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STP president talks future of nuclear energy

By adriana_acosta
May 17, 2011 at 12:17 a.m.

Ed Halpin

IF YOU GO:WHAT: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be in Bay City on Thursday to discuss the safety performance of South Texas Project. The public is invited to attend.

WHERE: Wharton County Junior College, Center for Energy Development, 4000 Avenue F, Bay City.

WHEN: Thursday, May 19, 5:30 p.m.

BAY CITY - The past two months in Fukushima have been a challenge - not only for the nuclear industry, but for the local nuclear power facility itself, a nuclear officials said.

Ed Halpin, president and chief executive officer for South Texas Project Nuclear spoke to a full house at the Bay City Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon on Tuesday.

He discussed the recent refueling outage, the future of Units 3 and 4 and future workforce development efforts at the plant.

"The Fukushima event is a stark reminder that nuclear energy is one industry bound together by a technology that is both remarkable and demanding. Our commitment to safety must be equally demanding," he said.

Halpin said they are focused on helping the people impacted in Japan by working with Tokyo Electric Power Company on a day to day basis providing advice.

"We sent out one of our senior managers to Japan to try and do our part to help," he said.

The uncertainty surrounding those events at Fukushima has impacted the outlook for the expansion of Units 3 and 4, he said.

Last month, the NRG Energy announced it would end its financial participation in the expansion of the two units. The NRG was the plant's main investor, and had invested $481 million into the development of the future units. Toshiba continues to fund the project, focusing on the federal license and loan guarantee process.

Although the NRG pulled from the project they are still confident other investors will be found, he said.

Halpin said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is monitoring the situation in Fukushima and has begun a comprehensive review of the safety of all U.S. nuclear plant facilities. Each update will be released every 30 days.

In June, the 60 day report will be released, providing recommendations on short term actions taken in the US.

At the end of the year, the NRC will pull a list of potential long term recommendations that may impact the nuclear industry, he said.

Halpin said the chair of the NRC, Gregory Jazko, said based on Fukushima he does not see any impact to the relicensing or new licensing of new nuclear units at this point.

"This is a little bit of a wait-and-see because the events in Fukushima are still unfolding," he said.

Halpin spoke about the recent outage completed at the nuclear power plant last month.

The nuclear plant invested more than $51 million during the Unit 1 outage, marking the 30th refueling outage a successful outage the plant has had to date. Unit 2 will have a refueling in the fall.

More than half of the money invested went to the more than 1,100 contractor workers on site who assisted with the outage.

"The five week outage presented a number of unique challenges. In every situation, our team rose to the occasion and did a superb job making safety and human performance the priority," he said.

For now, Halpin said he is looking to the future and the expansion of Units 3 and 4.

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