The commercial nuclear power is a high technology industry that must strive for continuous improvement in our products and services - our customers demand this of us and we must require it of ourselves. This applies to everything we do from design, manufacturing, and project management of our fuel and services businesses to development of our future offerings. Resting on our laurels and complacency will result in loss of customer confidence and ultimately loss of market share.
In the new reactor arena, investing in the future is a long-term proposition. Typically, bringing a new plant design to market is a 10 year or more endeavor, with costs in excess of one-half billion US dollars. These types of undertakings cannot be pursued lightly; they take a real commitment to the future. This is what Westinghouse has done time after time even when there was no foreseeable market on the horizon. A good example is our investment in passive plant technology. We did this starting in the mid-1980s with our AP600 design and continued this in the late 1990s with our AP1000 design. Only recently, with the world enthusiasm for new nuclear plants is there feedback that our investment was well spent. It took a strong commitment to the future of the nuclear industry to make these levels of investment without strong encouragement from our customers. The payoff can be seen now, however, with our AP1000 design already certified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has led to a large fraction of US nuclear utilities selecting this design in their future nuclear expansion planning.
Westinghouse is at it again. We are investing in a Generation III+ design, IRIS, and a Generation IV design, PBMR, with a view to the future. We are predicting that the impending global expansion of nuclear energy will go beyond the traditional nuclear markets to other countries and broader missions. We believe that developing countries with smaller capacity demands will want smaller modular reactors. We believe that process heat applications will emerge, including conversion of coal-to-liquid fuels and hydrogen generation. In all of this, Westinghouse continues to invest in the future to retain our technology leadership in the global nuclear industry.
Investment in the Future
Future success in the marketplace requires investment in people, processes, and technology. Ignoring any element of this important triad restricts the ability of a company to prepare for future success. Of these three investments, people are the most important and the most difficult to sustain in a non-growth industry. Unfortunately, over the past couple of decades the nuclear industry has not been viewed by college students as an exciting place to build a career. The growth potential was considered nil and it appeared that existing operating plants had a short lifetime. It is encouraging that this situation has changed dramatically in the past couple of years. Almost monthly a new announcement by a power company of its plans to build new nuclear power plants appears in the media. Some prestigious environmentalists have recently gone public regarding the benefits of nuclear in addressing greenhouse gas emissions.
On the flip side of this, the nuclear industry has been lean on investment in people over the past few decades. A large fraction of the work force entered the industry at the same time in the 1970s and these engineers are now in the twilight of their careers. Since the overall growth of business has been small-to-none, additions of people have generally not been made except for a few to fill specific skill gaps, resulting in the overall demographics being skewed toward higher ages.
Westinghouse was fortunate in the late 1990s: we recognized the imperative of starting to rebuild our workforce for the future. We started small with approximately 50 new hires per year and grew to over 500 per year by 2005. Organic growth in our business provided just enough incentive for about half of these new hires; retirements addressed the other half. In total, we have hired over 2000 new staff in the past five years and it appears that the trend will continue at these levels for the foreseeable future.
Westinghouse has initiated a broad based Customer 1st program throughout the company. This program is designed to transform the way we do business. It consists of three main elements: operational excellence, customer intimacy, and technology leadership. In the operational excellence area we focus on (1) world-class environmental, health and safety; (2) flawless execution of projects; (3) cost competitiveness of our products and services; and (4) development and maintenance of critical skills. In the customer intimacy area we focus on (1) behavioral differentiation and (2) creating success for our customers. Finally, in the technology leadership area we focus on (1) developing leading technical solutions and (2) innovation. In total, our Customer 1st program represents our company strategy supporting our customers to make them successful and thereby make Westinghouse successful.
The other major program that falls into the category of process improvements is our Innovation Program. In this program, we use the concepts of customer needs, development drivers and scenarios planning to define a set of "Future Points". We obtain customer needs from direct interactions with our customer at all levels and through a Customer Technology Advisory Council, which meets twice a year to review our research & development program and provide advice on our direction. Development drivers come from industry issues that have emerged, e.g., materials degradation, or from the directions we see technical issues evolving over time. Scenario planning takes several potential paths to the future, e.g., breakthrough new nuclear technologies, and tries to discern the implications on our business and what products we might need for this scenario. The "Future Points" approach attempts to look 10 to 15 years into the future for the key factors or requirements that are critical to the success of our business and defines in what state we might want to have a specific product at that time. We then plan in the backwards direction to determine the milestones and development efforts that are required to achieve this "Future Point".
