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Here’s an exclusive look at Tonopah’s Palo Verde Generating Station

(KTAR News Photo/Ali Vetnar)

PHOENIX — Located in Phoenix’s backyard is the nation’s largest and cleanest power producer.

KTAR News 92.3 FM got an exclusive look at the Palo Verde Generating Station located in Tonopah.

Producing 70% of Arizona’s clean air energy, Arizona Public Service opened its doors on its nearly 4,000-acre property to a select group to experience what goes on during a refueling outage.

“We were able to go in and watch as we disassemble the reactor vessel,” Assistant Plant Manager Tim Gaffney said. “Take the reactor vessel head off and prepare for doing our refueling.”

Normally, a pressure vessel head with control rods to control reactor activity would cover the top.

But during the outage, nothing stands between the radioactive fuels but 20-plus feet of water.

Refueling once every 18 months, APS walked through a full “dress-out” in gear that would protect from any type of contamination while entering the nuclear containment site.

“That allows us to replace one third of the reactor core with fresh fuel so we can operate for another 18 months at full power,” Gaffney said.

But what is full power?

Palo Verde Generating Station creates more than 32 million megawatt-hours annually — enough power for more than 4 million people.

APS also showed off the fuel building where both new and spent fuel assemblies are stored in a giant pool to cool over time.

The spent fuel cools in a pool for four to seven years before it’s loaded in groups of 24, into 20-foot concrete casks. The nearly 140 casks are then located onto a platform the size of a football field outside in the Tonopah desert.

The platform where the casks are stored still looks to have plenty of room for future spent fuel. Palo Verde is licensed through the mid-2040s, with an optional 20-year extension. They say in the event they need more space, they have plenty of room to build more storage for the spent fuel.

But just because the fuel is spent doesn’t mean its waste.

“There is still energy in them if they need to be used,” Gaffney said. “All of our waste is contained — this is spent fuel that has served its purpose at Palo Verde for our customers and now it’s in a dry storage container.

“No release, no emissions, it’s safe and we continue to monitor it.”

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