Exelon prepares to seek 20-year renewal of Limerick license

Exelon Corp. found a friendly business audience to talk to about its plans to renew the license for its Limerick nuclear power plant.

Bill Maguire, site vice president for the Limerick Generating Station, reviewed Exelon’s operations at the plant, which can generate 2,345 megawatts of electricity, at a meeting of the TriCounty Area Chamber of Commerce at Spring Hollow Golf Course in nearby Spring City on Thursday morning.

The company expects to submit its license-renewal application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before the end of June, Maguire said. Currently, Limerick’s Unit 1 is licensed through 2024 and Unit 2 through 2029. The federal agency typically takes about 30 months to complete the renewal process, which includes public hearings.

But even businesspeople gathered to hear from one of the area’s biggest employers didn’t ignore the big radioactive elephant across the globe: the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor in Japan.

The devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which led to the partial meltdown of reactor units at Fukushima, was mentioned several times by businesspeople, who asked Maguire how Exelon handles spent fuel, backup-power generation, and security at Limerick.

Maguire had an answer and a PowerPoint slide for nearly all of those questions. In fact, he started his presentation by asking the audience what it wanted to know about the operation, whose 507-foot cooling towers dominate the landscape.

I wonder: Is the process to renew a license for 20 years simply a formality? After all, the NRC has approved them for 61 of the nation’s 104 reactors.

The largest U.S. operator of nuclear-power plants, Exelon is taking nothing for granted after the Fukushima disaster. It intends to hold a number of outreach events, according to Joseph Szafran, site communications manager for the Limerick plant.

Exelon will host a “community information night” from 5 to 7:30 June 8 at the power plant, including tours of its control-room simulator.

Work in progress

What does this deal say about the health of the economy?

Careerminds Group Inc., an outplacement-services firm in Hockessin, Del., raised $1.29 million in its first round of venture capital.

Since venture firms put their money into growing firms, I have to say I’m not exactly rooting for a boom in outplacement services, which are used by companies that are cutting back their workforces, not adding to them.

However, Careerminds partner and vice president Justin Schakelman said the power of online technology to lower costs was behind the growth of the company he and chief executive Raymond Lee founded in 2008. Its Web-based services tend to be about 70 percent less expensive than traditional outplacement firms, Schakelman said.

The investment round was led by Innovation Ventures L.L.C., of Wilmington. Other investors were Gabriel Investments, of Philadelphia; Trestle Ventures, of Exton; and ARC Angel Fund, of New York.

One individual who invested in Careerminds was Jack Gavin, the former CEO and vice chairman of Drake Beam Morin Inc., one of those traditional outplacement firms. Gavin, who will serve as chairman of Careerminds, also had been the longtime No. 2 executive at Philadelphia’s Right Management Consultants, another outplacement firm, which Manpower Inc. acquired in 2004.

Of course, the statistic that matters to the outplaced is how quickly they get jobs. On average, it’s been taking 37 to 39 weeks to find a job in the current hiring environment. Schakelman said Careerminds’ approach had reduced that significantly.

“It’s a bittersweet business to be in,” he said. “You’re always coming into a situation that’s very challenging to a company.”