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Federal agencies test emergency plan for FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Josephine Ambrosini with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, left, and Susan O’Neill with FEMA.";

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission evaluated the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County for its preparedness both onsite and offsite, in the event of an emergency. 

Both federal agencies concluded that Exelon, which owns the plant, and county and state emergency workers, were successful and can execute what they’re supposed to do in an evacuation.  

Josephine Ambrosini with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which evaluated Exelon, said the exercises included testing control room operators to stop an emergency event and evaluating the communication across facilities.  

“We’re looking to see, are they understanding the event, that can give their proper information to the offsite folks who have to make the decision to say evacuate or shelter or give potassium iodide to the public,” Ambrosini said.

Susan O’Neill with FEMA, said they tested state and Oswego County responders offsite.

“We evaluate their ability to take readings, take air samples, and to process that information to calculate whether or not there was plume and where it is, so that when we do take protective actions or recommend protective actions to the public, we’ll know what areas to be considered,” O'Neill said.

A team of FEMA evaluators traversed a ten-mile emergency planning zone, known as the plume, around the nuclear power plant. In exercises, it acted as the area covered by contamination of radioactive particles from the plant. 

Dale Currier, the director of emergency management for Oswego County, said the testing occurs every two years, and involves ongoing training with more than 1,000 emergency workers and several dozen agencies.

"To have an exercise of this magnitude, that has a lot of moving parts here locally at the plant, in Albany, etc., and have a really good outcome, we’re exceptionally happy,” Currier said.  

He said the federal agencies tested emergency events involving a short notice shutdown of the plant, mechanical breakdown and weather-related activity. The full reports will be released in the coming months.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.