Waterford plant shutting down for maintenance

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 27, 2009



KILLONA – Representatives from Entergy Louisiana announced plans last week for a scheduled maintenance shutdown of the Waterford 3 nuclear power plant in St. Charles Parish for refueling and refurbishment.

Although the plant is getting a break from electricity production, spokesman Carl Rhode said Entergy plans to bring in about 800 extra employees to assist the more than 500 plant employees to work on dozens of maintenance projects that cannot be performed while the plant is in operation.

Rhode said the 1,157-megawatt power plant, which contributes to approximately 17 percent of all of Louisiana’s electric power production, would be shut down for a matter of weeks. He said the exact schedule for stopping and restarting the plant is kept confidential, calling it “business sensitive information.”

During a refueling, site personnel systematically take the plant off line so crews can replace a portion of the fuel spent between shutdowns, Rhode explained. He said the refueling outages are typically done about every 18 months. The current maintenance shutdown will be Waterford’s 16th turnaround since the plant was turned on in 1985.

“During the outage, plant employees are working 24 hours a day and seven days a week to get as much maintenance accomplished as possible,” Rhode said. “Every outage is preceded by two years’ worth of preparation in an effort to refine what the plant is doing.”

The outage process involves the systematic shutdown of the nuclear reactor and turbines and allowing them to cool down enough for it to be safe for workers to enter the containment vessel.

Rhode said workers will replace about 35 percent of the 500 rods inside the unit. The rods heat a high-pressure water stream used to create steam to power electric generators. This year he said the plant plans to use a newer model rod with a longer life span.

Rhode said maintenance shutdowns are typically scheduled during the spring and fall months, when demands for energy are lower. He said Waterford has been continuously functional for 404 days since its last shutdown for hurricane Gustav.

“This was good news for us because we were able to get maximum output between refueling shutdowns,” Rhode said. “The goal is to operate at 100 percent between refuelings.