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CT Construction Digest Thursday April 16, 2020

Millstone moving forward with reactor refueling amid COVID-19 pandemic
Mary Biekert            
Waterford — Millstone Power Station’s two nuclear reactors are partially refueled every 18 months, and the monthlong process typically requires an influx of hundreds of specialized workers, including electricians, pipefitters and others, who typically travel to execute the same kinds of operations at plants across the country.
But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, operators have had to restructure this spring’s refueling for Millstone's Unit 2 reactor to ensure the safety of both resident and visiting workers. That effort will include social distancing protocols but should be carried out successfully, Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said, as workers at the plant already have been practicing social distancing over the past several weeks.
The governor announced his Stay Safe, Stay Home orders last month, and Holt said that while the plant has had some of its employees work from home, those who still must come in to the plant are required to keep their distance from others and are conducting meetings by teleconference rather than in person. Employees also are required to take their own temperature every day before coming to work and have it taken again before entering plant facilities.
Holt said there are also more hand sanitizing stations throughout the plant and custodial staff members are taking extra care to keep surfaces sanitized. Additionally, he said, access to the plant’s control room now has even stricter restrictions. Those who need to speak to control room operators must now call instead of entering the room. He said those sitting in the room are able to maintain distance from one another, but special care is being taken to protect them. However, the plant has several backup staff available, should any control staff fall ill, he said.
“Is social distancing tricky? It can be. But we are doing it,” Holt said. “The health and safety of everyone who works at Millstone is our priority. We are ensuring people are staying safe and are not spreading coronavirus.”
Holt said last week no employee at the plant has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Millstone provides enough energy to power 2.1 million homes and currently employs about 900 workers, he said.
In preparation for this spring’s refueling, Holt said, plant operators have been intensely planning over teleconference calls and video chats.
He explained that a third of the "spent" fuel of one of Millstone's two reactors is replaced with new fuel during the partial refuelings, which are staggered so at least one reactor can still supply energy to the grid while the other is taken offline. Unit 2 is scheduled for refueling in the coming weeks, while Unit 3 will be refueled this fall. Unit 1 was decommissioned in 1998.
The refueling process, which may require employees to be in close quarters with one another, involves shutting down the reactor and removing and replacing 65 to 70 of the reactor’s fuel assemblies, which Holt said are 8 by 8 inches wide and 14 feet long and made up of bundled fuel rods of uranium oxide pellets.
After used fuel rods are removed, they are transferred through underwater canals to cool in a holding pool before eventually being transferred to dry storage casks. The entire process, which all takes place underwater, is executed with what Holt described as a highly precise "arcade" crane claw operated by plant workers.
Holt said social distancing should not disrupt the flow of such work.
While the plant usually sees 800 to 1,000 contractors from the region and elsewhere in the nation during refueling, Holt said plant operators are trying to determine what personnel are absolutely necessary, as some of the maintenance, repair and inspection work typically carried out by outside contractors while reactors are offline may be postponed.
Only repairs and maintenance that are absolutely essential to keep the reactor safely running until its next refueling 18 months from now will still occur, he said. The process still will take about a month to complete.
By a fluke chance earlier this month, plant workers received some practice with social distancing while carrying out urgent repairs after the plant’s Unit 3 reactor automatically shut down April 1 due to a circuit fault.
The incident was not "complicated," according to an “event notification” filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by Dominion, the company that owns the Millstone Power Plant, and it posed no danger to the public, Holt added. As of Tuesday, Unit 3 was still shut down, according to the NRC's reactor status report for the day.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said by email last week the agency is continuing its oversight role during refueling and maintenance outages, both with the on-site presence of inspectors and remotely. He added during the unexpected reactor shutdown, one of NRC’s resident inspectors assigned to Millstone on a full-time basis responded to the site to independently verify plant safety and that NRC inspectors have since been following up on the company’s troubleshooting efforts, any repairs and plans to restart the reactor, he wrote.
“Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 emergency, the NRC’s full-time inspectors assigned to operating U.S. nuclear power plants remain on the job,” Sheehan wrote. “This has meant adapting by performing reviews remotely when possible and using multiple communications channels to stay in close contact with plant personnel and fellow NRC staff regarding activities at the facilities. There are still times, however, when they need to be present at the sites. During those times, the inspectors are following all recommended social distancing and safe hygiene protocols.”
Justin Fuller, NRC's senior resident inspector for Millstone, said while "there’s still some face-to-face interaction going on, people are still following best practices."
Fuller said he has observed that employees, instead of having game-plan huddles before working on a task, are holding meetings in large circles, standing far from one another and speaking louder so everyone can hear, while stricter measures are now in place for the plant's control room. Fuller said virtual meetings also are being held to further avoid person-to-person contact and employees have been careful to wear gloves if sharing tools while performing maintenance tasks, among other measures. Additionally, he said the NRC has provided masks for him and fellow inspectors to wear at work.

