SCRIBA, N.Y. – Game over. The FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego County will close by early 2017, company officials said.
Talks with state officials failed to arrive at a plan to keep the plant open, and the talks have concluded, said Tammy Holden, speaking for plant owner Entergy Corp.
Entergy today notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it intends to shut down the FitzPatrick plant permanently. The NRC notice is required to be filed within 30 days of a decision to retire a nuclear plant. It “confirms the reality of the plant’s closure at the end of the current operating cycle,” according to a memo FitzPatrick officials sent to employees today.
Entergy officials said this action closes the door on the talks between Entergy and New York state officials about possibly reversing the decision to close.
“Entergy and state officials worked very hard over the past two months to reach a constructive and mutually beneficial agreement to avoid a shutdown, but were unsuccessful. Yes, discussions have concluded,” Holden said.
Entergy announced Nov. 2 that FitzPatrick would close by early 2017.
Plant employees were notified today that the letter had been sent to the NRC.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said nuclear plant operators are required to give the commission notice within 30 days after deciding to permanently close a facility. They also are required to notify the NRC once the plant has permanently shut down and the fuel has been removed from the reactor, he said.
Brian Sullivan, site vice president at FitzPatrick, asked employees in a memo to remain focused on safety despite the disappointing news.
“As difficult as it is, we must move forward with preparing our action plan for operations through the end of the cycle and our preparations for decommissioning,” he wrote. “Meetings on both have already started and details will be shared with the rest of team as we move forward. Again, I ask you all not to let today’s filing distract you. I know it’s another difficult step in the process and one that confirms the reality of the plant’s closure at the end of the current operating cycle.”
Despite the seeming finality of Entergy’s statements, union officials still suspect the company of playing “high stakes poker” in an effort to win concessions from state officials, said Ted Skerpon, president of IBEW Local 97. Skerpon pointed out that Entergy continued to negotiate with representatives of Gov. Andrew Cuomo after announcing Nov. 2 that the plant would close.
Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, also expressed hope today that the door remains open to saving FitzPatrick.
“I’m very disappointed with the news that Entergy has filed with the NRC and I urge that talks continue with the governor,” Barclay said. “I’m going to continue to work to do what I can to keep the plant operational.”
Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Entergy officials said the talks are over.
“After many weeks of negotiations, it became apparent that we would not be able to reach a mutually agreeable decision with the state,” Holden said.
Regarding the closure notice to the NRC, “we are not aware of such a letter ever being withdrawn,” Holden said.
Entergy executives and state officials have never divulged the details of their talks. Many observers speculate that Entergy sought a compromise that would allow it to operate the profitable Indian Point nuclear station for a defined period in return for keeping FitzPatrick open. Cuomo has fought Entergy’s application for a license renewal at Indian Point.