MIAMI—Employees of Entergy Nuclear have been awarded the nuclear energy industry’s B. Ralph Sylvia Best of the Best Award for their success in achieving safety enhancements and cost-saving efficiencies throughout the company’s nuclear power plant operations. The employees won for their tiered, team approach to implement improvements leveraging a work culture that empowers employees to achieve excellence in plant operations.
Entergy Nuclear pursues this continuous improvement through the use of teams whose composition is based on the complexity of the improvement. Natural Work Teams address simple problems; Charter Teams tackle problems that significantly affect a single power plant site or Entergy Nuclear’s fleet of reactors; and six Sigma Teams work to improve more complex processes where there are deviations from acceptable process controls. To challenge sites to make improvements, a points structure establishes clear expectations for efficiency improvements.
Among other accomplishments, Entergy Nuclear’s continuous improvement program eliminated 290,000 person-hours in 2006, enabling employees to devote that time to higher priority work activities. It also allowed Entergy Nuclear personnel to avoid a significant amount of worker radiological exposure. Improvements saved more than $8.7 million in site budgets, with an additional $21 million realized from more reliable electricity production.
The Best of the Best Top Industry Practice (TIP) award was presented at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s 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. NEI this year received 113 entries for awards, the second-highest number in the program’s history.
“Entergy Nuclear developed a systematic process to improve efficiency and productivity. The system relies on the company’s greatest asset: its work force” said Marvin Fertel, NEI senior vice president and chief nuclear officer.
A new, Web-based Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is an example of the program’s effectiveness, he said. “The old process used telephones and faxes to pass along information. That left the organization vulnerable to miscommunication. With the Web EOC, all locations get the same information at the same time from a single communication point. Senior management does not direct such improvements. Instead, employees who actually do the work guide this program from inspiration to implementation.”
Other companies with employees who received awards are: AmerenUE , American Electric Power , Constellation Energy , Dominion Nuclear Connecticut , Exelon Nuclear , FirstEnergy , FPL Energy and Tennessee Valley Authority .
“These individuals personify our industry’s ongoing commitment to improving safety, efficiency and performance. Their innovations will lead the way toward excellence in the development and operation of tomorrow’s reactors,” Fertel 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.
Dominion Nuclear Connecticut received the AREVA Vendor Award for replacing the pressurizer at the Millstone power station with material and design features that will reduce inspections while maintaining high safety levels. The Millstone team challenged conventional wisdom by selecting stainless steel instead of a widely used alloy. The replacement pressurizer will save Dominion an estimated $20 million ($1 million per refueling outage) and project gains of two days per outage. In addition, the new pressurizer will reduce radiation exposure and improve the reliability of the new equipment.
Employees of Constellation Energy received the GE Energy, Nuclear Vendor Award for innovations at the Nine Mile Point power station in upstate New York. The employees implemented on-line NobleChem technology to apply noble metal to reactor vessel internals while the plant is operating. The station had previously applied NobleChem while the plant was not generating electricity. The team wanted the most effective application of Noble Metal without increasing radiation exposure to employees during a refueling outage. They also wanted to better protect vessel internals and piping. This on-line application of NobleChem was the first at a U.S. nuclear power plant and saved the plant nearly $1.5 million. The on-line application did not affect normal maintenance and testing activities.
The Westinghouse Design Vendor Award was presented to FirstEnergy for successful completion of its multi-year Full Potential program at the Beaver Valley nuclear plant in western Pennsylvania. The program included replacement of steam generators and other major plant modifications to facilitate a power uprate; conversion of the containment structure to increase safety margins; and replacement of a reactor vessel head. The steam generator replacement alone saves an estimated $3.5 million per refueling outage in inspection costs, while about $50 million was saved by concurrently replacing the steam generators and the vessel head using a single construction opening in the containment.
Entergy was recognized with the Westinghouse-Combustion Engineering Design Vendor Award for the widespread use of a wireless network at Arkansas Nuclear One. The site-wide network has enhanced performance in plant operations, radiation protection, maintenance, engineering and security. For example, wireless cameras monitor loading of used nuclear fuel assemblies into storage containers. Wireless cameras also are used by fire watches during outages to monitor work from areas where their radiation exposure is minimized. Security officers also use wireless equipment to facilitate identification of personnel entering check points.
