HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Turkey Point's Nuclear Power Plant is under construction, and Local 10 is giving viewers unprecedented access.
Click here to see uncut video of the tour.
Florida Power and Light has hired thousands of workers to help them improve Units 3 and 4 at the Homestead facility.
Project Manager Alan Katz explained how the plan is to generate 15 percent more electricity, which can power 271,000 additional homes. In order to pull it off, they need to upgrade both systems.
"You might see this once in a lifetime of a plant. That's how rare you do something like this," Katz said.
"One of the analogies that we use when we try to describe what we are doing is basically we are rebuilding a car from the inside out completely. There is basically not a piece of that car that we won't touch or modify, from the wheels to the engine to the interior, to get more megawatts out to the customer," Katz said. "We are taking out the old piece and we're putting in a bigger piece, so we have to find a way to get it to its position and make it fit, and then we got to make sure everything connects up to it just right. And, in a plant that was built 30 years ago, that's not necessarily so simple, so there's a lot of engineers and a lot of craftsman helping us get this done."
Katz took Local 10's Christina Vazquez to the plant's giant condenser which he said "basically takes steam and turns it back to water."
"This is probably one of the most amazing parts of the project, because we are literally gutting the entire condenser. Very few times can you look at a component and see it dismantled, and that's what we have here, basically a big, open shell. The last time the inside of the condenser saw the light of day was the late 1970s when construction crews built the plant."
A large inlet water box is visible and a good example of one of the improvements. One can see holes that represent the 12,000 tubes that went through the giant condenser. It's the last piece of the demolition phase. Katz explained how the new water box will have many more, smaller tubes which allow for "more surface area, which means you can more efficiently can condense the steam."
"The more efficiently you condense the steam, the more megawatts you create for the customer," he said.
Local 10 was also able to see the 250,000-pound new low-pressure rotor turbine.
"As the steam goes through the turbine, you need bigger blades to help turn the whole generator rotor. It's about ready to go back into the machine. What the blades do is the steam pushes against the blades and helps harness the energy of the steam. It helps turn the whole generator rotor, which helps us make the electricity for the customers. The improvement that is generating more steam, more energy in the reactor, the pumps move more water, and all that is 15 percent more power from the machine."
The turbine, Katz explained, helps rotate the generator rotor. It is 60 feet long and weighs 300,000 pounds. During Local 10's visit, it was being safeguarded under a nitrogen blanket to protect its steel and copper from the humid South Florida air.
The generator rotates in a stator.
"It basically acts like a magnet, and as the generator rotor turns, electricity is created. And, there are three wires at the bottom, and that is how the electricity leaves the plant out to the street," Katz said. "This is the final step where the electricity comes out. This is what it is all about."
A large fence surrounds the stator, called the "foreign material exclusion area" because "if you leave anything in the machine, it will catastrophically destroy itself," Katz said.
Katz also showed Vazquez and photojournalist Brian Ely the plant's heat exchangers.
"Remember, we have to replace it as part of our up-rate. It has to be able to withstand the 15 percent flow rate of the water, and right now it is in a staging position. It is on a track and slide system, and what we are going to do is come across and it will slide right into position, and the craftsman will go and connect the piping," Katz said. "This is the beginning of the Unit 3 turbine plant cooling water system, which supplies cooling water to the various pumps on the turbine. We had to increase the size of the heat exchangers because of all the additional energy we have moving , those heat exchangers are really large. They are going to have to be raised up on a hydraulic system, put on rails and slid into position. It's much larger and more effective in being able to supply a greater capacity of cooling water to all the components that need water."
"When you up-rate the plant, it has more current flowing through the generator and stator, and what that means, it has to be more robust to withstand that, and that is why we are doing everything we are doing," he said.
The $1 billion upgrade to both units is expected to be complete by the end of March 2013.
Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.