Tuesday, November 14, 2006
IEEE Delaware Bay Section Meeting

Tour: Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant-The Control Simulator Facility
Location: Delta, Pennsylvania

Gordon Lipsey, chair of the Delaware Bay Section Power Engineering/Industrial Applications Chapter, arranged the tour of the Peach Bottom Nuclear plant, located upriver of the Conowingo Dam. These tours have changed since we last toured a nuclear plant, pre 9/11/2001. We can now only tour the non-operational part of the plant. In this case, we toured the training area which included a simulator of the control room. Our Exelon Peach Bottom Plant hosts were April Schlipp, Tony Franchetti, Gopi Mehrotra, and plant manager, Joe Grimes. 

The Peach Bottom plant started as an experimental high temperature gas cooled reactor in 1966. This is currently unit 1. Units 2 and 3 were added in 1974, and are boiling water reactors. The operating license has been extended to 2033. 

This site is part of the Excelon business unit, which is the nation's largest nuclear company and third largest in the world. There were 17 nuclear units for 142.3 million megawatt hours in 2004. 

The Salem plant in New Jersey is not part of this unit. Excelon operates Salem, but it is owned by PSEG. 

Unit 2 has been on line for 35 days since the last shutdown. One unit is shut down every two years to replace one-third of the fuel. Unit 3 has been on line for 393 days. The shutdowns now last about 20 days, compared to 80 days twenty years ago. 

Security was very evident around the site. The force is paramilitary plus, and uses a percentage of former military personnel. 

Nuclear waste storage is currently on site pending the outcome of the continuing discussion about where and how waste can be stored long term. 

Uranium fuel comes from processing sites in Texas, Oklahoma and Canada. The fuel is made into the fuel rods at other sites; Peach Bottom's rods come from GE in Wilmington, N.C. 

There has not been a new nuclear plant in the U.S. for many years. One reason has been that the permitting process has been too arduous. One costly element was that the permitting process could not start until the plant was ready to go on line, then could take up to two years to complete. Recent changes in this process are that design approval and much of the permit process is done before plant construction is started. 

Photos of the tour show the IEEE group in the classroom for discussion prior to the tour of the simulator. The simulator is used to train and re-certify plant operators. As one might expect, a key element of the activity is to present emergency conditions to the trainees, then record and certify the responses.