BY KENDRA EVENSEN
BLACKFOOT — A Blackfoot-based company is seeing an increase in demand for projects in the commercial nuclear industry, partly due to the recent approval of power plants in the southeastern part of the U.S.
Premier Technology, Inc., an engineering, manufacturing and construction management company, is working on several projects associated with the industry right now.
“It is our fastest growing marketplace,” said Doug Sayer, president and chairman of Premier Technology. “It’s coming from growth supporting the nuclear industry.”
Right now, the company is in the process of building a key cooling component for four nuclear reactors that will be located in Georgia and South Carolina. The reactors are part of the Southern Nuclear Company’s new Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at plant Vogtle, and the South Carolina Electric and Gas Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Site — the first commercial nuclear power plants to be licensed in the U.S. in nearly 35 years.
“We are proud to be supporting these important U.S. projects,” Sayer said, adding that they are crucial to the nation’s energy independence. “Clean energy is the future of our nation. The power produced by the AP1000 nuclear plant will provide safe and reliable energy that is greenhouse gas free.”
Kathryn McCarthy, director of the Light Water Reactor Sustainability Technical Integration Office at the Idaho National Laboratory, said there is a new streamlined process for the licensing, building and operation of plants, so developers can get all of their approvals before they start investing a lot of capital.
“There’s a demand for new electricity sources,” she said, adding that the new process — which still holds the developments up to high standards — makes the nuclear industry more appealing that in has been in recent decades.
She believes investors will be paying close attention to the construction of the nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina, and there may be a lot more growth in the industry if the streamlined process works for them.
“When the U.S. comes out of this economic slump, we’re going to see more demand for electricity and we’ve got to be ready,” she said. “I think it’s great these new plants are being built. The U.S. needs clean energy and new energy.”
Premier Technology has contracted with Westinghouse to manufacture the integrated head packages, which officials describe as complex structures that cool essential components at the reactor plants.
Sayer said they have worked with Westinghouse on other projects in recent years, and he hopes the relationship he’s established with them and others in the commercial nuclear industry will help place Premier Technology as a front runner in the supply chain.
Although they haven’t had to hire any additional employees for the IHP project, Sayer believes industry demand will create opportunities for more growth in the future.
“Our success in these projects will enable us to continue to win contracts to perform for clients,” he said. “And with the demand for services, we will be able to add employees and grow the company.”
Sayer said the IHP project is important to not only Idaho, which has a lot of history in the nuclear industry, but also to the U.S. The IHP is one of the major containment components being built in the U.S. right now, but many of the parts are coming from Asia and Europe, he said.
“It is essential that the nation reinvigorate its manufacturing base and return the manufacturing of these type of components to the United States,” Sayer said. “Because we haven’t been supplying for the past three decades, we’ve lost the supply chain and lost the ability to manufacture all the components in the U.S. This is an opportunity for America to regain that manufacturing expertise.”