SAN FRANCISCO—Employees at Progress Energy’s Brunswick nuclear power plant have been awarded the nuclear energy industry’s B. Ralph Sylvia Best of the Best Award for an increase of record magnitude in the power station’s generating capacity. The team won for making the energy facility in southeastern North Carolina one of only three U.S. nuclear power plants to achieve a 20-percent uprate in thermal power over the original operating license.
Accomplished in two phases approved by federal regulators dating back to 1996, the uprate increased the generating capacity of Brunswick’s two reactors by a combined 244 megawatts-electric to 1,875 megawatts. The additional capacity is enough to serve the typical electricity needs of 200,000 households.
The Best of the Best Top Industry Practice (TIP) award was presented at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI) annual conference here. The TIP awards recognize industry employees in 13 categories—four vendor awards and nine process awards—for innovation to improve safety, efficiency and nuclear plant performance. The Best of the Best Award honors the late B. Ralph Sylvia, an industry leader who was instrumental in starting the TIP awards in 1993.
Other companies with employees who received awards are: American Electric Power, Arizona Public Service Co., Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Exelon Nuclear, Florida Power & Light, PPL Susquehanna LLC, PSEG Nuclear LLC, Southern Nuclear Operating Co. and Tennessee Valley Authority .
Progress Energy’s Brunswick team was selected from among 109 entries. Power uprates involve substantial equipment modifications to yield power increases of this magnitude, but are a cost-effective means of meeting increased electricity demands. Since 1977, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved 108 uprates that have added 4,600 megawatts-electric of generating capacity. That is the equivalent of more than four new reactors.
The Brunswick uprate was accomplished in two phases, the latter of which increased the power station’s thermal power by 15 percent and cost nearly $180 million. The project is expected to pay for itself by 2008.
“The Brunswick team achieved this through four years of challenging work on myriad issues from the routine to the revolutionary. This was an innovative project accomplished by a team of first-rate engineers and technicians,” said Stephen Floyd, NEI’s vice president for regulatory affairs.
“Each Top Industry Practice entry illustrates the nuclear energy industry’s commitment to innovation that results in the safe, efficient performance of today’s nuclear plants and leads the way toward development of tomorrow’s advanced reactors,” Floyd said.
AREVA; GE Energy, Nuclear; Westinghouse Design and Westinghouse CE Design presented TIP awards recognizing top practices and improvements at plants that are associated with these nuclear design-engineers.
PSEG Nuclear LLC received the AREVA Vendor Award for its world-record refueling outage and reactor vessel head assembly replacement. Because vessel heads are large, heavy structures, replacements require tremendous coordination to ensure worker safety and contain costs. The PSEG Nuclear team developed a head assembly service structure that was the first fully integrated device of its type to include vent fans for the control rod drive mechanisms.
“The assembly was replaced during a fall 2005 refueling outage, which set a world record for a breaker-to-breaker outage for work of this type of 25 days, 6 hours. That’s four days better than the previous world record,” Floyd said.
Employees of Exelon Nuclear received the GE Energy, Nuclear Vendor Award for developing a data management system that facilitates efficient refuelings by transporting data from the fuel floor to a remote viewing location and automating inspection aspects, tracking and recording. The system features real-time audio and near-real-time video communication tools. This immediate remote review capability increases the efficiency of the outage staff. Over multiple refueling outages and through fleetwide deployment, it has proven its ability to reduce exposure to workers, and has yielded millions of dollars in savings on travel, site check-in requirements and other project elements.
The Westinghouse Design Vendor Award was presented to Southern Nuclear Operating Co . for creating a method to demonstrate that zinc helps assure the safe material condition of critical systems and components. The Southern Nuclear team plans to use the information gathered from this process to support reduced examination requirements—with benefits that would include reduced radiation exposure to workers. A five-year test program will examine whether technical evidence shows that reactor vessel head inspections can be conducted on a 10-year cycle rather than every few refueling outages.
“From the removed vessel head nozzle material, workers will fabricate test specimens—one set with zinc surface films intact and another with the films removed—to provide clear evidence of zinc’s effectiveness in preventing cracking,” Floyd said.
Arizona Public Service Co. was recognized with the Westinghouse Combustion Engineering Design Vendor Award for developing a spectroscopy technique for quick analysis and identification of boric acid residue, eliminating the need for spectroscopic analyses of other common materials, such as cleaning agents and paint, that are often mistaken for boric acid residue. Although the technology has been available for some time for specialized chemical analyses and verification, this is a first-of-its-kind application. This innovation will reduce radiation exposure to workers and lower costs.
This year’s nine TIP process awards recognize employees with:
Progress Energy , Operate Plant Process Award , for the successful uprate recognized with the Best of the Best Award.
