Jim Reinsch Bechtel Power Corporation is poised to build nuclear power plants for the electricity generating industry wherever and whenever the need arises, Bechtel Nuclear's president Jim Reinsch told World Generation in a recent and exclusive interview at Bechtel Nuclear's world headquarters in Frederick, Maryland. Reinsch could not be sure how new nuclear generation would evolve, but he made it clear that Bechtel could not only do the engineering, procurement and construction, but also help its customers make the industry more competitive in capital and operations costs.
Power engineering, procurement and construction are especially important to the overall Bechtel Group, because Bechtel Power is the largest contributor to the Group's total revenues.
Reinsch was made head of Bechtel Nuclear in May of 2000. In this capacity he is responsible for strategic initiatives, relationships, and portfolio offerings. He is also responsible for all of Bechtel Nuclear's operations for commercial nuclear power plants such as steam generator replacements, nuclear operating plant services, new generation, and D&D (decontamination and decommissioning). Bechtel National, Inc. (BNI) executes all of Bechtel's nuclear operations performed for the Department of Energy and Department of Defense. Reinsch reports to Scott Ogilvie, who runs Bechtel's combined fossil fuel and nuclear Power Global Business Unit.
Speaking about nuclear prospects in the U. S., Reinsch said, "For a rejuvenated nuclear industry to become a reality, there has to be a public consensus acting through a political will that we need a mix of fuel types."
Reinsch is guardedly optimistic. While he sees other sources of generation such as gas and coal as important and always a part of the US electricity generation mix, Reinsch believes that new nuclear should be seriously considered for future base load generation. Nuclear is the cleanest source of generation, helping the country to meet the EPA's revised ozone standards. Nuclear also provides the most predictable pricing of electricity on a forward-looking basis.
Reinsch stated that in the short term the United States will boost nuclear generating capacity by utilities performing power uprates and extending the lives of existing plants. Indeed, some of Bechtel Nuclear's work now is helping existing plants extend their licenses and operating lives from 40 to 60 years. In addition, he said, "Many of these existing nuclear plant sites were licensed for more units than they now have, say, four where only two are presently built. Because they already have the site, footprint, staff and a track record of being good neighbors, it is likely these are the places where expansion will take place soonest," he said.
"Public opinion polls show that the public is increasingly well disposed to nuclear power," Reinsch said. "We need to solve the waste issue, and we need to demonstrate the new licensing process will work. By this I mean we can't have a process by which combined construction and operating licenses are granted and an owner makes capital commitments only to have courts shut or delay a project. Once there is a combined construction and operating license issued and the plant is designed and built in accordance with the license requirements, owners need to be able to carry through and commence testing and commercial operation.
"Another is predictability. We have to show owners that construction schedules and cost are predictable and competitive.
"Here are some other reasons for optimism, "continued Reinsch. "Demand for electric power is growing at an annual rate of two percent a year. Many of the operating plants, fossil and nuclear, are getting old. Some nuclear plants are scheduled to retire. Most of the nuclear plants will opt to have their licensed lives extended. Some may be replaced. There is always a good argument that the nation needs a better mix of fuels, and with nuclear, the industry helps the country significantly reduce our dependence on oil. Given the national security, environmental and geopolitical situations, you could make a very good case for new nuclear plants in this country by 2010. We at Bechtel Nuclear are in a good position for being the engineering, procurement and construction services provider of choice not only because of our extensive nuclear experience but also because we are current in technology advancements. We are currently involved in the building of new nuclear plants in Asia Pacific and continue to provide operating plant services here in the US We have kept a large and knowledgeable staff dedicated to the nuclear industry.
"Indeed, Bechtel has designed or built more than half of this nation's nuclear power units, and worldwide has had a significant presence in 150 units. Its procurement programs are world-class owing to the company's size and global reach. In addition, its safety record in the nuclear field is second to none.
Reinsch stated that new nuclear plants in the United States will be built differently than in the 1970's and '80s. "Back then each one was pretty much customized. With the deregulation of electric power, there is going to be more emphasis on capital cost and performance. That is going to mean more standardization in design and in the construction process. Likely this will mostly pertain not so much to the 'nuclear island' portion but to the 'balance of plant,' the very large portion given over to steam generation and turbines.
"Here is a place Bechtel can really apply its experience in standardization, process and cost controls. Some of what will be applied is what we have learned in these fields from our work in fossil power plants . For example, we can take information systems and data systems developed under fossil fuel projects and apply them to nuclear generation work. The 'balance-of-plant,' of course, is converting steam to electricity anyway, so there is a tremendous similarity with fossil fuel plants. What we are aiming for in nuclear is a construction span of 36 months or less from first concrete to operation. That's our goal, and if we can reach it, we'll have increased predictability for owners while reducing their cost and risk."
More than 90 percent of Bechtel's commercial nuclear work is in the U. S. Although nuclear construction in the U. S. has been stagnant for a decade, Reinsch's group has been anything but dormant. It has engaged in an encompassing array of services to U. S. nuclear plants, as well as providing engineering, procurement and construction management of new nuclear plants overseas, principally in Asia Pacific.
Bechtel has experience both with the General Electric and Westinghouse forms of nuclear generating plants. In China, it is working on the balance-of-plant portion of two 700MW Canadian-designed CANDU reactors. It has been working with Exelon and the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Corporation on design and construction reviews of a pebble bed modular reactor, the modules running about 125 to 130 MWs each. It is also working with Korean Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) and Korean Power Engineering Company on two KEDO reactors in North Korea.
Other work that Reinsch's group is working on in this country other than license renewals are power uprates, steam generation replacements (21 completed), other plant improvements to increase efficiencies and lower costs, and D&D. Bechtel's steam generator replacement (SGR) work is especially notable. Bechtel lays claim to the shortest overall replacement schedule for a three-loop unit - 68 days breaker to breaker - and the lowest accumulated radiation exposure, as well as the nation's first one-piece replacement and replacement through a construction opening in the containment roof.
Bechtel is also an active participant on the Nuclear Energy Institute New Nuclear Generation Task Force and Early Siting Process Working Group.
Reinsch began his career at Bechtel in 1969. He has held responsible positions in project management, labor relations and marketing and business development. He previously managed Bechtel's Nuclear Operating Plant Services organization and served as a Regional Manager for fossil and nuclear projects for North America, Southwest Asia Regional Manager, and President of Bechtel Canada.
Reinsch earned his Bachelor of Business Degree from the University of Florida and Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Relations from the University of Maryland. He is a member of the Nuclear Energy Institute's Board of Directors, NEI's Strategic Issues Advisory Committee and the American Nuclear Society. He and his wife Yvonne live in Frederick, Maryland. They have two grown children.
Summing up, Reinsch said, "We're proud of our work in the nuclear field. We have a significant leadership role in this industry, providing full-service, value-added services. And we feel it has a strong future not only in this country but worldwide."