“No plans to close or downgrade Foxboro plants” — IPS

Source: ControlGlobal.com

By Andrew Bond, Industrial Automation Insider

May 17, 2009

Invensys Process Systems (IPS) has moved to scotch rumors prompted by last year’s headquarters move to Plano, Texas, that it is about to close its facilities in Foxboro, Mass., by stressing how it is poised to benefit from the upcoming global expansion of nuclear power. The former Foxboro was one of the few process automation and instrumentation companies to retain a nuclear capability during the decades when nuclear power was a dirty word, and now expects to cash in as the technology comes back into favour, principally because it is the only credible carbon free source of base load power.  

Integral to operations

Following a journalist briefing and tour of IPS’ Foxboro plants, director of media operations Tom Clary was quoted by The Sun Chronicle, the local paper for the Foxboro region, as saying that “IPS continues to consider Foxboro an integral part of its operations” and that “there are no plans to close or downgrade the local plant.” Indeed, far from shutting up shop in Foxboro, IPS is reported as saying that it could hire up to 100 additional engineers and managers to support a new “Center for Nuclear Excellence” to handle the $250m contact it recently won to supply the automation systems and associated simulation, critical control and safety systems for two new nuclear power stations in China.  

The paper quotes IPS vice president for nuclear delivery Jack Souza as saying that efforts are already under way to staff up for nuclear operations. IPS is also reported to be creating a new nuclear engineering and support center in Foxboro and a similar facility in Irvine, Calif., home to IPS’ Wonderware operation. According to Souza, it also has plans to establish similar facilities around the world as required.  

Nuclear prospects

IPS is hoping to win a further share of the developing nuclear power program in China, where the aim is for nuclear to provide 5% of power supplies by 2020. That would require the construction of between 30 and 40 reactors at a rate of two power stations a year, each with four GW level reactors, to bring total nuclear capacity up to 70GW by 2020.  

It also anticipates winning a significant share of upcoming nuclear power plant refurbishment work, particularly in the U.S. where more than 100 operational facilities are between 20 and 25 years old. Similar opportunities exist in Europe, including in the U.K. where EDF is committed to the construction of four new plants, the first due on stream by 2017, as part of U.K. government plans to build a total of eight new nuclear plants, mostly on existing sites, by 2025. These will replace the ageing Magnox and Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) plants, most of which are likely to be decommissioned by 2020.  

IPS’s nuclear ambitions in China have been further boosted by its receipt of a “Letter of Confirmation on the Registration in the People’s Republic of China of Overseas Organizations Associated with Civil Nuclear Safety Equipment.” Colloquially known as “HAF604 Certification,” the Letter of Confirmation from the National Nuclear Safety Administration qualifies the company to supply critical safety and control systems and technology for civil nuclear equipment. IPS is one of the first foreign nuclear power automation companies to obtain the certification which is required by any overseas organization working or seeking to work with civil nuclear facilities. Companies are prohibited from working on civil nuclear safety equipment without the Letter or without observing the categories or scopes of the activities regulated by it.  

The certification coincides with IPS opening a new 18,300m2 facility in Shanghai, its largest in the region. Included are an engineering excellence center, modernized staging area, technology showcase centere and a training and customer support service center, together with the company’s regional sales and operations headquarters.