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425 now on site for Unit 5 maintenance

While Unit 4 work winds down, new workers join Unit 5 crew

Don’t count on an economic slowdown just yet in Rockdale.

While a construction work force at Luminant’s Sandow Unit 4 power plant has dwindled by 1,000 in recent weeks, there are now 425 new workers at Sandow.

Ashley Monts, Luminant spokesperson, said Unit 5 has gone offline for a planned maintenance outage.

The 425 workers are in addition to the approximately 300 full-time employees of Luminant’s Units 4 and 5 and the Three Oaks Mine.

Citing market conditions, Luminant won’t release dates when either unit might rejoin the state’s power grid.

Unit 4 winds down

The Unit 4 work force that numbered 1,200 two months ago is now between 100 and 200.

“The vast majority of temporary workers associated with the Unit 4 outage are no longer on site,” Ashley Monts, Luminant spokesperson, said.

New anti-pollution equipment has been installed and the unit has been offline since the first week in February.

Demobilization

Industry analysts estimated the work would last from February to April.

That turned out to be right on the money. Monts said installation of the actual selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system was completed about three weeks ago.

“The workers, and extra equipment still on-site are involved with cleanup and demobilization,” Monts said.

She said the large cranes still on-site are part of the demobilization effort “which involves using cranes to break dow n other cranes which were used during the outage.”

Monts said the new equipment is expected to be operational by June 1 but that does not mean the outage is anticipated to last that long.

Anti-pollution

Installation of the SCR technology was part of the courto rdered settlement which cleared the way for construction of the adjacent Unit 5.

SCR has been compared to the cataly tic conver ter on a vehicle.

Combust ion gas is injected with an ammonia-forming chemical which then passes through a catalyst which converts nitrogen oxide (NOX) to nitrogen and water.

When Unit 4 does go back on line there will be another milestone looming in less than two months.

A May 17 court date has been set for the long awaited Alcoa- Luminant lawsuit over outages at Unit 4 which preceded the closing of A lcoa’s Rockda le Operations in 2008.

In August, 2008, Alcoa filed suit against Luminant, seeking a half-billion dollars in damages and asking a cap, of sorts, on the price of power the aluminum company purchases from Sandow Unit 4.

Alcoa listed that situation as a factor in its decision to close Rockdale Operations in 2008.

Luminant denies that charge and maintains Alcoa also cited power costs in closing its smelter in Frederick, Maryland three years earlier.

In the ensuing year and a half, A lcoa has amended its original lawsuit three times.

The final amended suit, filed in October, 2009, stated Alcoa might ask that Luminant return the Three Oaks Mine to the aluminum company.

Alcoa sold the mine to Luminant in 2007.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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