BRIDGMAN — Most people don’t imagine camping in the shadow of a nuclear power plant, but that’s what some workers at Cook Nuclear Plant are preparing to do.
“Being part of the nuclear industry, we have to be prepared for everything,” plant spokesman Bill Downey said. “We have to protect the plant and keep the power running. To do that, we’ve got to have some critical employees that are here and available in a moments notice.”
Cook employees with access to travel trailers have toted them over to the parking lot at the plant in case the need should arise for them to be sequestered in place on site during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re ready should things get bad. If we lose employees or if we get surrounded and the governor comes down that we need to protect the plant,” Downey said. “We have pretty high bar guidelines to follow.”
Nuclear plants have pandemic plans in addition to their natural disaster plans.
“We go through apocalyptic scenarios all the time in partnership with the state and the county,” Downey said. “So when this one came along, and we started planning on where to house critical employees, people started asking if they could bring campers, and we said, ‘sure’ and ‘how many people have them and would want to bring them?’” As it turned out, 80 travel trailers rolled into the plant, they were moved into position, and hooked up to water and power.
“We’re even setting up a dumping station and ways to feed everyone,” Downey said. “It’s like a mini campground, but no one is living in them yet.”
He said the plant has gone overboard with the full expectation they will never need it. The alternative is having the critical employees stay in the office part of the plant on cots.
“They would much rather stay in the comfort of their own camper,” Downey said.
Critical employees include a certain number of operators, security personnel, engineers, chemistry technicians, and radiation protection technicians.
“We also need a certain number of maintenance people,” Downey said. “If things break or if we need to make adjustments, they have to be here.”
He said some of the plant’s office staff, including him, have been working from home to cut down on the number of people gathering in one place.