NPC – reaching those hard to get to parts

31 March 1998

A key to good economic performance of a nuclear plant is keeping the plant operating. When equipment needs to be replaced, the speed at which the part is obtained and the certainty that it is the right part, are critical. The Framatome Technologies, Inc (FTI) Nuclear Parts Center (NPC) offers an option to utilities – an independent source for nuclear-qualified, safety-related spare parts, from valves and actuator parts, to filters and motors, to tensioners and spare reactor-vessel studs.

A nuclear utility never sleeps. When an outage begins, qualified spare parts must be available around the clock. Utilities have their own parts warehouses that provide the needed supplies on the spot. But, there are cases when the parts are not available.

The NPC was established in 1977 to support PWR power plants with high-quality parts and services for equipment originally supplied or manufactured by The Babcock & Wilcox Company. However, over the years, that charter has been expanded, and the Center has provided equipment to every commercial nuclear utility in the US, and to several nuclear plants abroad.


Under the “third-party supplier” concept, FTI has set up partnerships with manufacturers of nuclear-grade equipment to meet industry requirements. Components are stocked from more than a dozen manufacturers, such as motors and valves from Limitorque, Anderson Greenwood, Yarway, Velan, Anchor/Darling, and Latty, as well as non-valve components from Burndy and Jeumont Industrie-Framatome.

FTI, in conjunction with each supplier, has established generic specifications and stringent requirements for the design and manufacture of safety-related components. FTI then purchases the items in quantity. All items are produced in accordance with both the manufacturer’s and FTI’s quality-assurance programmes.

“Ordering from the original manufacturer can take from 12 to 36 weeks lead time,” said Sandy Hellman, vice president, Nuclear Parts Center. “Because we maintain open stock, the NPC acts as an extension of the customer’s warehouse so parts are available without the wait.”

After the components arrive at the NPC, they are receipt-inspected by qualified inspectors, and the required documentation is compiled and approved. Following acceptance, items are cleaned and packaged in accordance with ANSI N45.2.1 and N45.2.2 level B and ANSI/ASME NQA-2, then placed in inventory.

NPC inventory is stocked in a level-B warehouse, with constant temperature and humidity controls. Stock levels are maintained by monitoring the demand, and by trending usage rates to prevent stock-outs.


To facilitate the ordering process, a customer can pick up the phone and speak with a customer account manager. Orders are processed individually on an as-needed basis, or under a blanket order, with the NPC releasing items on demand. The NPC has also developed a streamlined approach to ordering with the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) software to save time for participating utilities. A utility can electronically send a purchase order through the EDI, and the order will be picked, packed and shipped within four hours of receipt – usually same-day shipment. The NPC has a standing record of 20 minutes from receipt of an order to arrival on the shipping dock.

The NPC also provides for expeditious shipping of stocked parts with on-premises Federal Express and United Parcel Service shipping stations, a foam-packaging system, and a laser bar-code scanner.

To reduce costs and save time, the Nuclear Parts Center recently instituted a Customer Inquiry System on the world wide web ( Here, a customer can personally “visit” the warehouse on-line to determine if the needed parts are available, and obtain pricing information. The customer can then electronically order the item on-line, and it can be shipped within hours of receipt – eliminating paperwork, and delays for quotes, availability, pricing or purchase orders.

On receiving an inquiry for an NPC inventory item, all customer-specified requirements are reviewed. Any exceptions or discrepancies are identified and resolved before an order is accepted. The item is then pulled from inventory, repackaged as necessary, verified, and shipped. This entire process is often completed in hours, depending on the customer’s needs. One utility called for some emergency replacement parts on Christmas Eve. “We didn’t work on Christmas Day, but we came in on December 26 and had the parts shipped December 27, along with an engineer from field services to help install them,” said Business Manager John Shively.

The ability to specify equipment requirements, and the readily available inventory make this responsive service unique within the industry.


The NPC personnel roster of 45 includes 14 qualified engineers with combined industry experience of more than 20 years in procuring and qualifying nuclear plant equipment. In addition, technical personnel perform inspection and materials-control duties, along with the contract administrators and operations support staff who are dedicated to ensuring that all technical specifications are met.


