April 11, 2014 | 10:46 am

Nuclear Components Riding the Bull for Seismic Testing

Bucking the challenge at up to 20g’s, the nuclear components from U.S. utilities strive to survive the gyrations of AREVA’s 7-ton seismic shake table.

The centrepiece of AREVA’s Seismic/Vibration Lab, the 10′ x 10′ electro-hydraulic multi-axial 7-ton shake table is capable of testing nuclear components weighing up to 10 tons at a maximum of 100 Hz with peak acceleration from 5- to 20-g, dependent on the item’s mass.

As seen in this video showing two test blocks (total mass ~10,000 lbs.) riding the shake table, AREVA’s component testing can include the powerful earthquake ground movement of greatest concern to utilities, regulators, and communities. 

The Seismic/Vibration Lab is just one section of AREVA’s U.S. Technical Center located in the AREVA Solutions Complex, one of the largest collection of nuclear testing and service offerings for commercial grade dedication (CGD) and innovative testing capabilities in the United States.

As noted by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI),

“All nuclear power plants in the United States are designed and built to stringent seismic standards appropriate for the region in which they are located. Earthquake safety standards are more stringent for nuclear energy facilities than for any other type of infrastructure.

The nuclear energy industry continues to take steps to enhance the safety of America’s reactors. As part of the response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s post-Fukushima requirements, companies that operate nuclear energy facilities are re-evaluating the earthquake potential at their sites using the latest data and methodologies.”

Surviving the bull ride atop AREVA’s shake table is one way to test safety-related components, and help U.S. nuclear power facilities remain a safe, reliable, and bountiful clean energy source of electricity to power America’s industry, hospitals, and homes.

April 9, 2014 | 9:38 am

Rencheck: Nuclear energy crucial to New England

By Mike Rencheck, CEO, AREVA Inc. North AmericaAreva Inc. CEO Mike Rencheck

This op-ed originally appeared in the Providence Journal, March 31, 2014.

Since the beginning of the year, cities across the country have experienced unusually frigid temperatures and severe winter weather on several occasions. Along with this cold comes an increase in energy demand as heating systems are forced to work overtime to keep homes and businesses warm. While other energy sources often struggle to keep up with this demand, nuclear energy facilities have proven their ability to reliably meet it, providing much-needed stability to the energy grid and power to our homes and businesses.

In fact, a Jan. 7 article in the Hartford Business Journal noted that nuclear energy was New England’s top source of electricity when the polar vortex swirled through the region in early January and natural gas power plants struggled to keep up with the demand. I expect we’ll see nuclear energy facilities rise to the challenge once again when we look back on this most recent bout of cold temperatures.

With our need for energy growing, not just during cold weather snaps, we need a reliable, diverse energy mix that prioritizes low-carbon energy sources to improve public health and reduce emissions. Nuclear energy currently accounts for approximately 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 63.3 percent of emissions-free electricity.

Increased energy grid stability and reliability are some of the more well-known benefits of nuclear energy, but its positive contributions to public health are too often overlooked. In fact, last year NASA scientists James Hansen and Pushker Kharecha published a study that found that global nuclear power has prevented an average of 1.8 million air pollution-related deaths that would otherwise have resulted from the burning of fossil fuels. Hansen and Kharecha noted that, if nuclear energy technologies replaced fossil fuels on a large scale, that number could grow to 7 million lives saved over the next 40 years.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, nuclear energy facilities avoided the equivalent production of 570 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 in the United States. This is nearly equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide that is released annually from 110 million cars. As the only reliable, round-the-clock, base load source for generating large amounts of low-carbon energy, nuclear energy needs to play a greater role in U.S. energy policy.

As we increasingly turn to nuclear energy to help us safely and reliably power our homes and business today and into the future, the industry is also investing in building the next generation of nuclear energy facilities and extending the operations of the existing reactor fleet. At AREVA Inc., we refer to this as the daily renewal of nuclear energy.

