The U.S. Department of Energy forecasts that the United States will need 30 percent more electricity by 2030. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, this is a conservative estimate and below the actual growth rate of the past five decades. To meet this demand, the electric utility industry is expected to invest $750 billion in power plants, environmental technology, and transmission and distribution lines.
“Nuclear plants, along with coal- and gas-fired power plants, are the workhorses of the U.S. electricity system,” the NEI explains on its Web site. “Nuclear plants produce nearly 20 percent of our nation’s electricity, and can help meet the growth in electricity demand resulting from an expanding U.S. economy and population.”
No one has to tell this to Holtec International, New Jersey-based inventor and producer of components and storage systems that service the nuclear energy sector. With manufacturing in Pittsburgh, the company holds 28 patents, mostly in the areas of nuclear fuel storage and has become well known in the industry for its engineering technology and expertise. In recent years, it has seen an increase in its own activity with resurgence, including the potential construction of new plants, in the nuclear energy market.
It seems appropriate that the Holtec Manufacturing Division (HMD) should operate a fabrication plant of over 175,000 square feet in a site that housed George Westinghouse’s office (formally known as the Westinghouse East Pittsburgh Works and today a registered historic site). The same sort of ingenuity inherent in Westinghouse’s work flows through Holtec’s plant, now called the Keystone Commons Industrial Facility. From here, more than 90 percent of HMD’s manufactured equipment is destined for commercial nuclear plants.
The company’s shop has a range of capabilities, including bridge cranes ranging from 10- to 200-ton capacity. Heavy machining is performed on CNC vertical and horizontal milling and boring machines. Two CNC plasma-cutting systems, complete with 14 by 40 foot water tables, provide for efficient and accurate part preparation.
NUCLEUS OF ACTIVITY
The great bulk of HMD’s manufacturing output is based on Holtec Nuclear Division’s engineered designs for safety related equipment. HMD also manufacturers commercial heat exchange equipment and weldments for the Power Plant Components Division. Manufacturing of equipment engineered by external clients (such as GE, Westinghouse, Framatome, and Bechtel) takes place sideby-side with Holtec International-designed equipment.
HMD’s wide range of structural fabrication capabilities for nuclear power plants include safety-related special tools and handling equipment, storage and shipping containers for spent nuclear fuel, heat exchangers, and pressure vessels. HMD’s ASME N and NPT Quality Assurance certifications enable it to design, fabricate, test, and deliver the whole array of capital equipment and structural weldments needed by nuclear plants.
While the company concentrates principally on the manufacturing of complex components made of stainless steel, and exotic metals (Hastaloy and Titanium), tank and vessels made of carbon steel are also fabricated in the factory.
“The biggest thing we’re involved in is nuclear fuel storage systems to contain radioactive material and reduce radiation exposure,” explains Vice President of Manufacturing Richard Arn. “Such storage systems, measuring eight feet in diameter and made of steel and stainless steel, need to be strong and rupture-proof in incidences of seismic activity or even terror attack,” Arn says, “so no radioactive material leaks out.”
Such expertise has enabled Holtec to garner contracts with major utilities. “We supply sites all over the world, including Exelon, Entergy, Pacific Gas & Electric, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, ENRESA, NOK,” Arn notes. Holtec is also engaged in the ongoing deactivation of Chernobyl, whose plant name and location are now synonomous with nuclear disaster. That accident destroyed the reactor and released massive amounts of radioactivity into the environment. Arn said Holtec’s hand in the work involves supplying vessels in which to store fuel rods from Unites 1 through 3, which were undamaged during the 1986 accident.
Company-wide, Holtec International’s industrial activities are principally focused on four continents: Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan in Asia; Britain, Spain, and Ukraine in Europe; Canada, Mexico, and the United States in North America; and Brazil in South America are among the countries where Holtec has provided goods and services, rendered through six operating divisions:
• Nuclear Power Division (NPD)
• Holtec Manufacturing Division (HMD)
• Holtec Technical Services (HTS)
• Nanotec Metals Division (NMD)
• Power Plant Components Division (PPCD)
• Air Cooled Systems Division (ACSD)
The Nuclear Power Division is the largest of the divisions, with annual sales of more than $150 million in 2007. This division has consistently won accolades for its project performance from nuclear utilities around the world.
The Nuclear Power Division operates under two business units: Project Management and Site Services. NPD defines Project Management as the art of marshalling the capital and human resources of the company to achieve the objectives of a project on the prescribed schedule with utmost safety and absolute adherence to the procedures that govern the company’s quality assurance program. The Site Services unit covers three discrete areas: Site Modification, Site Construction, and Site Inspection and Surveillance.
While Holtec has provided myriad services and systems for companies throughout the world, it is the domestic market that has been the catalyst for the company’s technical innovations.
More than 70 percent of Holtec’s output is consumed by the domestic power industry; the balance is destined for foreign markets, according to the company’s Web site. Over 150 power generation stations in the U.S., including over 80 commercial nuclear power plants, have been Holtec customers over the past two decades. According to the site: “A Generation Ahead by Design” is Holtec’s corporate credo as well as its guiding beacon. In practical terms, it means “identifying a distinct industry need for a new technology and focusing the company’s resources to fulfilling the need with the best technology possible.”
A very urgent need to which the company responded occurred in the 1980s, as U.S. nuclear plants faced the problem of reactors shutting down for lack of a means to store the irradiated spent fuel. Dry storage technology for storing spent fuel was still in its infancy, and public opposition to fuel transport left little options.
The solution came in the form of Holtec’s ultra-high density storage rack technology that doubled, tripled, and even quintupled the in-pool (wet) storage capacity in most spent fuel pools. Beginning in the 1980s and continuing through the 21st century, Holtec “reracked” more than 85 spent fuel pools in America and overseas, averting the loss-of-full-core reserve in reactors from Taiwan to Tennessee, and giving the nuclear plant operators a safe and economical means to manage their growing spent fuel inventory.
Holtec also initiated a dry storage program in 1991, which focused on the development of U.S. DOE-espoused “multi-purpose canister” (MPC) technology. In 1999 the industry’s first MPC technology-based vertical ventilated module – HI-STORM 100 – was licensed for use in all of the territorial United States. The company continues to develop the technologies to improve the human factors (health and safety features) of its dry storage and transport technology. To date, in the United States alone, over 200 of Holtec’s dry spent fuel storage systems are loaded with spent nuclear fuel.
Another milestone occurred in 2004 when the company unveiled its underground vertical ventilated module (VVM) technology for storage of loaded MPCs in watertight cavities that provides for storage of fuel undisturbed by flood, tsunamis, or hurricanes. It is viewed as the “ultimate foil” to the kind of terror that struck on 9/11, according to the Web site.
Holtec also develops the design of a device or a system, secures its certification by appropriate government authorities, performs all required manufacturing, and executes on-site installation, testing, and commissioning into service. The company has completed both dry storage and wet storage projects in nuclear plants around the world. Since the mid 1980s, Holtec has delivered over $1.6 billion of goods and services to the power industry.
With so many accolades and engineering feats under its belt, Holtec is well equipped to deal with an uptick in the nuclear energy sector with a continued line of quality products and services. HMD is truly an “American Center of Manufacturing Excellence.”