HUTCHINSON ISLAND, Fla. – Florida Power & Light Company’s St. Lucie nuclear power plant Unit 2 returned online January 4 following a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage.
Unit 2 was taken offline September 30 for its 17th refueling since it began commercial operation in 1983. During refueling outages, scheduled about every 18 months, FPL also performs preventive and scheduled maintenance work that cannot be done when the plant is operating.
Work performed during the plant shutdown ranked among the most ambitious and complex projects of its kind in the nuclear power industry. In addition to routine maintenance and replacement of one-third of the unit’s 217 uranium fuel assemblies, workers replaced the unit’s two massive steam generators, the reactor vessel head, one of four reactor coolant pump motors and modified the containment sump system.
“This is the most significant project work conducted since original construction,” said Site Vice President Gordon Johnston. “The completed work represents an investment of more than $300 million in capital improvements at St. Lucie. These upgrades will increase the reliability and efficiency of the unit so that our customers can continue to benefit from safe, clean and reliable nuclear electric generation.”
To support this effort, the plant utilized the talents and expertise of employees throughout FPL’s nuclear power plant fleet and more than 2,500 specialized contract workers.
A major goal of the project involved replacing the unit’s two massive steam generators, which are 63 feet tall, 19 feet in diameter and weigh close to 500 tons each. 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 was the replacement of the 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.
Other significant work included replacing a 6,500-horsepower reactor coolant pump motor and modifying the containment sump, a system inside the containment building that is used to collect and filter spilled coolant for reuse in the event of an accident.
The Unit's return to service was delayed due to some equipment issues identified during a series of tests and inspections that are conducted to ensure that all equipment is operating properly. These included repairs to an electrical component on one of the unit's 91 control rod assemblies.
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. The St. Lucie nuclear power plant is located on Hutchinson Island on Florida’s east coast near Ft. Pierce.
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. 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 FPL customers and reduces our dependence on foreign fuel sources.
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 27 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.