The Rebirth of a Nuclear Power Plant

A New Age

Commercial nuclear power was first brought online in the mid 1950's as a new way to generate massive amounts of electricity for distribution across the country. Large contractors and vast work forces of all skills and trades spread across the United States, erected large structural steel members, poured millions of yards of high psi concrete, and installed complex electrical and sensory components in a concerted effort to bring the nation an updated, low emission, high volume method for producing power.

Over time these highly sophisticated plants would run at immense power levels, causing wear and tear to the machinery. Maintenance, to refuel the reactor and offload spent fuel, is scheduled to occur during outages until the existing operating license expires.

Experience and Planning

In order for a plant to renew its operating license to safely and efficiently produce power it must conduct a massive maintenance project: a Steam Generator Replacement (SGR).

Steam generators produce steam that is created by water heated within the nuclear reactor. The steam is used to push a turbine affixed to a generator which creates electricity. Preparations for an SGR outage begin as much as 5 years in advance, when thousands of skilled technicians, engineers, and project managers commence the coordination activities. Finally, the reactor is offline and crews can go to work.

Illustration depicting reactor power generation.

For over three decades the Bluegrass Companies have assisted in hundreds of projects in nuclear facilities within the United States. With this scope of experience and knowledge, Bluegrass technicians and engineers are able to quickly familiarize themselves with the surroundings and perform the tasks at hand.

Renewal of Life within the Plant

Leading up to the massive SGR project, Bluegrass engineers and project managers work with the contractors and plant owners every step of the way, attending pre-outage planning meetings during the years, months, days, and hours prior to the outage, to ensure proper coordination of all aspects of the project.

On the day the breaker is to be thrown and the outage begins, over 7,000 individuals stand by in anticipation, checking and rechecking procedures and tools to ensure everything meets the allotted schedules completely and safely. Bluegrass technicians and engineers emerge through the airlock doors into the containment building as hydraulic power units, diamond wire saws, and concrete core drills are brought in by overhead cranes to begin the surgical process.

Once staged, Bluegrass technicians go to work using customized equipment specific to the project to drill and cut into the concrete structure. Plugs weighing more than 75 tons are created to encapsulate the steam generators. Working around the clock and wearing specialized suites to protect from radioactive contamination, Bluegrass technicians battle the rigorous elements produced within a nuclear outage environment to free the steam generators.

An actual 75 ton enclosure plug being removed after Bluegrass technicians have completed cutting.

Once completed, the exterior wall or dome of the plant is removed, the massive 1,300 ton crane lowers into the heart of the plant (which hasn't seen daylight since it was first sealed up 30+ years ago) and the 800 ton steel vessels are removed and replaced with precisely replicated models.

Time is Money

Time is of the essence in undertakings such as an SGR. In most plants, every 24-hour period a reactor is offline the operating company loses $1,000,000.00 in revenue. Onsite, vast quantities of tools, equipment, and key personnel which add to the daily cost should the outage run over its intended duration which in most cases is 60 days.

Pictured is an expired steam generator that has been lifted from within the containment building of the nuclear power plant.

Bluegrass technologies paired with nuclear experienced staff is known to produce innovative and time saving methods ultimately producing precise and predicted outcomes while capitalizing on safety. It is with this knowledge, experience, and proven track record that Bluegrass Companies are considered the world leaders in nuclear modifications, upgrades, and decommissioning.