Rash Of Nuclear Closures Questions Industry Future

Another week (and it is only Wednesday) of bad news for the nuclear industry further questions the future of this industry.

In Finland, nuclear company Eon pulled out of a new reactor build project. Eon is also attempting to sell their nuclear business in Finland. Eon previously backed out of a nuclear venture in the UK.

The Kewaunee nuclear plant in Wisconsin will close next year. The company could not find a buyer for the plant and cited the lack of profitability as the reason for closing the plant.

The New York Times cites the looming costs of post Fukushima repairs and low electricity prices as putting pressure on nuclear plants to be able to stay profitable. Natural gas and wind continue to drive down electricity costs in many markets. This could cause more plants to become unprofitable, forcing them to close.

Also announced by Xcel energy this week that they will withdraw plans to uprate the reactors at Prairie Island in Minnesota. Xcel cited lack of profitability as the reason they will forgo the 237 million dollar uprate. They will instead run different fuel that will allow them to go longer periods of time between refueling outages.

MidAmerican Energy has been trying to find a way to build a new nuclear plant in Iowa for a few years. Previous attempts to force customers to prepay for a plant even if it was never actually built were hard fought and defeated. In a public meeting last night with local citizens of Muscatane Iowa, the city they want to build a new nuclear plant in, the public response to this idea was a very resounding no.

Earlier this fall the operator of the San Onofre nuclear plant announced unit 3 would be closed indefinitely and unit 2’s restart hangs on a high risk plan if the NRC chooses to approve it. Both units suffered failures of the steam generator units after a new design replacement was installed. The plan to restart unit 2 involved a high risk experiment to run the damaged unit at partial power for five months to see if it fails further. The future of San Onofre right now is very doubtful it will see a restart. This plant may be added to the list of now closed nuclear plants.


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