To facilitate innovative ideas getting into the pipeline, we have an interactive website that allows any employee to enter an idea and others to amplify or comment upon it. All ideas are screened in a short time and dispositioned by a review committee. Some might get seed funding to explore the idea to a point where its potential can be determined. Others might be passed to a specific business unit for their action. Still others might be discarded because they are not feasible or have already been pursued elsewhere. Communications of good ideas and successes are accomplished by an electronic bulletin board and through our periodic Innovate publication.
Westinghouse has been involved in nuclear energy technology for over seventy years. Some of the key milestones in this long history are:
• first industrial atom smasher built (1937);
• nuclear plant powers the world’s first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus (1953);
• first commercial nuclear power plant built at Shippingport (1957);
• first advanced passive plant licensed by US NRC (1999);
• half the world's operating nuclear power plants are based on Westinghouse designs.
The development of a new advanced reactor system takes both a long time and a great deal of money. It requires a strong commitment to the future and a belief that the benefits of nuclear power as an emissions free source of nuclear energy will be essential for the well being of mankind (and will eventually be credited financially for this by policy makers) and therefore will experience a new Renaissance. This is what Westinghouse has done for many decades and what it will continue to do in the future. Currently, Westinghouse has three advanced reactors in its portfolio for the future: (1) the AP1000 advanced passive plant, (2) the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), and (3) the International Reactor Innovative and Secure (IRIS). Each of these technologies is an excellent example of Westinghouse's investment in new plant technology for the future.
AP1000 Standard Plant
The long road to bringing the advanced passive AP1000 technology to the marketplace started in 1985 with the initial conceptual design of a smaller version, the AP600, at the encouragement of our customers. Their broad experience in fossil power plants indicated that a good size of capacity addition was on the order of 600 MWe (or possibly smaller) to match their rate of load growth, keep individual investments smaller, and to easily fit into the grid with only minor disruptions if the plant were to trip off line. This opinion was further articulated as the EPRI Advanced Light Water Utility Requirements was formulated with very specific attributes demanded for this technology by the participating power companies.
The principal characteristics of the advanced passive plant are:
• Significantly simplified design with fewer components,
• Use of passive safety systems with no reliance on AC power, and
• Extensive use of modular construction techniques.
Figure 1 shows the AP1000 safety systems which are all included inside the containment structure.
In the EPRI program, high value was placed not only on safety, but on reliability of power product, ease of maintenance, and operability. Capital cost was not necessarily at the top of the desirability criteria. After this encouraging start, Westinghouse developed the AP600 to a high level of design detail and ushered it through US NRC regulatory review under the then new 10 CFR 52 "one step" licensing regulation. The culmination of nearly 15 years of development was achieved in December 1999 when a Design Certification was issued by the NRC.
At about this time, deregulation of the electric utility industry was emerging and it was not enough that a design was very safe, exceptionally reliable, and easy to operate and maintain. It also had to compete with other sources of electricity on a purely economic basis, including a spot economic trading market. Natural gas emerged as the fuel source of choice because of its low capital and O&M costs. The cost of pipeline natural gas fuel was in the range of US$2/MMBTU, which made this form of generating electricity preferred in a deregulated market for both base load and peaking. This "dash to gas" caused Westinghouse to rethink its advanced reactor product - to look at it with a different set of criteria. Obviously, safety was of paramount importance, but economics now entered into the evaluation much more prominently.
We held a brainstorming session with the key management and designers of AP600 and asked what could be done to compete in a deregulated electricity market. We confirmed our belief in passive technology - it had the highest level of safety possible, it provided the opportunity for the lowest maintenance costs, and it was definitely the easiest to operate. Further, we did not see how we could repeat the very high investment in design and licensing that we just culminated for AP600; the funding was just not available. Because of the innovative thinking of the individuals participating in this brainstorming session, we found a way to retain the design and licensing bases of the AP600: retain the horizontal layout/footprint of the plant but increase the power level to as high as possible without compromising the safety, operability, or any of the other important characteristics that were regarded so highly in our passive technology. Thus, the key changes in the design were mostly accomplished by increasing the height of components (e.g., reactor pressure vessel) and structures (e.g., the containment). Some other simple changes like increasing the diameter of piping were needed, but these were easy to accommodate.
