Members of the Nine Mile Point team from Syracuse Local 97 pose for the camera after completing the marathon diesel engine replacement.

When back-up generators at nuclear power stations stop working, the clock starts ticking before federal rules require the main unit to shut down. So, when the 49,000-pound back-up diesel generator went quiet at the Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in upstate New York, the nearly 75 members of Syracuse Local 97 in the maintenance department had a monumental challenge on their hands. 

The nearly 25-ton engine block was craned into the nuclear station during the job, which required hundreds of electrical connections and even more teamwork.

Two years earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an order saving the state’s nuclear plants and the pressure to keep the lights on and maintain a perfect safety record became Job 1 to maintain public support for nuclear power.

Over the next fortnight, maintenance department electricians, operators, and instrumentation mechanics worked round the clock to remove and replace the damaged diesel unit.

“This operation involved more than 100 people and nearly 75 Local 97 members who needed to work flawlessly together. The stakes are extremely high, the time frame was short and the potential impact of any mistakes is hard to put into words,” said Local 97 Business Manager Ted Skerpon. “And they nailed it. Flawless. A perfect 10.”

Not even a minor injury. No mishaps. Every piece of equipment, every tool, every procedure was accounted for and followed.

“Throughout this evolution, the pride displayed by all involved was amazing,” said Nine Mile Point Vice President Pete Orphanos.  “There was such teamwork and collaboration.”

He lauded the workers' craftsmanship and rigorous adherence to safe work practices.  

Nine Mile Point’s motto is “Pride in the Point,” the company wrote in a statement. “The diesel engine replacement project is a perfect example of what pride in the point really means.”

In just over two weeks, wiremen completed 90 terminations, instrumentation mechanics completed another 120, operators hung and removed 25 tag-outs (by operators) and hundreds of new parts were replaced and not a single nut, screwdriver or pen was unaccounted for, all within the severe security constraints that cover nuclear power plants.

“This is nothing more than what I know we are capable of,” Skerpon said. “But still, when you see everyone performing at the very peak, with not even a minor mishap or error, you have to take a moment and tip your hat to the fellas.”