Nebraska Public Power District, owner of the Cooper Nuclear Station in southeast Nebraska, says that over the next year it will transition from an 18-month refuelling cycle to a 24-month cycle in order to save money and improve plant operations.
NPPD expects to save $50 million every six years after transitioning is complete. However, it estimates that transitioning to a 24-month refuelling cycle will include a one-time cost of approximately $6.5 million for an NRC licence amendment and will add approximately $6 million in fuel costs over the next three years.
The 24-month refuelling cycle reduces the number of refuelling outages from four outages over a 6-year period to three outages every six years. This results in reduced labour costs, material expenses, and the costs associated with purchasing replacement energy when Cooper is in outage. Cooper will also benefit by having a schedule that reduces the competition for specialized contract labour, which currently occurs when Cooper is in outage at the same time as other nuclear power plants in the region.
NPPD says it will conduct studies to ensure that Cooper’s instrument calibration and preventative maintenance requirements, the type and amount of fuel, as well as plant procedures and calculations are set up to support 24-month cycles. It will take approximately one year to perform the necessary engineering and licensing work. NPPD will then need to seek approval of this change from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NPPD hopes to receive NRC approval by August of 2012 and begin operating under a 24-month fuel cycle in the autumn of that year.
“Cooper generates approximately 21% of our customers’ electricity so its refuelling outages are critical to our operations, says NPPD president and CEO Ron Asche.
“If we can save costs associated with an outage and make a change that benefits us as a utility, it only makes sense to move forward with this change”
The majority of nuclear stations like Cooper, a General Electric boiling water reactor conduct their refuelling outages every 24 months.
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