Hiring has started for Energy Northwest’s biennial refueling and maintenance outage at its nuclear power plant near Richland.
Many of the 1,300 workers needed for the outage will be brought to town by contractors on the project, filling hotels, motels and RV parks, and spending money in Tri-City area restaurants and stores.
But Energy Northwest has begun posting some of the 200 jobs available to Mid-Columbia residents, if only for two to three months.
Laborers can make $21.21 an hour and electricians with as little as two years experience can earn $42.54 an hour, according to initial job postings for the Columbia Generating Station outage.
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It is a great opportunity for general laborers as Energy Northwest plans to hire 55 of them locally, said recruiter Kelley Ferrantelli. Maintenance workers, clerical workers and many skilled laborers also will be hired. They include carpenters, mechanics, and instrumentation and controls technicians.
The outage is scheduled for May 13 through June 17, but employees start arriving at the plant in April for training and qualification.
It is a great early-on-the-job interview.
Kelley Ferrantelli, Energy Northwest recruiter
Some workers, particularly those who work more than one outage, use it as a stepping stone to become permanent employees of Energy Northwest.
“It is a great early-on-the-job interview,” Ferrantelli said.
It also is an internship opportunity for students in the nuclear technology program at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.
This year’s outage will replace 272 of the fuel assemblies in the nuclear plant. About a third of the plant’s fuel is replaced every other year.
The outage also provides an opportunity to perform maintenance that is difficult to do or cannot be done while the plant is operating.
This year, a hardened containment vent will be installed to meet new requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear disaster. Preparations for the installation have been started.
A 27-inch valve that stuck during the last outage and delayed the nuclear plant’s return to full power will be replaced in the upcoming outage.
The system will allow a direct means of venting an area of the Columbia Generating Station to an outside containment structure in the event of an accident beyond what the plant was built to withstand. “Hardened” means the vents can withstand the pressure and temperature of the steam generated early in an accident, or possible fires or small explosions if they are used to release hydrogen later in an accident.
The outage will be used to repair a 27-inch valve needed only during refueling outages. It became stuck after the last refueling outage, delaying the return to full power operation.
Plans also call for overhauling one of the plant’s three low-pressure turbines.
In total, 1,400 work orders have been scheduled for the outage.
Employees can expect to work long hours to have maintenance completed by June 17.
Information about outage jobs is posted at bit.ly/energynw-careers, with most of the jobs yet to be advertised.