Thus started the development of AP1000 and Westinghouse entered into NRC pre-licensing application review in 2000. The two main issues during this pre-application review phase were (1) do the computer codes that we used for AP600 still apply without significant modification; and (2) would any additional testing need to be conducted beyond that already completed for AP600. After resolving these issues with the NRC satisfactorily, Westinghouse formally applied for Design Certification in March 2002. Shortly thereafter when we had confidence that AP1000 would be a reality, we started working with customers to build a business case for new plants based on this design. During this effort, our customers worked side-by-side with us to thoroughly review the cost bases and assumptions that we were using. They even asked an independent architect-engineering firm to look at the information we were using for construction cost and schedule. This gave our customers confidence that our estimates were sound and that if they proceeded with an AP1000 project, it would be cost competitive with other sources of electricity.
Because we had already licensed AP600 and the licensing bases for a passive PWR were already well established, the time to complete the design certification for AP1000 was substantially shorter than it was for AP600. Westinghouse thus obtained a Design Certification for AP1000 in January 2006, 46 months after the formal application was submitted.
The payoff for all this investment in the future has started. In 2005, Westinghouse was able to bid the AP1000 standard plant in China as part of their new procurement of four Generation III+ reactors for potential standardization of a large projected fleet. The fact that the design achieved this significant milestone gave us confidence that it would be readily accepted by the Chinese regulator and removed one of the key risks of future plants. Further, the NuStart Consortium selected AP1000 as one of only two designs to sponsor for the US DOE Nuclear Power 2010 program that is designed to test the final portion of the US NRC's standard plant licensing regulations, 10 CFR 52. In particular, NuStart will test the Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) portion of the regulation, which is the final regulatory step before proceeding with a contract to construct new plants in the US. Further, AP1000 was selected by five US utilities (independently from the NuStart Consortium initiative) to prepare COL applications for specific projects, representing 12 new plants. See Table 1. All these COL applications are planned for submission in the 2007-2008 timeframe, with completion of the review scheduled for 2009-2010. It is anticipated that the first formal order in the US for AP1000 could occur by early 2007.
|Table 1 - AP1000 Combined Operating License Applications
|South Carolina Electric & Gas
|Duke Power Company
Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR)
Pebble bed technology was originally developed in Germany in the 1960s through 1980s and was demonstrated in two reactors over this period, the AVR and the THTR. However, continuing technology development ceased in Germany for political reasons shortly after the Chernobyl reactor accident. The South Africans picked up this technology in the late 1990s as being ideally suited for their requirement of distributed power generation because of the growing electricity demand, which is widely spread along the southern coastline, 1500 kilometers from their current coal fired stations. The pebble bed technology has been advanced significantly over the past 10 years by the South Africans. They have made it passively safe by the geometry and power level of the reactor, the materials used, and the support systems incorporated. They have retained the well proven features of the prior German designs, e.g., fuel design, fuel handling system, etc., but have incorporated innovations to make the plant more efficient and reliable, e.g., the direct recuperative Brayton cycle. The current PBMR main power conversion unit is shown in Figure 2.
Westinghouse became involved in the PBMR project in 2000 when our parent company, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, took a 22.5% investment in the project. It was an innovative long-term technology that held the promise of changing the landscape of nuclear energy worldwide as more countries (other than the current large industrialized countries) turned to nuclear power generation to help solve their energy needs in an environmentally friendly way. Further, the possibility of the PBMR to supply process heat was well understood, even during the German development period. Because of its high coolant outlet temperature (900°C) and its relatively small size (400 MWt), it is ideally suited for a variety of applications, including oil sands recovery, steam methane reforming, coal-to-liquids conversion, and hydrogen generation. These applications are generally served today by burning natural gas, which has become very expensive and which emits greenhouse gases. The economic viability for using PBMR to supply process heat for these applications is improving daily and appears to be competitive in the US$6/MM BTU to US$9/MM BTU price range for natural gas.
Westinghouse has taken over the investment in PBMR from our parent company. We serve on the Board of Directors and provide governance, advice, and council to the project in a variety of areas both technical and commercial. Westinghouse is a preferred supplier to the PBMR project, currently responsible for the nuclear instrumentation and controls system. We also provide consulting engineering across a spectrum of technical areas during this critical stage of the project, and are supporting nuclear licensing in the US with the NRC.
