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Behind the scenes at Diablo

Unit two at PG&E’s Diablo Nuclear Power Plant is offline for routine maintenance and on Monday we got to go behind the scenes to see what they are doing during the outage.

Every 18 months PG&E shuts down one of its reactor units for maintenance. Eleven thousand related activities to be performed to enhance the operation of the unit are well under way.

“The purpose is to refuel the reactor and also perform maintenance that cannot be done online. So our focus is on putting safety first, reinvesting in the units to make sure that they run reliably and safely,” said Edward Halpin, senior vice president at PG&E.

During the outage more than 1,000 specialists from around the country are called in to assist. A spokesperson at the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce says during this outage, the city expects to bring in an extra $5 million in revenue.

“We’ve taken our process control system and we are upgrading it to a digital system. That helps to add redundancy and how the unit performs as well as reliability and that’s a big change for us. That was implemented well on unit one,” said Halpin.

The outage is happening while PG&E is undergoing its relicensing process. Recently it was put on hold, so more seismic studies could be done on the shoreline fault. PG&E officials said they have and will always be doing seismic studies even when they’re not trying to renew their license. Its current licenses do not expire until 2024 and 2025.

“Through the events of Three Mile Island, through the events of Chernobyl and now Fukushima, as an industry we’re not saying, “Well it can’t happen here.” We understand that the units are very safe, there’s lots of margin, but we think in terms of well, what do we do to prevent it from happening here? What additional margin do we add in place to help keep us safe?” said Halpin.

Unit two is expected to come back online later this month.


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