Xcel Energy awards contract to ensure reliable fuel supply

General Electric
Tags: energy management

With more utilities seeking to boost the output of their existing nuclear power plants to generate more low-carbon electricity, Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF) is manufacturing more efficient fuel technology to help operators achieve their energy and emissions-reduction goals.

Xcel Energy is the latest U.S. utility to address its future nuclear fuel supply needs by selecting GNF to continue providing reliable fuel and reload-engineering services to the company’s Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant. The plant is located about 50 miles northwest of Minneapolis, where Xcel Energy is headquartered.

Based in Wilmington, N.C., GNF is a GE-led joint venture with Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corporation. GNF is the nuclear industry’s leading fabricator and supplier of boiling water reactor (BWR) fuel and services.

Xcel Energy has proposed an extended power uprate (EPU) at Monticello, a multi-year overhaul of reactor components and systems designed to boost the plant’s total generating capacity. The proposal, which is pending before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, would boost the facility’s capacity to approximately 120 percent of the plant’s originally licensed thermal power.

GNF will support implementation of Monticello’s EPU by applying proven GNF reactor codes and methods that will further optimize the fuel loading to take advantage of other EPU plant modifications.  Ultimately, this will increase the thermal output of the fuel in certain locations within the reactor core. This will result in the production of more steam that will be delivered to the turbine-generator system to generate additional electricity.

“GNF’s fuel technology, which has helped Monticello maintain excellent capacity and reliability levels for many years, will now help the plant achieve optimal production levels under EPU conditions. This is a significant project for the region because we are increasing the generating capacity of one of our most reliable and lowest-cost generation resources, which also is a non-carbon emitting plant,” said Susan Arigoni, vice president of fuels for Xcel Energy.

Monticello features one GE-designed, BWR-3 reactor that began commercial operation in June 1971 and currently generates approximately 585 MW (net), which is enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 500,000 customers. The facility is owned and operated by Northern States Power Co.-Minnesota, an Xcel Energy operating company.

As part of the $12 million contract, GNF will deliver the enriched fuel to Monticello at the beginning of 2013, prior to the unit’s next fuel reloading outage. Every two years, Xcel Energy replaces about a third of the fuel in the Monticello reactor. Between refueling outages, the plant typically operates at full output around the clock.

In 2007, GE (now GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy) announced it had been awarded a contract to provide critical components and engineering to support implementation of the Monticello EPU project.

“We are very pleased to extend our long relationship with Xcel Energy and support the company’s strategy to safely increase Monticello’s generating capacity and long-term reliability,” said Kevin Walsh, CEO of GNF and senior vice president-nuclear fuel cycle for GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).

GE – and later GNF – have been Monticello’s primary fuel suppliers since the unit began operating in 1971, Walsh noted.

For the fuel project, GNF will manufacture and supply its proven GE14 BWR fuel bundles and associated engineering services to help ensure the success of the plant’s 26th fuel reloading project. The GE14 fuel will be fitted with Defender lower tie plates. GNF’s Defender filter technology protects the fuel by capturing any foreign debris that may exist in a reactor, thus preventing damage to fuel rods and potential fuel failures.

In January 2010, the joint venture of GNF celebrated its 10th anniversary. Since its establishment in 2000, GNF has manufactured more than 1.5 billion fuel pellets for utilities to generate enough electricity to serve the equivalent of 300 million U.S. homes.

About Global Nuclear Fuel
Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) is a world-leading supplier of boiling water reactor fuel, including uranium dioxide and MOX fuel and fuel-related engineering services. GNF operates primarily through Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas, LLC in Wilmington, N.C., and Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan Company Ltd. in Kurihama, Japan. 

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