Upfront

Floating Nuclear Power Plants Sail Onward

By: | November 1, 2013 • 3 min read

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

In 2016, the world may see its first floating nuclear power plant. The Akademik Lomonosov will be the first of a fleet planned by the Russian government to produce 70 megawatts of energy using two KLT-40 naval propulsion reactors — enough to power a city of 200,000 people.

R11-13p10_UpFront.inddThe barges, which will not be self-propelled but instead will be transported by tugboat, will serve remote areas where building a large, permanent reactor may be unnecessary, too expensive, or too dangerous. Primarily, they will serve large industrial companies, oil-drilling platforms, and remote towns in Arctic Russia and the Far East.

“We’ve actually had floating reactors for more than 60 years,” in the form of submarines, commercial ships, and aircraft carriers, said Dan McGarvey, U.S. Energy, Mining and Power Practice chairman at Marsh, Inc. in Greenville, S.C.

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“Today, there are 93 floating reactors anchored near San Diego, Norfolk, Seattle, Honolulu and other populous areas,” he said.

Russia is already active in operating mobile nuclear reactors on its icebreakers. The key difference is that the new floating plants won’t use any power for their own propulsion — their purpose is to produce available electricity.

Critics of the plants question their safety and see an environmental threat, citing the possibility of nuclear materials contaminating surrounding waters and marine life. Manufacturers, however, claim that the floating plants will be developed with a safety margin, designed to withstand collisions and ride out tsunamis. They are intended to be failsafe.

“These are next-generation reactors, not your father’s reactors,” said McGarvey, an expert in insuring nuclear power plants. “They use a series of systems that rely on gravity, natural circulation, and stored energy such that if the reactor loses all power, those systems don’t require power to operate.”

The challenge at Fukushima — where the reactor at the nuclear power plant in Japan melted down and released radioactive materials — was that the earthquake and tsunami knocked out all power, including backup diesel generators, leaving the plant without any way to circulate cooling water to the reactor.

The system of natural forces in place on the floating reactors would keep water pumping and circulating, and can keep the reactor from having core damage for 72 hours without human intervention, according to McGarvey. A floating vessel would also stand a better chance of riding out an earthquake or storm, compared to a structure anchored in bedrock.

“These are next-generation reactors, not your father’s reactors.”
— Dan McGarvey, U.S. Energy, Mining and Power Practice chairman, Marsh

The Akademik Lomonosov and similar vessels could also each save 200,000 tons of coal per year, McGarvey said, sparing the environmental risks of coal-burning.

A major risk of utilizing floating plants, however, is one of security. It would be much easier to sabotage, hijack, or launch an attack from a vessel sitting just offshore, than from a landed facility.

Despite the apparent benefits of moving nuclear power generation offshore, the barges cannot sail without sufficient insurance coverage.

“P&I coverage is available in commercial markets, but can have nuclear exclusions,” McGarvey said. “It exists more to address things like grounding and collisions.” The ships will need to amass coverage from the global nuclear pool for decontamination, which poses the greatest challenge. 

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“The [Vienna Convention on Nuclear Liability] holds the government accountable for meeting certain standards,” McGarvey said.

“The owner/operator is solely responsibility for liabilities arising from a radiological standpoint to third parties,” he said. “They are required to meet a minimum insurance limit of $350 million of liability coverage. Above that level, the government is held to account by this treaty. And the barges will be owned by the Russian government, which seems to have no intent to sell them.”

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]