During the past 30 years, the more than 100 existing U.S. nuclear reactors and tens of thousands of American nuclear energy professionals have not sat idle. In fact, their work has led to the increased output of the existing fleet while maintaining safe and secure operations. The industry accomplished this by continually upgrading technology and capabilities, and those activities continue today. For instance, AREVA Inc. has successfully completed the installation of a digital instrumentation and control system at a U.S. nuclear energy facility. This advanced technology modernizes the equipment of the current nuclear fleet, which improves plant safety, reliability and longevity.

To have reliable and affordable electricity, we need a diverse mix of energy sources here in the United States. Nuclear energy has proven to be a reliable source of energy that not only has the ability to operate continuously when we need it most, but also helps provide for a healthier future. Domestic nuclear energy should play a more significant role in U.S. energy policy, and it’s time for our policymakers to take action to support an energy source that provides for both energy stability and reliability while protecting our public health.

Mike Rencheck is president and chief executive officer of AREVA Inc., a company involved in nuclear energy and other low-carbon power generation.

April 1, 2014 | 4:41 pm

Five Letters to the Obama Administration (and a Russian report) Raise Concerns about Stopping MOX Project

GrahamScottLtrA combination of concerns about nuclear nonproliferation, recent actions by Russia, proposed budget reallocation by the Obama Administration, and the unsupported declaration of “cold-standby” status for the MOX Project by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Moniz prompted a surge of questions from seven senators and more than 20 Congressional representatives, the Chair of the DOE-designated Community Reuse Organization for the Savannah River Site, the president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, suppliers and others.

In a recent letter to President Obama following the announcement of securing 700 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium from Japan, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stated,

“While we understand the need to secure vulnerable materials, we remain extremely concerned about the reckless decision in your Fiscal Year 2015 budget that abandons the Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) program at the Savannah River Site (SRS) that is intended to turn weapons grade plutonium in to usable fuel for commercial power reactors. Your Administration has failed to propose any alternative to the MOX program, which if shuttered will abandon 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium in South Carolina and Texas for an indefinite period of time while the Federal government pays hundreds of millions of dollars in fines to the state … The completion of MOX facility is paramount to the United States upholding the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) with Russia to dispose of a total of 68 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium- 2 14 times the size of the agreement with Japan.”

Additional concerns were emphasized in a letter from 21 Members of Congress to Secretary Moniz about the potentially significant national security risks incurred by the Administration’s proposed actions,

“At a time when The Administration is attempting to negotiate a nuclear nonproliferation agreement with Iran, defaulting on our own agreement sends a conflicting message to the international community. Additionally, halting progress on MOX will allow Russia to discontinue efforts towards disposing of their material. This could prove dangerous for our allies around the world and jeopardize our own national security as environmental cleanup of the plutonium at SRS would be stymied.”

… and the appropriate use of Congressionally approved funding for completing the 60% constructed MOX Project facility without redirecting the money for placing the project on cold-standby,

“The funds were not authorized or appropriated for cold standby, and we request they be used only for construction as Congress intended. We are concerned that the intent of Congress is being ignored and as a result we may see a usurpation of Congress’ power of the purse.”

Prior to the recent international Nuclear Safety Summit at The Hague, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) discussed with Secretary of State John Kerry (video) the potential negative impacts to America’s global nonproliferation leadership if the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget proposal to Congress minimally funds the MOX Project and subjects the project to “cold-standby” stagnation while re-examining previously discarded options.

A recent report by the Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies based in Russia clearly describes as unacceptable the Obama Administration’s consideration of alternative options to the agreed upon MOX process,

“It is evident that the eventual repudiation by the American side of the previously agreed upon method of plutonium disposition will have an influence on the implementation of the PMDA Agreement …  Immobilization does not guarantee full irreversibility since mixing plutonium with radioactive waste does not change its isotopic composition and does not exclude in principle the possibility of plutonium extraction from the mixture … A deviation from one of the basic provisions of the Agreement would hardly find a positive response from Russian experts who always asserted that a real weapon grade plutonium disposition is possible only through its irradiation in MOX fuel of civilian nuclear reactors thus assuring an irreversible withdrawal from weapon’s program.”

