Plant Vogtle Unit 1 idled for scheduled refueling

Plant Vogtle idled one of its two nuclear power reactors this week for a scheduled refueling that will be completed within three weeks.

The units are typically shut down about every 18 months for maintenance, inspections and replacement of fuel rods. Unit 1 was last refueled in spring 2011.

Although the unit is offline, the site is busier than usual because of the large temporary labor force – about 800 workers – brought in for the project.

According to a company news release, those transient workers include people from Westinghouse, General Electric, Williams and other companies.

Vogtle Unit 2, which was last refueled in September 2011, will continue to operate at full power while Unit 1 is offline.

Such scheduled reactor shutdowns typically cost plant owners about $1 million a day in lost revenues.

Plant Vogtle’s Unit 1 began making power 25 years ago in May, and Unit 2 went online in 1987. Decades of spent nuclear fuel from both units are stored on site in specially designed “pools” that will soon be supplemented with an above-ground “cask storage” facility that is under construction.

At full power, Plant Vogtle and another Southern Co. nuclear facility – Plant Hatch – generate 20 percent of the electricity used by Georgia Power, which serves 2.25 million customers in all but four of the state’s 159 counties.

Plant Vogtle, in Burke County, is also the site of two reactors under construction and scheduled to begin making electricity in 2016 and 2017.

The two new Westinghouse AP1000 units will cost about $14 billion to build.

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