Duke Energy Employees Win Top Nuclear Industry Award for Improving Safety With Digital Milestone

CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 23, 2012Duke Energy Corp. employees at the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina have been honored with the B. Ralph Sylvia “Best of the Best” Award for completing the first digital upgrades to commercial reactor protection systems in the United States. The conversion from the analog instrumentation common in these systems uses digital electronics technology to enhance the monitoring and control of reactor safety functions. The new digital system at Oconee 1 also has diagnostic capabilities that increase reactor efficiency and operational reliability.

The Best of the Best Top Industry Practice (TIP) award was presented today at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s annual meeting. The TIP awards recognize industry innovators in 14 categories—four reactor vendor awards and nine process awards for innovation to improve safety, efficiency and nuclear plant performance, as well as an award for vision and leadership.

“Innovations like those highlighted by NEI’s TIP award program have helped America’s nuclear energy facilities increase electricity production by 37 percent (to 790 billion kilowatt-hours) since 1990. Meanwhile, the average capacity factor—a measure of efficiency—has increased by 23 percentage points (to 89 percent) over the same period,” said Tony Pietrangelo, NEIs’ senior vice president and chief nuclear officer. “The Nuclear Energy Institute is proud to recognize the achievements of dedicated industry professionals whose commitment to safety and excellence is second to none.”

The Best of the Best Award honors the late B. Ralph Sylvia, an industry leader who was instrumental in starting the Top Industry Practice awards in 1993. Duke Energy’s digital conversion project, begun in 2006, was approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Digital upgrades at the Oconee station’s other two reactors will be completed this year and next.

Preston Gillespie, vice president at the Oconee site, said, “When I look back over the decision of leaders that I worked for 10 years ago, who had the vision of what it would take to install a safety-related digital system, I stand very much in respect of what those leaders did. They knew it would be hard; they knew the cost would be great; they knew they had to find the right partner; they knew they had to get it through the licensing process. All of this, they knew, would result in reliable and safe operation of the plant.

Because of that vision, the trail is now blazed for the rest of the industry to take advantage of the fruits of their labor.”

Details on award-winning TIP entries are as follows:

TIP Vendor Awards


Constellation Energy Nuclear Group employees at the R.E. Ginna nuclear energy facility in upstate New York are recipients of the AREVA Vendor Award for the “Reactor Vessel Baffle Bolt Integrity Solution.” Through ultrasonic testing of components and a sophisticated statistical analysis, the process verified the integrity of structures in the reactor that support the uranium fuel assemblies. This innovation saves nearly $3 million and significantly reduces worker radiation exposure.

● GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

Employees at Exelon Nuclear’s Limerick nuclear power plant in eastern Pennsylvania were recognized with the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Vendor Award for developing a moisture mitigation system that reduces the amount of water carried in steam that drives the main turbine generator. Reducing moisture in the steam increases plant safety, efficiency and productivity while lowering operating costs.

● Westinghouse Design

South Carolina Electric & Gas team members at the V.C. Summer facility won the Westinghouse Design Vendor Award for inventing a new way to monitor and vent air from liquid-filled components. Applicable at any nuclear facility, the device enhances worker safety, saves time, and increases plant reliability by increasing the ease and accuracy of component monitoring.

● Westinghouse-Combustion Engineering Design

Arizona Public Service Co. employees earned the Westinghouse-Combustion Engineering Design Vendor Award for their automated analysis of steam generator testing data. The revolutionary signal processing technique enables accurate, time-saving inspections of pressurized water reactor steam generator tubes at three reactors at the Palo Verde nuclear energy facility. The achievement decreases worker radiation exposure and inspection costs.

TIP Process Awards

● Community Relations

The winner of this year’s Community Relations Award is NextEra Energy. Employees at the company’s nuclear plant sites built effective working relationships with public information officers from local and state government organizations, allowing the company to extend the reach of its communications activities, better share information with the public and better respond to questions from the public.

