POWER [November, 1 2010]

Cover Stories

Collaborative Team Investigates Long-Term Nuclear Operations

The Atomic Energy Act originally established the length of a U.S. commercial nuclear reactor license as 40 years and made it renewable for another 20 years. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has stated that it bases the length of these licenses (and the 50+ renewed licenses granted to date) not on any particular technical limitation but on whether the plant meets current safety requirements. Does this mean there could be reactor life after 60?

Map of Nuclear Generation in the United States

Courtesy: Platts Data source: POWERmap All rights reserved. No reproduction allowed. For full-sized maps, contact Platts.

Features

Are Smaller Reactors Better?

Is a paradigm shift—an economic and engineering earthquake—in nuclear power plant design on the horizon? For most of the past 50 years, the mantra in planning new nuclear plants has been “bigger is better.” But a growing number of nuclear power engineers and designers are contemplating a world where small is beautiful.

Benchmarking Nuclear Plant Capital Requirements

The EUCG Nuclear Committee’s primary goal is to optimize the costs and reliability performance of participating plants by publishing for its members a comprehensive database of performance metrics and best practices derived through surveys of its membership. Earlier reports examined staffing and performance data. In this exclusive EUCG report, we examine nuclear plant capital requirements.

Combined Heat and Power Across the U.S.

The University of California, San Diego (see “Smart Power Generation at UCSD”) is just one of many combined heat and power (CHP), or cogeneration, systems in the U.S. A 2008 report by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), “Combined Heat and Power: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future,” notes that Texas has the most CHP capacity—much of it used by the petrochemical and petroleum refining industries. California ranks second, largely a result of “industrial demands, stringent air quality requirements, and effective policies that encourage adoption of CHP.”

Matching Load and Generation at UCSD

“Smart Power Generation at UCSD” explains how the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is maximizing the value of combined heat and power. However, like any other grid-controlling entity large or small, the campus has to match generation and load. Its two Solar Turbines gas turbines operate in baseload mode 24/7 while the cogeneration side of the plant maximizes the value of “waste” heat and electricity that isn’t needed to serve immediate load by generating steam and chilled water for campus heating and cooling.

Microturbine Technology Matures

Microturbine technology has evolved from early systems of 30 kW to 70 kW to today’s systems, which can have individual ratings of 200 kW to 250 kW. Packages up to 1 MW are now available that can be assembled into multipac units for projects of 5 MW to 10 MW. These modern units are packaged with integrated digital protection, synchronization, and controls; they produce high combined heat and power efficiencies; and they are capable of using multiple fuels.

Retrofitting BWR Recirculation Pumps with Adjustable-Speed Drives

Exelon Nuclear recently replaced the original motor-generator sets for its boiling water reactor (BWR) recirculation pumps at its Quad Cities Generating Station Unit 1 with adjustable-speed drives. We examine the actual energy savings, motor-starting characteristics, control accuracy and stability, and motor and cable thermal behavior of this retrofit project.

Smart Power Generation at UCSD

The University of California, San Diego has been accumulating awards for its savvy use of a constellation of power generation and energy-saving technologies. The campus already controls a fully functioning microgrid—including a cogeneration plant—and, as befits a research institution, is constantly looking for new ways to make its energy system smarter. This “living laboratory,” as campus leaders like to call it, demonstrates what it takes to build a smarter grid and why the effort is worth it.

The Best of U.S. Nuclear Developments 2010: Uprates and Loan Guarantees

Utilities are spending billions of dollars on nuclear plant uprate projects, and Southern Company has been offered $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees to build Vogtle Units 3 and 4 (although the final deal has yet to be signed). Meanwhile, other nuclear developers have slashed preconstruction spending as the cost of the “nuclear renaissance” becomes evident.

The Evolution of the ESBWR

The commercial nuclear industry is in the midst of developing multiple reactor technology options. Next in our series of articles exploring competing reactor technologies are GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) and Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). The design improvements incorporated into these reactors include passive safety systems, design and construction simplification, and component standardization to reduce construction and operating costs.

The Global Smart Grid Scene

Presenters at the inaugural GridWise Global Forum in Washington, D.C., September 21 to 23 had a lot to say about the prospects for smarter grids. This synopsis of facts and opinions shared at the event, which attracted several smart grid A-listers, looks at the major challenges ahead, especially for the U.S.

Departments

Commentary

Biomass Power Under Attack

Biomass energy has been an up-and-down industry for decades. As public awareness grows, it inevitably influences new tax legislation and environmental regulations. Two recent events have made the climate for development of this renewable resource even more volatile.