Five county officials in the MOX Project region stated strong reservations in a letter to Secretary Moniz about the Administration pursuing undefined alternative options other than honoring the mixed oxide process detailed in our agreement with Russia, and the ongoing weapons-grade plutonium security risks to their region from perpetuated storage.

“However, down-blending through H-canyon currently does not meet the definition of “disposition” in the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement. Thus, to make down-blending acceptable, U.S. negotiators will have to get that concession agreed to by the Russians. Clearly, all of this will take time, which means the plutonium will remain in its current dangerous form longer and be stored in our state and region longer.”

… and questions the Department of Energy’s undefined and undisclosed calculation of overall lifecycle cost for our nation’s plutonium disposal program and its application to the single program segment represented by the MOX Project.

“DOE officials assert the current “life cycle costs” analysis indicates the project is unsustainably expensive and less expensive alternatives will be evaluated. However, to our knowledge, DOE has not provided specific documentation to identify less-expensive options nor provided timelines to demonstrate a new alternative would remove plutonium from South Carolina faster than the current MOX program. Furthermore, documentation of life-cycle costs has not been made available to stakeholders. This seemingly contradicts the Administration’s strong stance on transparency.”

The MOX Project is designed to permanently change 34 tons of U.S. surplus weapons-grade plutonium into safe, stable, and secure nuclear reactor fuel to reliably power American industry, hospitals, and homes. By processing this 34 tons of plutonium into 1,000-plus nuclear reactor fuel assemblies, the MOX Project output would represent more than $20 billion worth of electricity (enough power for 15 million homes for a year) and create more than 4,000 American jobs.

U.S. utilities have expressed an interest in receiving MOX nuclear fuel, but inaction by the Department of Energy has stymied progress in this area, as described in this letter to Secretary Moniz by Dr. Winsor, Board Chair of the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO) – the U. S. Department of Energy’s designated Community Reuse Organization for the Savannah River Site (SRS).

“A theme constantly used by those opposed to MOX is the lack of a commercial customer for the MOX fuel. The real story is that several of America’s largest nuclear operators have expressed interest in MOX fuel. However, the MOX contractor is unable to complete any commercial contracts until DOE signs the Commercial Agreement (also known as the Master Fuel Contract) that allows the negotiation of sales prices, terms and conditions. Bona fide negotiations of this Commercial Agreement, between NNSA and the MOX contractor, were completed more than a year ago, but DOE has provided no reasons why the Agreement has not yet been signed to date.”

The U.S. nuclear industry also encourages the Administration to honor its signed commitments with Russia and the American people to complete the MOX Project and demonstrate its ability to fulfill its obligations. As stated in this letter by NEI president Marv Fertel,

“To cancel, suspend or simply reduce funding for the project will, unfortunately, validate those critics of the Department of Energy who claim it simply cannot complete complex projects, particularly those concerning nuclear materials disposition. Unfortunately, DOE’s history with this and other large complex projects does not instill confidence in the commercial industry that the MOX program will be able to deliver commercial fuel to utilities on an agreed-to schedule. However, DOE can and should begin to reverse this trend, and begin to restore confidence by following through with the construction and operation of the MOX facility on a set schedule.”

Taken together, these letters provide a comprehensive perspective on the value of MOX Project, the negative impact of a “cold-standby” status, and the many benefits achieved by its completion as originally defined, approved, contracted, and funded by Congress and the Administration.

