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The Columbia Generating Station near Richland, WA, is back on the grid after a 50-day refueling outage.

The goal was a 42-day outage to replace about a third of the nuclear power reactor’s fuel assemblies, conduct maintenance and make upgrades that can be difficult when the plant is operating.

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The outage lasted eight days longer than expected when a planned inspection of piping in the system that cleans reactor water showed some thinning pipe walls, said Energy Northwest spokesman John Dobken. Workers then replaced the pipes as a preventative measure, he said.

About 2,700 regular and temporary employees were on site, but the outage concluded Sunday with no recordable or restricted duty injuries, he said.

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Outages take place every other year for the late spring when the demand for electricity dips between winter heating and summer air-conditioning. But this spring saw record-high temperatures.

The end of the outage was particularly welcome given “the high demand situation we’ve been under and we expect to be under in the near future with the hot weather,” said Michael Hansen, Bonneville Power Administration spokesman. “We expect to be able to meet our load as planned.

Columbia Generating Station sells its power at-cost to BPA, and 92 Northwest utilities receive a percentage of its output.

The nuclear plant generates 1,170 megawatts of electricity, which is about the amount of electricity used by a city the size of Seattle.

One of the major projects of the outage, installing more accurate ultrasonic instruments for measuring water flow through the reactor, should help increase the plant’s output capacity by at least five megawatts. The water flow can now run closer to the maximum possible.

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