Exelon to Close Byron & Dresden Plants by 2021

U.S. energy giant Exelon Generation said in a statement released August 27th that the company will be retiring two of its most prominent and productive nuclear power plants, the two-unit each Byron and Dresden plants. Based in northern Illinois, the two respective plants, both of which are licensed to continue operating well into the next decade and a half, are scheduled to be shutdown in September and November of 2021.

Among the most efficient and reliable plants in the American nuclear industry, Byron and Dresden supply roughly 30% of the state’s carbon-free energy. Byron, which is comprised of two pressurized water reactors, is capable of producing 1164 and 1136 megawatts of electricity from its twin reactors, while Dresden, housing two boiler water reactors is capable of producing 894 and 879 megawatts, respectively. With Illinois’s stated goal of 100% clean energy by 2025 (of which they are currently at 85%) the closing of Byron and Dresden would drop that progress back down to about 20%, assuming Exelon’s other two nuclear facilities in the state, Braidwood and LaSalle, also capitulate to similar pressure applied by market rules and political favor toward coal-fired plants. A deactivation notice is expected to be sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the coming weeks.

The decision to shutter the plants comes as they “Face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars because of declining energy prices and market rules that allow fossil fuel plants to underbid clean resources” the company said in a statement, adding that economic challenges are further exacerbated by, “ a recent ruling by the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that “undermines longstanding state clean energy programs and gives an additional competitive advantage to polluting energy sources in the auction”.

Despite the grim outlook for Byron and Dresden, there may still be hope in the form of government subsidies. “To that end, we have opened our books to policymakers and will continue to do so for any lawmaker who wishes to judge the plants’ profitability,” said Christopher Crane, Exelon President and CEO, “We agree with Governor Pritzker that policy reform is urgently needed to address the climate crisis and advance Illinois’ clean energy economy, and we support the objectives of the Governor’s recent energy principles. That’s separate from today’s announcement to retire these two zero-carbon nuclear plants, which was not a decision made lightly and is one that has been in the works for some time.”

As a longtime supplier to the nuclear industry and a regular collaborator with Exelon on reverse engineering and plug and play applications, OTEK recently installed several instruments within the facilities.

For more information on OTEK’s nuclear line of products, please call (520) 748-7900 or email sales@otekcorp.com

X-energy Submits SMR Design to Canadian Nuclear Commission

X-energy, a privately held American nuclear reactor and fuel design company, has submitted a Vendor Design Review (VDR) to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for a cutting-edge new reactor facility. Colloquially referred to as the Small Modular Reactor (SMR), these “miniaturized” reactors are designed to leverage smaller, more agile units against their conventional counterparts, allowing SMR’s to be produced by a manufacturer and brought to a plant or site for streamlined assembly, thereby facilitating lees on-premises work, passive safety features, and higher containment efficiency. While several countries such as the United States, China, Russia, and the UK have produced similar designs, X-energy felt Canada’s energy platform to be the most suitable for its proposed Xe-100 reactor.

“The combination of Canada’s progressive, risk-informed regulatory framework and its well-established supply chain make Canada an ideal place to site X-energy’s first reactor and to create partnerships for a world-class SMR export program”, the company said in a published statement. The VDR calls for several facets of the Xe-100’s design, including the 200 MWt (75MWe) gas-cooled reactor and its graphite-moderated pebble bed structure, which makes use an unique fuel containing Triso particles—a kernel of uranium oxycarbide enriched to 10% uranium-235, which specifically protects against the release of radioactive materials. Though Pebble bed high temperature gas-cooled reactors were first proposed in 1944, the design for the Xe-100 has undergone decades of research and development on high temperature gas reactors, resulting in a VDR whose primary features are passive and inherent safety. Canadian systems-integrator and engineering consultant Kinectrics will manage X-energy’s licensing processes with the CNSC.

OTEK, as a long-time supplier to the nuclear industry and a fervent champion of innovative technology, looks forward to the fruition of X-energy’s reactor. OTEK has also partnered with Kinectrics on several projects, to bring our efficient, accurate, and reliable technology to modernizing Instrument and Control rooms throughout the industry—including many of our popular NTM-9 and NTM-V models.

