Turkey Point under construction

Published On: Jun 08 2012 05:12:37 PM EDT
Updated On: Oct 02 2012 04:25:45 PM EDT

Thousands of workers were hired to upgrade the Turkey Point power plant’s two reactor units and project manager Alan Katz is giving you unprecedented access to the construction.

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -

Turkey Point’s nuclear power plant is under construction.

"You might see this once in a lifetime of a plant, that’s how rare you do something like this. Basically, we are rebuilding a car from the inside out completely," Katz said.

The plan: increase output by 15 percent.

To pull it off, every part of the process needed to be upgraded, components replaced in order to hand the added energy.

It certainly is an engineering feat. Craftsmen have to fit all the new, bigger parts in the same space built more than three decades ago.

The improvements will help power an additional quarter of a million homes and is expected to be complete by the end of March 2013.

We had Alan Katz explain the different areas of improvement.

Nuclear 101

“You heat the water; the water goes to a heat exchanger which creates steam. That steam goes against the turbines, helps turn the turbine, the turbine turns the generator, the generator makes the electricity and then the steam then goes back into the condenser where it is turned back into water, pumped and start the system all over again. The improvement that is generating more steam: more energy in the reactor, the pumps move more water and all that is a 15 percent more power from the machine.”

This is a big deal

“This plant project is a very big deal for a lot of reasons. One, it is the largest nuclear project ongoing in the country; second, we are able to provide a lot of jobs. At Turkey Point itself we have 3,000 direct jobs on the project of which a good percentage are from the local area.”

It’s like a car, only bigger!

“One of the analogies that we use when we try to describe what we are doing is basically we are rebuilding a car from the inside out completely. There is basically not a piece of that car that we won’t touch or modify from the wheels to the engine to the interior to get more megawatts out to the customer for the additional 271,000 homes that this uprate will help supply electricity to.

We are taking out the old piece and we’re putting in a bigger piece so we have to find a way to get it to its position and make it fit and then we got to make sure everything connects up to it just right and in a plant that was built 30 years ago that’s not necessarily so simple so there’s a lot of engineers and a lot of craftsmen helping us get this done.”

The Condenser:

“Basically the condensers take steam and turn back to water, we will be replacing these. This is probably one of the most amazing parts of the project because we are literally gutting the entire condenser. You can tell this is one of the inlet water boxes in the last piece of demolition phase and you can see all the holes for all the tubes where the salt water would be flowing through. Very few times can you look at a component and see it dismantled and that’s what we have here, basically a big open shell. The holes where the tubes went through, that’s 12,000 holes there [to represent] 12,000 tubes that went through that giant condenser.”

Katz explained how the improvement will be, “even more smaller tubes,” which he said provide, “more surface area which means you can more efficiently condenses the steam. The more efficiently it condenses the steam the more megawatts you create for the customer,” making it more efficient.

The last time the inside of the condenser saw the light of day was the late 1970’s when construction crews built the plant.

What is a generator rotor?

“That’s what creates electricity. It’s a big chunk of steel and inside are thousands of pounds of copper and because it is delicate right now it is under a nitrogen blanket so the moisture that is in the South Florida air doesn’t affect it.”

Turbines:

“You are looking at one of our low-pressure rotor turbines, it weighs 250,000 pounds. As the steam goes through the turbine you need bigger blades to help turn the whole generator rotor which we previously saw. More steam, you need bigger blades to make the whole system work. What the blades do is the steam pushes against the blades and helps harness the energy of the steam, it helps turn the whole generator rotor which helps us make the electricity for the customers.”

The generator rotor slides in the “stator” which is short for “stationary part."

“That stator acts like a magnet and as the rotor turns electricity is created and there are three wires at the bottom and that is how the electricity leaves the plant out to the street. This is the final step where the electricity comes out. This is what it is all about. When you uprate the plant it has more current flowing through the generator and stator and what that means it has to be more robust to withstand that and that is why we are doing everything we are doing.”

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