2013 Is Shaping Up To Be A Horrible Year For Nuclear Power

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which just two years ago had its licence renewed, will be decommissioned,
plant owner Entergy announced.

This is the fourth nuclear plant in the U.S. to go down this year.

In June, California utility Southern California Edison permanently shuttered the massive San Onofre nuclear plant outside Los Angeles.

A few weeks later, the Obama administration announced it was seeking to cut off construction funding for a plant near Aiken, S.C. designed to make fuel out of retired nuclear bombs.

And last month, Duke Energy said it would not go forward with plans to build a plant in central Florida.

The common thread for each: it has become prohibitively expensive to operate a nuke plant, especially when the cost of natural gas is so cheap.

Here’s the key part from Entergy’s statement on Vermont Yankee:

The decision to close Vermont Yankee in 2014 was based on a number of financial factors, including:

— A natural gas market that has undergone a transformational shift in supply due to the impacts of shale gas, resulting in sustained low natural gas prices and wholesale energy prices.

— A high cost structure for this single unit plant. Since 2002, the company has invested more than $US400 million in the safe and reliable operation of the facility. In addition, the financial impact of cumulative regulation is especially challenging to a small plant in these market conditions.

The company also cited the lack of subsidies going to nuclear compared with other sources in the area.

Also of note is that regulatory uncertainty in the wake of Fukushima is now a permanent of Entergy’s material risk statement (“nuclear plant re licensing, operating and regulatory risks, including any changes resulting from the nuclear crisis in Japan following its catastrophic earthquake and tsunami” it says).

The future of nuclear in the U.S. has never looked more uncertain.

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