Major nuclear upgrade at Energy Northwest

RICHLAND, Wash. -- A major upgrade is happening at Energy Northwest's Columbia Generating Station.

All is quiet on Washington's nuclear front. Sure there's the inspections, the tune-ups, and the mandatory walk throughs, but this is the time of year when machines stop running in favor of one huge upgrade.

Every two years, Energy Northwest's nuclear plant comes to a screeching halt. It's purely by plan all to keep the local energy grid on the up and up. For two months, the Northwest's only nuclear reactor is shut down so it can be refueled and replaced.

In a much bigger way, it's similar to a car undergoing an oil change. After two years of non-stop work, nuclear machines get a tune up; all to keep energy flowing to local neighborhoods.

"It allows us to run for another two year cycle and continue to produce energy," says John Dobken, Energy Northwest.

Energy Northwest hired 1,300 additional workers to upgrade the machines this year. Some of those employees start in a practice control room. Every gadget, machine, and robot is connected to a central server.

More than a quarter of all the machines will be replaced during the outage.

The grid should be back online by the end of June.

Click here to learn more about the Columbia Generating Station.