Monday, December 20, 2010

Field Report from POWER-GEN International 2010

One of my colleagues filed the following field report from the conference held last week:

Notes from Keynote speeches: 
1. SMRs: There is a strong push from the Fed Government labs toward Small Modular Reactors. (SMR).  The feeling is that the US is slightly behind China and Europe in these, but they offer some significant advantages. 
  They can be built in factories, thus making them faster and easier to build,  as well as helping to drive down costs.  They should add significant amount of manufacturing jobs, with the total job growth of up to 60K jobs. These Rx would be in the 100-300 MW range, and are proposed to not need refueling, lasting about 30 yrs.  They are also proposed to be modular and scalable, to allow them to match the local need. 
2.  Wind/Smartgrid: Siemens gave a presentation on their wind efforts, including building several factories in the US as transportation costs contribute about 15% of the cost of a turbine.  They think that wind will become a significant contributor in the future, and they are working hard to be ready.  The major problems facing wind are storage and distribution.  Smart grid will help some with storage, but the US does not currently have sufficient transmission infrastructure to move the power from the Midwest (where there is a lot of wind) to the coasts (where it is needed).   They think with 5 more years of “help”, they will be able to reduce costs enough to be competitive with other power sources at about $.05 /KWhr.
3. Biomass/Solar: Siemens said that Biomass for power generation will not grow much, however, from what we have seen at other forums, it is mostly planned for transportation.  They are also supporting solar work, but seemed much more interested in wind.      
4. Infrastructure: Speaker spoke about all the problems with conflicts between regional and federal bodies to govern power lines and transmissions.  US has a terrible infrastructure, she was advocating a building project for new transmission lines much like highway system.   She wants to treat transmission as more of a separate entity and business than just a local item.  US needs to invest in HVDC and get more easements to allow new transmission lines (see above).      
5. Coal/CO2: Last speaker is working two coal projects.  One is a coal gasification plant in Taylorville In, strongly supported by state.  They will gasify coal, and sequester CO2 to send it to be used in deep oil recover.  Second plant is to burn coal but sequester CO2 to be used in deep oil recovery.  He expected there to be about 60Gigawatts of coal plants to be retired in the next 10 years.  Not sure how they will be replaced, but with price of natural gas so low and more being discovered, that may be the immediate solution. 


Q: Did the environment feel pessimistic or optimistic for the next few years?  
A: As for the mood, it was generally optimistic in that there is a world
wide market for power generation, and that a lot of it will be nuclear and
green, but that natural gas and coal will still have a role.   Lots of
graphs on expected use world wide between now and 2050, All showed a
lot of growth, but the mix changes depending on your inputs.   All
agree there will be more nuclear, wind and other, but still a growing coal
base. But coal will decrease in %, especially as gas costs stay low
(see Shale gas discoveries)  and wind keeps making advances.

Q: Are wind and solar seen as viable players in the new energy market.  
There are concerns about there efficiency and need of back up power? See efficiency discussion:
A: No one really talked a about solar, technology isn't there yet to
be cost effective, but Siemens was very confident in the
planned technology advances to get wind down to the 4.5c/kw range. He
had a lot of hard numbers and was pretty confident that they can solve
the problems.  Transmission is still the key here, as well as storage.

Q: SMRs with 30 year lifetimes (non-LWR breeders) are pretty far away in the approval process.  Any updates on timelines?  This is what I know:
A: The SMR talk was lead by a Phd from a Govt lab, and yes, all
acknowledge that there are regulatory issues.  Looking at technologies
now:  LWR,  Gas and liquid metal cooled.   All have adv and disadv,
but there seemed to be a LOT of hype and interest. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Biofuel-- From Your Trash to Your Car

Fulcrum BioEnergy Inc. has plans for a co-generation plant that converts common household garbage into transportation fuel for cars and light trucks. This is not your typical crops to fuel ethanol production process.  The plant converts everyday trash, post recycling, into biofuel.  By 2012, the plant is expected to produce 10.5 million gallons of ethanol and 16 megawatts of electricity annually by processing municipal solid waste. Production cost for this trash born ethanol is estimated at less than $1 a gallon, 65 percent lower than corn-based production.

