Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NEI CEO Marv Fertel to Participate in Ex-Im Bank Press Conference

NEI CEO Marv Fertel will be participating in a press conference on the U.S. Export Import back today at 1:30 EDT in Room S. 115 at the Capitol. Also participating will be:

Sen. Cantwell
Sen. Manchin
Sen. Kirk
Sen. Graham
Ms. Kavia Kusum, President, Combustion Associates Inc.
Mr. Michael Richard, Director of Government and International Affairs, Westinghouse Electric Company
Mr. Dan Pfeiffer, Vice President of Government Affairs, Itron, Inc.
Mr. Patrick Wilson, Director of Federal and Government Affairs, Babcock & Wilcox
Mr. Steven Wilburn, CEO, FirmGreen

The U.N. Climate Summit

climate_summit The United Nations Climate Summit September 24 has an interesting format. It brings together 120 heads of state (or their representatives)to “announce bold actions that they will be taking in their countries.” These, I assume, could be anything on-topic, so there may be some nuclear energy-related announcements. Everything could be kind of vague and feel-good – gestures toward energy efficiency, for example – or countries get very ambitious with their announcements. This is a U.N. effort, but should not be confused  with the Framework Convention on Climate Change. I suppose it’s okay to call the summit a bit more casual – or at least as casual as such a high-level meeting could be.

Write Jerry Kremer over at the Huffington Post connects the summit with its location, focusing on New York state’s own emissions profile.

While New Yorkers produce 8 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita annually, the national average is more than 150 percent higher -- and in some states 300 percent higher!

That’s pretty good – for New York. But why?

With 30 percent of the state's electricity coming from nuclear, 23 percent hydro, and four percent wind, solar and other renewables, New York's generation mix is comparatively light on the burning of fossil fuels. The air pollutants and greenhouse gases that are prevented by New York's nuclear fleet amount to tens of thousands of tons annually.

Kremer wants the summit to note the nuclear-friendly atmosphere of New York and even more:

The United Nations Climate Summit provides a unique opportunity to highlight the many benefits of nuclear energy at a time when some domestic reactors face economic and regulatory headwinds. I encourage worldwide attendees to consider the vital importance of New York's nuclear plants, starting with nearby Indian Point, which supplies more than 10 percent of the state's power, and whose continuous operation has been critical to improving New York City's once abysmal air quality.

As far as countries that might make nuclear energy-related announcements, UAE, Vietnam and Bolivia seem like possibilities. We’ll see. The U.N is setting up a live stream of the event, so check back over there to watch.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Innovation Brings Safe, Reliable Nuclear Operations

The following post was sent to us by PPL Susquehanna’s Francis Golomb for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year. This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear facilities in the voices of the people working at them.

Francis Golomb is an electrical journeyman in the predictive maintenance group at the Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Luzerne County, Pa. He’s worked at Susquehanna for 10 years after earning a certificate in electrical occupations from Pennsylvania College of Technology. He’s also a certified Level I thermographer. 

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels.

Francis Golomb uses new infrared technology for cutting edge diagnostics testing.

Helping the plant operate safely and reliably

I perform several different types of equipment testing that help detect potential issues before they become problems. One common type of testing is the use of infrared cameras to make sure the temperature of equipment is what it’s supposed to be. For example, if we find a hot spot on an electrical connection, we know we need to replace it before it shorts out. Or we may find a solenoid valve is cool, which tells us it isn’t working. We also use other technologies like ultrasonic testing, which is the use of sound waves, to find potential equipment issues. I also do electrical current signature analysis and partial discharge analysis.

We use the information from these tests to monitor equipment on a regular basis and track performance to make sure there are no adverse trends. From there, we work with engineers to help determine the best time frames for replacing or repairing equipment.

For example, we recently found an electrical connection on a main generator breaker that was hotter than normal. We were able to replace it during our last refueling outage — long before it became a reliability problem that would have required us to shut down the unit to fix. Because of what our group does, the plant operates safely and reliably.

Everyone at our plant knows that we have a responsibility to protect the public by keeping the plant safe. That responsibility is very personal to me since my family lives near the plant.

Fascinating equipment and technology

I enjoy the technology that lets us “see” into equipment where the human eye can’t. I get to see a world that most others don’t, and get a great sense of satisfaction from helping to interpret the messages our components send us. Through our regular communications with our equipment, our plant tells us ahead of time when it’s not working right so we can fix it before things become problematic.

