Perry nuclear plantUS utility, FirstEnergy Solutions, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corporation, is to close all of its nuclear plants – two in Ohio and one in Pennsylvania – totalling 4048MWe. The Ohio plants are Davis-Besse in Oak Harbor scheduled to close in 2020 and Perry in Perry in 2021. The Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport Pennsylvania will also close in 2021. The company notified the regional grid manager PJM Interconnection about the closures on 28 March and verbally informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The company said the long lead times for the closures are needed to allow for detailed decommissioning plans, but officials believe this may also provide some leeway to find a way to keep the plants operating. In a statement, FirstEnergy Solutions noted that it would be seeking "legislative policy solutions as an alternative to deactivation or sale”. Some 2300 plant employees will be affected by the closures.

Chief nuclear officer, Don Moul, said in a statement that though the plants had taken "aggressive measures" to cut costs, the market challenges facing these units are beyond their control.

“The decision to deactivate these facilities is very difficult and in no way a reflection on the dedicated, hard-working employees who operate the plants safely and reliably or on the local communities and union leaders who have advocated passionately on their behalf," Moul said.   

He added, "We stand ready to roll up our sleeves and work with policymakers to find solutions that will make it feasible to continue to operate these plants in the future."  

FirstEnergy Solutions currently has debts of more than $2.8bn to creditors and $1.7bn to parent company FirstEnergy Corporation. A debt payment of $100m is due in the first week of April. Lake County Commissioner Jerry Cirino said he expects FirstEnergy to file for bankruptcy protection in the next few days. Earlier this year, a FirstEnergy spokesperson said nuclear power plants are unable to compete against low natural gas prices and are no longer profitable. FirstEnergy announced in November 2016 that it would be leaving the competitive generation business and was still deciding what to do with its nuclear facilities.

Davis-Besse, a single unit 894MWe (net) pressurised water reactor (PWR),  was commissioned in 1978 and was built with an investment of $2.22bn. Perry, a single unit 1256MWe (net) boiling water reactor (BWR) began commercial operation in 1987 with an investment of $6.02bn. The $8.52bn Beaver Valley plant has two PWRs (921MWe and 905MWe), which began commercial operations in 1976 and 1987.

Photo: The Perry nuclear plant celebrated 30 years of commercial operation in November 2017 (Credit: First Energy Corp)