For more information on OTEK’s efforts to help the nuclear industry modernize, please call (520)-748-7900 or email our sales department: sales@otekcorp.com

U.S. Defense Contractor Raytheon Wins Contract for Weapon System

U.S. Defense contractor Raytheon Missile & Defense, based here in Tucson, Arizona, has been awarded a contract by the United States Air Force, for a potential of $375 million. The order provides for the creation of a “Miniature Self-Defense Munition,” which would be groundbreaking for the aerospace industry. Concept work is expected to be completed by January 2021, with a flight-test ready missile to be functional by October 2023. The initial task order for the design was estimated to be worth $93.4 million, and 2020 saw implementation/research funding increased by $26.7 million, as reported by Pentagon officials.

This effort by the U.S. military comes after several years of jockeying for global position within the aircraft self-defense weapon sector, as rogue nations such as China and Russia have pressed to develop similar advanced missile systems of their own. Designed as an extremely agile and highly-responsive missile, the Miniature Self-Defense Munition (MSDM) constitutes a lightweight, small projectile that would be released from the aircraft by its pilot in the event of an incoming threat including an enemy aircraft, missile, anti-aircraft munitions, etc. Special consideration will be given to minimizing the payload capacity so as not to add undue weight to the platform of the aircraft as a whole. The MSDM would also be a “Hard Kill” design, eviscerating the enemy target by physically slamming into it, rather than the typical warhead explosive—this also allows for lower payload capacity, allowing the aircraft to maintain its agility in combat.

Construction will take place in Tucson, Arizona, in the facility that also houses a repertoire of Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Sidewinders, and over twenty other weapon systems frequently deployed by the U.S. armed forces.

As a dedicated supplier to both Raytheon and the American military as well, OTEK Corporation knows the value of innovative design. Our APM, SPM, and the New Technology Series of digital panel meters are mainstays in several of the service branches, most notably within the Air Force fighter cockpits and Navy maritime vessels.

For more information on OTEK’s dedication to the American armed service branches, please call 520-748-7900 or contact our sales department: sales@otekcorp.com.

ITER and the Quest to Replicate the Sun

The ITER fusion project began its assembly phase this July, thirty-five years after its inception at the hands of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is a jointly funded and produced project by the United States, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, and the European Union—which is ironic, given the increasing hostilities between nearly all of those major global powers. In a world fractured by geopolitics, trade wars, and ideological differences, it seems science is the unification principle. At least, for now.

And for now, the ITER stands as mankind’s most promising attempt to replicate the power of the sun here on earth. Since the middle of the 20th century, the world has relied on the combustible power of atomic fission to produce nuclear energy. While the energy produced by nuclear fission is abundant, efficient, and carries little to no carbon footprint, the negative optics surrounding its byproduct, radioactive waste, has long generated an unfavorable opinion within the global public and hampered efforts by the nuclear industry to expand and advance its technology.

Fusion offers a much more expansive arsenal of assets. To begin with, its hydrogen isotope fuels are quite plentiful—ranging from extractable deuterium in seawater, to tritium that could be generated from a combination of lithium and the neutrons produced in the fusion reaction itself. As far as radioactive waste, the amount produced would be so minuscule and short-lived it would be inconsequential compared to that of fission reactors. Finally, the energy produced by fusion vastly outweighs even the impressive levels fission currently is capable of producing.

Officially planned for construction in Southern France in 2005, the ITER project now begins its assembly phase, where portions of the $23.5 billion dollar facility will be added onto the exoskeleton structure during a 5-year period. “We hope to see first plasma in five years. That will only be a short plasma – lasting a few milliseconds – demonstrating all the magnets work. Then there will have to be a further stage of assembly of some of the other components”, said Ian Chapman, chief executive of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, “Nevertheless it’s ticking off milestones on that path to demonstrating fusion at the commercial scale.”