New Products

No-Glass ORP Sensors

Engineers and technicians searching for a high-performance oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) sensing solution will find that the S10 and S17 ORP Sensors from Electro-Chemical Devices (ECD) feature a no-glass design with…

Pre-Cleaner for Vulcanized Conveyor Belts

The new QC#1 MT Pre-Cleaner from Martin Engineering is a high-quality cleaning blade for use on vulcanized conveyor belts. It features a special polyurethane blend and tungsten carbide tip to…

Semi-Automated Tube Bundle Cleaner

Part of a family of automated and semi-automated tube-cleaning accessories, the new Saflex 2000 makes tube bundle cleaning more productive because it can clean four times as many tubes in…

Legal & Regulatory

EPA’s Mercury Rule: Another Incarnation Coming

Much like the shape-shifting substance it regulates, the mercurial enforcement rule that governs mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants has changed unpredictably several times in recent years.

Focus on O&M

Abrasion-Resistant Pipe Handles Ash Slurry

Steel piping systems are widely used at coal-fired power plants for a variety of purposes, including the conveying of coal ash slurry to nearby settling ponds, the transfer of limestone slurry to absorber spray towers for removal of SO2 and dilute hydrochloric acid from flue gases, and for transporting away the calcium sulfate by-product of the flue gas desulfurization process.

Air Casters Speed Equipment Moves

When it comes to moving megaton items like feedwater heaters or recirculating pumps, conventional moving tools such as wheel rollers, cranes, hoists, and come-alongs may be virtually useless. In some…

CSB Releases Hot Work Safety Notice

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB)—an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents such as equipment failure, as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems—recently released multiple reports that should be made part of every power plant’s safety training program.

EPRI Updates Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Handbook

EPRI recently issued a handbook on nuclear spent fuel storage that examines regulatory trends affecting used fuel storage, describes available dry storage technologies, reviews planning considerations for spent fuel storage installations, and discusses technical issues affecting dry storage.

NFPA Gas Purging Rules Updated

The CSB has made urgent recommendations to the NFPA and the International Code Council to prohibit indoor purging and require companies and installers to purge flammable fuel gases to safe locations outdoors, away from workers and ignition sources.

NRC Confident in Long-Term Dry Cask Storage

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved an updated “waste confidence” rule in mid-September that reflects the agency’s confidence that spent nuclear fuel (SNF) can be safely stored for at least 60 years beyond the closing date of any U.S. nuclear plant. Approval of this rule was required before the NRC can license any new reactors that will be required to store SNF on site indefinitely.

Global Monitor

China Begins Operation of First CPR-1000

The first unit of Ling Ao phase II (Unit 3) in Guangdong Province, China, entered commercial operation in late September. The 1,080-MW reactor is the first CPR-1000—a Chinese design—to be built, and its start-up marks a major milestone in the country’s concerted nuclear power expansion.

Correction (November 2010)

Correction In the September issue’s “Taming Condenser Tube Leaks, Part I,” the first full paragraph in the main text on page 57 should say, “If chloride and sulfate in the…

Frog-Inspired Artificial Foam Could Help Trap CO2

In August, researchers from the University of Cincinnati who are working on creating an artificial foam that could absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the flue gas at power plants and convert it into biofuel won the grand prize at the 2010 Earth Awards in London.

POWER Digest (November 2010)

TVA’s 550-MW Combined-Cycle Plant Starts Operations. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on Sept. 30 officially began operating the Lagoon Creek Combined Cycle Plant, a 550-MW natural gas–fired plant, near Brownsville,…

Russia Powers On, Boosting Nuclear Reactor Sales

Atomstroyexport, the Russian Federation’s nuclear power equipment and services export monopoly, in September signed a US$1.8 billion contract with the Chinese government for development of the second stage of the Tianwan nuclear power plant in Lianyungang City. Under the agreement, Units 3 and 4 are to be built in a way similar to construction of the first stage of Tianwan—two Russian-designed VVER-1000 reactors that came online in 2007, each with a rated capacity of 1,060 MW.

Southern Co. Captures Carbon Dioxide at Plant Yates Pilot

The pilot-scale project at Georgia Power’s Plant Yates near Newnan, Ga.—the first step in one of the industry’s largest demonstrations of a start-to-finish coal-fired power plant carbon capture and storage system—reached a significant milestone this September, capturing the greenhouse gas for the first time.

Turkey Joins European Grid

Turkey, a country that has long vied to become part of the European Union, is finally part of its grid, at least. The nation’s power system was synchronized with Continental Europe’s interconnected grid this September, marking the beginning of a year-long trial period in which security and performance will be monitored.

World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Opens in the UK

Swedish company Vattenfall in late September officially opened the 300-MW Thanet Offshore Wind Farm in southeast England. Covering an area of 35 square kilometers, the installation comprising 100 Vestas V90 turbines, each 115 meters (m) high, is the largest offshore wind farm in the world to date.

Speaking of Power

Follow the Leader

Another year has passed and the promised U.S. nuclear renaissance is still in the Dark Ages. Blame for slow progress is usually cast on the pedestrian pace of finalizing loan…

GBR Reports