HUTCHINSON ISLAND, Fla. – Florida Power & Light Company plans to take the Unit 2 reactor at its St. Lucie nuclear power plant out of service Sept. 30 to begin a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage. The outage will take place through mid-December and will involve replacing the unit’s two steam generators and reactor vessel head, an investment of approximately $310 million in capital improvements.
Approximately one-third of the unit’s 217 uranium fuel assemblies will be replaced. During refueling outages, scheduled about every 18 months, FPL also performs preventive and scheduled maintenance work that cannot be done when the plant is in operation. This will be the 17th time the unit has been refueled since it began commercial operation in 1983.
“Our team has prepared for more than a year to safely execute this refueling outage,” said Site Vice President Gordon Johnston. “In addition, the equipment upgrades will increase the reliability and efficiency of the unit so our customers can continue to benefit from clean, safe and affordable nuclear generation.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nuclear power is the largest source of energy that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions which scientists have determined contribute to climate change. As an industry, nuclear generation avoids 1 million tons of nitrogen oxide, 3.1 million tons of sulfur dioxide and almost 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually in the United States. In addition, the cost per kilowatt-hour for nuclear power is about one-third that of natural gas or oil. Fossil fuel prices typically are far more volatile, so the use of nuclear energy helps stabilize fuel costs for our customers and reduces our dependence on foreign fuel sources.
There are two nuclear power units at St. Lucie, each with an electrical output of 839 megawatts. Together, the units generate enough electricity to meet the electric needs of approximately 500,000 homes and businesses. St. Lucie Unit 1 will continue to operate to provide electricity for customers. FPL can bring other generating units online or increase the output of other generating units as necessary to maintain an adequate supply of electricity to meet customers’ needs while Unit 2 is offline.
Equipment upgrades increase efficiency, reliability
A major goal of the outage is to replace the unit’s two massive steam generators, which are 63 feet tall, 19 feet in diameter and weigh close to 500 tons. Steam generators are large components that transfer heat to make electricity. Hot water from the nuclear reactor is circulated through thousands of tubes within the steam generators. A separate supply of water flows outside of the hot tubes, turning the water into steam to drive a turbine-generator to make electricity.
Another major operation is the replacement of unit’s reactor vessel head, a large metal lid that is secured to the reactor vessel by dozens of large bolts. The reactor head is about 8 feet high, 16 feet in diameter and weighs more than 70 tons.
The steam generators and reactor head were replaced on Unit 1 in 1998 and 2005, respectively.
To support the efforts of the plant’s 800 employees during the outage, FPL will utilize the skills and expertise of more than 1,800 additional specialized contract workers. Many of these workers will come from other parts of the country to stay in the St. Lucie area, contributing to the local economy.
Florida Power & Light Company is the principal subsidiary of FPL Group, Inc. (NYSE: FPL), nationally known as a high quality, efficient and customer-driven organization focused on energy-related products and services. With annual revenues of nearly $16 billion and a growing presence in 26 states, FPL Group is widely recognized as one of the country's premier power companies. Florida Power & Light Company serves 4.5 million customer accounts in Florida. FPL Energy, LLC, FPL Group's competitive energy subsidiary is a leader in producing electricity from clean and renewable fuels. Additional information is available on the Internet at www.FPL.com, www.FPLGroup.com and www.FPLEnergy.com.