With early detection, we have the time to plan the repair in the most cost effective manner. We have the time to find the best equipment, have it shipped to the plant, and then installed under optimal circumstances.

Knowing my work prevents an expensive rush repair or having to shut down a unit unexpectedly is gratifying.

PPL Susquehanna infrared testing checks equipment temperatures. 

Innovative prediction

We keep an eye out for improvements to technology that allow us to monitor more equipment or monitor it more effectively. This year, we bought a new infrared camera that was smaller and more flexible so we could see around obstructions to test equipment we hadn’t been able to before. The new camera also has more color palates, or color scales, that we’re experimenting with to see which provides us with optimal information.
 
Public confidence in our future

The work our group does helps keep our plant operating safely and reliably and that goes a long way toward building public confidence in our industry.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Site Selecting Jobs and Investments in the Electricity Market

site_section_logo If you need evidence of the power and value of the electricity market, Site Selection has you covered. The self-described magazine of corporate real estate strategy and area economic development has published a listing of utilities that have added the most jobs and invested the most resources in the last year. Site Selects lists the top 10, always a popular round number for this kind of endeavor. Frankly, the numbers of jobs in particular surprised and delighted me. These are the companies
(most of them, also delightful) with nuclear holdings:
Alabama Power: the Southern Company subsidiary's economic development team helped companies create 1,810 new jobs in 2013 with total capital investment closing in on $2 billion.
American Electric Power: AEP hosted 10 educational forums across its service territory attended by more than 400 community partners and elected officials. [Writer Adam Bruns didn’t get job/investment numbers for AEP.]
Duke Energy: The calendar year 2013 saw the team helping to garner more than 100 project wins, approximately $3 billion in corporate capital investment and the addition of over 13,700 new jobs in its multi-state territory, where it serves 7.2 million customers amid a population of 21 million.
Entergy: Totaled 9,221 new jobs and more than $20.7 billion in corporate facility investment in 2013, marked by dramatic growth in the Gulf Coast economy.
FirstEnergy: FirstEnergy and its 10 utility operating companies helped corporate end users invest nearly $3 billion and create a planned 7,792 jobs across its service territory of 6 million customers amid a population of 13.4 million across six states.
Florida Power & Light: The team at FPL helped companies in its territory create 11,997 jobs with nearly $15 billion in project investments, among 4.6 million customers in a 35-country area of Florida populated by 13.3 million people.
Georgia Power: The utility's Community & Economic Development team helped attract 18,532 new jobs and $2.7 billion in private-sector capital investment last year via 78 projects.
Tennessee Valley Authority: TVA's economic development team continues to be a leader among leaders in such categories as total new jobs it helped companies create (52,000) and total capital investment associated with that job creation ($5 billion) across its huge seven-state territory serving a population of 9 million people.
In case you’re not keeping count, that’s 8 of 10 companies that have nuclear holdings – I’ve directed the links to the relevant nuclear page for each company. Heck, the story is illustrated with a shot of Georgia Power’s (which is a subsidiary of Southern Co.) Plant Vogtle project. The remaining two companies have nuclear cousins and deserve a shout out, too:  they are Gulf Power (another Southern Co. subsidiary) and LG&E (a subsidary of PPL, which has nuclear holdings).
By all means, read the whole thing – a very impressive job by Adam Bruns. The number of jobs created and amount of money invested is staggering, leading one to believe, and not without merit, that where goes the electricity generation business, so goes the nation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why Diablo Canyon is Safe from Earthquakes

This morning in a conference call with nuclear energy bloggers, NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane, in response to a direct question about the safety of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, said "[We] believe the plant is safe ... Otherwise it still wouldn't be operating." For the why behind that conclusion, you ought to review two reports that were released yesterday afternoon.

On Wednesday, PG&E released a report confirming the seismic safety of Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The report, the Central Coastal California Seismic Imaging Project, is 14 chapters long, but the bottom line is delivered succinctly by The Tribune, the paper of record in San Luis Obispo.

The report will now be peer reviewed by an NRC committee that includes Neal Driscoll, a professor of geology and geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. When asked about the report after its release yesterday ...
[Driscoll] said PG&E marshaled many state-of-the-art tools for the study to better understand the faults around Diablo Canyon and reduce uncertainty. He looks forward to analyzing the study.

