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Posts Tagged ‘TVA’


Thursday, November 11th, 2010

In an adroit step backwards, the Tennessee Valley Authority has chosen the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s old two-step licensing procedure in a bid to construct the first models of Babcock & Wilcox’s mPower modular reactor.

“TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said the utility is using the two-step licensing approach to allow more flexibility for TVA and the manufacturers of the mPower reactor to change the way the plant is designed and built over the next decade,” says this report by Dave Flessner in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Under the single combined operating license, the NRC must pre-approve the design and construction method for any new plant before any building work begins.”
The two-step process also suggests that the TVA may be able to move the application more quickly through the NRC, since the initial construction license will be a simpler affair. The NRC implemented the one-step construction-and-operating licensing process in 1992 after environmental groups bankrupted several utilities by opposing opening of the reactor after the utility had invested billions of dollars in building it. The COL allows the utility to obtain an operating license before breaking ground – although the process has never been tested and opposition groups are bound to drag it through the courts anyway.
Anti-nuclear advocates are already lining up to criticize the small modular reactors, which many believe represents the future of the nuclear industry. "We are highly skeptical that these modular designs are going to deliver as promised," Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, told the Times Free Press. "There is a whole set of issues that are likely to be raised about these plants so TVA, the NRC and the contractors should expect a real fight."  Who would have guessed?
Nonetheless, the TVA effort holds the promise that SMRs may soon move off the drawing boards. TVA plans to build two of B&W’s 125-megawatt, factory-built reactors on the site of the old Clinch River Breeder Reactor, another promising technology that was halted by the Carter Administration.
Industry and utility officials are hopeful that the piecemeal strategy of SMRs will prove easier to manage than full-scale, on-site-constructed 1,500-MW reactors. "Any time you can do a lot of work in a factory environment, you have a lot more control on schedule and costs," said Rick Bonsall, vice president of B&W.

Read more at the Chattanooga Times Free Press


Friday, September 17th, 2010

The TVA chose one from column A and two from column B in mapping out its energy strategy for the next twenty years.  More nuclear, less coal, more energy efficiency and demand response programs and more renewable energy was the formula put forth in first draft of TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan, which was posted on its website this week.

The plan actually included five alternatives. A plan where nuclear expansion was rejected was ranked second. Another plan calling for almost complete reliance on nuclear was rejected. The plant will be open to comment at a series of open public meetings over the next few months before being finalized next March.

Press reports immediately began putting their own spin on the announcement. One story bore the headline, “TVA is considering strategies that include delaying new nuclear units until 2022.”  This referred to the second-ranked option – which still included completion of the 1,180-MW Watts Barr II, now under construction. The report did not give much attention to the first-ranked option.

The Tennessean, published in Nashville, listed perfunctory details and then immediately switched to the reaction of Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Smith … said he strongly supports the idea of phasing out old coal plants, but that energy efficiency and renewable energy sources should be given more emphasis.  The group also said in an emailed statement today that it was concerned about `TVA’s enthusiasm for high-risk nuclear  power development.’"

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is certain to represented at the opening hearing on Oct. 5.


Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

By Steve Hedges
Nothing in the energy field comes easy. So it is hardly surprising that a series of reports out recently have put a damper on any enthusiasm nuclear power advocates may have felt for the so-called “Nuclear Renaissance.”

A hint of the new skepticism , in the U.S. at least, is a central theme in a recent series of Standard and Poor’s assessment of the nuclear industry.

"The nuclear renaissance that seemed imminent in 2007,” S&P wrote, “has slowed due to moderate natural gas prices and the credit crisis that followed the economic downturn, which limited funding options."

What gives S&P pause is not the viability of nuclear power, but a string of cost overruns and delays involving nuclear projects in a variety of countries, and the projected higher costs of reactor construction in the U.S. due to supply prices and a lack of skilled labor.

The rating agency also notes the failure so far of the federal government to grant promised loan guarantees for new reactor construction in the U.S.

Despite the fanfare and excitement brought on the Obama administration’s $36 billion ramping-up of loan guarantees (on top of $18 billion provided in the 2005 Energy Policy Act) to back nuclear expansion as part of its energy and climate strategy –- only one such guarantee has been arranged so far. That $8.3 billion guarantee, of course, went to the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Augusta, Ga.

Other reactor projects -– Calvert Cliffs in Maryland and the South Texas Project, to name just two –- are hopeful for similar guarantees, but still waiting. Others are at the gate.

“In response to its $18.5 billion nuclear loan guarantee program,” S&P reports, “the U.S. Dept. of Energy has received 19 applications from 17 companies to build new nuclear plants. In terms of financing needs, these requests total $188 billion and average an all-in cost of $6,500 per kilowatt (kW).”

Elsewhere, the renaissance seems to be blossoming. In Asia, for instance, just about every country seems intent on joining the nuclear power race between China (27 plants underway) and South Korea (7 underway) and Japan (5 under construction).

