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State power grid study may have final say on FitzPatrick's fate

Credit Diliff / Wikimedia Commons

A study is underway that some New York officials are hoping will save Oswego County's FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant.

When Entergy notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in November that it planned to close the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in about a year, it triggered a ninety-day study. 

The New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO) is in charge of operating the state's power grid. NYISO spokesman Dave Flanagan said the study's purpose is twofold.

First: resource adequacy.

"Do we have enough generation in that particular area to operate the system reliably?" Flanagan said.

Basically -- are there enough power sources in central New York to meet the region's electricity needs on the hottest and coldest days of the year without FitzPatrick?

The second purpose: transmission security.

"Can we operate the high-voltage system and the local utility distribution system within those reliability standards if that generating plant is not there?" Flanagan said.

AKA -- if FitzPatrick closes is the existing transmission infrastructure capable of bringing in enough outside power to meet the region's needs?

Should the study conclude that FitzPatrick is needed, the state can prevent its closure. Entergy would then be compensated to operate the plant by the region's consumers until a replacement source is found or upgrades to transmission lines are made. That arrangement currently exists in Rochester where rate payers subsidize Exelon's Ginna Nuclear Power Plant because NYISO determined it was needed for the area.

When Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) first heard of the FitzPatrick closing, he mentioned the study as a way of preventing the closure.

"Let's hope they can reverse their decision and reliability is a key issue here," Schumer told reporters. "Reliability meaning that people have an adequate supply of power even on the hottest of summer days."

The results are expected to be published in February. But, Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said the company recently contracted a NYISO study on FitzPatrick and the results found that the plant is not needed. Still, Flanagan said this current study may involve different criteria.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.