Dominion Employees Win Nuclear Industry's Top Innovation Award

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., May 21, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Dominion Generation employees at Virginia's Surry nuclear power station have been honored with the industry's B. Ralph Sylvia "Best of the Best" award for an innovative process to inspect reactors. The employees were honored for their first-of-its-kind inspection process that accurately and efficiently determines the condition of reactor components and materials, a requirement to meet strict federal license standards.

The team of Dominion employees developed an inspection process and specialized tooling that enabled highly accurate examinations in hard-to-reach locations. Examinations of welds in reactor vessel walls are particularly challenging, but the team overcame plant configuration and access challenges to successfully and safely complete the project.

The team also developed remote-controlled hydro lasers for cleaning as well as exceptionally maneuverable and accurate inspection cameras that could fit and function in tiny gaps. The safe execution of the examination process was a direct result of the team's extensive planning of tool development, use of mock-ups for personnel training and tooling optimization, and execution of detailed pre-job briefings as well as supervisory oversight.

Cost savings for the project topped $1 million, and similar savings are expected at Dominion's three other nuclear energy facilities. Other nuclear facilities with similar reactor vessels can benefit from the project as well.

"The Nuclear Energy Institute is pleased to acknowledge the many dedicated industry professionals with Dominion whose hard work and commitment to safety led to these excellent results," said Anthony Pietrangelo, NEI's senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. "This accomplishment and scores of other innovations and improvements constantly being developed across the U.S. nuclear energy industry have helped it achieve a level of nuclear safety that is second to none in the world."

Surry is a two-reactor power station with a total electric-generating capacity of nearly 1,700 megawatts. Nationally, 100 reactors operating in 31 states produce electricity for one of every five homes and businesses. For the past decade, the industry's annual capacity factor—a measure of reliability—has been close to 90 percent or more, far higher than other electricity sources.

The Best of the Best Top Industry Practice (TIP) Award was presented today at the Nuclear Energy Institute's annual meeting. The TIP awards recognize achievements in 13 categories—four reactor vendor awards and nine process awards for innovation to improve safety, efficiency and nuclear plant performance—as well as an award for vision, leadership and ingenuity.

The Best of the Best Award honors the late B. Ralph Sylvia, an industry leader who was instrumental in starting the Top Industry Practice program 20 years ago. Details on award-winning Top Industry Practice solutions are as follows:

TIP Vendor Awards


American Electric Power employees at Michigan's D.C. Cook nuclear station earned the AREVA Vendor Award for pioneering a new approach to reactor vessel maintenance. Teamed with AREVA, they developed a first-of-a-kind automated tooling method to safely replace 28 bolts on six support devices inside the reactor vessel. Rather than use manual tools, the method included a submerged tooling frame and two moveable, remote-controlled tooling modules that allowed simultaneous work on two supports. The new method, which ensures the continued safe operation of the supports, expedited the repair process, saved more than $10 million in outage costs, and increased worker safety.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

Employees of Southern Nuclear Operating Co. at the Hatch nuclear station in Georgia were recognized with the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Vendor Award. The team adapted the GE Hitachi Stinger™ remote-controlled vehicle to perform first-of-a-kind inspections inside reactors vessels. Stinger swims to the inspection location, attaches to the surface and extends a highly maneuverable inspection camera and cleaning wand to components up to 30 feet away. The Stinger inspection is far more efficient than conventional methods. It improves the visual quality of examinations, increases worker safety while reducing inspection time and costs, and is transferable to similar boiling water reactors.

Westinghouse Design

NextEra Energy team members at Wisconsin's Point Beach nuclear station won the Westinghouse Design Vendor Award for pioneering an inspection process that used three cutting-edge technologies to complete extensive reactor vessel internal examinations safely, under budget and ahead of schedule. Using ultrasonic devices, high-tech cameras and enhanced visual techniques along with custom designed tools, the team was the first ever to complete all inspections stipulated for pressurized water reactors in a single outage. The tooling and inspection processes used by NextEra are directly applicable to other nuclear power plants.

