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Palo Verde accident postpones refueling Outage expected to go into May

By Max Jarman The Arizona Republic April 11, 2001

A refueling accident at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station will keep one of its three reactors out of commission into late May when Valley energy demand usually spikes.

Jim McDonald, a spokesman for the plant's manager, Arizona Public Service Co., said a control rod was "banged" April 5 during extraction and will have to be replaced. An inspection of other rods turned up more elements that needed replacing.

"We could have gone forward until the next refueling, but made a conservative decision to do the repairs now to ensure reliability for the summer," McDonald said.

Barring the loss of another generator, or an unseasonably warm May, McDonald said APS, which owns 30 percent on the plant, would have no problem meeting its customers' demand for electricity. The Salt River Project, an 18 percent owner, also was optimistic the extended outage would not cause supply problems.

As a result of the repairs, the fueling outage that began March 31 will take an estimated 50 days, instead of 35. That means APS and other Palo Verde owners will likely have to dig into their pockets to buy high-priced wholesale power to meet demand or cut back their own lucrative power sales activities.

"It will cost us money," McDonald said.

The damaged Palo Verde unit produces 1,270 megawatts of electricity, enough to light 500,000 homes. Combined, the three units, 50 miles west of downtown Phoenix, satisfy about one-third of APS' average daily demand for power and about 20 percent of SRP's

-- Martin Thompson (, April 11, 2001

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