The Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD’s) Board of Directors on Friday unanimously voted to increase the amount of power produced at its 800-MW Cooper Nuclear Station by 146 MW through an extended power uprate.

According to the NPPD, the increase in generation will require some equipment upgrades that complement investments NPPD has already made in replacing major components over the last several years. “The 146 extra megawatts will help NPPD meet the additional load requirements we expect to have as early as 2018,” NPPD President and CEO Pat Pope said in a statement on Friday. “Other benefits of an [extended power uprate] include increasing the amount of electricity we can produce from a non-carbon producing resource, when potential greenhouse gas regulations are on the horizon. In addition, off-system sales from the facility into the regional energy market could be a significant benefit to Nebraska customers when such revenues are returned and put toward NPPD’s operational expenses.”

Among key pieces of equipment to be replaced is the plant’s high-pressure turbine that was ordered last May. NPPD had planned to replace the existing turbine regardless of a decision to move forward with an extended power uprate. It is the one of the oldest in the country’s nuclear fleet. Since 2005, NPPD has replaced other major components including two low-pressure turbines, a generator rotor and stator, eight feedwater heaters, and main power transformers.

The 11-member board’s approval of the project is not a guarantee that the project will be implemented. The NPPD must seek approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a license amendment as well as from the Nebraska Power Review Board.

The NPPD said that an extended power uprate involves conducting a thorough analysis to ensure the plant can safely generate more power, evaluating the Missouri River’s temperature limits as they relate to the plant’s thermal operations, studying the transmission requirements, installing the high-pressure turbine, and making the appropriate modifications and upgrades to plant equipment. The uprate is achieved by increasing coolant flow to the reactor, increasing fuel enrichment, generating more heat in the reactor core, and increasing steam flow to the turbine/generator.

It will require an estimated capital investment of $243 million dollars, $60 million of which is already committed to modifications necessary to meet relicensing requirements NPPD agreed to in 2010 when the NRC renewed NPPD’s operating license, extending it to 2034. Much of the new equipment will be installed during three, successive refueling and maintenance outages scheduled for 2014, 2016, and 2018. The new high pressure turbine is expected to be installed during the 2016 outage. Cooper has already seen a small uprate approved by the NRC in 2008 of 1.6%, resulting in an increase of about 12 MW.

At Friday’s monthly meeting, the board approved two contracts with GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas to provide the engineering services to perform analyses and evaluation of the nuclear steam supply system in order to make the application to NRC, at a cost of $30,547,411, and an additional $14,195,000 for the purchase of power range neutron monitoring system.

The NPPD is Nebraska’s largest electric utility with a chartered territory that spans 91 of the state’s 93 counties. Cooper Nuclear Station is the entity’s only nuclear plant, making up nearly 30% of the state’s total generation capacity. About 60% of the state’s power is fuelled by coal.

Sources: POWERnews, NPPD