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North Anna Power Station over the weekend began its latest refueling outage, along with an equipment upgrade that will allow the plant to produce more electricity.
During the refueling, about a third of the uranium dioxide fuel will be replaced in Unit 1. Each of the plant's two reactors is refueled every 18 months. That process takes about a month, though the outage takes longer if other components, such as turbines, are replaced at the same time.
Unit 1 is the last of four reactors at Dominion's two Virginia nuclear power plants to get the turbine upgrades. Steam produced by nuclear fission in the reactors turns turbine generators to make electricity.
The two units at Surry Power Station on the James River, and North Anna's Unit 2 got turbine upgrades during recent refuelings. Upgrading the turbine equipment allows the reactors to produce more heat and steam, thereby generating more electricity. "When the [Unit 1] outage is finished, the company will have added about 234 megawatts to the Virginia electrical grid" as a result of the upgrades at North Anna and Surry, Dominion said in a message to employees. That's enough electricity to power 58,500 homes at peak winter demand.
The power "uprates" have been ongoing at the nation's 104 nuclear power plants since the 1970s, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They allow utilities to increase the amount of electricity generated without building expensive new reactors.
As of April 2011, the NRC had approved 139 uprates, resulting in a gain of approximately 6,020 megawatts. Collectively, the uprates have added generating capacity at existing plants equivalent to about six new reactors. North Anna Unit 2 was refueled last summer when the plant's reactors were idle for nearly three months in the wake of the Aug. 23 earthquake.
North Anna's two units together generate 1,863 megawatts--enough electricity to power 450,000 homes. Unit 1 began commercial operation in June 1978; Unit 2 followed in December 1980. Dominion has an application pending with the NRC for a planned Unit 3. The plant is located on the Louisa County shore of Lake Anna
Date published: 3/13/2012.