FULTON, Mo. — The only commercial nuclear power plant in Missouri has turned 30 and is seeking to operate for another three decades.
The Callaway Energy Center, which generates about 20 percent of Ameren Missouri's electricity for its 1.2 million customers, was granted a 40-year operating license in 1984 by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Ameren is seeking renewal of the license to extend it to 2044, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported.
The plant has planned outages every 18 months, during which it changes fuel in the reactor and performs maintenance tasks. It recently replaced its original reactor vessel head with a new $150 million one, which "allowed the plant to be more reliable and provide us a better margin for continued operation," said John Patterson, director of nuclear projects.
In 2005, the plant replaced steam generators as part of a multimillion dollar project during a routine outage.
Since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 45-foot tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, the NRC has made efforts to make America's nuclear facilities better prepared for disaster. Patterson said the plant has been working on changes in response to the NRC orders.
"Making sure we are covered in all seismic and tornado (events) — hardening the plant for natural disasters," Patterson said. "That's another big project we are working through right now."
Two years ago, the nuclear facility received an excellent performance rating by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. Patterson, who has worked at the plant for 34 years, said that "put us into a grade of excellence among our peers."
"People come to us looking for that guidance and what did we do to obtain that rating," he said.