“I think releasing these reports to the public so that they can be vetted and peer-reviewed is a great step forward,” he said.
Back in Washington there was more good news about Diablo Canyon, as NRC once again concluded that there were "no immediate seismic safety issues at the plant." That report was issued in response to concerns raised by the plant's former resident inspector. As was reported in The Tribune this morning:
Mark Satorius, the NRC’s executive director for operations, on Wednesday issued a response to the safety issues raised by Peck in an appeal that he filed with the agency. That appeal criticized a 2009 review of the safety implications of the Shoreline Fault that runs just offshore of the plant.

Peck filed the appeal, called a differing professional opinion, in July 2013. The agency convened an independent review panel to look at his allegations, and Satorius met with Peck to hear his concerns. His response is in the form of a memo to Peck.

“A compelling basis for my conclusion is drawn from our meeting on July 30, 2014, when you and I agreed that there is not now nor has there been an immediate or significant safety concern associated with this Diablo Canyon issue,” Satorius said in his response to Peck.
For more information on the plant and its operations, visit its website.

Nuclear Advocate Serves as 'Technical Conscience' at Vogtle 3 & 4

The following post was sent to us by Southern/Georgia Power’s Sarah Gillham for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year. This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear facilities in the voices of the people working at them.

Sarah is the maintenance rule coordinator at Vogtle 3 & 4. She has been in the nuclear industry for four years, choosing to make a career in the industry after two summer internships in her field. 

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels.

Sarah Gillham
How long have you been in the nuclear industry? 
I have been employed full time for four years and have two summers of previous experience as an intern.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it? 
I am currently serving as the maintenance rule coordinator at the Vogtle 3 & 4 site. I am also responsible for a couple of plant systems, and I act as the owner and technical conscience for those systems. I enjoy my job because it is new and different every day – whether that’s seeing changes being made to the construction site or having new activities and responsibilities assigned.

Why do you think nuclear energy is important to America’s energy future? 
Beyond being a sustainable clean-energy source, nuclear energy is a source of a significant number of stable jobs for a variety of skill sets, which can positively impact regional economies.

How are you bringing innovation into the nuclear industry? 
As maintenance rule coordinator, I am working through processes that are 20 years old and that were developed for implementation at existing American commercial nuclear plants. For a new plant, we can make the processes more robust, and we can make improvements to these processes to streamline their use for the anticipated new nuclear builds in this country.

How does working in the nuclear industry affect your personal life? 
I am involved in the North American Young Generation Nuclear and American Nuclear Society sections in my area. These organizations reach out to the community to provide information to the public about nuclear. This has given me opportunities to learn and be confident in speaking about nuclear energy to friends, neighbors and relatives. These professional organizations are also great ways to be involved in community projects and they provide a number of professional development opportunities. Working with these organizations has allowed me to meet new people with common interests. I have enjoyed my involvement greatly over the course of the past four years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NRC Rebuts Daily Caller on Nuclear Plant Security

Just a few minutes ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a statement rebutting a story that appeared yesterday at the Daily Caller concerning security at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Plant:
There have been several recent news stories contending that security is lax at the nation’s nuclear power plants. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, they are among the best-protected sector of our national infrastructure.

NRC requires nuclear power plant owners to take a graded approach to physical protection focusing on the areas most important to safety. For example, the area encompassing a nuclear power plant and its safety equipment is the Protected Area. NRC regulations require stringent access control measures before personnel and vehicles can enter a Protected Area. Within the Protected Area are the Vital Areas, which have even more access barriers and alarms to protect important equipment. All plants are required to have security checkpoints into the Protected Area. The outermost area, or the Owner-Controlled Area, does not have the same access control requirements and can be accessible by the public.

In the recent news stories, a reporter was able to drive onto the owner-controlled area, but was not able to enter the protected area. Being able to drive around a parking lot does not mean security has been breached or that there was a danger to the public.

Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, the NRC has required numerous security enhancements at the nation’s nuclear plants. While the plants are secure, robust structures designed and built to withstand a variety of natural and man-made events, the agency ordered additional measures. For example, we strengthened requirements related to physical barriers, access controls, and intrusion detection and surveillance systems, as well as the existing well-trained and armed security officers. NRC regulations require plants be able to defend against an assault by multiple determined and capable adversaries attacking by land or water, truck bombs, boat bombs, insider threats and cyber attacks.

