Hazy Outlook for U.S. Nuclear Power
The math is simple—the U.S. nuclear power fleet is poised to retire more plants than build new ones.
That, says Fitch Ratings, is why prospects for nuclear growth in the United States remain uncertain.
“The recent failure of modular construction to deliver lower prices and shorter timelines will likely keep a cap on U.S. nuclear development into the midterm,” the ratings service said in an Aug. 20 analysis.
The high cost of upgrades, coupled with political pressures and slack demand for power, has led to the recent closure of nuclear facilities in Wisconsin, Florida, California and Vermont, Fitch noted.
A New Jersey plant owned by Exelon is scheduled to close by the end of the decade, with approximately eight additional merchant units totaling 6.3 gigawatts also at risk of early retirement, the rating service added.
By comparison, only five units are under construction, while 73 of the 99 units in operation already are operating beyond their original 40-year operating licenses, thanks to new 20-year permits, Fitch said.
Those are among the reasons that the Energy Information Administration has forecast a drop-off of 10,800 megawatts in the nation’s nuclear electric generation by 2020.
“In our view this number could grow if more plant operators find upgrades and local political pressure too costly to continue operations,” Fitch said.