One of the South Texas Project’s two nuclear reactors, Unit 2, started a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage earlier this month.
The outage, which began Oct. 4, is the South Texas Project’s 41st refueling outage since beginning commercial operation in 1988. The plant schedules refueling outages in the spring and fall, when the Electric Reliability Council of Texas electrical demand is lowest.
Outages usually last about 30 days, said Sheila Ormand, the corporate communications specialist for the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company, located in Bay City.
Nearly 1,000 outage contractors are on-site to assist during the refueling and maintenance outage, according to a news release from the South Texas Project. The majority of these contractors, who come from across the nation, have worked previous outages at the site.
During the Unit 2 outage, about one-third of the reactor’s fuel assemblies will be replaced with new ones. In addition, thousands of maintenance activities are scheduled to enhance equipment reliability, and numerous plant systems and components will be tested and inspected.
“We have completed significant planning and preparation ahead of this outage to ensure that we thoroughly inspect, test and complete a large scope of work,” said said Jim Connolly, Chief Nuclear Officer for South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company. “This work will set up Unit 2 for safe operations until its next scheduled refueling outage.”
The South Texas Project is subject to ongoing oversight and inspection by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The federal agency has two full-time inspectors on-site as well as supplemental inspectors from the commission’s regional headquarters.
The Project’s two units, which are on an 18-month refueling cycle, combined to produce more than 20.7 million megawatt-hours of carbon-free electricity in 2018.
The Project provides more than 25 percent of the carbon-free electricity produced in Texas. During its most recent 18-month operational cycle, Unit 2 operated at a capability factor of 99.9%.
“We are proud of this accomplishment and the team effort that it took to achieve this level of performance, as well as our track record of safely and consistently producing energy for our state,” Connolly said. “We are committed to putting safety first and to making ongoing investments in our equipment to maintain this level of performance.”
In terms of economic impact, South Texas Project is the largest employer in Matagorda County, with about 1,200 direct employees. In addition, it supports about 3,500 jobs in other industries and accounts for $2.2 billion in annual economic output.
With a generating capacity of 2,700 megawatts, it is one of the nation’s largest plants, providing power to more than two million Texas homes each day, according to the news release.