For now the world must wait—and while we do, in the midst of such polarizing and challenging times for us all, it might help to remember ITER, the science still bringing the world together.

For information on OTEK’s contributions to the nuclear industry, please call 520-748-7900.

Browns Ferry Nuclear Earns Recognition for Carbon Innovation

In keeping with the global movement toward clean energy, Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Brown’s Ferry Nuclear Plant has been lauded for its three-year project that resulted in the plant being able to double its carbon-free energy output. The project allows TVA, which supplies energy to seven surrounding states across the Southeastern United States, to produce power that constitutes 60% carbon-free energy.

Known as the Extended Power Uprate, the project aimed at replacing and refining current steam dryers to incite an increased steam flow through all three of Browns Ferry’s reactors. With the increase in steam flow, all three units can generate a cumulative power total of 465 megawatts of electricity, which is sufficient enough to provide power to 280,000 homes on top of the more than 2 million homes the plant already services at 3,800 megawatts.

“This tremendous honor recognizes the hard work, commitment and technological excellence exhibited by everyone who contributed to making the extended uprate project a success at Browns Ferry,” Browns Ferry site vice president Steve Bono said Friday, “This includes the dedicated TVA employees and contract partners who installed the upgrades and modifications that prepared our units to safely and reliably generate even more carbon-free energy. That reliability is reflected as we mark more than 600 days of continuous operation for unit 1.”

A joint venture with General Electric-Hitachi and noted systems integrator Sargent & Lundy, officials representing the nuclear plant also commented, “The steam dryer innovation recognized by this latest award is the result of the collaboration between the EPU team based at Browns Ferry and two vendor partners, Sargent & Lundy and General Electric-Hitachi, to develop a new and robust design to support the higher steam flow rates. Following the installation of all EPU modifications, extensive power ascension testing on each unit verified design specifications to ensure safety and reliability.”

As a proud supplier of Class 1E instrumentation to the nuclear industry and TVA in particular, OTEK keeps an earnest eye on technological improvements such as this and is ready to contribute its own technology to the cause. This summer our engineers have been hard at work on a new project of our own, the Powerless Plug & Play meter, otherwise known as the PPP. Minuscule, versatile, and unique in the way it approaches drop-in replacements for obsolete analog and digital meters, the PPP looks to debut in early Fall. Be sure to check back soon!

For more information on OTEK’s efforts in the nuclear industry or the forthcoming PPP, please call 520-748-7900 or email our sales office at sales@otekcorp.com

 

Nuclear Energy’s Role in a Post COVID-19 Economy

Nuclear Power might have an essential role in the era of coronavirus. Earlier today, July 10th, Sama Bilbao y Leon, head of the Nuclear Technology Development and Economics at OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, gave a virtual speech via webinar concerning the impact nuclear energy could have on a recovering global economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an address entitled “Building low-carbon resilient electricity infrastructures with nuclear energy in the post-COVID-19 era,” Bilbao y Leon highlighted four main structural levels where nuclear energy could potentially provide resilient, low-carbon infrastructures to aid the economic recovery from COVID-19: Technology Design, Organizational, System, and Socioeconomic levels. These four levels, she explained, were derived from the OECD’s definition of the word resilience: “The capacity to withstand and bounce back from major disruptions. Resilient systems are planned to prevent, avoid, withstand and absorb any and all threats, and to recover and adapt in the aftermath of disruption”.

Resilient electrical systems routinely carry three main dimensions: the physical availability of generating capacity, the smooth operation of the electricity system, and the contribution of generation capacity to the stable economic conditions of the system. The latter ensures prices are involatile enough to render accurate predictions. From here, it is quite easy to discern that the resiliency and security of our electrical systems will be dependent upon adequate long-term planning.

