Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Entergy’s Pilgrim: When No Nuclear News Is Good News

Pilgrim_HomeAn outage happens every two years or so and provides a lot of work at a nuclear energy facility. The main job is to replace fuel rods, but plants also use the opportunity to update plant components and perform other activities. You can read more about what happens during an outage here.

It’s really a no news kind of situation – it’s the very definition of routine – so color us surprised when a lot of news outlets up in the Cape Cod area decided to cover the Pilgrim facility ending its outage. Slow news day? Maybe. Local news focus? Perhaps.

The tone of the stories is “this happened,” with some relevant quotes from Pilgrim and/or Entergy.

Here’s CapeCod.com:

Entergy spokeswoman Lauren Burm said the plant is back up to full power.

“Pilgrim has returned to operating at 100 percent power,” she said. “Control room operators reconnected Pilgrim to the grid after our 35-day planned refueling outage.”

Routine.

“We had nearly 2,000 employees including around 1,100 extra contract workers here on site that performed hundreds of activities that can only be done when the plant is offline,” she said.

Burm says plant personnel identified an issue with a condenser during the startup of the turbine generator on Friday morning and power was lowered to fix the problem.

Economically beneficial for the area – very good. As a sidebar, NEI has a good story about outage workers and another about the economic impact they have on the local community.

The plant generates 680 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power about 680,000 homes.

Pilgrim operated at 97 percent capacity in 2014.

And some basic facts. It occurred to me that anyone reading this is going to be pretty impressed with Pilgrim’s capability and role in the community – if they don’t breeze over the story on the way to the comics. And this was true of virtually all the coverage I saw. We can probably thank social and old media for this. Entergy let people know the outage was ending through Facebook and a news release.

Cape Cod Today zeroes in on the condenser issue – that’s the closest to an issue the event generated, but not much of an issue withal.

In a release John Dent, Pilgrim's Site Vice President, called the 35-day planned shutdown "a great success."  According to the release, Entergy invested $70 million in upgrading, replacing, overhauling and inspecting "hundreds of pieces of equipment that make the plant safer today than when it was built." The work was conducted by nearly 2,000 workers including 1,184 extra contract workers brought in specifically for the 2015 refueling outage. Post-Fukushima upgrades were also done as part of the planned maintenance, according to the release.

And here’s a bit from Wicked Local Plymouth:

Entergy Corporation, the Louisiana company that operates the 680-megawatt plant, said the work included the replacement, repair and inspection of hundreds of pieces of equipment "that make the plant safer today than when it was built."

So that’s a thing that happened.

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