Employees at the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant have taken the facility offline to begin the refueling process, a reality that seemed almost impossible one year ago. FitzPatrick was rescued from closure last summer when Exelon agreed to buy it after New York state approved a massive nuclear subsidy program.
January 2017 was supposed to mark the beginning of the end for FitzPatrick. Entergy had planned to decommission the plant at the start of this year, beginning by laying off half of the staff. The company blamed the decision on economic losses, which many nuclear plants across the country are currently experiencing. Instead, the plant is booming this week with an estimated 1,000 contractors and other Entergy personnel who are brought in periodically to refuel the plant, a necessity to keep it running.
That means full hotel rooms and tables at local restaurants, like at Canale's Restaurant.
"We see a large spike," said Nick Canale, co-owner of the restaurant. "There's multiple, multiple orders during course of the refueling in the five-six weeks that they are out there, and in the lead up to the refueling there are additional contractors prepping for the refuel and they all need to eat."
Canale was a leading figure in the Upstate Energy Jobs Coalition, an alliance of businesses, politicians and organizations that lobbied state lawmakers last year to find a way to keep FitzPatrick open. They argued that the plant's loss would devastate the local economy.
Canale is thrilled to see the refueling take place and what that means for the region, but he says the coalition's job is not done yet. They are still waiting for Exelon's purchase of FitzPatrick to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the last signature needed on the deal.