It’s a digital world, and even aging power plants are experiencing the benefits of digital controls technologies. The following cover stories provide insight into the latest options and inspiration for your own plant controls projects.
The European carbon trading system experience suggests that North American generators should expect severely altered coal-fired power plant operating profiles if cap-and-trade legislation becomes law. In a groundbreaking study, Solomon Associates predicts the reduction in mean run time that North American generators should expect. The trends outlined in this study provide an overview of some of the broad challenges facing generators in moving to a carbon-constrained market environment.
Researchers from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) say they have developed a new type of nuclear fuel for use in next-generation high-temperature gas reactors that produces less waste — a major step forward for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP).
Japan began operating a nuclear power reactor using plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) as fuel for the first time last October. About 16 MOX-containing fuel assemblies were loaded during a scheduled outage to replace a portion of the 193 fuel assemblies at the No. 3 reactor at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant. The utility eventually plans to triple the number of fuel assemblies at the 1,180-MW reactor in Saga Prefecture to 48. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry conducted its final inspection of the reactor and issued its certification on Dec. 2.
Concerns raised by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about the structural strength of Westinghouse Electric Co.’s AP1000 reactor could cause delays for several nuclear plants that planned to use the design in the U.S. — and it raises questions for new builds started or proposed in China and the UK.
Using modularization in the construction of nuclear containment vessels can be one way to control both cost and schedule when building the next generation of U.S. nuclear power plants. Although the advantages of modularization can be significant, each new reactor design and plant site poses unique construction challenges and must be individually analyzed to determine the benefits of this approach.
In August 2009, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its fourth Early Site Permit for two new units at Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle site and its first for the Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactor design. The two new units planned for Vogtle also became the reference plant for the AP1000 under NuStart in June 2009. This means Vogtle Units 3 and 4 will be the first licensed installations of the new AP1000 reactor design in the U.S. Plant Vogtle is expected to get the NRC’s approval to begin construction in 2011.
Most of the big utilities, with an eye to ensuring a good mix of future generation resources, have a new nuclear plant in development. Even though federal loan guarantees are slow to materialize and financing these multi-billion-dollar projects has become a bet-the-company investment, the NRC has more than 40 applications from generators that continue to believe in the future of nuclear power.
In an exclusive agreement with the EUCG Nuclear Committee, POWER was provided access to some key, high-level performance and operational data from the group’s nuclear industry benchmarking database. All U.S., and many international, nuclear power plants are members of the committee and have contributed to its database for many years. This month we introduce you to the EUCG Nuclear Committee and share sample nuclear operating costs. Look for future reports on other key performance benchmarking metrics during 2010.
Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet provides electricity to approximately half of the utility’s customers in the Carolinas. The 2,538-MW Oconee Nuclear Station is part of that fleet and has been a pacesetter among U.S. nuclear plants since it began operation in 1973. In order to maintain the plant’s productivity and reliability, its staff implemented a comprehensive controls modernization project that spanned a decade. With its new state-of-the-art upgrades, the facility has become a leader in applying digital electronic technology in the nuclear power industry.