More Than 36 U.S. Nuclear Reactors at Risk of Early Retirement

In the wake of San Onofre, Crystal River & Kewaunee Shutdowns, Cooper outlines the next nuclear reactors under the greatest pressure to close down. Reactors in 23 states are on the “At Risk” list.

  • Nuclear Reactors Face Decommissioning
    No U.S. nuclear plant has ever closed because it reached the end of its licensed life. Instead, cost challenges to their continued profitability have usually been the cause of shutdowns.
    Photo by Fotolia/meryll

  • Nuclear Reactors Face Decommissioning

The tough times the U.S. nuclear power industry faces today are only going to get worse. In the wake of nine major nuclear reactor closures or uprate cancellations in recent months, a review of the remaining U.S. fleet reveals that 38 reactors in 23 states are at risk of early retirement, with 12 facing the greatest risk of being shutdown, according to a major new analysis by Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School.

Cooper is the author of several reports on nuclear power, including “Policy Challenges of Nuclear Reactor Construction, Cost Escalation and Crowding Out Alternatives” (2009).

Renaissance in Reverse: Competition Pushes Aging U.S. Nuclear Reactors to the Brink of Economic Abandonment,” the new Cooper report, looks beyond the recent shutdown of four reactors – San Onofre (2 reactors) in California, Kewaunee in Wisconsin, and Crystal River in Florida – and the death of five large planned “uprate” expansion projects – Prairie Island in Minnesota, LaSalle (2 reactors) in Illinois, and Limerick (2 reactors) in Pennsylvania.

Using 11 risk factors – including competition from lower-cost energy sources, falling demand, safety retrofit expenses, costly repairs, and rising operating costs – identified in three different Wall Street analysis reports from Moody’s, UBS, and Credit Suisse, the Cooper report finds:

38 reactors in 23 states exhibited four or more of the 11 risk factors. The 23 states with at-risk nuclear reactors: Alabama (Browns Ferry); California (Diablo Canyon); Connecticut (Millstone); Florida (Turkey Point); Illinois (Clinton, Dresden, LaSalle, and Quad Cities); Iowa (Duane Arnold); Kansas (Wolf Creek); Maryland (Calvert Cliff); Massachusetts (Pilgrim); Michigan (Cook, Fermi, and Palisades); Minnesota (Monticello and Prairie Island); Missouri (Callaway); Nebraska (Cooper and Ft. Calhoun); New Hampshire (Seabrook); New Jersey (Hope Creek and Oyster Creek); New York (Fitzpatrick, Ginna, Indian Point, and Nine Mile Point); Ohio (Davis-Besse and Perry); Pennsylvania (Limerick, Susquehanna, and Three Mile Island); South Carolina (Robinson); Tennessee (Sequoyah); Texas (Comanche Peak and South Texas); Vermont (Vt. Yankee); and Wisconsin (Point Beach).

Of the overall at-risk group, 12 reactors (in alphabetical order) were found to be at greatest risk of early retirement: Clinton (selling into a tough market); Davis-Besse (large number of risk factors); Fitzpatrick (high cost but offset by high market clearing price); Ft. Calhoun (outage, poor performance); Ginna (single unit with negative margin, existing contract); Indian Point (license extension, state opposition); Millstone (tax issues); Nine Mile Point (site size saves it, existing contract); Oyster Creek (already set to retire early); Palisades (repair impending, local opposition) Pilgrim (large number of risk factors, local opposition); and Vt. Yankee (tax issue and state opposition).



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