MARSEILLES, III. — Operators powered down Lasalle Generating Station Unit 1 early this morning to begin the nuclear power plant's spring refueling outage, but this year will be different for the hundreds of employees and outage workers tasked with refueling and performing maintenance on the plant while it's offline.
Station employees have spent the last few months mapping every inch of the plant using 360-degree cameras to create virtual tours of the plant. These tours are coupled with portal technology to provide live video, temperature, and up-to-date radiation dose information throughout the plant. This technology reduces work time inside the plant, limiting radiological exposure to record low levels. It is also the first step in creating a true virtual reality simulation of the plant that will improve employee training and other areas.
The Digital Plant Viewer, developed by Exelon Generation's innovation group, is an intuitive web-based mapping interface that accesses radiological surveys, live video feeds, and 360-degree images. While nuclear plant employees use a vast array of mapping, telemetry, and other data systems to run the plant daily, Digital Plant Viewer pulls the technological systems together in one place for the first time.
During the refueling outage, workers will perform approximately 14,500 maintenance and refurbishment activities that cannot be performed while the unit is operating. The work tasks are designed to enhance the unit's ability to provide reliable, carbon-free electricity for years to come. The new tool will help improve planning for maintenance tasks, briefing work teams, and in-field execution, resulting in greater efficiency and accuracy.
"Our goal is to perform every refueling or maintenance task during the outage flawlessly," said LaSalle Station Site Vice President Bill Trafton. "This technology will help our people to work safer and smarter, because they can get more data and information about their tasks before they even enter the plant. A successful refueling outage will allow the plant to come back online and resume providing reliable, zero-emission energy to the community."
Digital Plant Viewer is one of many innovations in use across Exelon Generation. To date, innovations and new technology solutions have generated more than $160 million in operational efficiencies.
In addition to implementing enhanced technologies, LaSalle Station is bringing in more than 1,800 supplemental workers to help support the 800 employees during the outage. These additional workers provide a short-term boost to the local economy, with many of the workers staying in area hotels, shopping at local stores, and eating at restaurants. During the LaSalle Unit 2 outage in 2017, the station spent more than $76 million with local vendors and payroll for its supplemental workers.
"The Ottawa Area welcomes the supplemental workers who come to support Exelon's LaSalle Station refueling outage," said Assistant Executive Director of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Meg Skelly. "The influx of traffic, during an otherwise quiet part of the year, is a boost to our local restaurants, shops and hotels."
LaSalle has two reactors, each of which is refueled once every 24 months. Approximately one-third of the unit's fuel will be replaced. LaSalle Unit 2 will continue to generate electricity during the Unit 1 outage.