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Shift in Clinton Plant Refueling Cycle Increases Efficiency

NEI’s Top Industry Practice Awards recognize innovation in the nuclear energy industry. Presented at NEI’s annual conference, the awards honor accomplishments that help the industry improve safety, streamline processes and increase efficiency.

In a special series of articles this week, our publication Nuclear Energy Overview highlights the challenges and successes of five winners.

Eight-time TIP Award winner Jim Tusar is no stranger to ambitious projects. His most recent, which earned this year’s GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Award, is no exception.

The industry standard is to schedule refueling and maintenance outages once every 18 months or two years, but Tusar and his team at Exelon Nuclear pioneered an annual outage schedule at the Clinton Power Station in Illinois.

“The idea came from acknowledging the value of [the facility] was decreasing due to the fact we had such high fuel costs, and at the same time power prices were decreasing,” said Tusar, Exelon Nuclear’s manager of nuclear fuels. “We knew that we had to do something to improve the asset value of Clinton, and the main thing to attack would be the fuel, because we can’t control the electricity prices.”

More than 40 percent of the reactor’s fuel needed to be replaced every two years.

“It’s not efficient. You’re not utilizing fuel well in that scenario,” Tusar said.

The Exelon team conducted studies with their fuel vendor, Global Nuclear Fuel, and found that an annual outage cycle would cut costs significantly.

The new schedule will alternate the typical refueling and maintenance outage with a short (13-day) outage dedicated to refueling only. The refuel-only outage is achievable because of a new core design strategy that minimizes the number of fuel moves, leaving some fuel assemblies in the same location from one cycle to the next.

The team also needed to determine the best time of year to schedule the annual outage.
Exelon owns and operates 16 other reactors, so “we don’t want to overlap with any other outages. It’s a resource concern,” Tusar said. Nor did the company want to schedule an outage for summer, when power demands are highest and replacement power is costly.

The path to an annual fuel cycle is still unfolding. Clinton will begin a transitional 18-month fuel cycle this October, which will lead to a May 2015 start date for the first annual outage cycle.


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