March 26, 2014 | 3:22 pm

AREVA Continues Leading Nuclear Plants into the Digital Age

TelepermXSIn December 2013, AREVA Inc. set another benchmark for the U.S. nuclear industry with the third successful installation of a comprehensive Digital Instrumentation & Control (I&C) upgrade system.  Most importantly, the project was completed as promised–safely and on schedule.

AREVA’s TELEPERM® XS digital I&C system enables state-of-the-art digital processing of functions for Reactor Protection System (RPS) and Engineered Safeguards Protection Systems (ESPS). Including this recent installation, 80 TELEPERM® XS systems have been supplied or are currently installed in 14 different reactor designs across 16 countries.

By incorporating lessons learned from the first two U.S. installations and a continuous improvement culture, our dedicated team of professionals focused on AREVA’s four Pillars of Excellence–safety, quality, performance, and delivery–and expertly delivered this most recent I&C safety innovation.

Our utility customer’s multi-year vision and foresight now translates into enhanced safety and reliability for its nuclear energy facility. The first two installations at the site–completed in 2011 and 2012–have been operating as designed with no issues while minimizing previous operator burdens with surveillances. Last year, our customer’s TELEPERM® XS Digital I&C upgrade won the 2012 NEI Top Industry Practice Award for Vision and Leadership and the Best of the Best Award. The year prior, AREVA’s digital I&C installation won Platt’s Award for Engineering Project of the Year.

You can learn more about AREVA’s journey to address plant reliability and obsolescence in a recent Electric Light & Power article, Leading Nuclear Plants into the Digital Age.

March 18, 2014 | 1:12 pm

More on CHT’s Robust UX-30 Nuclear Transport Overpack

CHT-UX-30The importance of customers using CHT’s robust UX-30 nuclear transport overpack was reinforced during a recent shipping incident. Despite the more than 5,000-pound load being dropped several feet, CHT’s stainless steel, double-hulled UX-30 overpack securely sheltered the internal Model 30B uranium hexafluoride cylinders and maintained the sealed integrity of its containment. Uranium hexafluoride is designated as a Class 7 hazardous material.

AREVA-subsidiary CHT manufactures UX-30 UF6 overpacks at its North Carolina factory to the highest standards of durability, reliability and strength for the nuclear shipment of Model 30B Uranium Hexafluoride cylinders. The overpack design incorporates a tough closed-cell polyurethane foam and stainless steel construction with proven strength for shipping and protecting UF6 cylinders. The UX-30 overpack is licensed for domestic use in the United States and has been validated for global use.

Learn more about CHT’s robust nuclear transport technology.

March 17, 2014 | 4:34 pm

Earth Day 2014: #Atoms4Earth Contest

Guest post by Suzy Baker, Nuclear Literacy Project

Clean Air Saves LivesTo celebrate Earth Day, the Nuclear Literacy Project is excited to introduce a nuclear themed meme-making competition. We are inviting individuals, groups, clubs, organizations and corporations to create and submit homemade Internet memes inspired by the intersections of nuclear energy, the environment and social justice.

We will collect all of the memes shared under the hashtag #Atoms4Earth. The memes will be judged based on the quality of the image and message, as well as viral reach on the web. Each week a different guest judge will choose their favorite meme and the winner will be announced on the Nuclear Literacy Project blog (nuclearliteracy.org/). The winners will each receive a prize courtesy of AREVA (thanks AREVA, y’all are awesome!). Prizes will be super cool atomic inspired artwork or wearables. The grand prizewinner will be announced on Earth Day (4/22/2014).

We urge participants to create inspiring, humorous and educational memes. Environmentally and human focused imagery and messaging are also appropriate for the Earth Day meme theme. When the memes are placed online, they should be linked to the science that supports the message and the creators should be acknowledged- along with the hash tag #Atoms4Earth, so we can easily find your work!

More on Internet Memes

“What exactly is an Internet meme?” you may be wondering …

An Internet meme is a simple image paired with a simple message, designed for travel on the web. A single meme can quickly reach thousands upon thousands of individuals through social media. Memes are also often linked to an article or study that supports their message.

