Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Wilmington-based GE Hitachi wins major contract to dismantle Swedish nuclear reactors


GE Hitachi headquarters. (Courtesy GEH).

WILMINGTON — GE Hitachi announced Tuesday that it was recently awarded a major, three-year contract to dismantle two nuclear reactors at the Oskarshamn plant in Sweden.

GE Hitachi (GEH) signed the contract on Dec. 19 of last year. According to the press release, the work will begin this month and continue through 2019.

Units 1 and 2 of the Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant (Courtesy Oskarshamn Power).

Under regulations established by the International Nuclear Regulators Association (INRA), specific guidelines must be followed for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. This is in large part to prevent potentially dangerous or radioactive material from being released or contaminating the original site or the disposal area.

According to Jonathan Allen, media coordinator for GE Hitachi, the company’s expertise – gained from projects replacing reactors in Japan and upgrading reactor components in the United States – was instrumental in winning the contract, which includes “packaging the reactor’s internal components for final disposal in accordance with government regulation.” Employees for those projects were trained in Wilmington, as well as in San Jose, California.

Sweden, which has no natural fossil reserves, is in the process of modernizing its system of nuclear reactors as it continues to move away from fossil fuel power. According to a policy paper released last year by the French Institute of International Relations, Sweden has in recent years had the lowest carbon footprint in the European Union. The nation’s mix of renewable and nuclear power represents a potential blueprint for other European countries transitioning away from fossil fuels, according to the same study.

European countries building and upgrading their nuclear power grids represents an opportunity for companies like GE Hitachi, according to Executive Vice President of GEH’s Nuclear Services Lance Hall.

“This is a breakthrough project for us in the decommissioning space in Europe,” Hall said. “We look forward to drawing upon the many resources of the ‘GE Store,’ including the depth of the global supply chains of GE and the former Alstom power businesses to deliver superior safety and cost efficient performance for our customer.” (GEH acquired Alstom’s European power generation and transmission grids in 2015.)

GEH shares a facility with GE Aviation in Wilmington, where it began operation in 1969. GEH operates a fuel manufacturing plant, as well as a training facility in Wilmington. Those operations will be increasingly in demand if countries like Sweden continue to replace fossil fuel with nuclear and renewable power, the release states. The facility currently employs about 3,000 people, making it the largest private employer in the Cape Fear area.

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