Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and their aftermath gave us a demonstration of the reliability of the nuclear energy infrastructure on the Gulf Coast.
While the winds and rain battered Texas and Florida, reactors in the affected areas continued to run without incident. Reactor units near Baton Rouge and New Orleans also operated at full power during and after the storms.
There are 99 operating nuclear power plants in the U.S. Overall, these reactors have far fewer outages than America’s other energy production sources (coal, natural gas, wind and solar). The robust design of these reactors allows the units to stay at full power safely and reliably.
Since nuclear power accounts for approximately 20 percent of U.S. electricity, the work we do in these facilities is something we take very seriously here at H Brown.
Because of the danger of radioactive material release, it is critical that we do our job right. That’s why we conduct our rigging work in nuclear facilities, and our transportation work on behalf of the nuclear industry have exactly according to state and federal regulations—in addition to the already high standards we set for ourselves.
Crane/Lifts in the Nuclear Industry
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) provides regulations for safe crane operation in and around active nuclear power plants. According to one NRC report: “If these loads drop because of human error or crane failure, they could (fall onto) stored spent fuel, fuel in the core, or on equipment that may be required to achieve safe shutdown or permit continued decay heat removal.“
That’s a roundabout way of saying the facility—and perhaps the area for miles around the facility—would be entirely wiped out.
With any crane job, safety should be priority number one. However, with most construction jobs, this refers to the safety of the crane operator or the other workers immediately around him.
In nuclear power plant operation, however, we’re responsible for preventing equipment failure and human error that could lead to a nuclear incident. That’s why NRC regulations for cranes go beyond the conventional OSHA requirements for safe crane operation and focus on the critical nature of the load and anything that could jeopardize its safety.
Safe lifts in nuclear facilities call for redundancy, load monitoring and thorough planning of lift operations. The nuclear industry clearly prescribes the load path for each lift. Plant safety and security are the top considerations. To that end, NRC inspectors enforce crane regulations in place to protect equipment, systems and the workers in the facilities. NUREG 0612 guidelines dictate the procedures that have to be followed.
At a typical job site, a crane has a wide range of motion on all sides. At nuclear power sites, with such sensitive material being handled, specially designed facility layouts leave precisely the amount of space required for each crane’s range of movement.
The cranes that handle nuclear materials are designed and equipped to be “single-failure proof,” meaning the failure of an individual part or component cannot result in a system failure. All cranes that handle nuclear material are equipped with redundant systems that prevent a load drop.
Additional safety systems not common with industrial cranes (but required with nuclear cranes) include load location monitoring, visible location confirmation and very low speed (or creep) capability. To maintain safe load paths, electrical and mechanical interlocks make a crane physically incapable of approaching potential hazards.
Specially designed lifting rigs and lifting devices are also common inside nuclear plants and are used for repetitive lifting or carrying loads weighing more than 5 tons.
Growth in the Nuclear Energy Industry
Nuclear energy continues to provide baseload power for the nation. Construction plans are in the works for even more reactors. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there will be a 60 percent global increase in nuclear capacity in the next 20 years. World-Nuclear.org lists the U.S. as having plans to build 13 new reactors in the next two decades.
Cranes will play a major role in constructing these massive facilities and maintaining them in the years to come. H Brown is ready to take part. Where you need to move sensitive material and equipment into new facilities and at existing plants, we have the equipment and the expertise to do it right.
H Brown is ready for your nuclear power plant construction, maintenance and decommissioning projects. Our engineers can develop rigging solutions for regular outage component replacements and handle the heavy lift requirements and transportation in Louisiana and beyond.
H Brown can assist with:
- New plant construction
- Nuclear decommissioning projects
- Steam generator replacement
- Reactor vessel head replacement and removal
- Dry fuel cask movement
- Specialized heavy transportation
- Electrical Generator & Turbine Replacement