Honeywell announced, 11 July, that it is evaluating a series of upgrades to its Metropolis Works nuclear conversion facility following a recent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection that focused on preparedness for extreme natural disasters such as strong earthquakes and tornadoes. The facility will not resume operation until a plan has been agreed with the regulator, it said.
The NRC inspection of Metropolis Works was part of a comprehensive assessment it is conducting of all US nuclear-related facilities in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Prior to Fukushima, Honeywell initiated an Integrated Safety Analysis as part of its licensing process, and identified upgrades to the facility to withstand a major seismic event including seismic hardening of buildings and piping.
In May, the Metropolis Works facility received a clean bill of health when the NRC confirmed as part of its License and Performance Review that the plant was operating safely.
After an 11 July meeting with the NRC, Honeywell committed that it will not restart production at the facility, which has been undergoing planned annual maintenance since May, until reaching agreement with the Commission on the necessary upgrade projects and timing.
“The timeline for the restarting of operations and the nature and timing of the upgrades has not been determined,” Honeywell said, but added that neither suspension of operation nor the cost of the upgrades is expected to have a negative impact on share earnings in 2012.
Honeywell estimates that it could take 12 to 15 months to complete the upgrades. During that time the full-time workforce could be reduced by about half, it said.
"Honeywell takes its commitment to safety seriously," said Larry Smith, plant manager for the Metropolis Works facility. "We are continuing to discuss the necessary plant upgrades with the NRC, and we hope to quickly establish a definitive timetable."
Honeywell said it has made significant capital investments in the Metropolis Works operation, including nearly $70 million since 2006.
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