April Showers Also Bring Seasonal Power Plant Refueling Outages

Neil Sheehan
Public Affairs Officer
Region I


The robins are chirping, the daffodils are pushing out of the cold ground and the sun is shining for an additional minute or two every day. It’s finally spring in the U.S., which for many nuclear power plants heralds the start of refueling and maintenance outages.

npp2Every 18 to 24 months, nuclear power plants shut down to allow for the replacement of about a third of the fuel in the reactor with fresh rods. The outages also make it possible for plant personnel and contractors to perform a number of projects, such as the refurbishment or replacement of pumps and valves, and inspections of components not accessible when the reactor is operating.

Hundreds of contractors assist with this work, making these outages periods of intense, round-the-clock activity for at least several weeks. No doubt nearby coffee shops do a booming business, not to mention area hotels and restaurants.

The NRC also beefs up its inspection footprint during these shutdowns, which are usually scheduled for spring and fall because those are the times when the demand for electricity is generally lower. Resident Inspectors assigned to the plant on a full-time basis and specialist inspectors observe select work activities to ensure adherence to safety regulations. They are also able to glean information about what employees and contractors are learning as they put eyes on key pieces of equipment.

There are procedures that help guide NRC inspectors during outages, including one that helps target and prioritize areas for review. A key, though, is remaining flexible while maintaining a holistic view of what almost overnight becomes a particularly bustling workplace.

Nuclear power plants are baseload electricity generators designed to run at 100 percent, but they need to occasionally take a strategic timeout to refuel and kick the tires, so to speak. With careful planning, a focus on safety and an attention to detail, the tasks can be effectively completed and the unit restored to service in time to help meet the additional cooling demands of the ensuing summer or the warming needs of the following winter.


Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

4 thoughts on “April Showers Also Bring Seasonal Power Plant Refueling Outages”

  1. Thanks God there are reasonable people that take care about our power plants. I really believe that they are our eco-energy of the future.

  2. Rich – Ha Ha Ha that is a funny one, since many Countries run just fine without using nuclear reactors and they are not generating any expensive nuclear waste that must be securely stored for generations. I agree that Coal and Nuclear are BOTH dirty, so it is imperative that mankind start investing in truly clean generation, instead of just yet more OLD technology!

    Imagine if “just” new Nuclear R&D money was focused on developing hydro-thermal and/or wave/tidal energy, things would start looking much cleaner and safer for mankind!

    BTW: I recently saw a TV show that said that there is a 10 knot ocean current at the tip of South Africa, imagine placing large turbines underwater that would then send that power ashore!

    Nuclear is now an aging technology that has left mankind with enormous amounts of radioactive waste that will now and in the future threaten our environment for generations!

    I predict that the NRC will begin to shift into doing more waste monitoring than reactor monitoring because the cost of using nuclear is now so much more expensive than many other cleaner forms of generation!

    Moderator: Some content removed to adhere to the comment guidelines.

  3. This sounds so much like an informercial for the nuclear industry, I wonder why that is?

    Baseload is yet another myth, since it is easy to get along just fine without using any Nuclear Baseload, just like CA did when all four of its reactors were down at the same time and guess what, NO Brownouts at all.

    It would be helpful for the NRC to list just how much additional nuclear waste is being generated by all these refuelings, since the OLD fuel rods must be stored for decades if not longer! This is especially if what was removed was high burn up fuel rods which require much longer cool down periods and as yet have no approved long term storage casts to contain them…

  4. Thank God for reliable, base-load nuclear power plants. Unlike fickle wind and solar power you can depend on nukes 24/7. Without nukes and coal-fired power plants our electrical grid would be notoriously unstable and unreliable. Let’s make sure that we always have a powerful electrical grid backbone.

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