Exelon begins latest outage



The city is again catering to the needs of hundreds of guest workers, as the latest refueling outage is underway at Exelon’s Braidwood Station.

On Monday, Oct. 8, operators at Braidwood Station took Unit 2 out of service, kicking off the latest planned refueling outage at the nuclear power plant. The move brought in 1,200 additional workers to the area, who not only provide the vital service to the energy provider, but also pump dollars into the local community.

Electricians, pipe fitters, welders, carpenters, laborers and other trades people are onsite to perform thousands of inspections, tests, maintenance activities, equipment upgrades and modifications that cannot be done while the unit is online, including replacing nearly one-third of the reactor’s fuel.

Workers come from around the state and the county to perform various duties during outages, staying in local hotels and patronizing local businesses. The additional bodies in town give local retailers a boost to their bottom lines.

At Jones-Eez Bar-B-Q, the additional workers are already making an impact on sales and service. Owner Bob Jones began special hours for the Kennedy Road eatery as the outage began, opening his doors at 6 a.m. to serve breakfast to workers, versus his usual 11 a.m. start. Jones said business ticks up significantly during refueling outages.

“Every business in town benefits from these outages, from gas stations and grocery stores to restaurants and barbershops,” he said. “We all see more customers coming through our doors and more money flowing into our registers. It’s great for the community.”  

Allied Services employee Doug Considine, a Dixon-area native, has worked at Exelon Generation plants since the 1980s. Like a lot of workers who flood into nuclear power plant towns for outages, Considine said making towns like Braidwood home for a few weeks is always a positive experience.

“I’ve been working the Exelon outages for a long time and have found the travel to other areas like Braidwood a great experience,” he said. “I get into a routine of buying my morning coffee at one place, having dinner at another, even finding a car repair shop and barber when I have needed it. The towns near the plants have treated me well and I’ve been able to reciprocate by giving a lot of local businesses a part of my paycheck.”

As far as the maintenance, the planned outages keep the nuclear power plant operating safely at peak performance. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), planned outages are defined as shutting down of a generating unit, transmission line, or other facility for inspection, maintenance, or refueling, which is scheduled well in advance. Scheduled outages can be deferred if necessary.

“We invest heavily in maintenance and equipment upgrades each year to ensure Braidwood Station continues to operate at world-class levels of safety and operational excellence,” said Braidwood Site Vice President Marri Marchionda-Palmer. “The work completed in this outage will help ensure that Unit 2 remains online during the cold winter months ahead, when people need us most.”

Outages generally happen in spring and fall, when energy demand decreases. Braidwood’s two units undergo maintenance outages every 18 months.

The refueling includes maintenance activities, inspections and upgrades completed during the outage will help Braidwood Station deliver zero-carbon, reliable energy for another 18-month cycle.

Unit 1 will continue to operate during the outage, providing the region with electricity.

Braidwood Station’s Unit 1 outage took place last spring and lasted just over two weeks.

Braidwood Station has been operating since 1988.