Sunday, April 21, 2024

NRC: Everything’s safe and secure in Castle Hayne

CASTLE HAYNE — There’s been a change in venue for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission‘s biannual discussion of Global Nuclear Fuel – Americas’ safety performance. 

The NRC meetings with Global Nuclear Fuel to discuss the results of the agency’s licensee performance review at the Castle Hayne nuclear fuel fabrication plant have been held at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for the past decade. 

Last week, the NRC said a webinar has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 12, to discuss the latest review of General Electric’s original Wilmington operation.  

The NRC explained staff assessed performance during a period, beginning Jan. 1, 2015 and ending Dec. 31, 2016, in the categories of safety operations, radiological controls, facility support and other areas. The NRC also assesses security, but it will not be discussed during the webinar due to the sensitive nature of the information.  

The staff review determined that Global continued to conduct its activities safely and securely, protecting public health and the environment, the statement pointed out. 

The webinar will be held from 1-2 p.m. EDT, with NRC officials participating from the agency’s regional offices in Atlanta and Global officials at their facility north of Wilmington.  

The meeting will be accessible by the public, with NRC officials available to answer questions after the formal presentation. For information on how to access the webinar, contact Tom Vukovinsky at 404-997-4622 or via email at 

This is the second webinar scheduled by the NRC’s Division of Fuel Facility Inspection, spokesman Joey Ledford said. 

More are planned for this year, he added, noting the savings in travel costs and the hope webinars will be more accessible to the public than the lightly attended UNCW sessions.    

Fifty years ago, GE purchased 1,600 acres in Castle Haynean unincorporated community north of  Wilmington, and began construction of a Fuel Materials Operations building in July 1967. 

Recruited to replace the Atlantic Coast Line railroad, which moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1960, GE’s nuclear operations acquired a former plantation on the Northeast Cape Fear River to allow shipment of reactor components by barge. 

Plans to manufacture these large castings never materialized, but a building for nuclear fuel assemblies was completed in 1968. 

In January 1969, the NRC’s predecessor, The Atomic Energy Commission, issued the original Special Nuclear Materials 1097 (SNM 1097) License to GE, which shipped its first product later that year. 

In January 2000, GE, Hitachi and Toshiba announced the merger of their nuclear fuel marketing, design, development and manufacturing functions into the new company, Global Nuclear Fuels, which established bases in Japan and the United States. 

Since signing a tripartite licensing agreement for BWR – boiling water reactor — plants in 1967, the three companies had been working together in the building and maintenance of BWR plants, Toshiba noted at the time. 

It said GE had 51 percent of the new venture, while Toshiba and Hitachi had 24.5% each. 

After Toshiba acquired Westinghouse – owner of a Columbia, SC fuel assembly facility, Japanese anti-trust regulators forced Toshiba to give up its direct Global ownership. Hitachi and Toshiba formed a venture to hold the minority Global stake. 

In 2007, GE and Hitachi merged their nuclear operations to form GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, which manages Global Nuclear Fuels.  

Castle Hayne-based GE Hitachi has not responded to queries about the impact of Toshiba’s bankruptcy on the fuels venture, which supplies fuel for about two-thirds of the 36 BWRs in North America. 

For more from Jim, visit his Energy Thoughts site at 

-Content provided by Cape Fear energy reporter Jim Brumm 

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