How New York City will keep the lights on

The Indian Point nuclear power plant is located on the Hudson River in Buchanan, New York AP Photo / Julie Jacobson

ALBANIA – The country’s largest government utility has begun talks with New York’s private generators to conclude a pact to staff and fuel critical power plants if the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

The New York Power Authority began last week to isolate critical control rooms and on-site security personnel in its large power plants and transmission control stations, as well as the independent operator of the state’s power grid. Utilities and power plants, particularly in the New York City region, had previously had to put key employees on-site – in some cases, more than a week after the Superstorm Sandy – but the uncertainty about how long the coronavirus pandemic will continue to grow according to the current situation unique.


“There are emergency plans for disasters, but they are usually short-lived … but we are a society through the mirror,” said John Melia, spokesman for Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2.

The union represents around 8,500 workers in Con Edison, the Indian Point nuclear power plant and several power plants in the hinterland. So far, none of these facilities have implemented a sequestration protocol, although plans are available, Melia said in an interview.

An employee isolation measure is a measure that companies plan as a precautionary measure – not just because of the coronavirus emergency – but which they are reluctant to take unless absolutely necessary. Power generators also use managers with critical experience, shift shifts and contact retirees to ensure they have key personnel.

“I told the generators that we should be working on a standard mutual assistance agreement so that the configuration may be able to help if, for some reason, we go through these lines of defense and continue to need help that other power plants of the same technology need. One power plant that Help is needed, ”Gil Quiniones, NYPA CEO, told POLITICO.

NYPA is drafting this agreement and hopes to commit private generators.

One of the largest power plants in the city, the Ravenswood power plant, with more than 2,000 megawatts, has reduced the number of employees in the plant, checked whether people were exposed, and carried out temperature tests.

The plant operates with only 43 employees on site, said Clint Plummer from LS Power, CEO of Ravenswood. The normal staff consists of around 100 employees within 24 hours.

There is a storage of food and cribs worth several months so that 50 people can live on site for two weeks each, with two 12-hour shifts if necessary.

“Our goal is to take our people home at night to continue filming,” said Plummer. “If you put people in a stressful situation, it leads to fatigue. Our goal here is to make sure that people work at their best and are locked up in a power plant for two weeks. Carry someone, so we better not pull this lever until we are sure that there is no other option. “

Plummer said the NYPA’s proposal to conclude an employee and other resource sharing pact was open. He said the company also hired current employees who are not on site and could come to work if needed. They also contact retirees who might come in.

Communication between the Cuomo administration, power generators, New York City representatives and the independent New York system operator is at its peak in the midst of the pandemic, said Gavin Donohue, director of New York’s Independent Power Generators, the state-owned power generation trading group.

“Contacting the relevant authorities has never been so extensive,” said Donohue, adding that he was confident that the energy sector would be able to resolve all problems related to the pandemic.

Power plant operators have issued letters identifying key employees as essential. IPPNY advised members that New York City and the NYISO proposed protocols that authorities can use to verify the identity of employees by calling the company. if travel restrictions are introduced.

NYISO confiscated key control room operators on March 23, followed by NYPA, which had 85 employees in power plants and their transmission controls isolated on Saturday, March 28.

NYPA employees agreed to be isolated for 30 days, but Quiniones said the situation would be assessed after 14 days.

Susan Buehler, a spokeswoman for PJM, which operates the network in all or parts of 13 states, including New Jersey, said that cribs, showers, and on-site dining are part of the company’s daily on-call schedule.

Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and readiness for the Edison Electric Institute, which represents all investor-owned electricity companies, said that “an increasing number” of companies are taking the step to quarantine their employees based on the level of infection of a particular company .

According to Jarret Adams, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, which develops guidelines for nuclear technology and whose members include owners and operators of nuclear power plants, no nuclear power plants are making sequestration efforts.

“A number of other strategies can be used before sequestration can be used, including the activation of former operators and the consolidation of crews,” Adams wrote in an email.

Indian Point, the nuclear power plant that is scheduled to go into operation in late April and provides much of the power in New York City, has taken precautions, including limiting personal meetings, increasing sanitation, and self-monitoring of employee symptoms and use of gloves for operators. Entergy has an emergency plan for sequestration if necessary, company spokesman Jerry Nappi said in a statement.

“Entergy continues to monitor the situation closely and remains confident that our response plan will continue to ensure the reliable supply of electricity,” said Nappi.

The potential length and nature of the coronavirus pandemic distinguishes it from other emergencies that power plants have faced. According to Plummer, you usually want as many employees on site as possible to deal with eventualities in a storm.

“Part of the effort in creating the current plan was to anticipate the possibility … that it could take many months and to ensure that not only can we maintain the reliability of our facility, but that we also take good care of people who serve there and which we do not put in high risk situations or in a work situation that leads to burnout, “he said.

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