Low Energy Prices Force More Northeast Nuclear Power Plants To Shut Down
The closing of two nuclear power plants, one in Massachusetts, another in upstate New York, is raising questions about the future of nuclear power and how energy is priced in this country. North Country Public Radio’s David Sommerstein reports.
DAVID SOMMERSTEIN, BYLINE: Plants like FitzPatrick, on the shore of Lake Ontario near Syracuse, are the workhorses of the grid. Nuclear plants are powerful and reliable in the frigid polar vortex when natural gas and coal can go cold and in the heat of summer when wind dies down. But, Chris Gadomski of Bloomberg New Energy Finance says in deregulated electricity markets, nuclear isn’t paid more for that reliability.
CHRIS GADOMSKI: To have a technology that can be dispatchable any time of day that’s carbon-free is a premium type of electricity, and the nuclear power industry is not being compensated adequately for that.
SOMMERSTEIN: This is one of the reasons four nuclear plants in the Northeast are going offline in five years. The biggest reason, though, is cheap natural gas from the nearby Marcellus Shale driving down prices. FitzPatrick nuclear has lost $60 million bidding against electricity plants powered by natural gas.
KEN BURDICK: Natural gas is making it very rough for the nuclear plants, not just in our towns, in our county, but throughout the United States. This is just getting tougher and tougher.
SOMMERSTEIN: Ken Burdick is supervisor of the town of Scriba, where FitzPatrick and two other nuclear reactors are located. People around here pay close attention to energy markets. So when FitzPatrick’s owner, Entergy, announced 615 people would lose their jobs, it wasn’t a surprise, but it hurt all the same.
BURDICK: It’s almost a nightmare. It’s like a punch in the guts when something like this happens