Finally, the NRC has an extensive security oversight program. The NRC reviews and approves a plant’s security plan. NRC inspectors conduct onsite inspections of personnel and equipment on an on-going basis to ensure our requirements are met. Force-on-force security inspections are another part of this program. In these inspections, a specially trained mock adversary force “attacks” the facility. Should NRC inspectors find deficiencies, they are corrected or compensated for before the inspectors leave the site.
Yesterday, we posted our own rebuttal.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

About an Office and Its Meaning

Award FOX Architects, which designed NEI’s offices here in Washington DC, has won the Pinnacle Award from the International Interior Design Association. It’s in the category for interior fit-outs of between 20,000 and 100,000 square feet. Of course, this has everything to do with the quality of work done by the architect and its contractors, not the nature of nuclear energy

Or does it?

When NEI came to the end of its 20 year lease on I Street, it found itself in a revived and newly vibrant city. F Street is closer to Capitol Hill than I Street, but for many years F Street was an eyesore, almost a generic representative of a decaying downtown. In the last 10 years, as DC finally shook off the impact of suburbanization, the virtues of city living became manifest to an affluent, and younger, cohort.

Consequently, DC went on a building binge, with both office buildings and residential complexes rapidly changing the skyline. But it remains a distinctively short skyline due to building height restrictions. These were first established by Congress in 1899 and revised in 1910. The law has been tweaked since then, but not much.

The law limits residential buildings to 90 feet and office structures to 130 feet. A few taller buildings were grandfathered in and Congress granted a few exemptions after 1910: the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, for example. The height restrictions would have to be lifted or amended by Congress, which is highly unlikely. Never say never – Congress is currently considering allowing penthouses to be built on existing building - but this is pretty close to never.

In practice, the height restrictions limit office buildings to 12 or 14 floors (no building officially allows 13 floors), which makes office space in the revived District very dear indeed. Many offices work around this by eschewing closed staff offices in favor of bullpens and offering compact conference space.

NEI did not do any of this on I Street and did not intend to on F Street. But achieving this while fulfilling the goals NEI set to serve its membership, staff and many visitors required creativity.

Those goals included the following:

  • Much more conference room space. NEI’s name includes Institute for a reason – it hosts many industry professionals to meet on task forces, workshops and other gatherings. The offices needed more and larger conference space than before.
  • A space for nuclear professionals and about nuclear energy. The I Street offices could not really show off the industry or even make it clear that the space is all about nuclear energy. It became important to devote wall space and open areas to stress the history and value of nuclear energy. This is equally important to show visitors from outside the industry that nuclear energy has an exceptionally storied history.

The idea isn’t to crush visitors with legacy, as some museums do, but to remind them that they are part of something that has had a major role in the American story of the last 50 years and counting. That has to mean something.

All these things together take resources and had to be accomplished on a budget and in a finite amount of space. The solutions were  forward looking – NEI intends to stay put for awhile – and incorporated many architectural and design elements.

FOX Architects made a very smart decision: it visited a nuclear energy plant – Constellation’s Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, the nearest to NEI – and sought to incorporate the clean lines and open spaces of the facility. Most importantly, FOX wanted to devise ways to allow easy interaction between employees and visitors, another feature of Calvert Cliffs.

NEI Offices The solutions were ingenious. Staff offices needed to be smaller to yield space to member-centered conference rooms and other priorities. The resulting offices are exceptionally tiny – about 10 x 10 square – and enclosing them with walls could cause claustrophobia. So The offices are all fronted with glass, extending their effective width beyond their boundaries. To avoid a fishbowl feeling, translucent strips put on the glass provide a modicum of privacy.

Nuclear Energy Institute It’s unusual and it took getting used to, but it allowed NEI’s staff to interact more easily without damaging the sense of personal space. Look at it this way: people filter smells and sounds that are part of the atmosphere and can filter sights, too. That’s been my personal experience: I can see colleagues across from me but they are part of the environment and not continual distractions. I’ve heard a variety of views on this, but most think that this has enhanced staff interaction.

NEI NEI leveraged the talents of its creative staff – the folks who make the Web site and brochures look so good - to create wall displays that focus on the history, personalities and qualities of nuclear energy. These are easier to show than talk about, but just as an Institute of learning will design itself around the subjects it teaches, so NEI means to convey to its members that this is their space.

Nuclear Energy Institute FOX also borrowed a leaf from Calvert Cliffs by placing the largest gathering space, NEI’s cafe, front and center – not because the Maryland facility does this exactly, but to encourage the interactions among staff, industry folk and visitors observed at the plant. The cafe is within site of the reception area rather than tucked away, as many companies do, in the proverbial basement. It can be used by staff to eat lunch or get together, but also by visitors and NEI members. It is large enough to host receptions, such as the one that will be held tonight by the IIDA for this award.

