OSWEGO — The planned refueling outage at Exelon Generation’s Nine Mile Point Unit 2 is underway, with more than 1,300 additional workers on board to complete the scheduled refueling and various other tasks at the nuclear power plant.
Operators at the Nine Mile Point (NMP) Nuclear Station Unit 2 removed the generator from service at approximately 12 p.m. on March 4 to start the station’s 17th refueling outage since the plant was issued an operating license in 1987. The biennial refueling outage at each of Exelon’s three local nuclear stations are a major boost to the local economy, and ensure the plants continue to reliably operate and produce electricity.
Exelon employees and the 1,300 supplemental workers will refuel the reactor and perform a variety of maintenance activities to keep the unit running safely and efficiently for another two-year cycle.
"A refueling outage gives us the opportunity to perform important maintenance and updates that ensure Nine Mile Point will safely and reliably provide carbon-free energy to our customers so that when temperatures dip like they did this winter, or soar like they will this summer, residents’ energy needs are met,” said Site Vice President Peter Orphanos. “As always, we will complete our outage tasks with an unwavering commitment to safety and environmental stewardship.”
Unit 2 has reliably operated and generated more than 20.65 million MWh of carbon-free electricity for customers since the last refueling outage in 2018, providing enough electricity for millions of homes.
Refueling outages also provide Exelon with an opportunity to perform scheduled testing and maintenance that can only be completed when the plant is not generating electricity, according to company officials. During the current outage, workers will install a digital system to control reactor water levels — similar to what was installed at NMP Unit 1 last year — and a new automatic voltage regulator. Workers are also planning to rebuild a set of pumps and perform maintenance on the plant’s iconic cooling tower, which stands more than 500 feet tall.
“This helps ensure that our equipment will continue to run safely and reliably until the next refueling outage,” said Exelon spokesperson Susan Brannan Cole.
The more 1,300 additional workers, which will triple the workforce at the plant, include electricians, boilermakers, facilities staff and technicians. Brannan Cole said the workers are “a critical part of the Nine Mile Point team and make important contributions to the success of the outage.”
Many of the additional workers travel to NMP from outside the area, and for several weeks before and during the outage the influx of workers is a boon for the local economy.
Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said the refueling outages provide the local economy with “a great boost” and give local small businesses an extra opportunity to succeed.
“The outages provide an influx of economic activity for our city and county and we’re certainly fortunate to have Exelon right in our backyard to provide these good paying jobs to county residents and to draw people from outside the community to work here,” Barlow said.
The 1,300 additional workers is slightly less than the previous Unit 2 outage in 2018 when about 1,700 additional workers brought in to support the roughly 900 permanent employees at the plant. Company officials in the past said a typical outage requires between 1,100 to 2,000 additional personnel.
The economic impact of nuclear plants and the periodic outages is significant to the local economy, with studies estimating the regional economic impact of the nearby James A. FitzPatrick plant, which is smaller than NMP Unit 2, at more than $500 million each year.
NMP Unit 2 is licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that provides oversight for nuclear power generation, to operate until at least 2046. NMP Unit 1 is licensed to operate until 2029, and FitzPatrick’s current NRC license expires in 2034.
The adjacent James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant — purchased by Exelon after former owner Entergy announced plans to shutter the plant in late 2015 — is next in line for refueling among the local plants. Brannan Cole said the company plans to start the FitzPatrick refueling later this year.