The NPC also carries a broad range of products that are manufactured by FTI, including cartridge filters, electromagnetic filters, pressuriser heaters, reactor vessel studs, and a variety of ASME-Code parts. NPC parts are fabricated in accordance with the applicable quality programme requirements, including ASME III N and NPT certificates of authorisation and 10CFR50 Appendix B requirements. Build-to-print components can be constructed in full regulatory compliance.

Many of FTI’s fabrication projects involved unique components requiring complex fabrication and welding, specialty machining, and/or special materials. Often, with very short lead times, parts are assembled and delivered in only a matter of hours. On a recent Wednesday, at 4:30 in the afternoon, an urgent call came from a utility requesting an emergency shipment of 50 cartridge filters that are designed and manufactured by FTI. Crews went to work immediately and worked through the weekend to produce the filters. The first 25 were shipped the following Monday, and the remainder the next day, complete with the associated paperwork.


It wasn’t business as usual during the spring of 1997. Northeast Utilities’ Millstone site was working around the clock to restore their plant to operation. Millstone wanted a parts trailer on site to support rebuilding motor-operated valves (MOVs) for units 1 and 3. Although the customer agreed that the NPC is equipped to supply the necessary Limitorque MOV parts from its headquarters, this particular workscope required that parts be available on site.

According to Steve Sheehan, Millstone 3 procurement team supervisor, “Success of the MOV project depended on getting the MOV technicians all of the parts they needed on time.”

After Millstone notified NPC of their intent, a trailer was refurbished as a mobile storage and office warehouse, and stocked with more than 600 line items. The NPC then developed a customised inventory-management database, and deployed the now-mobile warehouse to Millstone. The preparation and stocking were completed in just two short weeks, and the trailer was moved to the site and parked within 150 feet of the MOV refurbishment trailer.

“It was important that the customer had no down time related to parts procurement,” said Roger Maggi, Sr, NPC business manager. While MOVs were not on the critical items’ list for unit startups, the mobile warehouse was an integral part of keeping the MOV workscope off the critical path. The ability to get parts within minutes saved valuable man-hours.

The trailer was staffed to be open around the clock. During its stay, FTI personnel performed all stocking, restocking, receipt inspection, issue, and return of material, thus allowing Millstone warehouse personnel to devote their time to their parts issues. “It’s a matter of thinking out of the box,” Maggi said.

FTI valve services

Valves, particularly those involved in safety-related activities, are a vital component in a nuclear power plant. To help utilities maintain a high level of reliability of their valves, Framatome Technologies, Inc provides integrated valve engineering, diagnostic testing, and actuator-refurbishing services worldwide. To evaluate and verify proper valve and actuator performance, the FTI Valve Services unit employs a full range of non-intrusive diagnostic testing products and services. For motor-operated valves, Valve Services uses the industry standard VOTES diagnostic system from Liberty Technol-ogies. FTI is also an authorised nuclear-service representative for both Limitorque and Copes-Vulcan. Valve Services uses the UltraCheck “C” and UltraCheck “A” systems developed by FTI that non-intrusively test the performance of check valves and air-operated valves (AOVs) in nuclear plants. UltraCheck “C” uses acoustic, ultrasonic, and magnetic technology for comprehensive valve diagnostics. The UltraCheck “A” system monitors pressure signals, stem displacement and force, and control-input signals. In addition to diagnostics, applications engineering and training are available for motor-operated valves (MOVs), AOVs, solenoid-operated valves, and check valves. A full-time staff of certified engineers and technicians are available to assist utilities in responding to Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requirements. For example, the NRC Generic Letter (GL) 89-10 requires operating plants to verify the design and performance of their MOVs. FTI Valve Services engineers provide support to many utilities by documenting system-design bases, determining valve thrust/torque requirements, and evaluating actuator capability. In December 1994, after a forced outage, a US utility that was on the NRC’s Watch List was working to complete regulatory issues in order to return safely to service. They realised that a manpower shortage was going to delay the restart, since commitments for valve-actuator testing and repair were not met. One week before Christmas, two FTI Valve Services crews were deployed to the site, and stayed through February. One crew performed MOV valve-actuator testing and repair, while the second compiled data for response to regulatory GL89-10 requirements. With all needs and requirements met, the utility returned to service on schedule.

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