Photo of a new fuel assembly
If you have traveled on Highway 73 near McGuire during the months of February and March, you may have wondered why there was so much traffic. At least once a year, one of McGuire's nuclear units undergoes a refueling outage, and this past February marked the beginning of a scheduled outage for unit 1. So what does a refueling outage really mean?
In the nuclear power industry, an "outage" does not necessarily refer to a power outage or blackout as people may think. Nuclear units typically go through a routine "refueling outage" during the spring and fall months when the demand for electricity is at its lowest. At that time, utilities safely power down a unit to refuel, replace the oldest fuel assemblies and complete a number of equipment maintenance tasks and upgrades which are difficult to do when the plant is generating power.
The length of refueling outages vary based on the type of work, maintenance and modifications scheduled to be completed while the unit is offline. Although a nuclear unit is unable to produce electricity during a refueling outage, Duke Energy's diverse fuel mix of generation stations, ensures the company can adequately meet its customers demands for energy.
As with normal, everyday plant operations, during an outage, safety and performance are heavily scrutinized. McGuire has had an excellent operating record because of its dedicated, well-trained work force and comprehensive programs for maintaining, testing and upgrading equipment.
A refueling outage can bring more than 1,000 additional workers to the site to help with the many jobs involved in refueling and maintenance activities. These extra workers offer an economic boost for the local communities, as they shop, eat and stay at area stores, restaurants, hotels and short-term rental properties.