Exelon nuclear fleet 'safe,' will review Fukushima lessons: CEO
Washington (Platts)--24Mar2011/113 pm EDT/1713 GMT
Exelon's nuclear fleet continues to operate safely and no immediate
changes are needed to address issues raised by the ongoing crisis at Japan's
Fukushima I plant, Exelon Chairman and CEO John Rowe said Thursday.
"I believe that there is little opening for new nuclear plants in the
near future, but that view has come from economics, not safety," Rowe said on
a webcast for Exelon investors and analysts. "I believe that plants in the US
are safe, especially those at Exelon, and we continue to give safety
Exelon owns and operates 17 nuclear power units, the nation's largest
Some enhancements will surely be made as a result of reviews being
conducted of the Fukushima accident, but "we're not seeing any cost disaster
for our nuclear fleet here," Rowe said.
Operators are conducting walkdowns and reviewing safety systems at
Exelon's nuclear units, Rowe said, and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
and nuclear industry are conducting their own reviews.
Rowe said the cost of upgrades that might be required cannot be
estimated, even to within an order of magnitude, "because we simply don't know
what kind of changes are being talked about for what plants, and indeed no one
knows at the moment."
Exelon should have a better sense of what actions might be required "in
about six months," when some of these reviews have been completed, Chris
Crane, president and chief operating officer at Exelon, said on the webcast.
Exelon said in 2009 that it did not plan to build new nuclear units and
would focus instead on capacity uprates at its existing nuclear plants. It
said at the time the uprates were expected to add from 1,300 MW to 1,500 MW of
capacity over the next several years, the equivalent of one large new nuclear
The company does not expect at this point to change its power uprate
plans, though it will review lessons learned from the accident at Fukushima
and incorporate changes if and as needed, Rowe said.
Lessons learned from reviews of the Fukushima events will be available
before Exelon must apply to US NRC for approval of the more significant
capacity increases, so-called "extended power uprates," Rowe said.
Seven of Exelon's reactors are GE-design boiling water reactors, with
so-called Mark I containments, similar to the Japanese reactors that were
crippled March 11 following an earthquake and tsunami. Those Exelon units are
Dresden-2 and -3 and Quad Cities-1 and -2 in Illinois, Oyster Creek in New
Jersey, and Peach Bottom-2 and -3 in Pennsylvania.
Mark I BWRs in the US implemented "extensive modifications" in the early
1990s at the request of the NRC, "including design changes to control hydrogen
and pressure through venting the containment," Crane said. Hydrogen buildup is
believed to have caused explosions last week that destroyed three secondary
reactor containment buildings at Fukushima.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. operators lost the ability to cool the Fukushima
reactors and spent fuel pools after the earthquake cut offsite power to the
plants and, about an hour later, the tsunami washed away fuel tanks for
emergency diesel generators, leaving the plant without AC power. By contrast,
fuel tanks for generators at Exelon's Mark I BWRs are buried underground or
enclosed in vaults, Crane said. The Exelon units also have two different
sources of offsite power, he said.
"None of Exelon's plants are in major earthquake zones," and the plants
are "designed to withstand [the] highest level of seismic activity for that
location, with additional margin," Exelon said in slides accompanying the
webcast. None of Exelon's nuclear units are in areas in danger of tsunamis,
but the plants are designed to withstand severe flooding, Crane said.
Exelon has various means to replenish water in spent fuel pools at its
reactors, even if their cooling systems were to be compromised, Chip Pardee,
chief operating officer at Exelon Generation, said on the webcast.
--Steven Dolley, email@example.com
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