Fulcrum BioEnery Inc. of Pleasanton announced on 16Nov that the U.S. Department of Energy agreed to move ahead with the final phase of a loan guarantee needed to begin construction.  The ethanol plant will be in Storey County about 30 miles east of Reno. Fluor, Inc. is the Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) lead for this $120M project.

The Sierra BioFuels project will provide more than 550 engineering, manufacturing, construction and operations jobs.  The project will be one of the Nation’s first large-scale facilities capable of transforming everyday trash into a clean, renewable transportation fuel.  Nevada, Sierra BioFuels will convert approximately 90,000 tons of post-sorted MSW – the amount of trash produced by a city with a population of approximately 165,000 – into 10.5 million gallons of ethanol annually, meeting the demand for ethanol in the Reno market.  Utilizing MSW as a feedstock, Sierra BioFuels will produce cellulosic ethanol that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 75 percent on a lifecycle basis when compared to traditional gasoline production from oil.

Information and details taken from the Fulcrum BioEnergy Website

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

B&W mPower Leading the SMR Charge?

It appears B&W is moving up the small modular reactor (SMR) ranks to be on of the first SMRs to realize a customer and construction. 

TVA continues to express interest in the mPower design and may want up to six of them by 2020. Good summary of the details at Cool Hand LukeTVA is committed by 2020 to generating at least half of all the electricity it sends to customers with noncarbon sources.  Nuclear is a logical choice especially with easier to build and finance SMRs.  We all love to love wind and solar but TVA will not meets its 50% goal with such inefficient power generation sources.  Discussion on the logic of wind and solar here.

Details on TVAs long term plan from a previous post here.

Details on the design from a previous post here.

B&W mPower
-125 MWe to 750 MWe or more for a 4.5-year operating cycle without refueling
-Proven ALWR design which will reduce regulatory review time
-Design Certification submittal in 2011 with approval expected in Q4 2012
-Letter of intent recieved from Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to begin the process of evaluating a potential lead plant site
Data and picture from B&W website

Friday, October 15, 2010

TVA has Big Plans for the Future

TVA is conducting a comprehensive study of resource options to meet the region’s needs for electricity and to help achieve environmental sustainability for the next 20 years. This Integrated Resource Plan or IRP is called TVA’s Environmental and Energy Future. The draft plan is available for public comment.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) Baseline need for additional generating capacity, or energy efficiency and demand response (EEDR), programs is 9,600MW in 2019 and growing to 15,500MW in 2029.

New generation:
1.     Coal
Note:  (TVA currently operates 59 coal fired generating units at 11 generation plants with a total capacity of 14,500MW)
Two configurations of new supercritical pulverized coal (SCPC) plants are considered in the IRP evaluation:
a.     Single-unit 800-MW SCPC plant with carbon capture and storage (CCS)
b.    Two-unit 1600-MW SCPC plant with CCS

2.     Natural gas
Note: (TVA has 87 combustion turbines (CT) at nine power plants, with a combined generating capacity of approximately 6,000 MW)
a.     The IRP evaluation includes both simple and combined cycle natural gas fueled options. In a simple cycle unit, natural gas is used in the fueling of combustion turbines, where it is combusted with air at high pressure and temperature, then expanded to drive a shaft

3.     Nuclear
Note: (The capacity of TVA’s existing nuclear units is 6,900 MW, which includes three reactors at TVA’s Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, two at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, and one at Watts Bar Nuclear Plant)
a.     On August 1, 2007, the TVA Board approved the completion of the 1150 MW Unit 2 at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. The project is included as a current resource in TVA’s generating portfolio and is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2012.
b.    TVA has included Bellefonte Units 1 and 2 as well as Units 3 and 4 in the IRP evaluation. In addition to the four Bellefonte units, a non-site specific option based on the Advanced Passive 1000 reactor is also included in the IRP.
                                          i.    Located at the Bellefonte site in northeast Alabama, Bellefonte Units 1 and 2 are the two partially completed Babcock and Wilcox (B&W) pressurized light water reactors with a capacity of 1,260 MW each.
                                         ii.    In October 2007, TVA submitted a Combined Construction and Operating License Application to the NRC for two new Westinghouse Electric Co. designed Advanced Passive 1000 reactors. These reactors are to be located at the Bellefonte site and designated as Bellefonte Units 3 and 4 to demonstrate the feasibility of NRC’s then new combined construction and operation licensing process.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Solar Energy Plants Planned for California--Does It Make Sense?

