Second reactor emergency center opens; Westinghouse touts quake-resistant design

Two nuclear industry developments designed to address post-Fukushima nervousness were announced recently.

On June 26 Westinghouse Electric said it is developing a version of its much-touted AP 1000 reactor design for use in locations with higher seismic levels seen in some parts of the western United States and certain other countries.

Westinghouse began the process of obtaining Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) review and approval of the “specialized seismic option” at a June 25 pre‑submittal meeting at the agency’s headquarters.

On June 27, the U.S. nuclear energy industry opened its second regional response center as part of its post-Fukushima safety strategy. The Memphis response center, like one that opened in Phoenix last month, will be capable of delivering complete sets of emergency equipment to help facilities respond safely to potential emergency events.

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) trade group has said its “Flex” program will be able to supplement the various backup safety equipment already on-site at the nation’s nuclear power plants.

“Each of these centers is designed to deliver emergency backup equipment anywhere in America within 24 hours,” said Mike Pacilio, an Exelon (NYSE:EXC) nuclear executive and a leading member of NEI’s Fukushima response steering committee.

Equipment stored at the center includes portable backup generators, pumps, standardized couplings and hoses. Each center houses five full sets of equipment. The startup cost for each facility is about $40m, with annual operating costs of about $4m. The costs of the Memphis and Phoenix centers will be by U.S. nuclear operators.

As for the Westinghouse announcement, Westinghouse and its majority owner Toshiba are working together on a limited number of customized materials and/or reinforcements that will allow new units to be built in areas that have a higher seismic spectrum.

Most of the new opportunities that Westinghouse pursues worldwide will continue to use the standard AP1000 plant because it is most appropriate for the great majority of global sites – including the sites where AP1000 units currently are under construction.

The Westinghouse design is being employed at both the new Vogtle units in Georgia being developed by Southern (NYSE:SO) and its partner as well as the new V.C. Summer units being built in South Carolina by SCANA (NYSE:SCG) and its partner, Santee Cooper.

There are already eight Westinghouse AP 1000 units under construction worldwide and more are planned, the company said. “In addition, customers in more active seismic environments have expressed a strong interest in incorporating this Westinghouse technology into their energy portfolios,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president, Nuclear Power Plants.

The meltdown disaster at the Tokyo Electric Power Fukushima Dai-ichi station in Japan followed a tsunami tidal wave triggered by a Magnitude 9 earthquake off the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.