It follows, then, what form would such planning take? Let’s consider the aforementioned four structural levels:

  1. Technological DesignOn this level, prevention, protection, and mitigation take precedent. These principles are enacted by a series of high safety measures (including instrumentation features designed to respond quickly and efficiently in critical applications), and operational flexibility in terms of redundant, independent, and diversified systems.
  2. Organizational This level deals with the internal structure of the plant from the top down. Emergency preparedness, the importance of fostering a safety culture, continuous innovation of safety procedures, and national/global cooperation are all paramount in the success of this level.
  3. SystemThis where the electrical grid receives particularly close attention. Significant agency is expected of the network in terms of dispatchability and flexibility, general grid stability (for inertia, reactive capacity, frequency control, etc.), the simplicity inherent in a centralized system, as well as the efficiency of on-site fuel stockpiles.
  4. SocioeconomicFinally, we have the overarching factor of market pricing, the stability of investments, localized jobs, and economic spill-over. With more than 100 reactors worldwide operating over 40 years, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that nuclear plants are a reliable source for both the electrical grids they contribute to, as well as the communities they serve by providing high-paying jobs to the area and regions beyond.

 As a long time supplier to the nuclear industry, both here in the U.S. and abroad, OTEK recognizes the vital role nuclear energy has to play in the post-COVID-19 era, and we stand ready to assist with innovative and efficient technologies.

Raytheon Technologies to Design New SATCOM System for U.S. Navy

Replacing technology systems they’ve maintained since the mid-1980s, Raytheon Technologies Corp announces they have been contracted to provide secure satellite communications (SATCOM) to the United States Navy and her seaboard allies. The deal, first announced as part of a larger order in March, is reported to constitute $63.5 million dollars.

A specialized division of the company, Raytheon Intelligence, and Space segment housed in Marlborough, Massachusetts, will be the primary designer and supplier of the networking communications technology that will eventually be delivered to Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWARSYSCOM) in San Diego, California. The contract calls for the new systems to be installed on over 300 U.S. Navy ships, shore stations, and submarines where they will replace the outdated systems already in place.

Making use of the low, medium, and extended data rate waveforms that correlate to the high fluctuation of shipboard motion, Raytheon intends to improve upon its already-in-use technology with the construction of new Navy Multiband Terminal (NMT) systems. A next-generation of SATCOM systems, the NMT is a secure networking terminal providing protected wideband communications to create a streamlined connection between a vessel’s main computer network and the Global Information Grid. A versatile system, the NMT is capable of supporting a wide variety of signals, including but not limited to, extremely high frequencies (EHF), advanced EHF low data rate, medium data rate, extended data rate, super high frequency (SHF), Military Ka-band transmit/receive communications, and the Global Broadcast Service’s receive only communications.

As a long time supplier to Raytheon, OTEK looks forward to continuing our proud tradition of servicing the United States armed forces with superiorly efficient and obsolescence hardened technology.

For more information on OTEK’s mil-spec products, please visit our Military Industry page: https://otekcorp.com/military/ or call our office at (520) 748-7900. For direct ordering please email Sales: sales@otekcorp.com

Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities in Bringing Manufacturers Back to the U.S.

In the wake of COVID-19’s effect on global supply chains, the increasing calls for a manufacturing resurgence in the United States could open new cybersecurity vulnerabilities. As economic effects from the virus began bleeding into business production and the shuttering of factories, many manufacturers in the U.S. began championing President Trump’s call to bring back the glory of “Made in America”. The idea being, supply chains, and production systems would be less susceptible to disruption if manufacturing efforts were redoubled state-side.

The problem, as many leading authorities in the field see it, is that bringing these businesses back to the U.S. would present unique opportunities for cybersecurity threats. As Mathew Gardiner, a strategist at the cybersecurity firm Mimecast notes, “Manufacturing was consistently a top-targeted sector throughout the three-month pandemic.” And even without a global pandemic, the manufacturing industry consistently faced cybersecurity threats from all angles, especially here in the U.S. “As the industry adopts more and more IoT, cloud computation and automation, there are increased opportunities for a data breach with unsecured wireless networks, servers with weak passwords, and malware infections”, says senior director of solutions engineering at Cenys, Art Sturdevant, “Manufacturing is one of the most targeted industries for cyberattacks and data breaches.”