Two large solar plants were approved Tuesday for construction on federal lands.  Department of Interior (DOI) post.  See analysis of the proposed plants below the position statements.

Position Statements:
1. Solar thermal is more cost effective than PV solar.
2. Construction per kW is extremely high while operating expenses are low for solar installation relative to other sources of energy generation.
3. Capacity factor for solar is 18-25% and therefore is useful for peak power only.  Given the high cost of construction it is not a generation source which can offset current baseline power generation methods (Coal, Hydro, Nuclear).  It can offset peaking power provided by gas turbine and diesel generation. If it is to be used for sustainable power than it must be supplemented with other generation sources to cover the low capacity factor.
4. Do projects like these make business or financial sense?  If the goal is to have renewable generation at any expense than yes.  If the goal is to reduce dependence on CO2 emitting baseline power generation (Coal, gas turbine, diesel, natural gas) than I submit there are more efficient and cost effective ways.

5. The large footprint of solar and wind generation requires remote siting and challenges with energy transmission.
6. A carbon tax and solar efficiency gains coupled with a transmission network will be required to make solar cost competitive.

Proposed Projects
The projects approved will employ two different types of solar energy technology. The Imperial Valley Solar Project, proposed by Tessera Solar of Texas, will use Stirling Energy System's SunCatcher technology on 6,360 acres of public lands in Imperial County, California. The plant is expected to produce up to 709 megawatts from 28,360 solar dishes, enough to power 212,700 – 531,750 homes (my note: 20% of the time). Estimated cost $2.1 Billion. The initial installation will include 300MW. The rest would require a new line, like San Diego Gas & Electric’s 123-mile proposed Sunrise Powerlink, which has been approved but faces challenges in federal and state courts.

The Chevron Lucerne Valley Solar Project, proposed by Chevron Energy Solutions of California, will employ photo-voltaic solar technology on 422 acres of public lands in San Bernardino County, California, and will produce up to 45 megawatts from 40,500 solar panels, enough to power 13,500 – 33,750 homes (my note: 20% of the time).

Let's break down the various technologies that will be used:

Tessera Solar and the Stirling Energy System SunCatcher
The SunCatcher is a 25 kWe solar dish that automatically tracks the sun.  It collects and focuses solar energy on a power conversion unit which is a closed loop high efficiency four cylinder reciprocating solar Stirling engine.  Closed loop in that it uses an internal working fluid that is recycled through the engine.  The solar energy heats and pressurizes the fluid and turns the Stirling engine. 

A generator is connected to the Solar Stirling Engine; this generator produces the grid-quality electrical output of the SunCatcher. Waste heat from the engine is transferred to the ambient air via a radiator system similar to those used in automobiles. The gas is cooled by a radiator system and is continually recycled within the engine during the power cycle. The conversion process does not consume water, as is required by most thermal-powered generating systems. Data and picture Source.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mega Watt to Mai Tai--How Hawaii Uses Energy

Grab your sunglasses and your sun tan lotion because we are headed to the Hawaiian islands..oh don't forget your calculator.

Energy production in HI sparks the imagination.  Think of all the natural resources available: Wind, Solar, Geothermal (big island), Hydro, biomass, ocean thermal, and tidal.  So where then does all the energy come from?  The vast majority is from petroleum, shipped in and refined locally.
Here is a breakdown of power production from this HI government source:

 If we make a quick calculation and solve for the equivalent MWe plant size we can get an idea of the size of plant to cover an entire Island's production or to cover the production from oil import.  See also the annual cost (2007) of the imported oil. (Assumes 100% availability of the plant and average power use (no peaking))

A couple of notes as we take a look at the data.  Existing plant capacity seems adequate especially considering that energy use is down since 2007.  This may be the reason why there is not a big driver to radically change how HI produces energy.  Notice that the use of municipal solid waste in Honolulu produces energy equivalent to a 35MWe plant.  Trash is a big deal in HI and it is getting worse.

