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Full Steam Ahead

Exelon’s county-based nuclear power facilities prove pandemic-proof

By Lou Sorendo

The only thing infectious at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Scriba is top-end production.

Despite COVID-19 and a lingering global pandemic that paralyzed the U.S. economy, Exelon Generation’s three nuclear facilities in Oswego County have been running at close to full capacity.

The 900-acre station features two nuclear reactors along with the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant.

Exelon Generation shares ownership and is the sole operator of Units 1 and 2 as well as owner and operator of the Fitzpatrick nuclear facility.

Susan Cole, senior site communications specialist for Exelon Generation, Nine Mile Point, said the company’s nuclear facilities are highly reliable, running at full power more than 95 percent of the time.

“Through the pandemic, they have continued to deliver carbon-free electricity for New York state,” she said.

This past summer, Exelon Generation’s four nuclear sites in the state record a near-perfect reliability rate, operating 98.9 percent of the time, one of many indicators that industry experts use to rate efficiency and performance, Cole noted.

Exelon also owns and operates the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant near Rochester.

When the Oyster Creek power plant in New Jersey was permanently shut down in September of 2018, Ginna became the second oldest nuclear power reactor after Nine Mile Unit 1 still in operation in the U.S.

“Our business continues through the pandemic, as our teams are essential for continuing to deliver carbon-free electricity to hospitals, regional response centers, more than 3 million homes and businesses,” she said.

The FitzPatrick plant was in the midst of a refueling and maintenance outage at the time of this writing in late September. The 22-day outage began on Sept. 14.

“The FitzPatrick station is conducting a refueling outage, which it would do regardless of the pandemic,” Cole said on Sept. 28. “While we successfully have taken extensive precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 within our facilities, our business otherwise continues as it would pre-pandemic.”

Nine Mile Point Unit 2 will experience a 21-day outage beginning March 9, 2012, while Unit 1 will begin a 17-day outage on March 22, 2021.

She noted Exelon is grateful that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recognizes and supports the role of the company’s essential employees.

“As part of our pandemic response, we review our staffing plans to ensure that we are bringing only those required on site to safely and effectively operate the plants,” Cole said. “As many employees as possible are working remotely and will continue to do so while the pandemic continues.”

Exelon Generation is the No. 1 private employer in Oswego County with 1,391 workers, according to the 2020 Oswego County Business Guide.

Overall, it is the second-largest employer behind only SUNY Oswego.