This year’s nine TIP process awards recognize employees at the following companies:
FPL Energy , Operate Plant Process Award , for environmental stewardship at the Duane Arnold Energy Center in eastern Iowa. Working with the University of Iowa, employees built a scale model of the Cedar River to solve sedimentation and maintenance challenges at the plant’s water intake structure stemming from the growth of the river’s main channel. Use of the model permitted analyses of alternative solutions without affecting the environment downstream from the power station. It ultimately led to identification of a solution – including sediment control modifications and straightening of the riverbank upstream from the intake structure – that has been applauded by conservation experts and will save an estimated $300,000 annually in maintenance expenses.
Exelon Nuclear , Configuration Management Process Award , for making the Limerick power station the first nuclear plant to receive Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to control the frequency of surveillance testing of plant components and systems. Exelon was recognized for implementing a safety-focused methodology (developed jointly with NEI and the Boiling Water Reactor Owners Group) that allows it to conduct inspections based on the safety significance of a component or system rather than by a predetermined schedule that was established before historic operational data was available to guide development of the testing requirement.
A surveillance test determines if a component or system is operable. Changes to testing schedules no longer require prior NRC approval because all changes will be based upon the NRC-approved methodology.
AmerenUE , Work Management Process Award , for remediation of its underground “fire water loop” at the Callaway power station in Missouri. Water flow through the system had decreased over time. The Callaway team added chemicals to the system to dissolve corrosion products that were reducing the water flow. The system was restored to desired levels of performance without the need for more costly, disruptive replacement of underground piping.
Entergy Nuclear , Equipment Reliability Process Award , for designing with General Electric a submersible, remote-operated vehicle used for the 10-year service inspection of the reactor pressure vessel at the FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in New York. The innovation saved approximately $1.5 million in inspection costs and will be used at other Entergy Nuclear boiling water reactors.
The ability of the self-propelled submersible vehicle to maneuver through the water in the reactor cavity enabled the FitzPatrick team to overcome access limitations that complicated the inspection. The vehicle delivers the equipment used to perform the inspection to the areas being examined, hovers in the storage pit and retrieves the equipment once the examination is complete. The system required fewer resources, reduced worker radiation exposure and increased the time between re-inspections.
Exelon Nuclear , Materials and Services Process Award , for improving the reliability of an analog electro-hydraulic control system. The innovation permits more comprehensive testing of system circuit cards before they are installed, reducing the potential for power plants to shut down unexpectedly. It also holds the potential to reduce by two-thirds – from about three days to one day – the time required for a power plant to return to operation after electricity production is interrupted. This can save consumers hundreds of thousand of dollars annually.
Entergy Nuclear , Management Processes and Support Services , for the continuous improvement process recognized with the Best of the Best Award.
Exelon Nuclear , Loss Prevention Process Award , for installing new steam dryers during a refueling outage, and then disassembling and disposing of the old ones with the Quad Cities Generating Station’s two reactors in Illinois operating at full power. The Quad Cities team segmented and shielded components during this major project via the development of a modular tank to fit inside and secure the dryer/separator pool. This allowed the steam dryer to remain submerged in water while work crews segmented it – an approach not envisioned in the original plant design.
The project allowed for the continued safe operation of both reactors – with enhanced worker protection – during the extensive changeover and saved 57 days of plant down time. It also saved $42 million for both reactors in replacement power and outage maintenance. The equipment and the process for doing this steam dryer disassembly can be used at any reactor with a similar footprint.
Exelon Nuclear , Nuclear Fuel Process Award , for application of a fuel assembly “bundling” concept at the Peach Bottom power station in Pennsylvania. Working with Global Nuclear Fuel, the Peach Bottom team developed six different bundle designs for a refueling outage to improve fuel cycle efficiency. The resulting decrease in the number of bundles needed for the refueling equates to a reduction in fuel costs of approximately $2 million over two years. The strategy employed at Peach Bottom is transferable to other nuclear power plants.
American Electric Power , Training Process Award , for developing a process that automated simulator training. The team at the Donald C. Cook nuclear plant in Michigan changed the paradigm from a simulator set-up that was done manually to one that is computerized. The new process captures electronically comments by both the evaluation team and students. In addition, groups’ comments are categorized to permit detailed analysis by the training department and shift manager.
An example of where the team used this process was in radiation worker performance training. The team developed performance-based radiation worker training utilizing software programs that are transferable between power stations because they run on software platforms common to most plant sites. As a result, the radiation worker error rate per 10,000 work-hours decreased 62 percent over the past three outages.
A special recognition award was presented to the Tennessee Valley Authority for the vision and leadership demonstrated in its nuclear fuel assembly inspection program. The program has contributed to improvements in fuel reliability at TVA’s reactors. This enhances safety and potentially saves millions of dollars that would need to be spent on unscheduled outages to address fuel problems.
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 web site at http://www.nei.org.