Municipal Solid Waste
Honolulu makes up 80 percent of Hawaii's population and generates nearly 1.6 million tons of garbage a year. More than a third of the trash is incinerated to generate electricity. The remaining garbage is sent to the 21-year-old Waimanalo Gulch landfill on the island of Oahu's southwestern coast. Monday's agreement between the city and Chutz' firm requires the garbage that cannot be burned to be sent to the Waimanalo Gulch landfill, which must close by July 2012. Around that same time, the city hopes to start operating a third trash furnace at its electricity-generating plant in Kapolei, allowing the burning of about 902,000 tons a year.

Plans for the Future
A 2007 energy study showed a potential of 180MW from wave energy production with Oahu having the most favorable waters.  According to this study wave, biomass, and Photovoltaic (PV) adoption depend on oil prices. Wind, geothermal, and MSW are assessed to be robust.  

The state has a goal to meet 70% of its energy needs with clean energy by 2030.  Learn more about the Hawaiian Clean Energy Initiative  HCEI.

Hawaiian Clean Energy Initiative data shown below (link)

Oahu Data

Ocean Energy

Although not currently commercial, ocean energy projects, particularly ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC—steam generation by means of temperature differential between warm surface waters and cold waters at depth) could potentially be an additional energy source for O‘ahu and for Hawai‘i generally. One company is pursuing a 5- to 10-megawatt OTEC pilot plant on O‘ahu, which it hopes will serve as a model for building 100-megawatt plants.


To help meet its ground transportation fuel needs, O‘ahu could readily develop biofuel production facilities. O‘ahu has some biomass and waste resources that could serve as biofuel feedstocks. Although it is not yet commercially available, algae-to-biofuel technology could also contribute to O‘ahu's clean energy portfolio in the future. As with electrical generation, however, O‘ahu would likely need to import biomass from neighboring islands to supply a significant portion of its transportation fleet with clean energy. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and electric vehicles could also play a role on O‘ahu once they become commercially available, and studies are under way to determine how such vehicles could be best integrated with the island's grid and infrastructure. In addition, developing renewable energy resources to power alternative-fuel vehicles is essential if such vehicles are to become a part of O‘ahu's clean energy future.


Castle & Cooke, Inc., which owns the majority of Lana‘i, has proposed a 200-megawatt wind farm for providing power to O‘ahu via undersea cable. The proposal remains under discussion. Approximately 30 megawatts of wind power are currently proposed for O‘ahu. 

Big Island Data

The biggest potential renewable resource on Hawai‘i is geothermal, which provides baseload electricity generation at all hours of the day. In fact, according to one study the island has an estimated 750 megawatts of potential—nearly three times its current electrical use. Hawai‘i's 30-megawatt geothermal plant may expand to add an additional 8 megawatts of capacity.
In addition to meeting the Big Island's electricity needs, geothermal could eventually help power a number of electric vehicles to help the meet the island's ground transportation energy needs.
In addition to the substantial geothermal resource available on the Big Island, other potential renewable resources that have been identified include
  • Hydroelectric power—20 megawatts
  • Wind power—55 megawatts
  • Municipal solid waste combustion—13 megawatts
  • Solar power—25 megawatts
  • Biomass combustion—25 megawatts.

So there are initiatives in place.  I for one would think that the islands are good candidates for continued renewables and even small modular reactors.  Who knows, but I am sure there are many people who would be okay traveling to HI to help the cause no matter what the type of production is!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Nuclear Computer Systems--Complex but it has been done before

Dan Yurman recently featured a New York Times report on NRC and other regulators concern about the complexity and independence of computer systems for new reactor designs, specifically Areva.  Such concern is not unexpected.  It seems that the NRC and the nuclear industry is facing some of the same issues encountered by the FDA and regulated Biotech and Pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Clearly Biotech and Nuclear are different.  When it comes to automated systems there are plenty of similarities across multiple industries:
-Data Integrity
-System Access and Security
-Hardware and Architecture Infrastructure
-Human Machine Interfaces
-Virtual Machines and/or servers (a key area for separation of systems and functionality)
-Operational or functional requirements
-Alarms and warnings with reporting and automated actions
-Electronic signatures, audit trails, and record keeping

Another similarity is the CFR requirement to verify and validate computer systems in both industries with plenty of regulatory oversite to go around for all.  Biotech and Pharma has had many years to embrace very highly automated manufacturing practices. (Note: glossary of terms at end of article) PLCs and VSCs interact with the DCS and BAS/BMS.  The DCS interfaces with the MES.  The MES exchanges information with corporate IT networks. Most of that data is GMP and is therefore subject to regulation.  A risk based approach (nothing new for Nuclear) is emphasized for determining critical functionality in order to best apply QA scrutiny to Engineerings plans and testing, but in the end everything is tested via commissioning and qualification.  Call it validation or call it verification, the computer systems must be verified.

