Nuclear plant equipment to get revamp

Jeremy Boren
| Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011

A water pump prototype designed to cool Westinghouse Electric Co.'s first group of AP1000 nuclear reactors hit a snag during its latest round of testing that will delay shipment to the reactors being built in China.

Curtiss-Wright Flow Control Co.'s Electro-Mechanical Division in Harmar will add insulation to the 7,000-horsepower pump to eliminate unexpectedly high temperatures detected during testing in a portion of the 22.5-foot-tall pump that, if left unchecked, could shorten its expected 60-year operating life.

"We elected to investigate and modify the design to ensure that our pumps continue to be the most reliable in the industry," Martin R. Benante, Curtiss-Wright's CEO, told investors in a conference call.

Each AP1000 reactor is to be equipped with four of the hermetically sealed, "canned motor" coolant pumps. Turbines in the pumps circulate up to 78,750 gallons a minute of 65-degree water to cool components of the 1,117-megawatt, "advanced passive" Westinghouse reactor.

The first four pumps were originally scheduled to ship to eastern China in November. Making the change and retesting will delay that until the second quarter of 2012, Benante said. The first reactor is scheduled go online in late 2013.

"We passed most of the tougher tests that could have been show-stoppers," Benante said.

He pegged the financial impact of the issue to the company as $2.8 million. In 2010, the division's flow control operations reported just over $1.02 billion in sales, a 4 percent increase over 2009.

"This new delivery date meets our customer's requirements and will not impact the overall plant construction schedule," he said.

Final testing could begin in September or October, he said.

Vaughn Gilbert, a Westinghouse spokesman, said there is extra time built into the construction schedule in China.

Westinghouse said on Friday that the company's first AP1000 nuclear power reactor vessel successfully arrived at the Sanmen nuclear power plant in China's Zhejiang province. The reactor is the first of four purchased by China as part of a $5.3 billion contract with Westinghouse, based in Cranberry. The Sanmen reactor vessel was manufactured by Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction in Korea. It will now undergo installation and operational testing.

Westinghouse is awaiting approval of the AP1000, a new "third generation" type reactor, from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Gilbert said company officials don't expect the coolant pump issue to affect the design's approval, which they hope will happen in the fall.

Utilities in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida are seeking to license construction of AP1000 reactors.

No nuclear power plants have been built in the United States since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

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