More US NPPs face closure

15 May 2016

The US Fort Calhoun NPP in Nebraska, a single-unit 478MWe (net) pressurized water reactor, should close at the end of 2016 for economic reasons, according to senior management at owner/operator Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). CEO Tim Burke made the recommendation to the company's board of directors based on a review of OPPD's resource planning which considered market conditions, economies of scale and the Clean Power Plan (CPP) proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Burke said the economic analysis "clearly shows that continued operation of Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station is not financially sustainable".

Fort Calhoun is the smallest operating nuclear unit in the USA in terms of its accredited capacity. "Larger and multi-unit plants can spread many costs across more megawatts produced", the company said. The plant began operating in September 1973 and is currently licensed to operate until August 2033 after undergoing extensive operating and safety systems upgrades during an extended outage from 2011-2013. OPPD's board is expected to vote on the recommendation on 16 June. Closing the plant would leave the state of Nebraska with one operating NPP, Nebraska Public Power District's Cooper, a 768MWe (net) boiling water reactor.

US Exelon Corporation has also said will prematurely close two of its highest-performing nuclear power stations in Illinois - the single-reactor Clinton station and two reactors at the Quad Cities station - if the state legislature does not pass a bill supported by the company and other stakeholders to recognise nuclear energy's clean air value by the end of the month. Quad Cities also needs to clear the upcoming PJM Interconnection capacity auction later this month to remain open regardless of legislation, Exelon said. PJM is the regional transmission organisation that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity across 13 states and Washington DC.

Exelon president and CEO Christopher Crane said if these conditions are not satisfied, the company would close Clinton on 1 June 2017 and Quad Cities a year later. The company has warned that many of its reactors, particularly those in Illinois, continue to be challenged by low electricity prices and competition from natural gas generation and subsidised renewables. Exelon deferred a decision on closing the stations last year while it awaited legislative and market actions offering better prospects for the facilities.

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