OAK HARBOR, Ohio (AP) -- A northwest Ohio nuclear power plant is getting a $600 million upgrade.
FirstEnergy Corp. has begun work to replace the two original steam generators at the Davis-Besse nuclear plant near Toledo.
The maintenance took about a decade of planning and is expected to infuse $108 million into the local economy, The (Toledo) Blade (http://bit.ly/NsTfVH ) reported Monday. Work began at the beginning of the month.
Steam generator replacement projects are typically the most expensive maintenance done at nuclear plants that have pressurized water reactors. They're such massive undertakings that they're not expected to be done more than once in a plant's service life, if at all.
The generators being installed at Davis-Besse are 74 feet long by 12 feet wide and weigh 470 tons. They act as heat exchangers and produce super-hot steam used to spin the plant's turbine generator to produce electricity.
Davis-Besse Vice President Ray Lieb said the investment "supports our commitment to remaining an integral part of northwest Ohio's economy for many decades to come."
More than $147 million of the project's budget will be spent on salaries, FirstEnergy said. As many as 2,300 additional local union and traveling contracted workers are expected to augment Davis-Besse's regular 700-member workforce during the outage, which also will include a refueling of the reactor core.
Carl Koebel, an Ottawa County commissioner in 2002 when the near-rupture of Davis-Besse's original reactor head shook the nuclear industry, said the plant's new steam generators demonstrate a firm commitment to the region and show the utility has no plans to shut down Davis-Besse before April 2037.
"Yeah, I guess there's a feeling our fight was worth it," Koebel said. "I'm glad they've put faith in the people here -- that's what they've done by keeping that plant going."
The commitment comes as the nuclear industry fends off threats from falling natural gas prices driven by the national boom in hydraulic fracturing of shale bedrock, or "fracking."
Information from: The Blade, http://www.toledoblade.com/