Coronavirus makes its way into U.S. nuclear plants

April 10, 2020, 1:19PMNuclear News

Cases of the COVID-19 virus have been confirmed at nuclear power facilities in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Illinois at this writing: five at the Limerick plant, one at the Susquehanna plant, one at Vogtle, and one at Quad Cities.

Limerick: At Exelon’s two-unit Limerick plant, in Pottstown, Pa., two cases were confirmed prior to the start of the plant’s Unit 1 spring refueling outage, while three additional cases were confirmed after the outage commenced on March 27. Also, Limerick’s communications manager, Dave Marcheskie, confirmed to Nuclear News on April 7 that an additional 44 workers have been quarantined.

All employees and contractors with cases of the virus at Limerick have “received medical attention and are resting at home,” Marcheskie said in an April 5 video posted on Exelon’s Limerick Generating Station Refueling Outage and COVID-19 webpage. “And we do provide a daily update to county health officials. For confirmed cases, we include the worker’s last day on-site and what we are doing to notify and isolate any potentially exposed coworkers and disinfect any areas that may have been infected.”

Marcheskie also emphasized that no ill, symptomatic, or high-risk workers are allowed on-site. “We’re going above and beyond CDC guidelines and leveraging technology to prevent the virus from reaching the site and spreading into the community,” he said. “We also provide specific instructions to our workers and remind them daily to follow all county and state COVID-19 travel and lodging requirements.”

In response to a call from some elected officials for a post-outage quarantine for Limerick contractors, Marcheskie noted that Exelon lacks that authority, adding, “These workers are considered essential by the U.S. federal government and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And just like the first responders, health care workers, and grocery store employees, these specialized workers perform tasks that are vital to the nation’s power grid, and they must be released to perform similar work at other plants.”

Susquehanna: At Susquehanna Nuclear’s two-unit Susquehanna, in Berwick, Pa., a contractor who had been working at the plant prior to the Unit 1 spring refueling outage tested positive for coronavirus on April 4 and is now in self-quarantine, according to Talen Energy, Susquehanna Nuclear’s parent company. Seven people who came into contact with the infected individual are also now in quarantine, Talen added.

“As per our pandemic response plan, our employees and all applicable officials have been notified,” the company said in its statement. “We will continue to work closely with local, state, and federal officials and remain vigilant in our execution of proactive measures at the station, including regular daily health screenings, increased cleaning and sanitation throughout the station, employment of a supplemental team of on-site health professionals, employee guidance and social distancing, and contingency measures in the event on-site quarantine is necessary.”

Vogtle: The first coronavirus infection at the Vogtle construction site in Waynesboro, Ga., was confirmed by Georgia Power on April 6. According to the company, all employees who worked with the infected individual were notified and sent home following the test results.

“Construction work continues at the site under continuing enhanced protocols designed to reduce worker-to-worker contact and keep areas that workers frequent cleaned and sanitized,” Georgia Power said.

Quad Cities: Exelon on April 1 confirmed one case of coronavirus at its two-unit Quad Cities plant, in Cordova, Ill. “The health and safety of our employees and contractors, and limiting the spread of the virus, are our utmost priorities, and we have strict protocols in place to address any case as it occurs,” said Quad Cities communication manager, Bill Stoermer, in a statement. “Any employees who came in close contact with the affected person or work at that reporting location have been notified, and we performed an additional deep cleaning of all areas that have potentially been exposed. We are maximizing social distancing for those who must continue to report to their locations.”

Stoermer added that all plant workers must pass a symptom screening and body temperature check prior to every shift. “We’re also requiring social distancing, remote work where possible, frequent hand washing, and increased facility cleaning and disinfection,” he said.

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