Column: Decommissioning of Navajo Generating Station process begins - here’s what to expect
On Sept. 19, Navajo Generating Station entered its final phase of operation.
After years of discussion, negotiations, many news reports amid even more speculation, and – most recently – planning for the decommissioning phase, NGS became a two-unit power plant.
For the past few weeks, NGS has operated at full load of 2,250 megawatts. Now, Units 1 and 2 will produce 450 megawatts each for a total plant output of 900 megawatts. Unit 3 is on stand-by and will be used only in an emergency until Oct. 15 when it will be shut down permanently.
Mining at the Kayenta Mine has ended. Our last trainload of coal was delivered Aug. 26. We are now burning down the reserve coal pile. We anticipate operating until early or mid-November when operations will cease.
At that point, retirement and decommissioning of the plant will begin. This process will proceed in phases. In simplest terms, the acronym for this is “DDDR.” That stands for decommission, decontamination, demolition and restoration.
Once our turbines stop spinning and our stacks go cold, we will begin the process of de-energizing the plant. That involves draining all water, fluids, lubricants and chemicals of any kind and venting all steam from the thousands of pipes throughout the plant as we would do during a unit overhaul. This process involves “air-gapping,” cutting and removing physical sections of pipes, cable or electrical line so that no connections exist anywhere. Our target for completion of this is April 1.
Next comes decontamination which is the removal of regulated materials. This will take six to nine months.
Once de-energizing and decontamination is done, we can safely turn the plant over to our contractor, Tetra Tech, the program manager overseeing decommissioning, for demolition.
Actual demolition is expected to take approximately two years. Our three iconic 750-foot stacks, a landmark for the past 45 years, are expected to come down about a year from now.
Reclamation and final restoration of the plant site will be the last phase. This will include final closure of water and evaporation ponds, and re-grading and re-seeding the land to return it to its original state. Salt River Project will continue environmental monitoring of the plant site for the next 30 years after retirement.
The Navajo Nation has decided to keep the large NGS warehouse, which was built in the mid-90s, the Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad track and bed, which could be repurposed for tourism, the lake pump station, which could deliver water to LeChee Chapter in the future, and the Administration and Maintenance buildings. All of these facilities are in excellent condition and will have long, useful lives to greatly benefit the local Navajo community.
When everything is done, 90 percent of NGS will be recycled or reused, including its concrete. What do you do with all of the pieces and equipment of a power plant once you decommission it? We called in SRP Investment Recovery to market it.
The Investment Recovery website is where items can be purchased by both employees and the general public. Go to http://ir.srpnet.com/. It has partnered with a consignment company to sell many of the stock-coded items and tools. That website is https://www.nriparts.com/.
NGS has many assets that have more value as a donation to local non-profit organizations and our local schools, chapter houses and charitable organizations. We plan to present items to the Page Fire Department, Page High School, Coconino Community College, the Navajo Nation, the City of Page and even the Williams Historical Railroad Museum.
Nearly 300 of our NGS team members have accepted redeployment offers at other SRP facilities. More than 75 plan to retire. Only 17 NGS employees will remain through retirement of the plant to provide general site services. Tetra Tech and the other contracting firms could hire as many as 80 local people to assist with plant retirement efforts.
Tetra Tech and other contractors will sponsor a job fair on Oct. 21 at the PERA Club. This is when you can learn what jobs are available through plant retirement/decommissioning and what qualifications are required.
Since February 2017, our NGS team members have worked under the banner of “Finish Strong.” I am extremely proud to say that’s exactly what they have done. This is an amazing team! Even their financial and food donations at last year’s holiday time broke all records. Safety is our culture and our top priority, followed by protecting our environment and lastly power production. During the past two years, the NGS team won two prestigious SRP safety awards, the President’s Trophy and the Safety Culture award. These are accomplishments that will be forever remembered.
In recent months, it has been a bit of a balancing act to run the plant and at the same time prepare for retiring the plant. Our team has worked hard at it and we will give the decommissioning team a plant that is de-energized and safe to work on so they can continue the demolition process.
Teamwork, and the support of our Page and Navajo communities, has really been the success of this project to date, and teamwork will see us through.