Siemens Energy to Provide Hydrogen-Capable Gas Turbines to OPPD

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Industry News

U.S. Nukes Have Banner Year in 2000

LCG, Sept. 13, 2001-- In the year 2000, the U.S. nuclear power industry generated a record 753.9 billion kilowatt-hours of power, which was 3.5 percent above its previous record set in 1999, the publication Electric Perspectives said yesterday.

According to the Energy Information Administration, the increase in nuclear generation over the past two years would have been enough to meet the power needs of all residential consumers in California in 1999.

According to the publication, the nuclear industry achieved this record output even though it had only 103 reactors in operation, fewer than it had as recently as 1990, when there were 111. The industry accomplished this feat by increasing capacity to 89.1 percent during 2000, from 85.5 percent in 1999, and from 70.2 percent in 1990.

The improvement in nuclear power plant performance has resulted in a rush to extend the operating licenses of the existing reactors. In 2000, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved renewal applications for five nuclear power plants. The commission received five additional applications and expects to receive twenty-eight more by 2004.

The Nuclear Energy Institute believes that all nuclear plants will seek license renewal.

There are also likely to be applications for brand-new nukes. The NEI said it expects new nuclear plants with a total capacity of 50,000 megawatts to be on-line within the next 20 years.

If there is in fact a nuclear renaissance, it can be traced to the difficulties experience in the late 1990s by Northeast Utilities. In 1995, then-chief executive Bernard M. Fox proudly announced a series of cost-cutting measures at Northeast, designed the reduce the financial drag the utility's nuclear program was exerting on the corporation's performance.

The result was disastrous: One plant -- the 600 megawatt Connecticut Yankee near Haddam Neck, Conn. -- fell into such a state of disrepair and disorganization that it had to be scrapped. Three other Northeast reactors, all at its Millstone nuclear complex, were shut down for safety reasons. Whistleblowers brought charges against the company and Fox tried to pin the blame for the company's nuclear problems on 22 malcontents.

A new chief executive with a nuclear background, Michael G. Morris, and a new chief nuclear officer who had been an officer in the U.S. Nuclear Navy, Bruce D. Kenyon, took the helm in 1997, shuttered Connecticut Yankee and brought Millstone's two largest reactors back on line, completely revitalizing what has become called the "nuclear culture" of the corporation.

At the same time, Corbin A. McNeill Jr., a former Nuclear Navy submariner, did much the same for the troubled nuclear program at Peco Energy Co. Today, McNeill is co-chairman of Exelon Corp., operator of more nuclear reactors than any other U.S. utility. His right-hand man, and chief nuclear officer of Exelon, is Oliver D. Kingsley Jr., another former submarine commander and the architect of the nuclear turnaround at Commonwealth Edison Co.

In the background of this nuclear renaissance looms the shadow of Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the Nuclear Navy and a man uncompromising in his adherence to a nuclear safety culture. It was Rickover's Naval Reactor Group that built the first U.S. commercial nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pa., for Duquesne Light Co.

Now, it is the men who sailed Rickover's nuclear-power ships and perpetuated his nuclear culture who are leading the resurgence of nuclear power in the U.S.

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