November 14, 2005
IEEE Delaware Bay Section meeting 
Location: University of Delaware Trabant Center

The Renewal Of The Nuclear Power Option
Speaker - Richard Lopriore, Senior VP for Mid Atlantic Operations (in charge of Limerick, Peach Bottom and Three Mile Island plants,) Exelon Nuclear

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excelon has about 5.2 million customers, and generates 34,400 megawatts of electric power. They also have 460,000 natural gas customers. 

Excelon is the largest nuclear company in the US. There are 10 nuclear power plant sites, with 17 units, generating 16,750 megawatts or 18% of the US nuclear capacity. These units are running at 93.5% capacity.

UnaCom merged with PECO to form Excelon; soon Excelon will merge with PSEG to form Excelon Electric and Gas.

The big lessons of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and the general economic situation surrounding nuclear power, were that nuclear power operations must be consolidated and standardized to raise the operating practices and training level much higher. As a result of the realization that no more nuclear power plants would be built for many years, the nuclear power industry started a program to find how to operate the existing plants with less downtime and in an "accident free" environment. As a result:

  • The INPO Performance and Indicator Index increased from 75 in 1995 to 96.2 in 2005.
  • The unit capability increased from 63% in 1980 to 91% in 2005.
  • The unplanned capability loss factor decreased from 11% in 1980 to 2% in 2005.
  • The unplanned automatic scram incidents decreased from 7.3/7000 hours in 1980 to 1/7000 hours in 2005.
  • The system safety performance increased from 70% in 1989 to 97% in 2005.
  • The collective radiation exposure was 859 man-rems in 1980, reduced to 120 in 2005.
As a result of these and other advances, the generating capacity from the existing nuclear power plants was effectively doubled; for Excelon, the improvements added, in effect, 23 additional 1000 megawatt units.

In August 2005, the US Energy Bill put Nuclear Power in the energy plan. At present, Excelon has no plans to build a new nuclear plant, but is preserving a nuclear option. 

The attractiveness of the nuclear option is that it does not generate CO2 emissions. If we generate the additional power we need from coal or oil, and add the nuclear plants that are shut down due to age, these emissions will reach unacceptable levels within the next 20 years.

Challenges that face the nuclear option are:
  • A way to maintain a base load condition must be developed. 
  • The spent fuel problem has been solved technically, but not politically. 
  • Regulations must be improved.
  • Lack of advanced power plant designs due to US inactivity.
  • Public confidence must be restored.
  • The nuclear infra-structure must be re-established.
  • There must be acceptable financial returns to stimulate desire to build additional plants.
The procedure to license a nuclear plant has been greatly improved. Before, a plant was licensed after construction completed. This would not normally be a problem, but the rallying cry for the public was to prevent a license from being issued, creating long delays (years) before the license to operate was given. Now, the license is issued before start of construction, so the plant can start up as soon as finished. 

One new design that looks promising is the AP1000; this design incorporates a minimum of pumps, uses gravity and less seismic building volume. See http://www.ap1000.westinghousenuclear.com/

The new emphasis on nuclear energy may result in a new plant by 2010.