Small changes make a big difference in nuclear plant's productivity

July 15, 2014 by Casey O'donnell

( —Many have been told that "time is money," but perhaps few have heard the cliché and imagined $48 million on the line.

However, by following the recommendations of researchers from Idaho National Laboratory, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station did save $48 million when it cut the duration of a refueling outage by 40 days. This savings of both time and money earned Arizona Public Service the Nuclear Energy Institute's 2014 Top Industry Practice Award for Material, Management Processes, and Support Services in May.

During a refueling outage, nuclear plant workers shut down the reactor to replace used nuclear fuel. Workers take advantage of the shutdown conditions to perform safety inspections and upgrades on reactor equipment. In a 2013 report, INL researchers Shawn St. Germain, Ronald Farris and Heather Medema noted that by minimizing the duration of refueling outages, significant gains could be made in the energy output of .

INL researchers from the Department of Energy's Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program had this idea in mind when they observed a refueling outage at Palo Verde in spring 2013. The researchers were looking for ways to increase the efficiency of the outage work so the plant could start back up sooner. They proposed a program that relied on a greater use of technology to improve communication between response teams and quicken the refueling process.

Although the researchers' goals were ambitious, their suggestions were relatively simple. They proposed that the Palo Verde team keep all of its information in an up-to-date, easily accessible location. To accomplish this, the researchers introduced a network-based program that could hold photos, drawings, schedules and other updates all in one place. By using this program, Palo Verde response teams were able to communicate more effectively during the .

INL researchers plan to release a report this year detailing the system that was implemented at Palo Verde. Their recommendations increased efficiency in a way that's simple and applicable to plants across the U.S. Through small changes such as those carried out at Palo Verde, INL are working toward a safer, more efficient future for nuclear energy.

Explore further: Researcher uses code to test nuclear fuels

Related Stories

Researcher uses code to test nuclear fuels

June 24, 2014

When friends ask Idaho National Laboratory researcher Blaise Collin what his job entails, he compares his scientific simulation work to operating a flight simulator.

Molten salt reactor concept has new Transatomic Power lift

June 21, 2014

Transatomic Power has been in the news this month in its ambition to build a better reactor. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Transatomic Power has proposed a safer reactor that "eats nuclear waste," as put ...

Experiment enters next stage at new Idaho hot cell

June 2, 2014

To the average eye, the experimental specimens don't look like much: silver-colored squares about the size of a domino. But the samples represent several big milestones for Idaho National Laboratory, the Department of Energy ...

Uranium crystals could reveal future of nuclear fuel

June 25, 2013

Mention the word "crystals" and few people think of nuclear fuel. Unless you are Eric Burgett. The Idaho State University professor is on a quest to create pure, single crystals of uranium and uranium oxide so researchers ...

French nuclear designers tap American expertise

June 11, 2013

The world's nuclear experts have reached out to U.S. Department of Energy engineers for help evaluating a new nuclear reactor design that could increase safety margins while reducing waste.

Recommended for you

Forget oil, Russia goes crazy for cryptocurrency

August 16, 2017

Standing in a warehouse in a Moscow suburb, Dmitry Marinichev tries to speak over the deafening hum of hundreds of computers stacked on shelves hard at work mining for crypto money.

Researchers clarify mystery about proposed battery material

August 15, 2017

Battery researchers agree that one of the most promising possibilities for future battery technology is the lithium-air (or lithium-oxygen) battery, which could provide three times as much power for a given weight as today's ...

Signs of distracted driving—pounding heart, sweaty nose

August 15, 2017

Distracted driving—texting or absent-mindedness—claims thousands of lives a year. Researchers from the University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute have produced an extensive dataset examining how ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.