Bruce Power gives good news to North American nuclear industry

A couple of days after Dominion (NYSE: D) announced plans to shut down a reactor in Wisconsin despite holding a 20-year license extension, Bruce Power gave the North American nuclear industry some good news by bringing Unit 1 of its Ontario nuclear station back into operation.

Bruce Power said Oct. 23 that it has notified the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) that the 750-MW Unit 1 had achieved commercial operations. The OPA has accepted Bruce Power’s position.

During recent years Bruce Power has been involved in a prolonged effort to revive several nuclear units idled during the 1990s. On Oct. 17, Bruce Power said its Unit 2 was providing electricity to the Ontario grid for the first time in 17 years.

Bruce Power, a partnership of several Canadian energy and investing concerns, also recently posted a six-minute YouTube video on its revival of Units 1 and 2.

Unit 1 generated electricity for the first time in 15 years on Sept. 20 and achieved commercial operating status shortly thereafter. Unit 2 achieved the same milestone on Oct. 16 and is also expected to be commercially operating in the near term.

The return to service of Units 1 and 2 is an important component to the revitalization of the Bruce Power site to provide Ontario with a reliable source of low-cost electricity and to support the phase-out of coal by the end of 2014.

Bruce Power latest in a mixed bag of nuclear headlines

Bruce Power may have cheered up nuclear enthusiasts that, despite new reactor construction led by Southern (NYSE: SO) and SCANA (NYSE: SCG), have seen some depressing headlines in 2012.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) could decide Oct. 25 whether to start an investigation into Edison International (NYSE: EIX) subsidiary Southern California Edison’s (SCE) handling of the troubled San Onofre nuclear complex. Both Unit 2 and 3 have been idle at the San Diego County nuclear station since January although SCE recently announced it is seeking U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval to restart Unit 2 at least for a few months.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) is trying to decide if it can afford the cost of bring the Crystal River 3 nuclear plant in Florida back into service. That plant has been idle since 2009.

In the Midwest, the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) continues to work to bring its Fort Calhoun nuclear plant back into service in Nebraska. That facility has been out of service since flooding in 2011.

It was against this backdrop that Dominion said Oct. 22 that it had decided to close down the 556-MW Kewaunee nuclear plant in Wisconsin after it had been unable to find a buyer for the plant. Dominion also said one of the nuclear plant’s major customers was not going to renew its power contract. When it closes in 2013, Kewaunee will mark the first U.S. nuclear plant retirement since 1998.

Not long after Dominion announced its plan to close the Kewaunee nuclear plant, near Green Bay, the owners of Wisconsin’s other nuclear plant stressed their facility is doing fine financially.

“While all nuclear plants are facing the same general market conditions, the specifics of Point Beach’s financial position are fundamentally different than those of the Kewaunee facility,” said a spokesperson for NextEra Energy’s (NYSE: NEE) Point Beach plant.

“For instance, Point Beach’s total output is sold under a long-term contract that does not expire until the end of the plant’s life (Unit 1 – 2030; Unit 2 – 2033),” said the Point Beach official.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.