I should clarify the statement that everything is tested....Software functionality is verified, but not every aspect of every automated system can be tested.  That would be a poor application of our Engineering and Quality expertise.  Use of Vendor quality assessments and commercial off the shelf designations allow us to focus on project or system customization and configuration.  Software coding standards and design documentation allow for consistent software design.  Clear user and functional requirements allow for design and code review to ensure that the design meets the intended purpose, is per design standards, and is testable.

Biotech and Pharma have done a masterful job working with industry and the regulators to develop consensus standards such as the ISPE GAMP (Good Automation Manufacturing Practices) Guides.  NQA-1 might not be our only answer.  Consensus or best practice guides should be available to help the Nuclear industry navigate through the use and verification of automated systems and even digital instrument and control conversion.

System complexity and the differentiation between Safety and Non-safety systems should be addressed in a cooperative manner between the regulators and the multiple reactor and automated system vendors.  Clearly concerns such as touch screen control and "smart" systems that automatically point to alarms or out of tolerance parameters and events will be a recurring theme across all new builds and conversions.   Whether it is Safety or not does not alleviate the requirement for the automated system to work.  Therefore good requirements and good standards are required to handle the control room of the without individual or dedicated switches, lights, knobs, and control wires.

See my previous posts on Digital Instrumentation and Control Upgrades and Electrical and Water Cyber security-- Time to innovate

See a related post on Securing critical digital assets at nuclear power plants

over at  at Cool Hand Nuke, a nuclear energy jobs portal and a whole lot more.

PLC-Programable Logic Controller
VSC-Vendor Supplied Controller
DCS-Distributed Control System
BAS-Building Automation System
BMS-Building Management System
MES-Manufacturing Execution System
GMP-Good Manufacturing Practices (Designated as Critical or Safety systems for nuclear)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Small Modular Reactors--Fun and Exciting--What are the Options and Timelines?

Small modular reactors were a hot topic at the American Nuclear Society (ANS) annual meeting.  Attendance was good and people were interested.  The designs are fun and use various technology. From LWRs to liquid sodium to liquid metal PbBi cooled reactors.  LWRs have the advantage of known technology and known regulations which should lead to faster regulatory approval, but suffer from shorter refueling times.  Liquid metal reactors operate at low pressure and do not need refueling for decades, but may require additional design and regulatory time.  

Much has been said regarding small modular reactors.  My goal is to list the players with highlights of each design and some estimated timelines.

What is the need?
Most of the world's electrical grids are small.  One single source of power generation should not exceed 10-15% of the grid size or risk stability and power concerns when the one large plant goes offline.  The "standard" reactor produces 1 to 1.6 GWe and cost and estimated $5B+ and 84 months to build.

There is a an application for small modular reactors that can be built quickly and delivered onsite with fuel intact and ready to go.  The small size could be used for power or for desalination. Most designs are modular in that you can add more than one to increase output slowly as needed.  Construction of the "standard" reactor includes large forgings and significant resources for movement and construction of the large components.  Small reactors are mostly skid built at the factory and shipped in using existing US or small factory construction and forging capabilities.

Information from Rod Adams in his post from the Platts Modular Reactor Meeting.

"Three vendors - NuScale, B&W, and Westinghouse Electric Company - each with a variation of integral Pressurized Water Reactors (iPWR), provided some details about their design concepts and the maturity of their technology. There is a general agreement that these three designs - the 45 MWe NuScale, the 125 MWe mPowerTM, and the 300 MWe IRIS - are the ones that are closest to being ready to move through an NRC licensing process."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

BP vs. Nuclear Industry-there is no comparison (Repost from Rod Adams)

A couple of key points that I thought really hit home from this post by Rod Adams from the Energy Collective:

--start of original post--

The situation in well-run nuclear energy production operations is far removed from that of an exploratory well drilled in deep water by a group of people who were driven by short term concerns about daily expenditures that totaled a few million dollars - at most. Of course, there are perpetual doubters who ask - how can we be certain that the operations will be well run, but those doubters need to understand that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a strong, independent and effective regulator that provides the suspenders that add a third layer of checking to the belt (INPO) and snug pants (careful design, effective quality control and trained operators) that the industry already provides to itself.

