COVID-19 Threatens Outages Scheduled at 97% of U.S. Nuclear Plants in 2020

Credit to Author: Sonal Patel| Date: Thu, 26 Mar 2020 15:43:54 +0000

The post COVID-19 Threatens Outages Scheduled at 97% of U.S. Nuclear Plants in 2020 appeared first on POWER Magazine.

Challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. nuclear industry has asked the Trump administration to ensure nuclear workers, suppliers, and vendors will have access to nuclear plants and personal protective equipment (PPE) during the 2020 spring and fall refueling outage seasons and beyond.

In a March 20 letter to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and CEO Maria Korsnick noted nuclear reactors have a “unique requirement” to load a fresh batch of fuel once every 18 to 24 months. The event necessitates a shut down for two to four weeks during which intense work occurs, including critical maintenance.

Each plant typically brings in several hundred specialized workers for this work over a typical period of 30-60 days, which includes activities in advance of and following the outage. These workers typically stay in hotels or board with local families, and eat in restaurants,” Korsnick wrote. In the course of performing outages and in routine operations, nuclear plant workers also use PPE and supplies for radiological protection. As the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, the industry will also require medical PPE and supplies to minimize its spread, she said.

Planned Nuclear Refueling Outages in 2020

In 2020, 56 of the nation’s 58 nuclear reactors in 21 states—including several that have issued lockdown measures—planned to undergo refueling outages. At least 31 of the 58 plants had scheduled outages between mid-February and early May. The remaining 25 planned refueling outages between late August and late October. While the average U.S. refueling outage times have shortened in recent years—decreasing from an average of 46 days in 2012 to 32 days in 2019—the 2020 season was poised to be especially busy in part because planned nuclear generation outages are generally timed to coincide with a plant’s refueling cycle.

Table. Expected U.S. Nuclear Plant Refueling Outages in 2020. Courtesy: NEI

Plant

City

State

Company

Approx. Start

1

Browns Ferry

Athens

AL

Tennessee Valley Authority

Mid February

2

Grand Gulf

Port Gibson

MS

Entergy

Mid February

3

Brunswick

Southport

NC

Duke Energy Progress

late February

4

Davis Besse

Oak Harbor

OH

First Energy

Late February

5

Byron

Byron

IL

Exelon

Early March

6

Nine Mile

Oswego

NY

Exelon

Early March

7

Vogtle

Augusta

GA

Southern Nuclear Operating Co.

Early March

8

South Texas Project

Wadsworth

TX

STP Nuclear Operating Co.

Early March

9

Arkansas Nuclear One

Russellville

AR

Entergy

Early March

10

Point Beach

Two Rivers

WI

NextEra (FPL)

Early March

11

Salem

Hancocks Bridge

NJ

PSEG

Early March

12

Fermi

Frenchtown Charter Twp.

MI

DTE Energy

Mid March

13

McGuire

Huntersville

NC

Duke Energy

Mid March

14

Susquehanna

Berwick

PA

Talen Energy

Mid March

15

Sequoyah

Soddy Daisy

TN

Tennessee Valley Authority

Late March

16

Beaver Valley

Shippingport

PA

FirstEnergy

Late March

17

Limerick

Pottstown

PA

Exelon

Late March

18

Quad Cities

Cordova

IL

Exelon

Late March

19

Turkey Point

Florida City

FL

Florida Power & Light

Late March

20

Seabrook

Seabrook

NH

NextEra Energy

Early April

21

Salem

Hancocks Bridge

NJ

PSEG

Early April

22

Palo Verde

Tonopah

AZ

Arizona Public Service Company

Early April

23

Comanche Peak

Glen Rose

TX

Luminant

Early April

24

Ginna

Ontario

NY

Exelon

Early April

25

Oconee

Seneca

SC

Duke Energy

Early April

26

VC Summer

Jenkinsville

SC

Dominion Energy

Early April

27

Millstone

Waterford

CT

Dominion Energy

Early April

28

Braidwood

Braceville

IL

Exelon

Mid April

29

Watts Bar

Spring City

TN

Tennessee Valley Authority

Mid April

30

Catawba

York

SC

Duke Energy

Early May

31

Surry

Surry

VA

Dominion Energy

Early May

32

Indian Point

Buchanan

NY

Entergy

Early May

33

Palisades

Covert

MI

Entergy

Late August

34

North Anna

Mineral

VA

Dominion Energy

Early September

35

Robinson

Hartsville

SC

Duke Energy Progress

Early September

36

Vogtle

Augusta

GA

Southern Nuclear Operating Co.