Please only use open source imagery or imagery that you have permission to use. There are hosts of tools for free online. You can use one of our images to get started.

SO! In short, here’s what to do:

1)     Find a great image. Create a cool message. Make your meme!

2)     Tweet it to us under the hashtag #Atoms4Earth, or post to our Facebook page, along with your name and affiliation, if you are representing a group or company.

3)     Share your meme with all of your friends on social media & we will too!

4)     Wait for the following Tuesday to find out if you’ve won the weekly prize! Winners will be announced on Twitter and Facebook.

5)     Check back in on Earth Day to see if you’ve won the grand prize

Good Luck and Happy (almost) Earth Day!!

March 17, 2014 | 10:59 am

Congressman Wilson and Secretary of State Kerry Discuss Concern with Insufficient MOX Project Funding

We appreciate the concern expressed by Secretary Kerry last week for the broader international implications of walking away from the U.S. nonproliferation commitment to permanently dispose of surplus nuclear weapon-grade plutonium through the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF), generally called the MOX Project.

As shown in the video below, Secretary Kerry was responding to information provided by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) about the Obama Administration’s FY 2015 budget proposal to Congress to minimally fund the more than 60% constructed MFFF, subjecting the project to “cold-standby” stagnation while re-examining previously considered options.

This uncertainty in our nonproliferation agreement with Russia comes at a sensitive time in world affairs, especially since it heightens the juxtaposition with the fourth anniversary of the nonproliferation protocol signed between then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the first Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010. This protocol amending the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) of 2000 specifies that the United States will dispose of no less than 34 metric tons of surplus weapon plutonium by irradiating the plutonium as MOX fuel in nuclear power reactors.

The proposed MFFF cold-standby places into question the U.S. commitment to global nuclear nonproliferation only a week before the Administration leads the international summit on nuclear nonproliferation and terrorism at the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague, March 24-25. President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among the world leaders scheduled to participate. Abandoning the MOX Project will leave the U.S. with no timely cost-efficient alternative to honor the nonproliferation agreement. Selecting another option that does not honor the PMDA will require the U.S. to renegotiate with Russia.

Congressman Wilson and at least seven U.S. Senators have recognized that—to honor our existing nonproliferation commitment—we must complete the MOX Project.

March 14, 2014 | 10:08 am

NGNP Alliance and NC2I Discuss Commercialization of AREVA’s Gen-IV HTGR

AREVA HTGR Information KitThe output of next-generation nuclear reactors can do much more than just generate electricity. In partnership with the U.S.-based NGNP Alliance, the international organization NC2I is considering an AREVA-designed Gen-IV prismatic core, modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) concept as a powerful, low-emissions energy source for industrial steam processes.

The European Union has a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a major element of that commitment is the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP) program considering three nuclear energy applications, including the “Nuclear Cogeneration Industrial Initiative.”  This initiative explores GHG reductions in areas other than electricity generation, such as industrial process heat, district heating, and desalination.

The NC2I selected the HTGR as its preferred approach because of the concept reactor’s high temperature process heat capability and its intrinsic safe operating processes, allowing collocation with industrial facilities.

As stated in the news release announcing the selection,

“[They] met last week to discuss collaboration opportunities to development and commercialize a Generation IV, intrinsically safe nuclear high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technology that can be used for cogeneration of process heat and electricity, displacing other fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases they cause.”

By sharing technical progress through this collaboration, we may be able to reach these industrial and environmental goals more economically.

Along with other leading global companies, AREVA is an active member of the NGNP Alliance and NC2I.

Read the NGNP Alliance release: International Industry Organizations Meet to Collaborate on Intrinsically Safe Nuclear Reactor Technology

February 28, 2014 | 5:48 pm

AREVA Richland Employees Contribute 100+ Hours To STEM Ed

by Duriem Calderin, Engineer, AREVA Inc.

