AEP’s Indiana Michigan plans upgrade projects for Cook nuke

While a planned Life Cycle Management (LCM) project in itself will not include a substantial power uprate at the Cook nuclear plant as was originally considered, Indiana Michigan Power‘s (I&M) initial analysis indicates that a power uprate of up to 400 MW is feasible at Cook.

I&M President and COO Paul Chodak III was one of a long list of utility officials testifying on April 16 at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission as the utility seeks approval of the Cook LCM project. I&M is a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP).

“I&M’s long-term planning to meet the needs of its customers today and tomorrow relies on the extended operation of the Cook Plant,” Chodak wrote. “While the LCM Project in itself will not include a substantial power uprate of the capacity of the Cook Plant as was once originally under consideration, our initial analysis indicates that a power uprate, up to an incremental 400 MWs, is feasible at Cook. [T]he LCM Project will include a very small investment in the upsizing of certain equipment to accommodate a potential future uprate. It is appropriate to make this minor incremental investment in this upsizing now because waiting to do so during a future power uprate would be more costly, as the equipment would have to be replaced twice (now and then) instead of once (now). I&M and its customers will benefit from a more strategic approach that reasonably anticipates the need for affordable, emission-free energy.”

Cook Units 1-2 were placed in service in 1975 and 1978, respectively, under 40-year Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) operating licenses obtained in 1974 and 1977 for each unit. Through efforts before the NRC, I&M first received operating license extensions in 1991 to cover the period between construction permit issuance and operating license issuance and then in 2005, it received 20-year license renewals from the NRC to allow Units 1 and 2 to operate until 2034 and 2037, respectively.

The two Cook units are among the lowest cost generation resources on the AEP System and supply over 2,100 MW of baseload generation to I&M’s customers. About 65% of Cook’s generation output serves I&M’s Indiana retail customers, another 15% goes to I&M’s Indiana wholesale customers, who in turn supply it to their Indiana retail customers, and the remainder serves I&M’s retail or wholesale customers in Michigan. Overall, the Cook units provide about 40% of the generating capacity for I&M.

“Importantly, the Cook units do not emit CO2,” Chodak added. “As a result, when this nuclear generation is combined with I&M’s wind and hydro generation, a significant portion of I&M’s generation portfolio is low-carbon. As utilities approach life in a potentially carbon-constrained world, I&M has a significant head start toward being able to keep our costs and rates lower than other utilities that may not have the advantage of a nuclear plant.”

Unit 2 at Cook achieved a capacity factor greater than 100% during its most recent operating cycle, which is considered world-class performance. Similarly, Unit 1’s capacity factor during its last operating cycle was 95.5%, Chodak noted.

Cook becomes more critical due to impending coal retirements

I&M also operates six coal-fired units: Rockport Unit 1 (1,300 MW), Rockport Unit 2 (1,300 MW); Tanners Creek Unit 1 (145 MW), Tanners Creek Unit 2 (145 MW), Tanners Creek Unit 3 (205 MW) and Tanners Creek Unit 4 (500 MW).

John Torpey, employed by American Electric Power Service Corp. as Director-Integrated Resource Planning, described in the filing how coal shutdowns outlined in the company’s latest integrated resource plan (IRP) underline the continued need for Cook.

“The I&M IRP also describes a number of environmental rules that will impact its ability to operate this generating fleet in the future,” Torpey wrote. “To address these rules, as shown in the 2011 IRP, I&M plans to retire Tanners Creek Units 1-3 (485 MW) on December 31, 2014, and add environmental controls to the balance of the fossil fueled fleet, which includes Tanners Creek Unit 4 (500 MW) and Rockport Units 1 & 2 (2,223 MW). Tanners Creek Unit 4 is planned to be retired in 2025 and replaced with a 562 MW combined cycle facility.”

The Cook units are included in the IRP through the end of their current operating license, 2034 for Unit 1 and 2037 for Unit 2. The resource plan assumes that, unless it is not economical to do so, existing resources of I&M will be maintained or improved as required to meet regulatory mandates. In the case of Cook, this plan includes projects that are categorized as LCM, Torpey noted.

LCM is basically a grab-bag of life extension projects

Cook is located along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in Bridgman, Mich. Units 1 and 2 are both pressurized water reactor (PWR) designs with a four loop Westinghouse nuclear steam supply system.

The industry standard definition of LCM is the integration of aging management and economic planning to optimize the operation, maintenance, and service life of systems, structures, and components (SSCs); maintain an acceptable level of performance and safety; and maximize return of investment over the service life of the plant. LCM is basically a process for the timely detection and mitigation of aging effects in SSCs that are important to plant safety, reliability and economics. For the purpose of this project, the utility defines LCM as non-recurring capital replacements required to operate for an extended license period.

LCM sub-projects related to modernization or upgrades to existing plant instrumentation and controls make up approximately 37% of the overall LCM costs. One such example is the replacement of the Plant Process Computer (PPC), which is used by operators to monitor the facility. This equipment is based on outdated technology which was state-of-the-art in the 1970s, testified Michael Carlson, employed by I&M as the Vice President of Site Support Services at Cook.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.