US Nuclear Reactors to become Earth’s Oldest

Oldest US Nuclear Reactors

Turkey Point Plant | Image from Florida Power and Light

Twenty-Five miles south of Miami, two nuclear reactors loom against the Atlantic horizon: on one side of this picture the twin Turkey Point reactors draw reflections in the glass water—on the other side, behind them and up the coastline, a country simmers their shadow. The decision by the federal government in December of last year to extend the life of the two 60-year-old reactors by twenty more years will effectively make them the oldest reactors anywhere on Earth at 80 years of age.

Owned by the Florida Power & Light company (FPL), the Turkey Point reactors have served as a benchmark to a larger discussion by way of the ripples they’ve released across the U.S. nuclear industry and its critics. Supported largely by the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era nuclear restrictions, compatriot utilities of Turkey Point are submitting their own requests to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for plant life extensions—Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in southeast Pennsylvania (owned by Exelon corp) is seeking two extensions, Dominion Energy seeks the same quantity for two of its reactors at their Surry plant in Virginia as well two more further up north, and Duke Energy Corporation has submitted extension requests for all 11 of its reactors along the east coast.

The logic is rather straightforward from the industry’s view—“It’s simply cheaper to continue operating our existing nuclear fleet than replacing it” says Rounette Nader, Director of Nuclear License Renewal at Duke Energy.

Most statistics do back up Ms. Nader’s claim:

  • 80% of Nuclear Power Plants in the U.S. are 30 years or older
  • The majority of these are riddled with inefficient and obsolete analog instrumentation
  • The popular flat screen technology to replace these obsolete analogs requires an entirely new facility with a 5-year building plan and an estimated $200 million in construction expenses. (Ref: Oconee NPP, INL [NN:6-2017])

The obvious solution, as Ms. Nader highlights, is to retain the current fleet by way of making componential/structural changes that allow the plant to continue to function efficiently and safely through the next twenty years of life. Mary Korsnick, president of NEI, the Nuclear Energy Institute, agrees, “I don’t think you should look at a plant just on calendar years, but rather the way that plant has been maintained, so many components have been replaced over the years. There is nothing magic about 80.”

It is specifically this approach that OTEK has spent the last decade developing our cutting-edge new technology for. Specializing in highly customizable Form, Fit, and Function replacements for obsolete analogs in nuclear I&C rooms, we design our “New Technology Series” models to serve as Plug & Play enhancements on present archaic meters simply by the ease of removing the old analog from its panel cutout and inserting the OTEK meter using the same panel, wiring, and even with minimal operator training to boot.

As our engineering team is want to do, we even went a step further and addressed the rising cybersecurity expenses of adhering to NEI 08-09, by designing a meter that is completely immune to cybersecurity attacks by way of containing no critical digital assets, such as microprocessors. The Solid State Analog Meter (colloquially known as the SSAM) makes use of a unique marriage between non-digital hardware as defined by NEI 08-09 and our award-winning patented technology, such as pure white LED displays. The SSAM also boasts 4-20 & 10-50mA current loops, V/A AC/DC (also Watts & Hertz) for external power options, a 4 ½ digit display at 0.1% accuracy, optional dual alarm for enunciator panel lamps, 4-20mA outputs, and unlimited custom scale plate display colors using our “One Size Fits All” LED technology.

If the Turkey Point reactor extensions are both a reflection of the industry now, as well as where it may be heading twenty years from now, we would do well to be practical, mindful, and innovative with the technology we are using to advance the world’s most combustible and cleanest source of energy. And innovation is the backbone of OTEK’s forty-six years of instrumentation success.

For more information on the SSAM or our pledge to the nuclear industry, please call 520-748-7900 or contact our sales department: sales@otekcorp.com

 

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