North America Young Generation Nuclear employees in Richland participated as judges in Delta High School’s Science Fair held Feb. 19. Pictured are Steve Evans, John Fleming, Alex Bowman and Duriem Calderin.

North America Young Generation Nuclear employees in Richland participated as judges in Delta High School’s Science Fair held Feb. 19. Pictured are Steve Evans, John Fleming, Alex Bowman and Duriem Calderin.

Over the past year AREVA employees and local NA-YGN AREVA Chapter at the Richland, WA, site have been actively supporting the STEM education program (science, technology, Engineering, Math) at DELTA High School. This school is highly recognized in the Tri-Cities by its commitment to developing students and engaging them in STEM careers from an early age.

AREVA employees have partnered with DELTA High School in Richland to offer mentorship and to participate as judges in school-wide engineering and science fair projects. It is estimated by the end of 2014, AREVA employees will have contributed a total of 260 volunteer hours to the STEM educational programs.

The main contributors in organizing these events at the AREVA site in Richland are Jim Tolar and Scott Adair, NA-YGN outreach community chair.

Tolar said that this program is very important to AREVA because, “It is [also] a way to get the community to recognize that AREVA is here in the community and is part of the community for the long run.”

DELTA high school principal, Jenny Rodriquez, has thanked AREVA employees for their ongoing commitment to STEM education. She especially thanked the group of young professional engineers coming from NAYGN to participate at these events.

“Interactions with the NAYGN group have increased visibility of young professionals, especially engineers, allowing our students to see themselves entering STEM fields in the near future,” she said.

Rodriquez also said that AREVA’s commitment to giving back to the community will have short and long-term benefits for the company. “The benefits to AREVA for participation in this partnership are both short-term, such as the excitement generated in staff by sharing their profession with young people,” she said, “and long-term, such as the connection to qualified interns and future employees.”

Read more STEM blog posts.

 

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February 25, 2014 | 10:34 am

Diversity in Innovation Creates Opportunity

By Mike Rencheck, CEO, AREVA Inc. North America

Mike Rencheck, CEO, AREVA Inc. North AmericaAmerica has observed and celebrated African-American culture and heritage throughout the month of February since 1976. The origins date back to a week-long celebration in 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, The celebration reminds us of the importance of continuing to learn from our history, honoring the contribution of those who have guided our country toward greater equality and opportunity. We draw inspiration from their creativity, innovation, and pursuit of better ways of doing and being.

It’s with this spirit that we recognize the contribution of diversity in National Engineer’s Week.

Celebrated the third week in February, it was founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951 to raise awareness of the contribution of engineers and the opportunities available via engineering career paths. At the intersection of African-American history month and National Engineer’s Week is the opportunity for businesses to recognize and engage the talents and perspectives of diverse communities in building a competitive workforce.

At AREVA, of our current entry level engineers, 41% of our employees are women or minorities, and we’re continuing to build on this solid foundation. From engaging with Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Morgan State University, to partnering with on-campus engineering societies including the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in our recruiting efforts, we are aligning our talent management strategies with our sustainable and diverse workforce objectives.

As a forward-looking energy company, our recognition that by 2016, 39% of the nuclear energy workforce will be eligible for retirement has long fueled outreach to grade schools and colleges to spark interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career paths. On the local level, last week, AREVA employees at sites across the U.S. celebrated National Engineer’s Week through community and classroom outreach, with an emphasis on bringing greater awareness of engineering and STEM career pathways to schools like Druid Hills Academy near our headquarters in Charlotte, NC, and “The Governor’s STEM Academy” near our “Operational Center of Excellence” for products and services in Lynchburg, VA.

As an Ambassador for the Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy initiative, I believe it is our responsibility to invest in younger generations, creating opportunity and supporting diversity as a driver of innovation and prosperity for the future, critical to both our companies and communities.

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