Industry awards prove nuclear really can be innovative

It may not have been as revolutionary as a worldwide techie conference, but this year’s Nuclear Energy Assembly (NEA) did showcase the latest innovative practices in the nuclear energy industry.

Each year at NEA, Top Innovative Practice (TIP) Awards are presented to teams who have implemented innovations that improve safety, efficiency and nuclear plant performance. This year, a team from Harris Nuclear Plant received the highest innovation award for the inventive use of FLEX equipment.

About five years ago, nuclear plants across the nation rolled out a new emergency response strategy – Diverse and Flexible Coping Strategies or FLEX – which added additional backup eq

uipment (such as generators, pumps and batteries) for use at every site in the unlikely event of an emergency. 

Harris Nuclear Plant teammates at their NEA TIP Award exhibit
Harris Nuclear Plant teammates at their NEA TIP Award exhibit

Workers at Harris replaced an emergency service water pump while the plant was online by ensuring a FLEX pump was available to provide backup support as needed. The team worked with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license amendment approval for this work. By using existing resources in a new way, Harris teammates demonstrated that repairs could be made safely while the plant continued to operate, a creative strategy that can now be referenced by others plants.

But, Harris did not have the only Duke Energy team with innovative ideas. Brunswick Nuclear Station was recognized with a TIP Award for using a new tool to remotely conduct complex inspections. In a boiling water reactor (BWR), the nuclear fuel is encased by a steel cylinder. Inspecting this covering can be difficult and time-consuming so the Brunswick team, working with AREVA, developed a way to perform the inspections using ultrasonic examination. This new, more efficient technique allowed the team to perform this important inspection work during recent refueling outages and can be replicated at other BWR plants.

A Duke Energy procurement engineering team also found a more efficient way to work. This TIP Award winning team developed an application to track and communicate equipment purchases across the nuclear fleet. It prioritizes work in real-time based on plant needs and equipment reliability classifications, eliminating the need for back-and-forth communication and duplication of work.

Innovation in the nuclear industry isn’t just limited to plant processes. As a company and fleet, we’re dedicated to preparing the next generation of energy industry leaders in new ways. The Duke Energy chapter of North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) received awards for leadership at the NAYGN national conference, which is hosted in conjunction with NEA.

Among the award the chapter received was the Best Chapter in Knowledge Transfer and Retention, for implementing programs to recognize nuclear mentors and to share expertise on technical topics.  Duke Energy also received the Chapter Achievement Award, which acknowledges the chapter that has gone above-and-beyond in its efforts to make an impact across the industry.

These awards represent just a few of the many ways our nuclear team is working smarter to produce clean, reliable electricity for our communities.


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