Westinghouse employs leading edge logistics for nuclear power plant cargo
By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
It’s a rare day that a nuclear power is described as being akin to a ballet. But when Carl Rossi, director of Global Logistics for Westinghouse Electric Co, began describing all of the intricate moves, people and companies involved in handling the many components and parts for the reactor modules and support buildings being built in South Carolina, his actual words were: “It’s a big ballet.”
Last year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved construction of nuclear reactors designed by Westinghouse that are to be installed in South Carolina and Georgia. Two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are planned for Plant Vogtle near Augusta, GA and for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, SC. No U.S. nuclear construction permits have been granted by the NRC since 1978.
Rossi explained to AJOT in a telephone interview that the V.C. Summer in South Carolina is scheduled for completion in 2018 and involves handling about 24,000 tons of equipment on about 30 ships. The shipments entail such items as machinery, components, pumps, and dearator storage tanks that weigh about 273,000 metric tons and are 45 meters in length.
Those shipments that are arriving from overseas are coming in at both the Port of Charleston and the Port of Savannah, depending on the power plant site.
The cargo creates huge logistically challenges, although Rossi says none is insurmountable. In some cases it involves infrastructure.
In one instance, Rossi recalls, Westinghouse had to rebuild a bridge in cooperation with Norfolk Southern Railroad (NS). “The bridge, which crossed over the Congaree River in SC, dated back to the early 1900s and could not handle the weight of the larger cargo,” he says.
Other challenges include finding railcars that are big enough to handle project cargo.
To address this need, Westinghouse employs a Schnabel car, which is about 400 feet in length, and is designed to carry heavy and oversized loads in such a way that the load itself makes up part of the car. The load is suspended between the two ends of the cars by lifting arms; the lifting arms are connected to a pivot above an assembly of pivots and frames that carry the weight of the load and the lifting arm. When a Schnabel car is empty, the two lifting arms are connected, and the car can usually operate at normal freight train speeds.
The beauty of the Schnabel car, Rossi explains, is it can be lowered within three inches of at the rail bed and can go up and down and sideways. “It’s highly flexible,” he says.
To meet its needs, Westinghouse deploys a Schnabel car at the Port of Charleston and the Port of Savannah.
Another challenge is the fact no nuclear plants have been built in the United States in 30 years. Consequently, Westinghouse is dealing with first-of-a-kind equipment for the plant, which employs a Generation 111+ nuclear reactor, and developing first-of-a-kind logistics operation that is unprecedented in the business.
Aerial view of Columbus Pier where the Port of Charleston has been cooperative in accommodating the large breakbulk/project cargo shipments.
Rossi, who used to handle logistics for the consumer electronics industry, comments that when he came to work for Westinghouse two years ago, the company had no logistics department. “We had to develop operational plans, methodologies, and logistics engineering to move this stuff.”
Leading Edge Team
Rossi is extremely upbeat about his job, however. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. “I’m having the time of my life!” he exclaims. “Surprisingly, there are really not a lot of people in the United States who do this kind of logistics. I tell my guys they are really out there. They’re leading edge.”
The logistics model Westinghouse deploys involves a core team of Westinghouse experts, engineers and project managers, as well as logistics providers Toshiba Logistics and Landstar Logistics who supplement its activities.
“Toshiba Logistics is owned by our parent company and helps us with our project planning and what we call our boots-on-the-ground at the port,” Rossi describes. “Landstar handles the tracking, and provides the trucking equipment as required. They also are boots-on-the-ground.”
Rossi employs his own team, which is made up of a couple of engineers and an operations manager. “They also are hands-on at the port when the equipment comes in,” he explains. “They coordinate Toshiba and Landstar, as well as the stevedores at the seaports, and communicate with the railroads, the riggers, multiple trucking companies, and the ocean vessel operators. It’s a big ballet. They pull it together.”
Then there’s the logistics delivery plan for each large piece of equipment that allows Westinghouse to know exactly how many rail cars and trucks will be needed before the vessel gets to the port. It also allows the Westinghouse logistics team the ability to design specific purpose built fixtures onto the rail cars so that when equipment comes off the vessel, it can go straight onto rail car or truck.
“We touch the shipment only once,” he says.
As a piece of trivia, Rossi reveals that when the first vessel arrived in January carrying condensers for the nuclear power plant project, his team was green about how to handle the shipment. “We had never seen one of these before,” he says.
But his engineering manager was in Korea where the condensers were loaded onto the ocean-going vessel, and had designed and had built fixtures for the shipment.
“Consequently, when it came off the vessels, every single one of those things fit like a glove,” he recalls. “Only minor changes had to be made to secure it properly to the rail.”
BBC Chartering handled a large amount of the specialty cargo on its vessel HR Recommendation, when it arrived at the Port of Charleston earlier this year.
Next year more large shipments will be arriving at the Port of Charleston that can be transported in a standard size truck.
“But we will have shipments that will need escorts, such as the dearator storage tanks that are 170 feet in length,” he adds.
These will be transported over load since they are too large to fit onto a rail car.
“Not only will these require escorts; they will close down roads and require us to take power lines and telephone lines.”
Kudos for Involvement
No doubt, it’s imperative that Rossi and his team work closely with the steamship line. BBC Chartering, in particular, handled a large amount of specialty cargo on its vessel HR Recommendation when it arrived at the Port of Charleston last May.
“We coordinate the pick up or loading with them and also work with them in advance to give them the dimensions of the equipment so they can built their stowage plan to determine which vessel it will go based on its weigh and dimensions,” he remarks. “This also helps us make our unloading plans for when the shipment gets to the port.”
He adds how the Port of Charleston has been cooperative in accommodating the large breakbulk/project cargo shipments.
“They did some changes on the port to accommodate us so that we could store some rail cars, and given us office space,” he says.
In fact, a recently completed $2-million improvement project at the 135-acre Columbus Street Terminal enhanced the facility’s mix of on-dock rail, storage and heavy-lift capabilities.
“The port’s been a good partner and supporter, especially with NS and the bridge at Congaree River.”
Rossi also offers kudos to the railroad, which performs route clearances and load tests on bridges.
“They perform this on all of our equipment,” he says. “They tell us how much clearance we need, whether or not we can get under their bridges, if we can maneuver around curves, and whether or not we need to take down signals.”
Every logistical move is laid out in advance.
“Before the vessel arrives we do a pre job brief with every partner, including the riggers, railroads, stevedores, port operators, and trucking companies,” he explains. “We sit in a room and discuss what we expect to come in, how we expect to handle it, what the schedule is.”
Afterwards, the team holds a post job brief from which it generates lessons learned.
“We come up with improvements and cycle those through to the next revolution,” he says. “This has yielded good results for all of us.”
When asked to describe on such “lesson learned”, Rossi mentions the fixtures for the railcar.
“When the shipment was complete, we used to burn the fixtures off with a welding gun,” he comments. “Now my guys have come up with a quick release junction that’s bolted together so it can be unbolted instead of being burned off.”
This significantly reduces the time in cleaning and returning the car to the railroad, he says.
Again, it’s a ballet where every shipment and piece of equipment must be carefully planned and movement executed.