Nuclear engineering students attend station refueling outage


The Texas A&M University chapter of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) visited the South Texas Project (STP) Electric Generating Station in Bay City, Texas, while the station began a refueling outage for one of its operating units. The students received a tour of the station’s facilities and a unique view into what happens during a refueling process. 

“Trips like this are helpful to our understanding of how a nuclear plant operates and also in visualizing what we’ve been learning in class,” said James Bunsen, a senior nuclear engineering student. “There are a lot of systems that you don’t really visualize what they are like in the classroom, so it helps put things in perspective.”

The group was able to see the station’s operating rooms, one of the station’s diesel generators, the spent fuel pool and got a first-hand look at preparation procedures for removing the head of the reactor pressure vessel. The students planned their visit during the refueling outage, a process that occurs about every 18 months according to Bunsen, which allowed them the opportunity to see the station and its components up close.

“We were actually pretty fortunate because one of our advisory council members, Tim Powell, wanted us to come down during the outage, so we took advantage of that opportunity,” Bunsen said. 

Powell is the executive vice president and chief executive officer of STP, and was able to help facilitate the opportunity for the students. One aspect of the station that the students found interesting was the sheer size of the equipment. 

“Seeing a containment vessel that is in solid concrete that is four feet thick, 40 feet underground, gives you an appreciation for the true size of these components,” Bunsen said. “That isn’t something that comes across from just reading about this stuff in a textbook.”

The trip also falls in line with the chapter’s goals of promoting nuclear literacy and education both to students of nuclear engineering and the general public. The chapter hopes to continue to provide both its members and the general public avenues to learn about the nuclear engineering industry.