City Council approves construction project to replace Louisiana Avenue Bridge
BRISTOL – The City Council Tuesday night approved a construction project to replace the Louisiana Avenue Bridge, with approximately 80% of the $3.7 million cost state funded. Construction is expected to start in May.
The project is being funded through the Federal/ Local Bridge program administered by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
“The program provides 80% reimbursement of all construction costs, including bridge replacement, engineering, inspection, and construction administration services,” she said.
However, the Federal/Local Bridge program requires the city to pay for 20% of the DOT administrative/testing/audit cost of $260,100, “for a net cost to the city of $52,020,” Zoppo-Sassu said. “Therefore the effective city reimbursement rate for the Louisiana Ave. bridge construction is 78.4 percent.”
Ray Rogozinski, Public Works director, said Eversource is scheduled to be in the area relocating wires in two weeks in anticipation of the bridge replacement.
“Have the people on Louisiana Avenue been notified?” asked council member Brittany Barney.
“They have been contacted in the process,” Rogozinski said. “Now that we’re finalizing these agreements we’re going to reach out to all the affected property owners.”

‘The Haven’ mall project in West Haven moves a step closer to reality
Pam McLoughlin
WEST HAVEN — In preparation for long-awaited demolition that will pave the way for The Haven, an upscale retail project years in the making, the city is abandoning Water Street on April 27, according to the mayor’s office.
Mayor Nancy R. Rossi said in a release that the project developer is setting up detour signs and digital sign markers near Elm and Main streets to give motorists notice of the road closure and traffic change.
Rossi said executives of The Haven Development Co. have updated city, police and fire officials and utility providers on the $200 million, 261,182-square-foot waterfront development.
The development company is led by John P. Dionis, vice president of development for Simon Premium Outlets, based in Morristown, N.J., and Matt Armstrong, executive vice president of The Haven Group LLC, based in Dallas.
The Water Street closure and abandonment is expected to clear the way for demolition of several existing commercial buildings as part of The Haven South Municipal Development Plan.
The developer’s demolition plans for “Demolition Area ‘A’” of The Haven South were reviewed by Rossi, Planning and Development Commissioner Fred A. Messore and representatives of the Regional Water Authority, Southern Connecticut Gas Co. and United Illuminating, the city release said. The area is composed of 55 properties bounded by First Avenue, Elm Street, Water Street, Center Street, Richards Place, Main Street and Bayview Place.
The plans were prepared by the Benesch design firm of Glastonbury.
The Haven’s demolition phase is expected to begin shortly after April 27 with the environmental remediation of some commercial structures, followed by the acquisition of demolition permits for each property, officials said.
Once completed, The Haven is expected to encompass 26 waterfront acres featuring dozens of luxury retail shops, restaurants and a promenade. The project is expected to generate between 800 and 1,200 jobs and several million dollars in municipal tax revenue and fees, officials said.
The project has met with years of delay, leading many residents to believe it won’t actually be built because of an economic downturn for brick-and-mortar stores, caused in large part by online shopping, and because West Haven has a depressed economy.
City officials have maintained that the project has been stalled by delays in permits, approvals and the details of a $5 million state grant, and have said the delays were not the developer’s fault.
The properties have been abandoned for years, and complaints from residents in the area have poured in regarding alleged vagrancy and dumping.
The topic became a hot issue during the 2019 mayoral race, with Rossi’s opponents quick to blame her administration for the mess.
Rossi, however, also has expressed concern about frequent dumping and other security factors at the site. She said the developer paid for all the cleanup.
There was a push to fine the developer for blight, but City Attorney Lee Tiernan has said the city resisted that because they want to have a good relationship with the developer, as delays were not the fault of the companies.
City leaders, as well as residents, have felt frustrated by a lack of a definite timeline for the project that first was floated five years ago.
The developer tried to allay fears the mall would never materialize in an appearance before the City Council last year by reminding the council it already is heavily invested in the project — $25 million to $30 million in property acquisition, architects, engineers, environmental experts and more.
The developer has told the council that “retail is evolving” — and today’s projects such as The Haven are about smaller stores and a broader “experience” — creating environments, spaces for sociability and interesting experiences.
City officials and the developers have said The Haven would pay $2 million in annual property taxes and create more than $15 million in incremental sales tax for the state.