Dominion Nuclear CT Reports to Stakeholders

Author note:  This is a post I would normally just write in the Waterford Blog.  However, since Millstone Power Station is the largest Base Load Electricity provider in CT, I thought it might be of interest to readers outside of the Waterford area.

Safety!.  Dan Weekly, the Dominion Northeast Government Affairs Managing Director, started his brief to an invited list of public officials, press, and local leaders with a safety brief pointing out the fire escape routes and actions to take in case of an emergency during the presentation yesterday, December 18, 2008, at the Millstone Simulator Building.  This morning’s New London DAY gives an excellent summary of the meeting. 

Mr. Weekly then explained that all meetings on Millstone Power Station start with such a briefing.  He then noted that the nuclear industry, unlike other industries, has their regulator present at all times.  He then introduced the Senior Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Site Inspector, Steve Schaffer.  The Senior Inspector explained that NRC reps generally stay on site around four years before being transferred.  This allows them to be experienced on the site but not so long in the position that they lose the ‘outsider perspective’ necessary for the inpection task.

Mr. Weekly then gave a brief overview of Corporate Dominion and its presence in New England.  Dominion New England has generation assets of 4,865 Megawatts (MW) in Salem Harbor, MA; Brayton Point, MA (near Cape Cod Canal), and Manchester Street Station in downtown Providence, RI in addition to the 2,040 MW at Millstone Power Station.

Getting back to safety, Mr. Weekly noted that there has been a steady decline in OSHA Recordable Accidents at Millstone since Dominion bought the station in 2001.  In 2007 and thus far in 2008, there were only two recordable incidents.  Both 2008 incidents involved crushed fingers when workers momentarily lost focus on their location and position.  The site goal is to get to zero OSHA Recordable Accidents.

One of the characteristics of Nuclear Power, whether in the Navy or Commercial, is to give high visibility to what went wrong to prevent the error from happening again or to anyone else in the Program.  Millstone Station had four “Challenges” in 2008.

An Unusual Event (the lowest plant warning level) was declared on April 6 when Reactor Coolant System Water backfed into a Reactor Water Storage Tank due to a leaking valve.

An Unusual Event was declared on May 24 when Unit 2 tripped due to an oscillation and loss of offsite power due to a lightning strike.

Unit 2 was taken off line on June 30 when an improper pump configuration in the feedwater heater system caused oscillations in feedwater flow.

Unit 3 missed a Breaker to Breaker run by 1.5 hours after being on line for 512 days when a water flow issue developed while taking Unit 3 offline requiring an immediate shutdown rather than the planned shutdown.

Shifting to the positive, the following accomplishments were noted:

On April 6 Unit 2 completed a 504 day Breaker to Breaker run, the best in the unit’s 30 year histoyr

Transformer upgrades were completed on Unit 2 that will improve reliability.

Technical Training re-accreditation was received.

Unit 2 and Unit 3 Operators achieved 100 percent pass rate on NRC operator fundamentals exam (This is around 25 persons).  This exam is not easy.

In July, Units 2 and 3 completed the special security requirements necessary for the B5b emergency plan.

In a telling graph, Mr. Weekly was pleased to note that Reliability Investments were working.  In the past eight years since buying the plants, Dominion has nearly duplicated the ten  year performance of three plants by Northeast Utilities with just two plants. (15,958,349 Mw from 1986-1995 compared to 15,927,082 Mw from 2000-2008.

In late November 2008, the Unit 3 Reactor Power Uprate was completed.  It took three years to get a 7% increase in power for Unit 3 resulting in an additional 74 Mw on the grid.  This is on top of an earlier turbine upgrade that added about 20 Mw to the outpput of Unit 3.  This is enough power for around 60.000 homes.

The status of the NonPolluting Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit was discussed.  Millstone has been seeking to renew the permit since 1997.  After more than 70 submittals to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) totaling about 7000 pages, a draft permit was issued in December 2007.  The permit has been delayed due to court actions.  A settlement was reached with two of three intervenors in the hearing process.  As a result of that agreement Millstone is moving forward with the permit requirements – ahead of the permit issuance:  Installing variable frequency drives for intake flow that will adjust flow as required for the power level of the plant; Conducting a cooling water alternative study to determine the appropriateness of closed cycle technology refits; A study of fine mesh screen for intakes to attempt to stop even smaller fish larvae but still maintain proper water flow for the reactor; Continuing biological studies of the fish and plants in the vicinity of the plant.

The US Supreme Court held a hearing on December 1, 2008 regarding the Riverkeeper case that may impact the decision to refit to closed cycle cooling.  The ruling is expected in Spring of 2009.  A Public Comment hearing was held by the CT DEP on DEC 4, 2008 and the Hearings will be held in January 2009 wiht a final ruling in late summer or early fall 2009. 

Weekly was quick to point out that refitting the current plants with closed cycle technology would cost in the billions of dollars and would require significent down time of the plants for the modification.  Eight to ten percent of the reactor power output would be lost to support the closed cycle cooling.  Dominion has submitted a time line to the DEP and is awaiting their Comments/Approval.

Some Millstone Power Station Improvement planned for 2009 and 2010 are:  Complete construction on the variable frequency cooling water pump drives; Installation of new transformers on Unit 3 in 2010;  Replacement of the Plant Processor Computer at Unit 3 in 2010; and upgrade the Fuel Transfer Component of Unit 2 in 2009.

The new Site Vice President, Skip Jordan, then gave the group a briefing on his management philosophy.  The course and direction for the site is unchanged.  Safe operation of the units is the number one priority.  Nuclear Safety and Personnel Safety are the most important priorities.  He supports a robust Corrective Action Program.  The site has a talented and dedicated work force.  The site has gotten national recognition for its operator training program.  Dominion supports training local residents at Three Rivers Community College to be operators at the plant or any other nuclear facility.  The Site will continue to be a good corporate neighbor.  Next year will have new challenges.  There is an aging work force and younger workers are needed to replace the retiring operators.  The site needs to improve the conduct of the plant outages and make efforts to lower radiation exposure of workers by better planning and execution.  He is very proud of the Millstone team.

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