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Nuclear plant adds workers for refueling, maintenance work

UPDATED: Mon., May 10, 2021

Associated Press

Associated Press

RICHLAND – A nuclear power plant in Washington state was shut down over the weekend for a planned 40-day refueling outage, welcoming about 1,400 new temporary jobs to help staff the outage.

The Columbia Generating Station near Richland was disconnected on Saturday so workers can replace about a third of the fuel in the reactor’s core – 260 of 764 fuel assemblies – that has been used for six years, the Tri-City Herald reported.

The temporary workers will assist about 1,000 permanent employees at Energy Northwest, the public utility company that operates the generating station.

“The 1,000 workers that make the Tri-Cities their temporary home during the refueling outage often stay at our local hotels, shop the stores and eat at local restaurants,” said Karl Dye, president of the Tri-City Development Council. “It’s a boost to our local economy.”

The plant is the third-largest electricity generator in the state and has the capacity to produce 1,207 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power a city the size of Seattle and its metro area. It is usually shut down every other year for refueling and maintenance as snowmelt and runoff maximize hydropower production and mild weather decreases electricity demand, officials said.

Energy Northwest said all employees at the plant will arrive at staggered times, have health screenings and temperature checks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Face masks and social distancing are being enforced.

Vaccinations are not required but Energy Northwest is working with the state health department to ensure vaccine doses are available to employees who want to be inoculated.

In addition to refueling the plant, workers will install a refurbished low-pressure turbine needed to continue operations at the plant until 2043. Employees will also replace reactor water cleanup heat exchangers and piping; refurbish a condensate pump and motor; replace a service water pump and motor; and clean the circulating water basin and piping.

The plant is expected to supply power again in June.

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