Energy Harbor Corp. on March 13 said it had reversed its decision to retire the two reactors at its Beaver Valley Power Station in Pennsylvania.
The announcement came just weeks after the former FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy with a new name and no longer owned by FirstEnergy Corp.
Management at the Akron, Ohio, power company notified regional power transmission organization PJM Interconnection that it was retracting deactivation notices filed in March 2018 for the Shippingport plant, according to an Energy Harbor press release. The reactors had been scheduled for closure in May 2021 and October 2021.
“The decision to rescind the deactivations for Beaver Valley was largely driven by the efforts of Governor Wolf’s administration to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which will begin to help level the playing field for our carbon-free nuclear generators,” Energy Harbor President and CEO John Judge said in the release. “In addition, our retail growth strategy now offers carbon free energy that allows customers to meet their environmental, social and sustainability goals. We are excited about the RGGI process implementation in early 2022 but would need to revisit deactivation if RGGI does not come to fruition as expected.”
The company on March 13 filed a formal notice regarding its decision with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“We’ll continue our oversight and licensing activities at the Beaver Valley #nuclear plant after receiving formal notification it will not be permanently shutting down the units in May and Oct. 2021,” the regulator tweeted on Wednesday.
Beaver Valley reactor Unit 1 was licensed by the NRC in July 1976, followed by Unit 2 in August 1987. The site employs about 1,000 workers.
In March 2018, the then-FirstEnergy Solutions announced plans to close three nuclear power plants: Beaver Valley; the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, by May 2020; and the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry, Ohio, by May 2021. As with other companies in the nuclear power sector, it cited “market challenges” against continued operation of the plants. At the top of the list has been the low price of natural gas for power production.
FirstEnergy Solutions rescinded the decision on the Ohio facilities last July after the state enacted a $150 million annual bailout.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is accepting comments through May 22 on a draft environmental impact statement in which agency staff preliminarily recommended approval of a license for a used nuclear fuel storage facility in southeastern New Mexico.
Energy technology company Holtec International, of Camden, N.J., in 2017 applied for a 40-year license for underground storage of up to 8,680 metric tons of spent fuel in 500 canisters. With subsequent NRC approvals, the site could eventually hold more than 170,000 metric tons of the radioactive waste in 10,000 canisters for 120 years.
In the draft document issued last week, NRC staff found the facility would largely have small impacts in environmental areas such as land use, geology and soils, surface waters and wetlands, groundwater, and air quality. The environmental impact statement is expected to be finalized next March. Based on its findings, and those in a separate safety report, the agency will rule on the license application.
Comments on the draft can be submitted at the website regulations.gov, Docket ID NRC-2018-0052; by email, to Holtec-CISFEIS@nrc.gov; or by mail, to Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN-7-A60M, ATTN: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.
Public meetings are also planned, with details to be released later, the NRC said in a Federal Register notice.
A nuclear industry organization this week gave the Nuclear Regulatory Commission higher marks for transparency in making the case for its fees for the current 2020 federal fiscal year.
In the proposed fee schedule issued in February, the NRC said it would require $728.5 million in fees for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30. That is intended to cover 90% of its funding, with the remaining 10% coming from congressional appropriations.
Within the total fee take, the regulator would collect $230.6 million from service fees and $497.9 million from annual fees on reactor, fuel cycle, and materials licensees.
In proposals for prior years, the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Energy Institute has expressed concerns about the “basis for the budget,” NEI Vice President Jennifer Uhle wrote in a March 16 letter to Annette Vietti-Cook, secretary of the commission. This year, the agency has clarified and improved the type of data included in fee documents, she said.
“There has been a marked improvement in the level of detail provided to stakeholders on the NRC budget,” Uhle stated, “however, we urge that additional steps be taken. In particular, we believe that additional detail should be provided on budgeted work activities, including a level of planned effort for each activity, how this level compares with the prior year, and the rationale for the change.”
The Nuclear Energy Institute also would like more data to make clearer what work is funded through service fees and what via annual fees on licensees, according to Uhle. There would also be benefit to industry stakeholders in more comprehensively explaining major hikes or reductions in spending in certain budget line items, she said.
“Current narrative explanations are limited to identifying a listing of major budget program changes with no identification of the magnitude of each identified change,” NEI senior technical adviser John Butler said by email. “As an example, the explanation for a $46 million change in the Operating Reactor budget.”
Thursday was the last day to submit comments on the proposed fee schedule. The final fee schedule is generally issued in June, an NRC spokesman said Wednesday.
Only four other letters had been filed with the NRC as of Friday morning.
Honeywell requested that the “effort factor” for NRC safeguards and security operations at the company’s Metropolis Works uranium hexafluoride production plant in Illinois be reduced from five to zero, as the facility is currently not operating. The effort factor is used in determining fees for fuel facility licensees.
The Department of Energy, meanwhile, said the regulator’s documentation for the fee rule did not provide several pieces of information.
“DOE finds the basis for the total annual fee amount and the level of effort to support the general licenses for Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act sites is not presented in the proposed rule or associated work papers,” according to a Feb. 24 letter from David Shafer, director of the Office of Site Operations. “Additionally, the basis for allocation percentages for DOE and the other uranium recovery licensee of the generic/other uranium recovery costs in the proposed rule and work papers is not presented.”
The U.S. Nuclear Industry Council (USNIC) on Thursday said interim President and CEO Bud Albright would remain in the position on an ongoing basis.
Albright has been chairman of the business group’s Executive Board since 2018, and stepped into the leadership role in January following the unexpected death of President and CEO David Blee.
Albright has shifted between government service and private industry in the energy sector throughout his career, with positions including undersecretary of energy from 2007 to 2009 and staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 2003 to 2006. He opened the Albright Strategies consultancy in December 2017.
“USNIC remains the preeminent organization representing the development, deployment and commercial viability of advanced nuclear technology,” Albright said in a prepared statement. “The future of nuclear development is fast changing, and we are all grateful to the talented scientists, engineers and business leaders engaged in the important work that is producing innovative and promising technology for a cleaner, safer future for the world.”
His selection topped a list of new appointments by the USNIC Executive Board.
Jeremy Harrell, the groups’s vice chairman and the managing director of policy at conservative clean-energy organization ClearPath, has been nominated to succeed Albright as board chairman. Eric Knox, vice president for strategic development within the nuclear and environment business at Amentum (AECOM’s former Management Services business), would then become vice chairman. A vote by USNIC members is necessary to approve the board’s nominations.
Meanwhile, Caleb Ward, USNIC’s director since 2012, is now chief operating officer. David Jonas, a former USNIC board chairman and vice chairman, is now executive director.
“The COO and Executive Director positions are new as the Council is working to expand our activities and ensure greater coverage of our Members’ needs, as well as to ensure continuity going forward in case of another tragedy like we suffered in December with the loss of David,” Ward said by email Thursday.
These are both full-time roles, as is Albright’s position. As chief operating officer, Ward said he will manage the organization’s daily operations, events, and other operations. Jonas will manage USNIC’s finances and support its activities and membership.
The Nuclear Industry Council represents more than 80 companies with stakes in the business, including Amentum, Bechtel, BWX Technologies, Fluor, Duke Energy, Orano, Studsvik, and Westinghouse Electric. It describes itself as “the leading U.S. business consortium advocate for nuclear energy and promotion of the American supply chain globally.”
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