Westinghouse-Combustion Engineering Design

Arizona Public Service employees at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station earned the Westinghouse-Combustion Engineering Design Vendor Award for an initiative that enabled them to ultrasonically inspect 61 difficult-to-access instrument nozzles on the bottom of the reactor vessel. Because the inspection process was developed, tested and approved well in advance of the refueling outage when the inspections were required, it facilitated the timely repair of one nozzle, saving at least 90 days of outage time and nearly $30 million.

TIP Process Awards

Community Relations

The winners of the Community Relations Award are Pacific Gas & Electric employees at the Diablo Canyon power plant. The program is a public education effort that communicates to customers, regulators and other stakeholders the plant's value beyond electricity production. The multidisciplinary effort centered on three themes: safety, economic benefits and environmental benefits. The comprehensive effort gained strong media coverage and expanded support from the public, community leaders and elected officials for continued plant operation.

Operate Plant

Exelon Nuclear team members earned the Operate Plant Award for innovation in the storage of low-level radioactive waste associated with reactor operation. The fully contained process efficiently compacts and disposes of the waste while reducing time and costs, preserving used fuel storage capacity, and increasing worker safety.

Equipment Reliability

Generation employees at Surry won the Equipment Reliability Award and the B. Ralph Sylvia Best of the Best Award for developing the "First-of-a-Kind Inspections of Reactor Internals," a more efficient automated process to inspect and analyze components inside the reactor.


Arizona Public Service employees at Palo Verde won the Maintenance Award for its "Palo Verde Unit 3 Emergent Bottom Mounted Instrument Nozzle Repair." The team developed first-of-a-kind technologies, techniques and tooling to safely complete this complex repair in only 32 days from when the issue was discovered, far less than 72 days required for a comparable industry repair in 2003.

Materials, Management Processes and Support Services

Arizona Public Service employees at Palo Verde garnered the Materials, Management Processes and Support Services Award for leveraging technology to efficiently support difficult reactor vessel repairs. The organization utilized state-of-the-art organizational methods and information-sharing technologies that greatly increased productivity, saved weeks of time and reduced costs.

Plant Support

An employee at the Braidwood Generating Station helped Exelon Nuclear capture the Plant Support Award for its "Jack Trap" electrical safety device that prevents worker injury and the accidental starting or stopping of equipment during routine electrical contact or "jack" checks. Placed over the contact to be tested, the Jack Trap covers the other contacts to prevent an inadvertent electrical short. The simple-to-use, low-cost and time-saving device can be used industrywide with estimated savings by each facility of $70,000 a year.


Xcel Energy employees at Minnesota's Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant were recognized with the Training Award for their improvement of the training simulator with technologically advanced simulation modeling. Simulations include 3D photorealistic graphics to help operators understand the physical status of the reactor vessel. The simulations have been benchmarked by numerous members of the international training community and used to demonstrate the unique aspects of nuclear energy to members of the local community.

Nuclear Fuel

Employees of Duke Energy at Catawba Nuclear Station were honored with the Nuclear Fuel Award for their implementation of the industry's first high-capacity dry storage system. The new MAGNASTOR dry storage system maximizes used nuclear fuel storage while saving time and increasing worker safety. Duke Energy expects to save $3.3 million by 2020 through this innovative program.

TIP Vision, Leadership & Ingenuity Award

Employees of Duke Energy at the McGuire and Catawba facilities won the Vision, Leadership & Ingenuity Award for their "Emergency Core Cooling Water Management Initiative." The team increased nuclear safety of their four reactors by increasing reactor cooling water inventory and reducing operator actions during potential emergency scenarios, along with other significant safety improvements. All or parts of the safety innovations are directly transferable to most of the nation's commercial nuclear reactors.

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Source:Nuclear Energy Institute