July 2012

Robinson radiation protection technicians Daren Cato and Ashley Lawrence pose with the facility’s Warrior robot.

Robinson radiation protection technicians pose with the facility’s Warrior robot. (Click to enlarge.)

For more than a decade, unmanned robots have been used to detect and dispose of bombs in war zones and to assist with recovery efforts in disaster areas. Since last March, they have been utilized to help clean up the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Here in the United States, nuclear energy facilities are also beginning to introduce this technology to help keep workers out of areas where there may be elevated radiation levels. Leading the effort is the radiation protection team at Duke Energy’s Robinson Nuclear Plant in Hartsville, S.C., where robots conduct inspections and perform maintenance activities inside the facility, limiting worker exposure to radiation.

“Early last year, we set the vision that we wanted our radiation protection group to be the best in the industry and we saw this as one of the critical tools for us,” said Daren Cato, a radiation protection technician at Robinson who spearheaded the effort to bring robots to the facility. “We were impressed by what we saw at Fukushima, but it was also important to conduct a thorough selection process to ensure that chose the right robots for our facility,” Cato said.
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Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • The U.S. nuclear energy industry has begun to implement safety enhancements based on recommendations from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Japan task force. Last week, NRC staff observed inspections conducted by Dominion at its Kewaunee nuclear station in Wisconsin to assess its ability to withstand earthquakes. Kewaunee is the lead plant to test the inspection procedure, which will be repeated at all U.S. nuclear facilities.
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The following story originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.

NEI has asked the NRC to endorse the industry’s guidance for complying with the agency order requiring that nuclear energy facilities be equipped with instruments to reliably indicate used fuel storage pool water levels in an emergency.
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Industry/Regulatory/Political

  • An independent commission appointed by Japan’s parliament to study the causes of last year’s nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi harshly criticized the government, the plant operator and the country’s national culture. After conducting 900 hours of public hearings and interviews with more than 1,100 people and visiting several nuclear power plants, the commission’s report concluded the accident was a “manmade disaster,” the result of “collusion between the government, the regulators and Tokyo Electric Power Co.” It said the “root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions.” The panel criticized the regulator for insufficiently maintaining independence from the industry in developing and enforcing safety regulations, the government for inadequate emergency preparedness and management, and TEPCO for its poor governance and lack of safety culture. The report calls for fundamental changes across the industry, including the government and regulators, to increase openness, trustworthiness and focus on protecting public health and safety. Tony Pietrangelo, NEI’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, explains the differences in how U.S. and Japanese nuclear energy facilities are regulated and operated in a YouTube video.
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Shaw Power Group's Lacy Kiser, vice president of human resources and administration

Shaw Power Group's Lacy Kiser (Click to enlarge.)

With an employee population that is soon approaching retirement, the nuclear energy industry must hire approximately 25,000 more workers by 2015. Lacy Kiser, vice president of human resources and administration for Shaw’s Power Group, has been working around-the-clock to find qualified candidates to construct, plan and manage the country’s first newly permitted reactors since 1978. With work under way to build new reactors at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle in Georgia and at SCE&G’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina, the projects will create approximately 3,500 construction jobs during peak construction. This means Kiser, who joined Shaw’s Power Group six years ago following a career in the U.S. Marine Corps, has his work cut out for him.

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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First