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Exelon begins $20M in new construction at QC station

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CORDOVA, Ill. -- Nearly eight months after new Illinois energy reform ensured its continued operation, Exelon's Quad-Cities Generating Station is moving forward with $20 million worth of construction, plant leaders revealed Wednesday.

The projects, some of which have begun, will expand and modernize some existing facilities as well as add new storage facilities for equipment and spent nuclear fuel.

The largest single project is a multi-million expansion of the plant's Professional Learning Center, the facility where Exelon trains its workforce and the hundreds of outside contractors brought in each year to assist on refueling outages.

"This is exciting for Quad-Cities Station," said Ken Ohr, the new site vice president. "We're looking to the future to sustain Quad-Cities Station and make us a real partner for the Quad-Cities (region) for decades to come."

Exelon's leadership is set to formally unveil the projects at a news conference Thursday at the nuclear plant near Cordova. They will be joined by local building and construction trades leaders, suppliers and elected officials.

Bob Larkin, who now is the plant's director of recovery projects, is managing Exelon's project managers who are overseeing the construction projects.

The projects include:

  • Professional Learning Center expansion: A 36,000-square-foot, two-story addition is being built onto the current training facility to provide additional classroom space and a new consolidated location for in-processing contract outage workers. The $7 million project was awarded to Chicago-based Burling Builders Inc.
  • Facility maintenance equipment building: A new 18,000-square-foot building will house equipment such as vehicles and maintenance equipment and provide storage space. The facility also will include a paint shop, office space and a welder qualification area. Ryan & Associates has been awarded the $2 million project. 
  • An equipment storage facility: The 8,000-square-foot building will house various equipment such as scaffolding and other equipment used during outages. It will consolidate various locations across the plant.
  • Dry cast storage pad: Crews will build a 90-foot by 300-foot concrete pad to expand Exelon's spent fuel dry cast storage. Valley Construction, Rock Island, will build the pad, which will store 108 spent fuel casks. The $10 million project will be completed in 2019.

Along with the four major projects, Larkin said the plant also is now focused on maintenance and upgrades that had been deferred over the past few years.

Over the next two years, workers will replace a total of 66,000 square feet of roofing on Exelon's existing buildings as well as replace several heating and air conditioning systems and repair roadways within the plant's property.

"We had focused our available funding on generation maintenance — stuff that had to be done to generate electricity," Larkin said. The new projects "will put us in the best possible position for long term operation. They are designed for us to run through our extended license of 2032."

Plant officials previously have said the $20 million in construction and upgrades would not have occurred without the passage of Illinois' new Future Energy Jobs Act late last year. The legislation, passed in December, spared the closing of Exelon's plants in the Quad-Cities and Clinton, Illinois. As part of the legislation, Exelon was required to commit to operating both plants at least another 10 years.

According to Larkin, the work will add 600 construction jobs. Some of the work began in May and run until mid-2018. It will employ a number of trades and crafts including electricians, pipefitters, laborers, carpenters, operating engineers, Teamsters and sheet-metal workers, he said.

"There are certain synergies to these projects," Ohr said. "The same folks we are bringing in to build our facilities are the same people who will gain skills (in the training facility)."

The expanded training facility also will consolidate the various buildings that the crafts and trades workers must pass through as part of the "in-process" for an outage, Larkin said. Currently, they must visit multiple buildings for various requirements, including badging, radiation training, safety training, drug testing and other nuclear qualifications.

He said currently those workers, who can total 1,500 to 2,500 additional employees in an outage, all pass through some 1960s-circa structures scattered across the property. "We'll replace those old, high-maintenance buildings we perform this in," he said, adding that the structures will be demolished eventually.

"We're consolidating, modernizing and making it more efficient," Ohr said of the logistics of assisting the contract employees. "We also want to make it a positive experience."  

In addition, the training facility will also expand Exelon's distance learning capabilities by adding new classroom facilities equipped with computerized, video and audio equipment to connect Exelon employees at sites across the nation.

While some distance learning already is taking place across Exelon, he said the new training center will serve "as the first prototype for distance learning." It will add another five distance learning classrooms to the two current classrooms.

Ohr said with the added space and new technologies, now an instructor can teach nuclear employees at 14 sites simultaneously. The facility will nearly eliminate his costs for training, including the related travel expenses.

At the core of most the projects is improving efficiency, he added.

During an outage, the reactors must be taken offline and "the efficiency of that time period is really critical," Ohr said. "That is the competitive advantage of nuclear power, the minimal time it's offline."

Much of the plant's new storage needs are being driven by the fact that many of its buildings are original to the plant, which was built in the 1960s. "It's like a house with no closets, we have no closets," Ohr said.

Aside from major plant upgrades to equipment made in the past, he said the construction "is one of the largest projects" the plant has had since it was built.

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