“In other countries, new nuclear construction is in full swing,” S&P reports. “Many have adopted nuclear generation as an integral energy source option; about 60 nuclear plants with various reactor technologies are currently under construction around the world, and many more are in the advanced development and planning stages.”

S&P even has positive words for Europe where “a steady stream of new reactors in Europe and Asia has established a relatively cheap supply chain and a skilled labor force there.”

France, though, is concerned about future competition. France recently issued an internal blueprint for new ways to re-engineer its well established nuclear firms, AREVA and EDF. Those two companies, along with a few other French nuclear partners, might need the boost. For instance, the internal report to President Nicolas Sarkozy noted:

“The actors in the French nuclear industry (EDF, AREVA, ASLTOM) are the uncontested industrial leaders in France and are the ones to have first acquired expertise in this area. On the international level, the challenge is newer and more difficult: France must capture a significant part of the nuclear plant market, a market that is extremely segmented and very competitive.”

Perhaps that sentiment just reflects good old fashioned competition. But France’s nationalist fervor over its nuclear industry is not uncommon. As S&P found, “Nuclear power generation in China, Russia, and South Korea is essentially a government enterprise. Similarly, the French government owns 91% of AREVA S.A. and 85% of Electricite de France S.A. (EDF), the two major domestic nuclear players. The Japanese rely on private companies for nuclear development, but the government encourages companies to establish conglomerates.”

 Where does that leave the U.S.? Overall, the S&P reports spell gloom – though not doom – for the U.S. nuclear industry. Costs here are higher here, the reports state, and indecision over nuclear power’s future has meant that expertise and skill sets have migrated overseas.

“Amid serious doubts over the future of the U.S. nuclear industry during the 1980s, the pool of nuclear construction managers and specialized workers dried up and remains shallow today,” the ratings agency reports. “Several specialized skills (such as high quality welding) that are unique to the construction of nuclear power plants are now hard to come by in the U.S.”

There’s really only one way to fix that problem – borrow the expertise until U.S. firms can gain a beachhead again. It’s not surprising, then, that foreign nuclear firms are so heavily involved in U.S. projects, like France’s EDF’s role in the Calvert Cliffs, Md., reactor project.

First, though, U.S. projects have to break through the regulatory muddle,  As S&P observes, “the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is reviewing five types for new plant design certification: Toshiba Corp.'s advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR), AREVA S.A./ Electricite de France S.A.'s (EDF) European pressurized reactor (EPR), Westinghouse's AP-1000, Mitsubishi Corp.'s advanced pressurized water reactor (APWR) and General Electric Co.'s economic simplified boiling water reactor. The builders claim to be able to construct plants in three years from the first concrete pouring to the first fueling. But the construction track records for these technologies is not very long.”

As noted in Nuclear Townhall Aug. 23, the most vibrant sector of the U.S. nuclear industry right now seems to be one of the oldest: The Tennessee Valley Authority. By the end of 2010, TVA will have completed several rector projects that have created thousands of jobs. And its board recently approved the investment of $250 million toward the completion of a Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Alabama. And those projects are on budget and schedule. It can be done.


Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Before the end of the 2010s is over, the Tennessee Valley Authority will be able to lay claim to the distinction of successfully launching:

·       The last commercial U.S. nuclear power plant to come on-line in the 20th Century (Watts Bar Unit One)
·       The first U.S. plant to come on line in the 21st Century (Browns Ferry Unit One); and
·       The first nuclear power to come on-line in the first chapter of the U.S. Nuclear Renaissance era (Watts Bar Two). Watts Bar Unit Two is projected to add 1,180 megawatts to the TVA nuclear fleet in 2013.
On Friday, these impressive achievements were bolstered by an announcement that the TVA Board of Directors has blessed investing about $250 million toward the potential completion of the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant Unit 1 in Alabama.  TVA is envisioning a 1,260-megawatts reactor with completion costs ball-parked between $4 billion and $5 billion.
These projects collectively are creating thousands of  jobs and have put TVA on the frontlines of the U.S. Nuclear Renaissance.  TVA has also shown that nuclear power plants can be built at projected costs and schedules.
Purists will point out that the new Browns Ferry and Watts Bar plants were either shut-down or mothballed projects – not new nuclear units.  In this vein, baseball fans may remember that in the middle of Roger Maris’ historic chase in 1961 to beat Babe Ruth’s historic home run record, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick announced there would be a distinction in the record books if Maris took more games to break the Bambino’s record, which was achieved in 154 games.  In fact, it took Maris 162 games.   Well, after a decade or more of steroids induced home runs, both Babe Ruth’s and Roger Maris’ achievements are looking appropriately Herculean these days as are TVA’s initiative, jobs and clean energy leadership.
Hats off to TVA — the unheralded U.S. Nuclear Renaissance trailblazer – on its latest milestone.