The Perry Nuclear Power Station in Lake County, Ohio. Credit: FirstEnergy Corp. / Flickr / Creative Commons

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is fully funded through the fiscal year and not affected by the partial government shutdown.

If you live near one of the nation’s 60 nuclear power plants, don’t worry: Federal inspectors are still working — and being paid — through the partial government shutdown.

In Ohio, both of the FirstEnergy Solutions plants continue to operate, with resident Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors on hand.

“The NRC has its full budget,” said spokesperson Viktoria Mitlyng at the NRC’s Region III office in Lisle, Illinois. “We are operating normally.”

The agency is currently funded through the federal government’s 2019 fiscal year, so it has money on hand for normal operations, payroll and other expenses. Thus, its employees are not among the nearly 7,200 federal workers in Ohio estimated to be currently on forced furlough or required to work without pay. The nationwide total is approximately 800,000 federal workers.

Resident inspectors at the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear plants generally work a “normal” five-day work week. “However, they’re on call” pretty much all the time for any safety issues that may come up or activities that may require their presence, Mitlyng said.

For example, the Davis-Besse plant’s two resident inspectors were on hand at different times over the weekend to observe personnel doing maintenance operations “to make sure they understood what was going on and everything was done properly,” she explained.

A Jan. 11 notice informed the Perry plant that its next baseline inspection has been scheduled for March 11-22.

Also during the partial government shutdown, a Jan. 8 NRC letter invited comment from the Environmental Law & Policy Center on a proposed ruling that would deny action on the plants’ licenses, because the plants are otherwise required to provide the information sought by ELPC in the next funding status reports due on March 31. The letter asked for any response within 14 days.

Yet while the government shutdown hasn’t shut down the plants, the plants themselves remain scheduled to be closed.

FirstEnergy Solutions and its parent corporation FirstEnergy have pressed for various forms of subsidies, guarantees or other financial help from both Ohio and the federal government. Those “bailout” requests occurred both before and after FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy relief last year.

FirstEnergy Solutions “continues to reiterate that absent legislative relief and meaningful market reforms, the plants will shut down at their scheduled deactivation dates of 2020 for Davis-Besse and 2021 for Perry,” said Angela Pruitt, a spokesperson for FirstEnergy Solutions at the New York office of media relations firm Sitrick and Company.

Kathiann M. Kowalski

Kathi is the author of 25 books and more than 600 articles, and writes often on science and policy issues. In addition to her journalism career, Kathi is an alumna of Harvard Law School and has spent 15 years practicing law. She is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. Kathi covers the state of Ohio.