Exelon Nuclear , Configuration Management Process Award , for providing a model of how steam flows through pipes and components that will aid in the design of dryers able to maintain structural integrity under larger uprates that yield vibrations in existing steam dryers. The employees’ work enabled the company to meet the challenge of reducing vibrations that were affecting operations at the Quad Cities plant in Illinois after an extended uprate.
The most likely application of this groundbreaking work will be at boiling water reactors where there are plans to increase power and operate plants with new steam-flow velocities. However, the data collection and dynamic modeling can help address any flow-induced vibration challenge facing nuclear power plants.
Florida Power & Light , Work Management Process Award , for the first-ever installation of an Alloy 690 replacement pressurizer in the United States. The 200,000 pound pressurizer payload arrived only two weeks prior to a scheduled reactor vessel head replacement outage, but was prepared and installed within the scheduled maintenance outage duration. The team used multiple dose-reduction techniques, and the project also will reduce dose in future outages due to such improvements as new piping configurations and “walk-on” insulation allowing improved access to components.
Dominion Nuclear Connecticut , Equipment Reliability Process Award , for replacing an upper reactor head assembly with an upgraded design that, among other features, improved the reactor lift structure, the air flow system for the drive mechanism, electrical systems and cabling, and personnel access systems above the vessel head. The resulting structure decreases the potential for human error and equipment malfunction. The improvements will eliminate 125 crane lifts and four days per outage, reducing radiation exposure and saving more than $1 million per refueling outage. It is applicable to all pressurized water reactors.
Tennessee Valley Authority , Materials and Services Process Award , for developing and implementing a process that documents key information each time a generic substitution is made for an existing plant part through a design change. Data sheets record affected procedures, special installation instructions and testing requirements for each part, among other information.
Consistent application of each sheet and configuration control features have further reduced risk and improved safety. To date, the plant site has issued 146 data sheets supporting the installation of 1,520 items. The process has reduced the number of individual design changes by 1,374, saving approximately $14 million in engineering costs.
Exelon Nuclear , Management Processes and Support Services , for developing an innovation that provides timely information to workers in the field via a hand-held personal data assistant (PDA) for radiation protection technicians. The PDAs allow technicians to perform radiation briefings, enabling workers to perform routine maintenance and surveillances without exiting the radiologically controlled area. The devices permit refuelings to occur with one fewer technician per shift, reducing radiation exposure as well as paperwork requirements. The company estimates it will reduce costs by $40,000 annually.
Exelon Nuclear , Loss Prevention Process Award , for parallel efforts to address equipment issues and improve human performance. The company assembled a team to determine the causes for equipment failure, to implement corrective actions and to define the standards for world-class performance. The project added performance standards that define the expected roles and responsibilities for employees. The initiative successfully changed the behaviors of technical decision makers and created an environment that ensures nuclear, industrial, radiological and environmental safety margins are properly addressed. The number of events resulting in reactor scrams and unplanned outages has decreased, and maintenance re-work has declined.
Tennessee Valley Authority , Nuclear Fuel Process Award , for partnering with the Department of Energy and others to solve the challenges to recycling highly enriched uranium that does not meet commercial reactor fuel specifications and could not be converted using existing infrastructure. The program downblended the material into more than 500 metric tons of low-enriched uranium. Another facility fabricated the product into fuel assemblies, delivered the first batch for use in the spring of 2005, and will continue to do so for 10 years.
Converting the material not only provides reactor fuel but also reduces the cost to taxpayers for safeguarding uranium in its highly enriched form. The project also will reduce fuel costs 25 percent for the plant receiving the converted fuel and enable the federal government to recover $200 million from the company.
American Electric Power , Training Process Award , for advancing simulator technology to enhance safety. Through modeling techniques and extensive testing, the simulator has been used to verify the functionality and operation of several plant design changes before they are implemented. This has enabled the identification and correction of several plant design and configuration issues. The team also developed “plant event testing,” an in-depth comparison of the simulator to plant performance over a variety of plant events. This has proven to be a valuable tool in identifying specific areas of both plant and simulator improvement, reducing costs and fostering safety at the same time.
A special recognition award was presented to PPL Susquehanna LLC for the vision and leadership demonstrated in its effort to provide a challenging and inspiring work environment for co-op students that also helped the plant improve equipment reliability and reduce costs. By interviewing craft personnel, students in this program captured insights and shaped recommendations that allowed them to identify 21 significant equipment reliability improvements. Their recommended improvements to the frequency and scope of work items will save the plant more than $65,000 per refueling outage. The students’ work also supported another project to develop shorter, frequent on-line preventive maintenance measures, which provides savings of $200,000 annually.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.