There is a lesson from the Deepwater Horizon that should be applied to nuclear energy; we need to continually remind ourselves of the importance of taking the long term view and refusing to go along with people who focus on short term profits produced by cutting costs without full recognition of the associated risks. Even with all of the existing processes and systems in place, eternal vigilance is needed to guard against human foibles like greed, even if those weaknesses find their way into the executive suite.

I cannot imagine how stupid the folks responsible for influencing and directly making the decisions on that drilling rig must feel as they watch tens of millions of dollars per day worth of oil spew out into uncontrolled areas. Not only is that revenue producing material failing to be captured, but it is causing billions of dollars of damage that their very large, well established and formerly profitable company is responsible for fixing.

I hope they keep asking themselves - what was our hurry? Why did we push so hard to cut so many corners and ignore so many warning signs that we were approaching dangerous territory? Was saving a million or two million dollars per day worth the damage that we did to a reservoir that was pretty obviously an "elephant" and to a region that was a paradise on earth for many of its inhabitants?

(By the way - in any kind of fair world, those decision makers who encouraged the cost cutting behavior would end up penniless and wiling away the rest of their lives in jail.)
--End of original post--

Friday, June 4, 2010

First US Reactor Construction Update--Southern Co. Vogtle 3/4

Southern is building the first nuclear reactors in the US.  I was wondering how construction was going so I did a little research on the Southern Co., Shaw Group and NRC websites.  Pictures from Southern Co. Website.

In August 2009, Southern Nuclear received the ESP for Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4. The Vogtle ESP is the first one in the industry to reference a specific technology, Westinghouse AP1000. Additionally, Southern Nuclear's ESP comes with a Limited Work Authorization (LWA). The LWA allows limited safety-related activities to begin at the site prior to the COL being issued.

Construction began in Aug 2009.  Currently there are 700 employees working on the site preparation with 150 earth movers excavating 50,000 yds^3 per day.  Plans are for a peak of 3000 employees in 2014 during major construction.

AP1000 construction update Vogtle 3/4:
-Commenced excavation of Unit 3 on February 5 and on track to complete readiness reviews and commenced placement of 1.8 million cubic yards of nuclear safety related backfill on March 8.
-Equipment procurements continue on schedule with 79 POs placed of 79 planned
-Issued first of approximately 165 Construction Engineering packages for the First Nuclear  Concrete placement

Shaw group and the AP1000 in China:

Two AP1000s are set for the Sanmen site in Zhejiang province and two for the Haiyang site in Shandong province. Shaw celebrated major milestones in 2009 at the Sanmen site with the successful placement of first nuclear concrete and then successful placement of the world's first major AP1000 structural module. The feat is considered a tremendous engineering, design, fabrication and construction accomplishment. Placement of the 1,020-ton CA20 module ranks as one of the heaviest and largest on record for the nuclear energy industry.

Sanmen AP1000 completion is scheduled for June 2014.  As of June 2009 the project was reportedly 6 weeks ahead of schedule.

Turns out that the AP1000 has its own Facebook page.  Here is the latest news on Sanmen from April: The AP1000™ Containment Vessel first ring was successfully set in place earlier this month at the Westinghouse AP1000™ site in Sanmen, China.
China's nuclear vision and plans.

Permit process and status for Vogtle 3/4 and AP1000 Design: 
Source of Part 52 Licensing Process

NRC schedule shows completion of the Combined Operating License in mid 2011 (COL is a combined construction permit and operations liscense.  AP1000 Design Certification shows a EOY 2010 completion. A month ago I was told that the ITAAC (Inspections, Tests, Analyses, And Acceptance Criteria ) for AP100 has not been completed.  The ITAAC is required to be completed and verified as satisfactory before the licensee is authorized to load nuclear fuel.

