Our nation, and the world at large, is confronting the spread of the coronavirus. In these uncertain times, I am thankful for the hardworking people who are keeping the country going: health care workers, emergency responders and those in the energy sector who keep our power on.
America’s 96 nuclear power plants provide reliable electricity to nearly 80 million homes across the country. That’s why we know that our operations and the availability of electricity will be tremendously important to minimize the impact of the situation on the general public.
People may have questions about nuclear plant operations during this time, so I would like to tell you what our industry has been doing to prepare for COVID-19.
All Nuclear Plants Have Vetted Response Plans
Nuclear plant operators have maintained pandemic preparedness plans and procedures since 2006, which have been shared with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry at large. The industry revised its guidance in 2019 to align with recommended actions from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The DHS has designated nuclear energy plants as critical infrastructure, because continued operation of the power grid is vital to pandemic response. To date, all operating plants are continuing to run reliably.
At this time, all of our members have activated their pandemic plans. We are holding regular calls with utilities, suppliers and NRC senior management to communicate, collaborate and share best practices.
These plans identify issues and activities ahead of time for nuclear facilities to consider, as appropriate to specific plant circumstances. Most of the actions are very similar to what any business or institution would consider for business continuity planning, but include the unique considerations necessary for safe nuclear power plant operation.
All Nuclear Plants Will Respond According to Their Unique Circumstances
As an industry, we are all committed to maintaining safe, reliable operations in times of challenging national circumstances. Every plant is prepared and collaborating with federal, state and local agencies, but each plant’s specific response to what’s happening in their region and at their site will suit their circumstance.
A few examples of these actions may include, but are not limited to:
- setting up a screening point before people can enter the plant to identify anyone who may have symptoms
- telling employees who don’t feel well to stay home and encouraging them to seek medical attention
- implementing teleworking where appropriate
- focusing on extra disinfection of common areas
- making masks, hand sanitizer and gloves available where necessary
- practicing responsible social distancing.
All plans put a particular emphasis on making sure there is always a reactor operating crew available and have contingencies if that can no longer be the case. The safety of the plant, its workers and the local community remains the top priority.
NEI Is Taking Significant Precautions, As Well
As an organization, NEI has also taken precautions related to the pandemic.
All NEI employees are teleworking and all conferences scheduled for March and April have been canceled, postponed or converted to webinar or conference call format. We continue to discuss conferences and events scheduled for May and June. We will inform attendees of changes as soon as possible.
Thank You and Be Safe
In this crisis, NEI’s top concern is the health and safety of our employees and the communities we serve. NEI continues to engage with federal, state and local agencies as needed to monitor events and ensure that the industry is ready. We will also continue to work closely with our members to offer support and guidance throughout the event.
With care, caution and preparation, we will get through this difficult time.