Saturday, May 14, 2016

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Losing Money - to Close

Subtitle:  Another Nuclear Plant Calls It Quits

Yet another US nuclear power plant is to close very soon, and once again inability to turn a profit is the reason stated. see link   The long-troubled Fort Calhoun nuclear plant has thrown in the towel, with plans to shut down permanently by the end of 2016.  This plant is the smallest in the US at approximately 470 MW, and is a single-reactor plant located on the Missouri River north of Omaha, Nebraska.   The losses are substantial at approximately $100 million per year, with officials reporting a loss of $30 per MWh produced.   The long-term outlook is not good, with natural gas prices low and wind power production increasing in the surrounding area.    Nuclear power plants, even ones that are paid for, cannot produce power as cheaply as the competition.  

From the article: 

"The nuclear plant at Fort Calhoun is simply too expensive to run when compared to other, cheaper forms of power, the Omaha Public Power District’s chief executive said Thursday. So it needs to shut down by the end of the year, he said."

To expect a new nuclear power plant to compete is sheer madness, as it also must pay for the capital investment.   If an existing plant cannot even cover its variable costs, a new plant has zero hope of ever making any money.    Even worse, the utility regulatory body would be derelict in their duty to provide power at a reasonable price to the consumers, if a nuclear plant was approved for construction. 

The Fort Calhoun nuclear plant is a poster-child for unrealistic optimism for nuclear power.  A few years ago in 2006, the plant's owners invested upwards of $400 million to replace major portions of the plant, including steam generators, reactor head, pressurizer, and some aspects of the steam turbine.   Such an investment is made with the hopes, and expectations, of the plant running for many years and bringing a profit to pay for the investment.   But, this plant was 33 years old then, but is now 43 years old, having started up in 1973.   The plant also had major problems with the river flooding, and a serious fire in 2011 that led to a three-year shutdown.   Today, the plant is losing money at the rate of approximately $100 million per year.   

The right thing to do for the consumers of Nebraska is to shut it down, begin the decommissioning process, and let the new era of cheap natural gas and wind-power continue to provide reliable, low-cost electricity.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

copyrignt © 2016 by Roger Sowell, all rights reserved

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