● Operate Plant

DTE Entergy team members at the Fermi-2 nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan earned the Operate Plant Award for their “Robotic Dry Ice Decontamination System.” This new approach to decontamination of hard-to-reach areas forced carbon dioxide pellets through ventilation duct work to remove contaminants. The robotic system effectively cleaned the ducting in just eight weeks, saving $2 million without affecting other crucial work at the facility.

● Equipment Reliability

Entergy Nuclear employees at the Pilgrim power station in Massachusetts won the Equipment Reliability Award for developing a screwdriver that helps prevent electrical short circuits. The non-metallic, zirconia ceramic screwdriver bit facilitates work with sensitive electrical equipment and tightens screws more effectively than conventional screwdrivers.

● Maintenance (2)

Duke Energy Corp. employees at the Oconee facility are recipients of one of two Maintenance Awards for a steam generator tube inspection innovation. Robot-acquired data from a fully automated process to inspect more than 31,000 steam generator tubes is so accurate that it eliminated the need for a second, confirmatory analysis of inspection results.

Exelon Nuclear employees at the Byron, Braidwood and Three Mile Island nuclear energy facilities won one of two Maintenance Awards for developing a system that improves the process used to verify that all fuel rods are properly aligned when they are placed in the reactor. The new process increases reactor safety and saves at least $65,000 per refueling outage.

● Materials and Services

Exelon Nuclear employees at the Quad Cities Generating Station in Illinois garnered the Materials and Services Award for creating a program that precisely measures the condition of underwater components. The system combines green laser light technology and an underwater camera to capture data along with software that accounts for environmental factors. Measurements of key plant systems were taken in just 12 hours vs. 12 days using the previous method, limiting worker radiation exposure and reducing costs.

● Management Process and Support Services

NextEra Energy Inc. employees at the Point Beach nuclear plant in eastern Wisconsin were honored for greatly increasing the efficiency of a plant power uprate outage. The effort achieved project completion in 75 days (35 days faster than a similar uprate outage), significantly reduced worker radiation exposure and saved $9 million.

● Plant Support

Entergy employees at Arkansas Nuclear One captured the Plant Support Award for developing “angel wings,” a lightweight, folding construction platform made from an aluminum alloy. Similar to devices used in the construction industry, angel wings reduce total work hours needed for a task, radiation exposure and costs, are safe and easy to install, and create a more comfortable and efficient work environment for plant personnel.

● Training

Exelon Nuclear employees in the corporate training group were recognized with the Training Award for developing guidelines that allow performance testing of a control room simulator to take place at the same time that instructors prepare training and evaluation activities. Eliminating more than 100 malfunction tests per year, the guidelines save 800 person-hours and $40,000 in labor costs annually. They have helped ensure consistency of testing and training throughout the nuclear industry.

● Nuclear Fuel

Boiling water reactor fleet employees of Exelon Nuclear were honored with the Fuel Award for their “Boiling Water Reactor Fuel Channel Interference Mitigation” program. The first-of-a-kind methodology uses core simulator software to estimate the probability of interference between the control blades and the fuel channels they move in. The process has effectively eliminated interference problems throughout the fleet, avoiding unplanned outages and saving the company $22.5 million in just two years.

TIP Vision & Leadership Award (2)

Employees of Duke Energy Corp. at the Oconee Nuclear Station received one of two Vision & Leadership Awards and the B. Ralph Sylvia Best of the Best Award for the “Digital Upgrade of the Reactor Protection System and Engineered Safeguards System.” The systems monitor key parameters associated with reactor operation and can automatically shut down the reactor and initiate emergency core cooling systems operation if certain values are exceeded.

● STP Nuclear Operating Co. employees at the South Texas Project Electric Generating Station also received a Vision & Leadership Award for their “Knowledge Transfer and Diversity Recruitment Practices” that implemented a wide range of strategies to strengthen the nuclear energy industry’s work force. Partnerships with government agencies, educational institutions and community organizations; mentoring and recruitment programs; and a unique knowledge retention and transfer system have been established to ensure continued, safe plant operations.


The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at www.nei.org.

The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at www.nei.org.