Detailed Review Schedule for COL Application: On June 30th, the staff issued the revised safety review schedules for Southern Nuclear Operating Company (SNC)'s combined license (COL) application for the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant (VEGP) Units 3 and 4. The NRC revised the safety review schedule to reflect (1) the revised review schedule for the AP1000 design certification amendment and (2) the change in the referenced combined license (RCOL) designation for the AP1000 design center from Bellefonte Nuclear Plant (BLN) Units 3 and 4 to VEGP Units 3 and 4, The original projected completion date for the Vogtle final safety evaluation report (FSER) was December 17, 2010. The new projected completion date for the Vogtle FSER is April 12, 2011.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What if 25% of the Cars were plug in...How much power is needed?

Last week Toyota announced a partnership with Tesla motors backed by $50M in investments. Tesla is the manufacturer of the trendy $100K all electric plug in sports car and has a model for us all in the works, the Model S. Toyota wants the technology and I can just imagine a Tesla/Prius in every garage. Gov. Schwarzenegger hailed the joint venture as the future and asked us all to imagine CA with more plug ins.

“What we are witnessing today is an historic example of California’s transition to a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future. We challenged auto companies to innovate, and both Tesla and Toyota stepped up in a big way, not only creating vehicles that reduce emissions and appeal to consumers but also boosting economic growth,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.

How will all these plug ins be powered? Everyone seems to think that electricity comes from a plug in the wall. Power has to come from somewhere.  How will we make a green lifecycle from source to vehicle?  Wind turbines? Coal? Gas? Solar? Nuclear? 

Lets break it down.

136,000,000 registered passenger vehicles in 2007. Lets say 25% of the cars suddenly become plug ins. Therefore: 34,000,000 vehicles.

16.8 KW = 56miles charged per hour per the Tesla website.

Assume 12,000 miles per year driven we have 214 hrs of charge at 16.8 KW or 3600 KW-Hrs per car.

with 34M cars we have 1.2 x 10^11 KW-Hrs
A new nuclear power plant generates 13 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) or 1.3 x 10^10 (assuming 1600MWe and 92% availability).

So the final answer is: 9.4 new nuclear plants would be required to keep all those vehicles charged.  One plant charges 3.6M vehicles. There were 16,153,952 new vehicles (cars trucks and SUVs) sold in 2007.

Conclusion: We need one new 1600MWe plant a year if 25% of the new cars are all electric using the numbers and 2007 sales rates above.

Electric vehicles are great, we just need to remember that the power source is part of the equation and that conservation and alternative energy will not be enough to account for future energy demands.

3 billion barrels of gasoline were refined in 2006 out of 5.5 billion barrels of crude oil.   1.6 x10^9 gallons or 3.8 x 10^7 barrels of gasoline would be removed per year if 25% of new cars were all electric.  Using the ratio of gas to oil equates to  7 x 10^7 barrels of crude oil saved per year (2006 refining and 2007 car sales and 30mpg).

Numbers and calculations are for illustrative purposes.  I am hoping for credit for error carried forward--ECF.

Good points raised from readers comments:
1. The number of cars calculation I used omits trucks and SUVs reducing the overall number of cars.  
2. What about reduced electricity demand off peak at night?  Good question.  I did not take that into account, however smartgrid technology and offpeak charging will mitigate the effects of EV.  There is also talk of VTG or vehicle to grid where the electric vehicle could actually supply power during peak or the most expensive time of day and then charge during off peak or cheaper times of day.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Safety is designed into US Reactors--The Power of a Negative Temp. Coefficient of Reactivity

Let's step back and explore one of the fundamental concepts of reactor theory and the FACTS that make reactors in the US inherently safe. I am talking about the temperature coefficient of reactivity. Oh sure everyone knows about that. Well I think if they did know it would help to alleviate some of the concern with reactors supposedly being able to "blow" up or melt down in some China Syndrome event.

The sad news for the nay Sayers is that reactors are safer than ever and US reactors are designed such that they shutdown when something goes wrong. Current reactor technology uses less equipment and less automation, focusing on passive systems. When something goes wrong in a nuclear reactor temperature is likely to rise in the reactor core. A negative temperature coefficient of reactivity means that as temperature goes up...reactivity goes down. When reactivity goes down the reactor is essentially turning itself off like pulling your foot off the gas of your car.