The PBMR project today is the most advanced high temperature gas-cooled reactor in the world and is progressing well to the Demonstration phase in South Africa. The project is in the detailed design and long lead materials procurement phase. The final Safety Analysis Report is scheduled for submission to the South African regulator later this year and the Record of Decision on the Environmental Impact Assessment should be granted by the end of 2006. The key milestones for the project are shown in Table 2. Despite its relatively near term demonstration, the PBMR project has always been viewed as a long-term investment. It has a high cost for all the first-of-a-kind activities, as do all new and innovative technologies, and a return on investment can only occur after the technology has been demonstrated. Justifying investment in PBMR based on traditional business case assumptions is not possible - you have to have the "long view" of its potential and you have to be dedicated to the nuclear industry, which Westinghouse is!
|Table 2: Key Milestones for PBMR Project
|Safety Analysis Report Submission
||4th Qtr 2006
|Record of Decision on EIA
||1st Qtr 2007
|Early Koeberg Site Access
||2nd Qtr 2007
||3rd Qtr 2007
|Reactor Pressure Vessel on Site
||3rd Qtr 2009
||4th Qtr 2010
|Handover to Eskom
||4th Qtr 2011
International Reactor Innovative and Secure (IRIS)
The IRIS design is a small (335 MWe) pressurized water reactor utilizing an integral reactor coolant configuration. See Figure 3. It has a long genesis of similar integral reactor designs, but has incorporated some very innovative features to make it passively safe and more economical. The "Safety-by-Design" approach of IRIS has eliminated most of the Class IV reactor accidents by the innovative design changes from a traditional loop-type PWR. In addition, the severity of most other accidents is significantly reduced because of the advanced features of the design.
From the start, IRIS has been targeted for deployment in developing countries because of its size, safety characteristics, and use of conventional light water reactor technology. The technology is very amenable to countries with limited nuclear infrastructure because of the familiar light water reactor technology, the long response times before actions need to be taken, and the extremely high level of safety inherent in the design. Currently, twenty technical organizations from ten different countries are working on the design as part of an international team that universally sees the long-term potential of the design.
The status of the design is that it is in the conceptual design stage with significantly more detail already achieved in the nuclear portion of the plant. IRIS is currently undergoing pre-application review by the US NRC with the main issue of future required testing being evaluated. A substantial testing program has already started in Italy as part of the nuclear skills development program that has been initiated there in anticipation that nuclear energy will again become a part of the Italian energy plan. The US DOE has recently agreed to provide some complementary support for integral testing of IRIS. In addition, IRIS is a part of the IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP) that is aimed at assessing the economics of small scale reactor systems for developing countries. Further, IRIS was prominently communicated by the US DOE as part of their Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) program that was announced earlier this year. It was promoted in the GNEP announcement as an excellent example of a small scale reactor for deployment to developing countries. The concept of GNEP is that the US would provide fuel cycle services in the form of a guaranteed supply of fabricated fuel and potential take-back of the spent fuel for processing so that it would not be necessary for the receiving country to develop their own fuel cycle facilities such as enrichment and reprocessing.
Summary and Conclusion
Westinghouse has taken a leadership role in the worldwide commercial nuclear industry from its inception. This has been built on long and sustained investment in people, processes, and technology. Often forgotten is the fact that this investment has been made at significant risk because of the uncertain future market. Nevertheless, Westinghouse has and continues to make such investments because this is an imperative in our industry. Our customers expect proven, reliable products and services, while at the same time they expect the experience of the past to be feedback into our future offerings to improve them. Nuclear regulators worldwide expect future reactors to be safer than those currently operating - they continue to "raise the bar" on the required level of safety.
These expectations from our stakeholders have driven Westinghouse to adapt passive safety in all our future designs because the common links to past major events in our industry have been lack of supporting electrical power and the need for rapid human intervention. If operator actions must be accomplished quickly, under stressful conditions when the situation is not fully known or appreciated, the "chance" of error is high. This "chance" can be significantly reduced by utilizing passive safety systems for which the need for human intervention has been minimized or eliminated. The long grace times for plants with passive safety systems allow all decisions to be made in an unhurried manner.
The nuclear industry has been built on technology innovation and the demand for operational excellence. This has driven our company strategy to invest for the future. Only by doing this can we meet the expectations of our customers.