Take a look at how Fitzpatrick refuels its nuclear reactor
SCRIBA, N.Y. -- It's a tour that few people ever have the chance to take, a rare glimpse inside the inner workings of the Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant.
There is a lot of activity inside the plant with workers everywhere performing maintenance during a refueling outage.
"If any equipment is found needing replacement we are replacing it, equipment reliability is the driver for the outage," Tim Peter, the plant manager said.
There is a refueling floor, a vital area, that few ever get to see. In order to understand what goes on, on this floor, you must understand how nuclear power works.
The power is generated by using uranium oxide pellets, also known as fuel, fission occurs in the reactor producing heat. That turns water to steam, powering a turbine and producing electricity. Water from Lake Ontario, than helps cool the reactor and the cycle repeats.
Every 24 months more fuel is needed, thus the outage.
Right now, used-up fuel is being removed to a pool where it will stay for at least five years and be stored outside the plant.
It is all radioactive material, so safety and security are top priority.
On the refueling floor, the threat of radiation contamination requires workers to wear tyvek suits. The plant goes through thousands of these suits daily.
"That's part of what we do in RAD protection is keep people safe radiologically," Keith Stone, from radiation protection said.
Stone has worked at the plant for nearly two decades and said many people think of the worst when it comes to the work they do at the plant.
"You hear about nuclear power and you think about Fukushima because that's what you remember, people keep in mind...human error...that's what we try to eliminate here," Stone explained.
Fitzpatrick employees said their backups are tested daily.
If the worst were to occur, evacuation plans are in place if there was an emergency at Fitzpatrick or Nine Mile 1 and 2, located next door.
The State Fairgrounds are designated as a go-to location for people living within ten miles of the plants. Oswego County Management provides free potassium iodide tablets to residents in case of potential exposure to radiation.
Siren tests and other drills are routinely conducted to make sure everyone is ready in case of an emergency.
However, Stone said he is confident it will never come to that.
"I'm very confident, my house is about a mile down the road and I wouldn't live there if I didn't think it was safe," Stone explained.