US operators identify $650 million savings; Exelon partners UK new build project

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Nuclear operators must improve competitiveness amid rising gas-fired and renewable energy capacity. (Image credit: Vencavolrab)

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US nuclear operators identify $650 million efficiency savings

The U.S. nuclear industry has identified $650 million in potential savings since the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEIs) launched its Delivering the Nuclear Promise (DNP) program a year ago, Maria Korsnick, NEI President, said February 9.

In an annual Wall Street briefing, Korsnick said over a thousand staff across the industry have collaborated to develop 46 "efficiency bulletins" targeting improvements in all aspects of operations.

"To date, over 95% of these measures are being implemented, reflecting the commitment to continuous improvement. We are just getting started," she said.

The DNP program aims to cut industrywide operating costs by 30% by 2018. Average nuclear generation costs rose by 26% between 2002 and 2015 and efficiency gains are needed to improve competitiveness against gas-fired production and rising renewable energy capacity.

                              US nuclear plant costs (2015 $/MWh)

Source: Electric utility cost group

Exelon partners with UK new build project

Exelon Generation, the US's largest nuclear fleet operator, is to provide engineering, maintenance and operations expertise to Horizon, the consortium planning to build a 2.7 GW power station in Wales, UK.

Hitachi-owned Horizon plans to build two advanced boiling water reactors at Wylfa Newydd, Wales by the mid-2020s and plans a further 2.7 GW of capacity at Oldbury, West England.

"With its proven expertise and decades of experience, Exelon will be a vital part of our success. Alongside our own expert people, they will form a team that will ready us to successfully run Wylfa Newydd even as we continue to progress towards its construction," Duncan Hawthorne, Chief Executive Officer of Horizon, said.

“We look forward to expanding our presence in the UK and leveraging Exelon’s proven nuclear management model and exceptional workforce to advance operational excellence around the globe,” Mike Pacilio, Exelon Generation's Chief Operating Officer, said.

Exelon Generation operates 22 reactors at 13 nuclear facilities in Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and New Jersey, representing a total capacity of 19.5 GW. Eight of Exelon’s nuclear facilities use boiling water reactors.

SMR group urges congress to provide loans, tax credits from 2018

U.S. Congress should allocate new funding from fiscal 2018 for public-private partnerships which support the development and supply chain for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), industry group SMR Smart said in a policy document published February 14.

The SMR Licensing Technical Support (LTS) program should be expanded to include design and engineering, including design finalization and regulatory approval of SMR technologies and facilities, it said.

Last month, NuScale became the first SMR developer to submit its full Design Certification Application (DCA) to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In 2013, the Department of Energy (DoE) awarded NuScale up to $217 million over five years through a cost share program, to support the development, licensing and commercialization of its technology.

"The SMR LTS program should be increased to continue providing 50-50 cost share for two or more SMR designs and several initial facilities, and be available through 2025," SMR Smart said.

"This program funding should be structured to accommodate participants that are following diverse regulatory approaches and pathways to market development," it said.

SMR Smart was formed in early 2016 to support SMR development and build U.S. export potential. Members include Areva, Bechtel, BWXT, Dominion, Duke Energy, Energy Northwest, Fluor, Holtec International, NuScale Power, Ontario Power Generation, PSEG Nuclear, Southern Nuclear, TVA, and UAMPS.

The federal government should also introduce an SMR commercial deployment program which would provide a combination of post-2020 Production Tax Credits (PTCs), Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and loan guarantees for SMR plants, the industry group said.

Extension of PTCs beyond the 2020 expiration date would stimulate SMR deployment and these should be transferable from public owners to non-public project participants, it said.

"PPAs should be “scored” such that the federal budgets are impacted annually instead of the entire PPA value being “scored” in the year the PPA is entered," the group said.

Loan guarantees would support design and construction of SMR facilities as well as SMR component manufacturing facilities, it said.

In addition, an SMR Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for manufacturing facilities would help build a robust U.S. supply chain for domestic SMR plants and export of US-made components, SMR Smart said.

Funding should also be provided to the DOE to support innovative SMR applications such as load following, power for industrial process heat, desalination or water purification, and cogeneration applications, it said.

The DOE and Department of Defence should also work to gather to develop SMR-powered microgrids, capable of operating independent of the main transmission network, to improve reliability and resiliency for selected federal facilities, the industry group said.

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