The Turkey Point nuclear generating facility in Florida in December 2019 became the first U.S. nuclear plant to receive authorization from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend its operating life from 60 to 80 years. It also marked the beginning of an extended effort by Florida Power & Light to prepare the plant to run for an additional 20 years.
With many nuclear power plants nearing the end of their expected operating lives, utilities that operate nuclear plants want to ensure that employees have the right knowledge and skills to keep those plants running smoothly.
Nuclear plants worldwide are pursuing life extensions requiring the development and implementation of a range of specific aging management programs. In the U.S., many operating reactors are planning or already pursuing license renewals. Some, like Turkey Point, have already announced plans for a second extension.
International nuclear plants have announced similar plans. With more than half the world’s 440-plus nuclear reactors now 30 years or older, utilities are looking for targeted training to prepare their employees to deal with the particular challenges of operating an aging nuclear plant.
Preparing these plants to extend operations safely and effectively relies on having properly trained professional staff. That’s why the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI’s) training group, EPRI | U, has developed a comprehensive series of aging management courses to provide the professional and technical skills they need. The courses EPRI | U offers benefit from the research and expertise that comes from across the entire EPRI organization.
EPRI’s curriculum gives individuals the opportunity to focus on specific classes they need to do their jobs. This includes eight courses that focus on aging degradation mechanisms, from electrical and instrumentation and control to metals and concrete. These courses are designed for engineers, management, or for those coordinating aging nuclear programs.
Participants learn how to identify the signs of aging in primary reactor components, in concrete in the containment building, or in the electrical cables that run throughout the facility. The courses enable employees to make critical decisions about plants undergoing life extension, while still ensuring safe, long-term operations.
When the team at Entergy Corp.’s Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Mississippi looked at extending plant operations, they realized a need for an in-depth understanding of the factors that drive aging management. They decided to book a series of courses with EPRI, based on positive feedback from others who had previously taken courses online or in person.
“With the flexibility of EPRI’s Aging Management suite, Grand Gulf was able to schedule a full week of on-site, instructor-led courses most important to our project’s needs,” said David Morris, senior project manager, license renewal implementation at Entergy. “The team came away with a working knowledge of the subject matter and the forum provided an opportunity to ask questions and explore to the depth needed.”
Not only does EPRI | U have courses for plants within the U.S. regulatory framework, it also offers programs that are internationally focused. EPRI | U also offers a wide range of training specifically targeted to different materials, systems, or components.
Nuclear plant workers who have completed the training programs see the benefits. “The suite of EPRI Aging Management courses is an extremely valuable and beneficial set of training modules for the nuclear power generation industry and electric power plant utilities in general,” said Allan Lew, manager, engineering programs at Ontario Power Generation (OPG).
OPG has a lot at stake with the multibillion-dollar refurbishment of its Darlington nuclear plant to keep its reactors operating into the 2050s. Providing Lew and his colleagues the training they need will help everyone breathe a little easier, especially considering that Darlington is a major source of Ontario’s emission-free power.
1. EPRI offers training courses at work locations, including in classroom settings. Courtesy: EPRI
“These courses can be very accessible at your utility or any work location (Figure 1). They are extremely cost effective when offered in the distance learning format,” said OPG’s Lew. “This is certainly great in our times of cost consciousness, when we can reduce need to travel and utilize staff time effectively.”
The EPRI team has been working with in-house experts to ensure materials are technically robust, effective, and easy to access. EPRI constantly updates and improves its training courses, and at present is on a digital field guide application to replace the 170-page printed guide.
Research and information sharing for aging management is part of EPRI’s core business, across the organization. Participants in these programs gain knowledge in plant activities ranging from long-term operations plant life extension preparations, nuclear plant license renewals, periodic safety reviews, equipment reliability process, lifecycle management, or determining asset management needs. Registration and additional information for EPRI | U’s Aging Management Training is available at www.epriu.com. ■
—Emma Wong is a senior technical leader, long-term operations, and Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides is manager of training at the Electric Power Research Institute.