for Limerick I&C modernization

October 22, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News
Limerick nuclear power plant. (Photo: Arturo Ramos)

The Department of Energy is providing $50 million in a cost-sharing project with Exelon Generation to digitalize the control room at the company’s Limerick nuclear power plant, the department announced yesterday. Once implemented, the facility will house the first fully digital safety system upgrade at a U.S. nuclear power plant.

IAEA provides a must-read for COP26 attendees

October 21, 2021, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Doubtless with the intention of influencing some of the many nuclear agnostics expected at next week’s COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the International Atomic Energy Agency last week released Nuclear Energy for a Net Zero World.

According to the 73-page report, nuclear power is key to achieving the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring a 24/7 energy supply, which provides stability and resilience to electrical grids and facilitates the wider integration of variable renewables, such as wind and solar, needed to drive the clean energy transition.

Colorado county looking at SMRs to replace coal

October 21, 2021, 7:16AMNuclear News

The expected early retirement of a massive coal plant in Pueblo County, Colo., has the county commissioners mulling small modular reactors as a power source replacement.

The plant in question is Xcel Energy’s three-unit Comanche Generating Station, Colorado’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, Xcel received approval from the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to retire Units 1 and 2 in 2023 and 2025, respectively. And earlier this year, the company filed a proposal to close the much newer Unit 3 in 2039—three decades earlier than expected. (Xcel also plans to run the unit at only 33 percent, beginning in 2030.) Meanwhile, environmental groups have been pushing for the closure of Unit 3 by the end of the decade.

Ensuring a role for nuclear in the response to climate change

October 20, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear NewsRichard Meserve

Richard Meserve

Nuclear power is an important tool in the response to climate change, and advanced reactors may offer advantages over existing plants in providing carbon-free generation at the scale necessary to respond to the existential challenge that climate change presents. The International Atomic Energy Agency is aggressively addressing issues related to the possible transition to advanced reactors. This letter is to urge a redoubling of effort by Member States to put in place the necessary capabilities to deal with the challenges that they present.

Many countries are responding to the threat of climate change by pledging to move toward a radical reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 or before. This will require a revolution in energy generation, and the transition must start many years before the target date. Given that nuclear power plants are long-lived investments that require many years to plan, construct, and incorporate on the grid, there is no time to waste in preparing for that changed world.

Life in three dimensions

October 18, 2021, 9:01AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

This month’s Nuclear News is dedicated to the people and technology that keep our nuclear energy facilities running. It’s one of the great untold stories of the modern industrial world: how a band of highly trained people have repeatedly and skillfully applied novel technology to keep decades-old nuclear plants running at peak performance. The feat itself can be hard for the uninitiated to fathom. It’s as if a 30-year-old pickup truck was still on the retail auto market and beating out brand-new models in Consumer Reports’ vehicle safety and reliability ratings.

Nuclear sustainability was the marquee topic at the 2021 ANS Utility Working Conference, held at Marco Island, Fla., in August. It was the first in-person meeting ANS has held since COVID emerged in early 2020. It was also my first UWC, so admittedly I have only a secondhand understanding of the “before” times.

World Energy Outlook 2021: Nuclear innovation needs to accelerate

October 18, 2021, 6:43AMNuclear News
Nuclear power capacity by scenario, 2020–2050 (STEPS: stated policies scenario, APS: announced pledges scenario, NZE: net-zero emissions by 2050 scenario). (Graphic: IEA World Energy Outlook 2021)

The International Energy Agency released its flagship report, World Energy Outlook 2021, on October 13, “at a time when policymakers are contending with the impacts of both climate change and volatile energy markets” and ahead of the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which begins October 31. With a net-zero emissions by 2050 (NZE) scenario that calls for nuclear power capacity to almost double by 2050, the report acknowledges that rapid development of advanced nuclear technologies could expand opportunities for nuclear energy to provide low-carbon electricity, heat, and hydrogen.

