August 14, 2020

Mississippi nuclear plant preparing to shut down for refueling

Entergy Mississippi’s Grand Gulf nuclear plant will be shutting down sometime this year to refuel its reactor, according to information from Entergy.

“Every nuclear plant site conducts a refueling outage every 24 to 18 months,” said Entergy spokesman Mike Bowling. “When that happens, the plant goes offline for a period of time and new fuel is put into the reactor while some of the old fuel is reconfigured to better the efficiency of production.”

Bowling would not say when the play will shut down or for how long, citing proprietary restrictions. He said, however, the shutdown could run from several weeks to several months, depending on the project’s schedule. He said the last refueling outage ended in July 2018.

“A nuclear plant site is like any other power generation site in how it produces electricity,” he said. “It turns a turbine to produce electricity and the turbine is turned by steam much like it would be at any other plant, it’s just that the steam is produced by nuclear power.”

During the shutdown, Bowling said, contractors will be in the area, where they will stay in local hotels and at local campgrounds for the duration of the project, and can have a significant impact on the area’s economy. Some of the contractors, he said, will assist with the refueling.

“Any refuel has outside workers who specialize in certain areas. We contract with them to come in and help,” he said. “Certain professionals do this for a living; they go from nuclear site to nuclear site and assist with refueling outages.”

Other contractors will be at the plant to perform maintenance work that cannot be done while the plant is in operation.

“While the plant is offline, you can do things you can’t normally do online, so there will also be evaluations of plant equipment. Teams will be doing that while the plant’s online, and then they can get in areas of the plant that are not accessible while it’s running.

“You can do that while the plant’s offline for a refueling outage so you don’t have to take it offline,” Bowling said.