Some ideas did not work as planned. FOX tried to expose some of the pipe and other infrastructure in the building – as Calvert Cliffs and other industrial structures do – but it did not work in context, making an area seem unfinished or under construction. This was popular with warehouse-converted structures in the 90s – I lived in a building that tried this approach in Baltimore. It can work, just not everywhere.

But most of the ideas did work: they fulfilled NEI’s vision of the space while giving FOX the latitude to execute ideas that enhanced the vision – precisely what you want out of such a collaboration. Hence, the IIDA award.

Congratulations to FOX Architects and its contractors for winning the Pinnacle Award. As one denizen of the space they created, I can affirm that it’s a prize well deserved.

Why the Daily Caller is Wrong About Nuclear Power Plant Security

Earlier today, Alex Pappas of The Daily Caller published a story concerning security at Exelon's Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant. The story included video of Pappas driving his car past a deactivated checkpoint and into the plant's parking lot. Since the story was first published, it was subsequently featured on Fox and Friends as well as Special Report with Brett Baier.

We shot a note to Kory Raftery at Calvert Cliffs to get his take on the story:

The fences and checkpoints you see at Calvert Cliffs are only a small part of our defense in depth security strategy. In fact, much of our defense lies in the things you can’t see.

Due to its location and the network of barrier systems in place, perimeter fencing and manned vehicle checkpoints are not required to keep our plant, our workers and our community safe. Manned entrance facilities are not required at many U.S. nuclear facilities and Calvert recently redeployed officers to strengthen its overall security presence.
Simply put, Pappas and his vehicle passed through a gate that was outside the protected area (see below diagram). So while his vehicle wasn't stopped, it wasn't in any sort of position to threaten public health and safety.
The Daily Caller never got inside the plant's protected area.
If Pappas had a question about nuclear power plant security, he should have called us. After all, it was just three years ago when the Daily Caller published an editorial by our CEO, Marv Fertel, concerning security at the nation's nuclear power plants:
Since 2001, the nuclear industry has spent more than $2 billion on security enhancements, including the addition of thousands of highly qualified security officers. This layer upon layer of formidable security includes physical barriers, followed by state-of-the-art detection technology, followed by sophisticated protocols for plant access, followed by added surveillance capabilities, and backed by a protective force of thousands of highly trained, well-armed officers.
Have to wonder out loud why a link to that piece didn't wind up in today's story.

While Pappas might have gotten into the parking lot outside the plant's protected area, there were more than a few people who knew that he was there and were ready to respond if he had posed a threat. Just because he couldn't see those people doesn't mean they weren't on the job. It’s 9/11 week, and some sensationalized click hunting is to be expected, but needlessly frightening folks without more complete reporting is bad journalism, plain and simple.

For more details on nuclear plant security, please visit our website or watch this video.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Protecting Clean Energy at North Anna Power Station

The following post was sent to us by Dominion’s Richard Hanson for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year. This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear facilities in the voices of the people working at them.

Dominion's Richard Hanson
Richard Hanson
Richard is the manager of protection services at North Anna Power Station in Louisa County in Central Virginia. He’s worked in the nuclear industry for 11 years.

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels.

Tell us about yourself, and how long you’ve been in the nuclear energy industry.
I am the manager of protection services at North Anna Power Station. We’re owned by Dominion Virginia Power and I’ve been in the nuclear industry for approximately 11 years.

Why do you enjoy what you do?
I enjoy what I do because I get a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. I know that my troops and I have protected this facility against radiological sabotage.

Why do you think nuclear energy is important to America’s energy future? 
First of all, nuclear energy is clean energy. We need more clean energy. A lot of coal plants are being retired as companies look to carbon-free alternatives for power production. Nuclear is a good, clean option.

How are you bringing innovation into the nuclear energy industry? 
We are implementing very innovative security techniques with our officers. We’re utilizing technology a lot more than we did in the past, but we still must have the “boots on the ground.” The industry requires us to have a certain number of officers, but we can supplement some of those numbers with technology. I can’t provide further details about how we protect the station because that’s confidential safeguards information. However, I can assure you that we take our security duties very seriously and help make our nuclear stations among the most hardened and protected industrial facilities in the world.