Neutron noise monitoring during plant operation expedites flexure replacement at Salem-1

October 15, 2021, 3:26PMNuclear NewsMatt Palamara, Ali Fakhar, Stephen Smith, Patrick Fabian, Nathan Lang, and George Holoman
Neutron noise monitoring allowed engineers to observe and interpret vibration characteristics captured by neutron flux detectors. (Photo: PSEG/Westinghouse)

The nuclear industry has historically relied on intermittent ultrasonic test and visual inspections of pressurized water reactor components to identify and manage degradation. While this reactive approach has proven to be effective, imagine a scenario in which the degradation could propagate throughout the reactor internals, making a more proactive measure necessary to avoid a major enterprise risk to the plant. Could a utility identify the onset of degradation within the reactor internals during plant operation? If so, could a repair be developed prior to the next refueling outage to prevent additional, cascading degradation? That is exactly the situation that Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) and Westinghouse engineers were able to navigate over the course of the 2019–2020 operating cycle at Salem Unit 1, resulting in a tremendous success for the plant and a historic landmark in the nuclear industry, while earning the team a 2021 Nuclear Energy Institute Top Innovative Practice (TIP) award.

France submits EPR offer to Poland

October 15, 2021, 12:06PMNuclear News

A cutaway view of an EPR. (Image: EDF)

French utility giant Électricité de France has thrown its chapeau into the ring to be the large-reactor supplier for Poland’s embryonic nuclear power program, joining U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Company, which has made concerted efforts this year to convince Poland to choose its AP1000 technology.

On Tuesday, EDF submitted a nonbinding preliminary offer to the Polish government for the construction of four to six EPR reactors, representing a total installed capacity of 6.6 to 9.9 GWe across two to three sites.

The pitch: The offer “covers all key parameters of the program, such as plant configuration, industrial scheme, plans for the development of the local supply chain, cost estimate, and schedule,” EDF said in a press release, adding that its proposal “aims at setting the principles for a Polish-French strategic partnership framework in support of Poland’s ambitious energy transition plan, aligned with the European carbon neutrality target.”

CNSC okays renewal of site preparation license for Darlington SMR project

October 15, 2021, 7:02AMNuclear News
The Darlington nuclear power plant.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has approved the renewal of the site preparation license for Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington new-build nuclear project. First granted in 2012, the license is now valid until October 11, 2031.

Nuclear Innovation Alliance releases new reports on advanced nuclear technology

October 14, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) has followed up its report, Advanced Nuclear Technology: A Primer, published last month, with the release of two new reports on the subject—one for policymakers, the other for investors.

For policymakers: According to the NIA, Advanced Nuclear Reactors for State Policymakers, in Brief provides an overview of enabling federal policies and looks at state options to incentivize local development of advanced reactors. In addition, the report features a series of “topical briefs” on the characteristics of advanced reactors with respect to safety, economic benefits, waste remediation, flexibility and dispatchability, and timing and development. The report also contains case studies of state-specific advanced nuclear projects such as the Natrium reactor demonstration project in Wyoming, Energy Northwest’s plans in Washington state, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems’ consortium for the first light water small modular reactor, and the Nuclear Alternative Project in Puerto Rico.

Opining online, journalist urges regulatory flexibility for new reactors

October 13, 2021, 2:43PMANS Nuclear Cafe

In his article, “The nuclear policy America needs,” journalist Matthew Yglesias says upfront that he is not a “nuclear bro.” He is not a scientist or a nuclear engineer. But he is part of an open, online conversation about the energy policy decisions shaping our future. And in the article posted on newsletter platform Substack on October 12, Yglesias says that nuclear prospects should not be determined by a zero-sum competition between zero-carbon energy resources. Instead, he says, “What nuclear really needs is specific regulatory changes that would give advanced reactor designs a chance to prove themselves.”

First prison sentence meted out in Summer failure

October 13, 2021, 12:12PMNuclear News
One of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to remain unfinished at the Summer nuclear power plant. (Photo: SCE&G)

Kevin Marsh, former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of SCANA Corporation, has become the first person to be sentenced to prison for involvement in the 2017 collapse of the $10 billion Summer nuclear plant expansion project. Marsh was sentenced in federal court on October 7 and in state court on October 11.

The failure to complete the construction of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the single-unit nuclear plant in Jenkinsville, S.C., cost ratepayers and investors billions, damaged the brands of then owners SCANA and Santee Cooper, and put some 6,000 people out of work.

Avoiding failure, extending life of electrical bus ducts

October 12, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear CafeMohsen Tarassoly
Three isophase bus ducts at a nuclear power plant exit the turbine building at the upper left, then branch off the main buses (center) to the reactor unit's auxiliary transformer on the right. (Photo: Ameren Missouri)

Over the course of the last year, many power plants have shortened, postponed, or rescheduled their maintenance outages due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, this has caused some critical maintenance activities to be put on the back burner. For some in the power generation industry, this has presented uncertainties as the volume of unplanned outages caused by deferred maintenance has risen.