Reactivity is the engine of fission in a reactor. Reactivity equals more neutrons per unit time (neutron density) and therefore more fission, therefore more energy released, therefore an increase in temperature. That increase in temperature is harnessed as steam to drive a turbine and create 20% of the power in the US.

A negative temperature coefficient of reactivity makes a reactor inherently stable. Example: As power demand increases on the turbine, more steam is used, the coolant circulating through the steam generator and the reactor is cooled slightly. As the temperature goes down the reactivity....goes up! So we push on the gas pedal and get more neutrons and energy as we increase fission and compensate for the temperature drop by increasing reactivity and reactor power to match steam demand.

As you can see this stability allows for a mitigated emergency response for a major casualty leading to an increase in temperature. If I lose reactor coolant and cannot cool the core as effectively the reactor will shutdown (to a point see emergency cooling below).

Contrast this with Chernobyl. Russian designed reactors had essentially a net overall positive temperature coefficient of reactivity (graphite moderator with water coolant thus positive steam void reactivity and positive reactivity of initial control rod motion [Ref1]). See where we are going here?!? Temperature goes up and reactivity goes up. Therefore power goes up and therefore temperature goes up.... leading to disaster. Chernobyl also did not have sealed containment. It also had an enormous reactor core which lead to fluctuating reactivity and flux..essentially three or four different reactors all within the same core behaving independently yet as a whole. All of this lead to a difficult to control reactor that was not inherently stable.

When the casualty hit, the reactor essentially was unable to be controlled (There are multiple factors) and fission products and gases were released to atmosphere (no containment) NRC analysis When disaster struck three mile island, containment was in place and there was very little release to the environment (maximum offsite radiation dose 0.1 rad and total population dose was approximately 10 person-rems [ref1]and NRC analysis plus an overall mitigated reactor response due to the negative temp. coefficient of reactivity.

US reactors have containment and inherently stable reactors. Other safety systems such as the emergency core cooling system (ECCS) ensure that the reactor is cooled even with a loss of coolant. Without emergency cooling the temp. coefficient of reactivity will not help as the uncovered fuel rods melt due to fission product heating leading to various exothermic chemical reactions between the molten material and the water steam mixture.

Test to follow next Tuesday........

For extra credit: I would be remiss in not clarifying that we are talking about the moderator (water coolant) temp. coefficient of reactivity above. The prompt temp. coefficient of reactivity describes the affect of the change of temperature of the fuel itself and determines the first response of a reactor to changes in either fuel temp or reactor power. The NRC requires all reactors to have a negative prompt temp. coefficient of reactivity.

Ref 1 Intro to Nuclear Engineering, John Lamarsh and Anthony Baratta

Friday, April 16, 2010

Digital Instrumentation and Control Upgrades

A computer system hardware or software upgrade can be a daunting challenge.  Multiple industries both regulated (nuclear, biotech, pharma, food, medical device, etc.) and unregulated are facing aging hardware and software which is no longer maintainable or supported by vendors.

In most cases there is an entering project requirement to make the upgrade with minimal down time.  Down time is affected by two critical phases of the project:  Equipment and software installation sometimes referred to cutover and system testing including validation.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Natural gas as a replacement for Diesel/Gas..transition to renewables?

Natural gas is considered to be a cleaner alternative to other fossil fuels like coal, diesel or gasoline. In countries like India, in order to combat air pollution, local governments are making it mandatory for public transport vehicles to use natural gas.

At a recent conference co-hosted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted there has been a sharp rise in U.S. natural gas reserves in recent years: "That's a big deal because gas will be a transition fuel as we go to renewables."

A recent report on natural gas by The Economist magazine concluded "a gasified American economy would have profound effects on both international politics and the battle against climate change. Displacement of oil by natural gas would strengthen a trend away from crude in rich countries … the unearthing of vast new supplies of gas could bring further upheaval."

The U.S. Congress,  appears to be on track to pass the National Gas Act.  Iincreased subsidies for converting trucks to natural gas. Compared with diesel, natural-gas engines produce much less nitrous oxide and particulate matter, and about 20% less greenhouse gas.

The emission standards for heavy- and medium-duty diesel engines will become more stringent, and fleets are already switching to natural gas engines to avoid the higher costs of environmental compliance required of diesel engines.