• Business
    Bloomberg

    Nuke Workers Flock to U.S. Small Towns for Can't-Wait Refueling

    (Bloomberg) -- Over the last few weeks, hundreds of itinerant nuclear-plant workers converged on a sleepy lakeside town south of Detroit. They arrived in pickup trucks, campers and SUVs, and are now working side-by-side to refuel the Fermi 2 reactor. It’s one of 32 in the U.S. scheduled to have fuel rods replaced this spring — pandemic or not.Installing new rods is a huge undertaking, sometimes involving crews of 1,000 or more descending on a site for a month or so before moving on to the next one. The jobs are planned far in advance, for times when power demand is low and a plant can be taken out of service, and the tasks can’t be put off.“Outages have to happen when they have to happen,” said Michael Rennhack, the founder of NukeWorker.com, a jobs board for the industry.Reactors are considered critical infrastructure, and servicing them is deemed essential work as the coronavirus shuts down much of the U.S. economy. Utilities said they’re doing what they can to protect crews, regularly taking temperatures and pressing the importance of hand-washing and trying not to get too close to one another. Still, there are limits.“I don’t know how you practice social distancing while you’re overhauling a nuclear reactor,” said Chris Gadomski, head nuclear analyst for BloombergNEF. “It’s a major, major construction overhaul.”At least one person at the Fermi site has been diagnosed with the virus, according to Abe Babcock, a dispatcher for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers in Rossford, Ohio. Stephen Tait , a spokesman for plant owner DTE Energy Co., said he couldn’t confirm that, under company policy.“While we are disclosing we have positive cases of the coronavirus within our organization, we are not disclosing specific work locations,” he said. “We are going through extraordinary efforts to check the health of employees daily and anyone with flu-like symptoms is asked to return to home and seek medical attention.Babcock sent about 50 of his union members to Fermi and said that some had to go into 14-day quarantine after being exposed to the virus, though they’ve since been cleared to return to the job.“It's definitely a concern,” Babcock said. “Our work is very seasonal, and you have to do it when you can.” Towing over the shores of Lake Erie, the Fermi 2 plant is about 30 miles south of Detroit, which has emerged as a hot spot for the coronavirus. Officials in the nearby town of Monroe, a suburb of 20,000 with a quaint downtown and treelined streets, have been in touch with DTE Energy.  “We definitely have some concerns about the situation,” said Kim Comerzan, director of the Monroe County Health Department, without elaborating.Spring is peak season for refueling, because the relatively mild temperatures mean people aren't cranking air conditioners or heaters and driving up demand for electricity. The task is usually done in conjunction with other repairs and required inspections. Most plants are in small towns, and they typically welcome the specialized labor force that fills hotels, restaurants and bars.Plant operators in Europe are also pushing forward with refueling and maintenance, with caution. The French nuclear safety authority said Friday that it suspended on-site inspections of Electricite de France SA and Orano sites when not necessary. Engie SA is continuing ongoing work at three of its seven reactors in Belgium. EDF, meanwhile, is prioritizing essential work at its 57 reactors and said the pandemic will lead to lower nuclear output as it revamps its maintenance schedule.Precautions are being taken in Monroe County, where Fermi 2 employs about 850 people. The Days Inn & Suites is offering grab-and-go breakfasts instead of the regular buffet and monitoring the lobby so it doesn’t get too crowded, said Jennifer Davis, the general manager. “It does feel different, because of everything that’s going on.”The project at the 1.2-gigawatt Fermi plant includes thousands of tasks, and DTE Energy will consider reevaluating the scope of the job to find any tasks that could be deferred, Tait, the spokesman, said. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is drafting rules to grant delay requests. Besides replacing a third of the fuel rods, the big job this time at Fermi is recoating the torus, a donut-shaped component that encircles the reactor and can provide cooling water to safety systems during an accident. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the project will take more than five weeks.The torus is a must-do job, but not everything is as critical. “There are some ancillary activities during an outage that can be deferred,” said Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the NRC.The largest operator of U.S. nuclear plants, Exelon Corp., is seeking to streamline its remaining refueling job this year. Its started work in early March at its Byron and Nine Mile Point plants, and it has four others scheduled for refueling outages this season.“We’ve looked at whether we can change the scope, or limit the number of people on site,” said Lacey Dean, an Exelon spokeswoman. But the main work will continue on schedule. “These refueling outages are really necessary.”Rennhack, the jobs-board founder, said he hasn’t heard complaints from people on the refueling teams. “They’re contract workers. Contract workers are always worried about their next paycheck.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Lifestyle
    The Wrap

    Fox to Raise $1.2 Billion After Saying Coronavirus May Have ‘Material’ Impact on Earnings

    Fox says it plans to raise $1.2 billion through the sale of senior notes and use the money “for general corporate purposes.”Hey, everyone needs a little extra cash these days.Earlier on Tuesday, Fox became the latest major media corporation to walk back its prior financial guidance due to the impact of the continuing coronavirus pandemic. The company also plans to revisit its current agreements with lenders.Also Read: Fox News Insider Denies Judge Jeanine Pirro Was Drunk, Explains 'Technical Difficulties' in 1st Home BroadcastWhile Fox News has been a bright spot as viewers flock to the network for information on the pandemic, a number of canceled or postponed sporting events are threatening to offset those gains. And then there are just regular TV and film productions that are on hiatus as social distancing has become our new normal.“The impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and measures to prevent its spread are affecting the macroeconomic environment, as well as the business of Fox Corporation, in a number of ways,” the company said in a Tuesday SEC filing. “For example, while the company’s national news ratings remain strong, sports events for which the company has broadcast rights have been cancelled or postponed and the production of certain entertainment content the Company acquires has been suspended. The magnitude of the impacts will depend on the duration and extent of COVID-19 and the effect of governmental actions and consumer behavior in response to the pandemic and such governmental actions.”“The evolving and uncertain nature of this situation makes it challenging for the company to estimate the future performance of its businesses, particularly over the near to medium term, including the supply and demand for its services, its cash flows and its current and future advertising revenues,” it continued. “However, the impact of COVID-19 could have a material adverse effect on the company’s business, financial condition or results of operations over the near to medium term.”Read original story Fox to Raise $1.2 Billion After Saying Coronavirus May Have ‘Material’ Impact on Earnings At TheWrap

  • Business
    GeekWire

    Univ. of Washington studies antimalarial drug’s use to head off COVID-19, with Gates Foundation’s aid

    University of Washington researchers are among the leaders of a newly announced clinical trial investigating whether hydroxychloroquine, a drug that's commonly used to counter malaria and autoimmune disease, can prevent COVID-19. The multi-site trial, managed by UW in collaboration with New York University's Grossman School of Medicine, aims to determine definitively whether taking the drug can prevent transmission in people exposed to the virus. "We currently don’t know if hydroxychloroquine works, but we will learn in as short a timeframe as possible what the outcome is,” principal investigator Ruanne Barnabas, associate professor of global health in the University of Washington… Read More

  • Entertainment
    Yahoo Celebrity UK

    Elton John’s warning during coronavirus benefit: ‘There was another infectious disease that was ignored’

    John’s comments divided Twitter, but everyone seemed to enjoy his guests' 'iHeart Living Room Concert for America' performances — all shot at home in the name of social distancing.

  • Business
    Oilprice.com

    Russia’s Plan To Bankrupt U.S. Shale Could Send Oil To $60

    Russian Oil CEO Igor Sechin recently said that oil prices will reach $60 once enough US production is forced off the market, but how soon will that happen?