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FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant could close because of the low price of electricity

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
The FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County.

Elected officials from the local, state and congressional level have organized a rally in support of the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County. This comes after news that there is a possibility that it could close. Lower electricity prices are squeezing the profits from some nuclear plants. 

At an energy conference in September, Chairman and CEO of the Entergy Corporation Leo Denault said to grow their company, they need to free up money. Last year, Entergy closed a nuclear plant of similar size to FitzPatrick in Vermont because low natural gas prices brought the wholesale price of electricity down and the plant was no longer profitable. With a refueling outage scheduled in 2016 for FitzPatrick, Denault said they’re going to have to make another tough decision.

“Same sort of idea, what’s the right value play, as well as, what’s the right allocation of resources, and does that free up cash that we could use elsewhere?” Denault asked.

Tammy Holden, a communications specialist with Entergy, said if they decide not to refuel the plant, they would end up shutting it down at the end of 2016 or beginning of 2017.

"We're conducting a thorough review of projected revenues and any opportunities where we can reduce costs," Holden said. "As we complete our review we're continuing to work with state officials as well as federal and local officials on opportunities to improve the plant's outlook. It’s Entergy’s preference to keep FitzPatrick in operation."

Assemblyman William Barclay (R-Pulaski) says closing FitzPatrick could be catastrophic to the economy of Oswego County. The power plant employs about 600 people and brings in more than $17 million in property taxes.

“We’re trying to be very proactive, so when they ultimately make the decision whether they’re going to refuel the plant, they know that the state and the community are behind them," Barclay said. "It will make an easier decision to say we’re going to keep the plant open versus closing the plant.”

Barclay said he has spoken with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and they are supportive of trying to keep the plant open and he has meetings planned with Entergy in the near-future. 

“Thinking about it creates anxiety,” Cuomo said. “But if it becomes a real decision, they’re going to have to give the state notice and then we’ll focus on it at that time.”

If they were to close the plant, Entergy would have to give a six month notice to the Public Service Commission. An assessment would be made to determine if there is a great enough need for electricity in the area. The state could make a special contract with the owners using taxpayer money to subsidize costs, which is what is being done with the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant near Rochester. FitzPatrick is also a single-unit plant which makes it harder to reign in costs because dual-unit plants can maximize resources.

An online petition to save the plant has more than 2,500 signatures. Congressional, state and local officials have organized the rally will be held at the Oswego County Highway Department building in Scriba at 5:30 p.m.