EIA Meeting to Examine Future of U.S. Nuclear Power
The announcement by Exelon Corporation late last month that it will “prematurely retire” its Three Mile Island Generating Station two years from now, barring state legislative relief, is not the only worrisome sign on the horizon for the U.S. nuclear power industry. The U.S. Energy Information Administration highlighted that development on its website June 13 in an article pointing out that five other nuclear plants have been retired in the past four years and six more are scheduled to retire within the next nine years.
“Economic factors have played a significant role in the decisions affecting the continued operation or retirement of nuclear power plants, as increased competition from natural gas and renewables has made it harder for nuclear generators to compete given slowing electricity demand growth,” EIA noted. “In the announcement of its plan to retire Three Mile Island, Exelon noted that the plant had not been profitable for the past five years, and they sought subsidies from Pennsylvania to provide the financial support necessary to keep the plant open. New York and Illinois have already enacted programs to provide financial support to selected nuclear plants. Those programs are currently subject to legal challenges that have yet to be adjudicated.
“Prior to the retirement of the Crystal River, Kewaunee, and San Onofre nuclear power plants in 2013, no nuclear reactor had been retired since 1998,” the article stated. “Since 2013, two more plants—Vermont Yankee in 2014 and Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun in 2016—have retired. In total, the five nuclear plants that retired in the past four years had a combined capacity of nearly 5,000 megawatts (MW). In most of those cases, increased electricity generation from natural gas and coal made up for the reduced nuclear output in the months following nuclear plant shutdowns. In addition to these recent retirements, six plants are scheduled to retire within the next nine years. Four of these—Palisades, Pilgrim, Oyster Creek, and Three Mile Island—have planned retirement dates more than a decade before their operating licenses expire. New nuclear plants are licensed to operate by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 40 years, but nearly 90% of currently operating nuclear power plants have applied for and received license extensions to operate for another 20 years. Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, had initially applied for a license extension for the plant. When the extension was challenged by the state of New York because of environmental and safety concerns, Entergy announced its decision to retire the plant. Pacific Gas & Electric, the owner of Diablo Canyon, chose not to seek a license extension, and the company now plans to retire the plant by the time its license expires.”
EIA is hosting its 2017 Energy Conference in Washington, D.C., June 26-27, and it will include a session on the future of nuclear power, examining the competitive challenges facing existing plants and the options available to plant owners and regulators.
There are currently 99 nuclear reactors at 60 nuclear power plants operating in the United States.