Monday, October 06, 2008

South Texas Project Nuclear Plant Sets Record on Continuous Operations

From STP:

The South Texas Project established a U.S. nuclear power industry record Sunday, completing four consecutive breaker-to-breaker production runs by repeatedly operating both its units continuously between refuelings. The plant shut down its Unit 2 reactor Sunday for routine refueling and maintenance.

No other nuclear power plant has accomplished this in the five decades since the first commercial reactor in the U.S. began operations in 1958.


During the past four years, STP’s two units have produced more energy than any other two-unit nuclear power plant in the country. Both units have led the nation in production, and Unit 1 led all 439 reactors worldwide in electric generation last year.


In its record-setting production runs, STP generated 65 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. That equates to approximately 7.5 percent of all electricity used in Texas during that time.

Unit 1 operated continuously from April 2005 to October 2006, when it was shut down for refueling, and from November 2006 to March 2008, when it was refueled again. Unit 2 was continually online from October 2005 to March 2007, and again from April 2007 until yesterday. The units generated 32.7 billion kWh and 32.3 billion kWh, respectively, during those production runs.
I'd say congratulations are in order!

Picture of STP.


Anonymous said...

Staying online recently during Gustav seemed very non-safe to me. It sounded great from a capacity factor standpoint, but it was certainly not conservative decision making. I would have shut the plant down during that storm. The risk versus reward was not there. There could have easily been a spin-off tornado, or the eye could have shifted direction South. Had something bad actually happened, the whole industry would have felt the pain just in the hope of South Texas saving a few dollars and preserving their precious breaker-to-breaker runs. Safety has got to come before production.

David Bradish said...

anon, I can understand your concern. Hopefully the information from STP's press releases may help. Here's what the first one said:

STP's operating procedures require it to take both its reactors offline, before the storm's landfall, if hurricane-force winds are predicted to affect the plant site.

And the second press release said this:

Based on current projections for Hurricane Ike, both units at the South Texas Project (STP) Nuclear Operating Company remain online, and power is not expected to be reduced as long as the transmission grid can support full operation.

As of Friday morning, Hurricane Ike is projected to make landfall in the vicinity of Galveston Bay, potentially as a Category 3 storm. Current forecasts indicate sustained wind speeds can get as high as 55 miles per hour at the STP site at the peak of the storm. The projected wind speed is substantially less than hurricane force. The units can safely operate under these projected conditions.

The buildings that house STP’s reactors, vital equipment and spent fuel have steel-reinforced concrete walls, four to seven feet thick, that are built to withstand major hurricanes and the tornadoes they can spawn. The plant site is 10 miles inland and at an elevation of 29 feet, well beyond the reach of even a Category 5 storm surge.

Anonymous said...

STP was fully prepared to downpower if needed and did staff the hurricane team onsite just in case the storm shifted. I applaud their risk-informed decision making strategies. I have no doubt they did the right thing for both the public and the company. Remember, the people who run the plant also live around it and any decision they make affects not just "other people", but their own families as well. This goes for any plant in the country.

Congrats to STP and some really remarkable plant operation.

perdajz said...

David's comment reveals the key to rebutting the first anonymous comment. Operators shut down in response to hurricanes because there is no place to send the power, not because the hurricane presents a hazard that the plant can't handle. There was never any question about safety in this instance.

And yes, the breaker-to-breaker runs are "precious" precisely because that's what nukes were meant to do.

rickrocket said...

I am an operator at STP and was on-site for Ike. We have very definite plans in place for inclement weather with very particular weather condition limits for keeping the plant online. The NRC and plant management as well as the shift supervisor on crew were vigilant in keeping withing our procedures. If we would have met those requirements, we would have shut both units down immediately. Safety was never compromised, and we had double the normal operations and maintenance manpower on-site during the storm to take care of any issues that may have arisen.

Jason said...

People are generally only anonymous when they want to troll or say something that is wrong, might come back to bite them, or is hurtful to others. Anonymous are not interested in accountability for their actions, inactions, or comments.

I work for a company that is involved with safety-related functions, design, maintenance and review of many nuclear power plants around the country and there are far less safe places with much more volatile materials, equipment housed by less safe buildings than being inside a nuclear power plant during a tornado or a hurricane.