Every six months, Arizona’s only nuclear power plant shuts down one of its three reactors for refueling and maintenance. The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station southwest of Phoenix recently underwent the process.
Six words greet all who enter Palo Verde - visitors, staff, or one of the thousand contractors who work around-the-clock for 30 days to refuel Unit 2: “Get your head in the game.” But the advice extends beyond refueling, said spokesman Mark Fallon.
“It’s a huge amount of maintenance and engineering tasks that are associated with making the unit reliable for the next 18 months, once it comes back from that refueling outage,” Fallon said.
Palo Verde’s three reactors run full tilt for 18 months. The plant staggers its outages so that two reactors always stay up. Only one-third of a reactor’s 241 fuel assemblies are swapped out per outage. The rest are rearranged to balance the power curve.