Cash-Strapped New York Nuke Offered a Lifeline a Second Time

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  • Nuclear plant's closing would eliminate hundreds of jobs
  • State proposing ``expedited financial support'' for complex

New York is making its second attempt to save a money-losing nuclear power plant that’s slated to close by early 2017, threatening to weaken the reliability of the state’s power grid and eliminate more than 600 jobs in a region that can ill afford to lose them.

The state Public Service Commission said Tuesday that it’s speeding up a “rescue plan” to keep Entergy Corp.’s FitzPatrick nuclear complex in upstate New York running after the power generator said a proposal made last month wouldn’t come in time to save it. The agency said in a statement Tuesday that it would offer “expedited financial support” to keep Fitzpatrick open.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been fighting for months to keep the complex running, saying the jobs lost from its closing would “devastate” the region. Its pending retirement is a testament to the shale gas and renewable energy booms that are squeezing profit margins for conventional power generators such as nuclear and coal-fired plant operators.

“We invite Entergy to work with us to make the plans necessary to refuel FitzPatrick” and to support New York’s goals of using more clean energy, Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman said in a statement.

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Mike Twomey, a spokesman for Entergy’s wholesale commodities unit, said on Tuesday that the company hadn’t received a “definitive proposal” from the state since its talks with the governor’s office and public service commission on the plant’s retirement ended late last year.

“Those negotiations failed, as New York State was unwilling to agree on a path that was mutually acceptable to both parties,” Twomey said. “At this point, we are moving forward with the safe and orderly shutdown of the Fitzpatrick plant.”

Cuomo proposed a Clean Energy Standard that would have clean and renewable energy meeting half of the state’s electricity needs by 2030. The commission has said the mandate depends on the zero-emissions power from nuclear plants and proposed in January to give credits to qualified nuclear operators that utilities would then have to buy.

Tammy Holden, a spokeswoman for the FitzPatrick station, said at the time of the original plan’s release that the credits would come too late to keep the complex open.

State grid manager New York Independent System Operatorhas warned that the shutdown of FitzPatrick and other nuclear sites may “lead to reliability concerns,” according to the commission.