Nuclear plant

Entergy’s Nuclear Limbo Threatens Public Safety



October 18, 2013

Contact: Jessica Azulay, Alliance for a Green Economy (315) 480-1515

The company that operates the FitzPatrick nuclear reactor near Oswego, New York is cutting the workforce, failing to invest in key equipment, and showing increasing indecision about keeping the reactor running. Entergy’s uncertainty creates a unique safety hazard, and local nuclear watchdogs have asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to expand an investigation into how the plant’s economic problems impact public safety.

“Entergy is not able to turn a profit at FitzPatrick and so it is cutting costs by on the backs of workers and public safety,” said Jessica Azulay, Syracuse-based organizer for the Alliance for a Green Economy. “Operating a nuclear reactor under financial distress is dangerous and illegal, so we are calling on the NRC to do its job here and shut this reactor down before the cost cutting causes an accident.”

The group is calling for a “just transition” for FitzPatrick workers and Oswego County that focuses on shutting down the reactor and then retaining as much of the workforce as possible for decommissioning and cleanup while funding job-creating renewable energy projects in the county.

Entergy has admitted the plant is “challenged” and company spokespeople have become increasingly reticent to talk about long-term plans for the plant. Entergy announced in August it would be shutting down a similar plant in Vermont because that plant had become unprofitable. That August 27 announcement that the Vermont Yankee reactor would be closing sparked renewed speculation that the FitzPatrick reactor could be next. At a New York State Senate hearing on September 30, a spokesperson for Entergy said the company intends to refuel the reactor next fall, but they are reviewing that decision “on a regular basis.”

Alliance for a Green Economy along with other regional groups told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that Entergy’s indecision is dangerous. The group pointed to the layoffs of 5% of the workforce at FitzPatrick and the company’s failure to replace the reactor’s troubled condenser, which has been repeatedly leaking and forcing the plant to power down for repairs.

“Entergy’s commitment to continue operating FitzPatrick is waning as the plant’s financial picture worsens,” the group told the NRC in a petition supplement filed yesterday. “Operating a nuclear reactor in this limbo is a public safety issue, as key equipment goes unrepaired and unplanned power changes mount at FitzPatrick. Entergy is clearly placing investor confidence and short-term economic concerns ahead of public health and safety, necessitating NRC emergency enforcement.”

The request is a supplement to a petition filed in March by Alliance for a Green Economy and groups in other states seeking to shut down Entergy’s FitzPatrick, Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim reactors. The groups pointed to projected financial losses at all three plants and asked the NRC to enforce its financial qualifications regulations, which require companies to generate enough money to maintain a nuclear reactor.

The NRC agreed on August 7 to investigate Entergy for compliance with the financial qualifications regulation at the three reactors. The supplement asks NRC to expand the scope of the investigation to look deeper into the ways Entergy’s decision-making at the plants regarding staffing levels, equipment maintenance, and safety upgrades is affected by economic distress at the plants. The supplement also raises concerns that uncertainty at the plants could impact worker’s willingness to stay or to report problems that could impact the company financially.

Read the October 17 petition supplement here:

Read the Original petition documents here: