Behind-the-scenes tour of Callaway Energy Center

PORTLAND, Mo. – Fox 2 News was the only St. Louis television granted clearance to go beyond the security fences at the only nuclear plant in the state – Ameren Missouri’s Callaway Energy Center.

Located in Callaway County, 100 miles west of St. Louis, drivers can see the plant cooling tower from Interstate 70. The tower is approximately 553-feet tall, just 77-feet shorter than the Gateway Arch.

This behind-the-scenes look is a rare opportunity to see what goes on where carbon free energy is created. The plant is offline at present as employees replace one-third of the 193 nuclear fuel assemblies.

“What we do is refuel and do overall maintenance to make sure we provide reliable, safe electricity to the citizens of Missouri,” said Tim Herrmann, site vice president of the power plant.

Herrmann said the 60-day outage includes $34 million of work. They just completed a breaker to breaker continuous run of 514 days online without any issue.

“We’ve extended the plant life of Calloway until 2044,” he said. “So part of the work we’re doing today here on the main generator ensures we’re capable of doing that through 2044.”

Callaway Energy Center, which employs approximately 750 people, produces 20 percent of the electricity for Ameren Missouri customers.

“All electrical producing facilities boil water, they create steam, the steam turns a turbine, which—in turn—also turns a generator. That generator provides electricity,” said Barry Cox, senior director of nuclear operations at Callaway.

Reactor operators are trained and tested in a mock-up of the actual control room for several years as they learn to operate controls of the plant. It’s demanding job because safety is the number one priority.

“It’s a continuous operation and continued monitoring and testing of components for a 12-hour shift,” Cox said.

The massive cooling tower basin holds 11 million gallons of water. Once boiled water goes through the reactor and into tower, 15,000 gallons per minute are lost through evaporation. That water is replaced with water from the Missouri River, located just five miles away.

“Our rates are competitive in Missouri, lowest in Missouri; lowest in the Midwest. Twenty-five percent under the national average for our rates,” Herrmann said.

When you combine the 33-year record of the Callaway Energy Center and its competitive rates, the nuclear plant ranks as one of the best of 96 nationally.