Early September

37

Fitzpatrick

Oswego

NY

Exelon

Early September

38

Prairie Island

Welch

MN

Northern States Power

Early September

39

DC Cook

Bridgman

MI

AEP

Mid September

40

McGuire

Huntersville

NC

Duke Energy

Mid September

41

Cooper

Brownville

NE

Nebraska Public Power District

Mid September

42

Waterford

Killona

LA

Entergy

Mid September

43

Point Beach

Two Rivers

WI

NextEra (FPL)

Early October

44

Salem

Hancocks Bridge

NJ

PSEG

Early October

45

Palo Verde

Tonopah

AZ

Arizona Public Service Company

Early October

46

Browns Ferry

Athens

AL

Tennessee Valley Authority

Early October

47

Diablo Canyon

Avila Beach

CA

Pacific Gas & Electric

Early October

48

Callaway

Fulton

MO

Ameren

Early October

49

Byron

Byron

IL

Exelon

Early October

50

Turkey Point

Florida City

FL

Florida Power & Light

Early October

51

Farley

Dothan

AL

Southern Nuclear Operating Co.

Early October

52

Comanche Peak

Glen Rose

TX

Luminant

Early October

53

Peach Bottom

Delta

PA

Exelon

Mid October

54

Millstone

Waterford

CT

Dominion Energy

Mid October

55

Watts Bar

Spring City

TN

Tennessee Valley Authority

Mid October

56

Duane Arnold

Palo

IA

NextEra Energy

Late October

 

As of March 25, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), 13 of the U.S.’s 96 commercial nuclear reactors were offline for refueling outages: Indian Point 3, Nine Mile Point 1, Susquehanna 2, Browns Ferry 2, Brunswick 2, McGuire 1, North Anna 2, Turkey Point 4, Vogtle 2, D.C. Cook 1, Perry 1, Point Beach 1, and Quad Cities 1. At least five others were coasting down in preparation for refueling outages: Limerick 2, Salem 1, Byron 2, Monticello, and Comanche Peak 1. The Energy Information Administration (EIA), which compiles data from the NRC into a useful interactive map that shows the status of U.S. nuclear outages, noted that 16.9% of total U.S. nuclear capacity—about 100 GW—was offline as of March 25.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides a useful interactive graphic that shows the current and historic status of U.S. nuclear capacity and outages. This graphic is from March 25, as the industry prepared for several refueling outages scheduled for this spring. According to this data, nuclear plants that were in full outage mode are: Grand Gulf in Mississippi, Fermi in Michigan, and Davis Besse in Ohio, while Harris in North Carolina was operating at only 8%.  Source: EIA

A Compounding  Crisis

The NEI said that across the nuclear fleet precautions are being taken to limit the risks of COVID-19. Among the actions are:

  • Directing employees who don’t feel well to stay home, encouraging them to seek medical attention, and asking for a report on their condition;
  • Excluding personnel who have recently been in countries impacted by the virus;
  • Screening of employees, contractors, and any necessary visitors at the plant gate and, at some
    plants, taking their temperature;
  • Disinfecting surfaces more often;
  • Closing or limiting access to cafeterias and other places employees congregate; and
  • Increasing the number of hand-washing facilities.

Because refueling outages are so critical to the safe and reliable operations of nuclear power plants, the Trump administration should consider several actions that would immediately benefit nuclear owners, operators, and vendors, Korsnick said.

For one, she urged Brouillette to ensure that federal designation of essential workers include workers that support nuclear operations. The Trump administration’s March 19–issued initial list of “essential critical infrastructure workers” broadly includes “workers needed for safe and secure operations at nuclear generation,” but it does not specify whether the extensive list of specialized contract workers needed for outage work are qualified.

Korsnick also urged the administration to allow “unfettered” travel to plants for the performance of essential outage activities. Noting that the workforce is sometimes sourced abroad, she also asked it to “permit international workers who perform highly specialized functions to travel into the U.S. and establish protocols immediately to enable their safe entry.”

To accommodate workers, she also urged the administration to keep open hotel and food services. Finally, she asked for priority for PPE, specifically asking for surgeons’ gloves, sanitized wipes, dust masks, and disposable thermometers—as well as COVID-19 testing kits, and necessary radiological and medical protective equipment and supplies for nuclear workers.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine).

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