Apr 30, 2019

Ep 154: Michael Gallagher - Vice President, License Renewal, Exelon Generation

Vice President, License Renewal
Exelon Generation
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Show notes

1 - 01:35

Q: How did you enter into the nuclear space?

A: Michael Gallagher was first exposed to the utility industry as a child when his father worked for Philadelphia Electric. Gallagher received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Georgia Tech and returned to Philadelphia to work for Philadelphia Electric, which eventually became Exelon. Gallagher started his career at the Peach Bottom plant in York County, which had an experimental high temperature gas cooled reactor on-site. This reactor acted as more of a demonstration reactor instead of power generation, but had forty different utilities involved in its use. Gallagher worked on modifying the Peach Bottom reactor cooling systems following Three Mile Island, then transferred to the Limerick plant, which was under construction and beginning start-up testing at the time. Gallagher served as senior reactor operator at Limerick.

2 - 10:08

Q: How did your nuclear career progress?

A: After serving as senior reactor operator at Limerick, Michael Gallagher became the reactor engineering supervisor and then an engineering manager of the centralized design. Gallagher returned to Limerick as an operations support manager, then the plant engineering senior manager, and then the director. In the earlier days of nuclear, online maintenance was not common, due to the loss of redundant systems, but Gallagher developed ways to control the risk and limit outages and convinced the regulator to implement online maintenance. After serving as the director of engineering at Limerick, Gallagher returned to Peach Bottom to serve as the director of outage management, then back to Limerick as plant manager.

3 - 16:54

Q: Why is there extra contamination in boiling water reactors?

A: Michael Gallagher spent many years at the Limerick Generating Station, home to two boiling water reactors (BWR’s). Activated nitrogen, which comes from oxygen in the water, is in the volume of steam and quickly decays. Radiation must be properly controlled as it travels from the reactor to the turbine. In boiling water reactors, control rods are used to shape power and steam voids with recirculation pumps, which change core flow. This allows pumps to control the power generation very quickly. Changing the shape of power in the core is altering the shape of the neutron flux, such that different parts of the fuel are burning differently.

4 - 23:45

Q: Do changes related to consumption and design of fuel lead to an overall operational change between boiling water reactors and pressurized water reactors in terms of a fueling period?

A: Michael Gallagher’s experience is mainly centered around boiling water reactors, including design and engineering management. Most pressurized water reactors are on 18 month cycles and most boiling water reactors are on 24 month cycles. This reflects a difference in fuel design and efficiency of core design. Outage management requires planning and preparedness of labor, material, and engineering. Outage planning takes place for a couple years, usually to implement newly regulated modifications or safety features.

5 - 29:30

Q: What led you into your current role as Vice President of License Renewal and Decommissioning of Exelon?

A: Exelon formed as a result of a merger between Unicom and PECO; Michael Gallagher then became involved in the corporate organization of Exelon as the licensing director for Exelon East. Gallagher was also involved during plans for a merger between PSEG and Exelon, but the merger did not take place. Gallagher then took on a role of managing the license renewal for the fleet, first Peach Bottom and then Unicom plants. A renewal strategy for the fleet needed to be developed, as many of the plants were now eligible for 20 year renewals. The renewal process reviews the existing materials and environment and requires an aging plan for how to control degradation and other concerns of components of the plant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) publishes a safety evaluation and environmental impact statement for the plant, proving the renewal, which is followed by presentations in front of an independent review committee. The NRC director eventually issues the renewal license.

6 - 39:56

Q: With all the maintenance plans in place, what don’t continuous reactor licenses exist?

A: Michael Gallagher currently serves as the Vice President of License Renewal and Decommissioning at Exelon. The Atomic Energy Act limits reactor life to forty years, and also allows a process for license renewal, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has done. The license renewal process recognizes the current licensing basis, eliminating the need to re-review the planning that is constantly maintained, such as emergency planning. The lifetime rule is in place for aging management of long-life passive equipment, which was not included in the original licensing process, which is needed to maintain a safe shutdown condition, not for everyday plant operation. Decommissioning is usually required due to economics, since the market does not value the resiliency, reliability, and carbon-free emissions that nuclear provides compared to other sources of energy. There is currently no process to bring back a plant after decommissioning.

7 - 49:29

Q: After thirty-eight years in the nuclear power generation and your experience in global construction, what do you see regarding the global need for energy and nuclear technology?

A: Michael Gallagher participates in a mission trip each year and has experienced how normal power outages are to people in other countries. The quality of life could be more improved and more productive with affordable energy sources, which impacts water quality and other impacts to society.

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