The major hurdle in bringing businesses back to America in terms of cybersecurity vulnerability will be the initial phase, says Coalfire Director John Neumann. “Making the shift to onshore production will lower security risk in the end but have a short-term risk due to bringing everything back into the US. “But is it worth it? Statistics show that China manufactures 90% of U.S. antibiotics and nearly all ibuprofen marketed in the States.  In fact, some estimates claim up to 80% of all basic ingredients in US drugs come from China. With drug prices, even those covered by insurance policies, already sold at expensive rates, the higher cost incurred by domestic production would only add to an exorbitant pricing fiasco that has plagued the U.S. pharmaceutical industry for years.

As the manufacturer of the industry’s first Solid-State-Analog-Meter (SSAM), specifically designed to address cybersecurity concerns, OTEK keeps a keen eye on this ongoing issue, striving to make our technology both efficient and safe.

For more information please call 520-748-7900 or email our sales department: sales@otekcorp.com

COVID-19’s Impact on the Nuclear Industry

As the uncertain impact of COVID-19 continues to affect industries around the globe, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has issued a statement regarding the nuclear industry. Across the world, nuclear plant operators and staff have been taking strategic steps to ensure the health and safety of their reactors as the pandemic continues, per IAEA’s Operating Experience Network (OPEX).

Though no country in the world has reported a shutdown or closure of a nuclear power plant, the IAEA has cautioned that the continued duration of the virus will eventually lead to revisions in operational procedures that will affect the way plants do business going forward. “Operators and regulators continue to ensure safety and security at plants worldwide even as the pandemic has impacted them in various ways,” says the director of IAEA’s Nuclear Power division Dohee Hahn, “including their planned outages and maintenance schedule.”

Though operators have undergone vigorous measures to practice safe distancing, allowing them to continue daily plant activities, the shuttered economies around the world have naturally created a lower demand on electrical grinds, which in turn results in plants lowering their power output. When the plant is no longer producing energy as it normally would, alterations to critical activities such as maintenance outages become necessary—often rescheduled or postponed indefinitely. This naturally creates a trickle-down effect as suppliers who would typically offer their services during these scheduled shutdowns are also forced to realign their business models accordingly.

The challenges presented to the nuclear industry’s global supply chain by COVID-19 are universally felt. As a long time supplier to the global nuclear industry, OTEK has adjusted its production capabilities to reduce lead times and supply chain disruptions, ensuring our nuclear power plants can continue delivering earth’s cleanest form of energy during this time of crisis.

Digital Sensors Poised to Make Splash in Wastewater Industry

A recent report from IDTechEx, an electronics market research company, predicts digital technologies will be a significant player in the wastewater industry that is predicted to post $2 billion in revenue by 2030. The report, entitled “Digital Water Networks 2020-2020,” makes use of current trends and projections to provide an approximate picture of the industry after a decade improving upon the current state of its technology. It also seeks to answers many of the questions plaguing the wastewater market today, such as where is the network leaking, can customer water use accurately be anticipated, how and which of current processes can be optimized?

One answer to those questions may be found in digital sensors, the study suggests. In a vast, overarching, and environmentally important industry as wastewater, it is imperative to know at all times what the various components of your operation are doing—this extends to everything from monitoring pipes across networks, pressure regulation, and early detection of possible leaks, for example. Unlike the traditional (and still widely used) human to lab testing whereby an employee takes a water sample and sends it to the lab for testing, sensors make use of the rapid improvements in digital process and measurement technology to provide up to the minute, continuous 24-7 monitoring that would exponentially improve plant efficiency and ROI.

As a longtime supplier to the wastewater and water treatment industries, OTEK stands a leader in state-of-the-art digital instrumentation for the exact type of continuous HMI/MMI monitoring the IDTechEx report calls for use. We have decades of experience servicing our partners in the industry, such as the Coachella Water District and the California Department of Water Resources, with an unparalleled commitment to innovation, dedication, and efficiency.

For more information on products OTEK provides to the wastewater and water treatment industries, please email our sales department: sales@otekcorp.com