After no commercial power reactor retirements for nearly a quarter-century, the U.S. nuclear industry has seen two units close for good in the opening months of 2013.
Dominion (NYSE:D) carried out its long-discussed closure of the 556-MW Kewaunee plant in Wisconsin on May 7. Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) certified in February that the fuel had been permanently removed from the Crystal River 3 (CR3) plant in Florida, thus initiating decommissioning, an NRC representative said May 10.
Kewaunee is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) located 27 miles southeast of Green Bay. The plant began commercial operation in 1974. Dominion announced in October 2012 that it had decided to close Kewaunee in 2013 due to expiration of a contract; low power prices and the fact that it is a small reactor far from Dominion’s other nuclear units.
CR3 is also a PWR. It is located in Citrus County, Fla., and had a rated capacity of 860 MW. It went online in the 1970s.
Unlike Kewaunee, it shut down largely because of the high cost of repairing it. Duke decided early this year to keep it closed permanently and decommission, rather than repairing cracks in the containment dome. The plant actually has been shut down since 2009, but the repair option had been kept on the table.
Duke also recently said it was indefinitely suspending any plans to license two potential new nuclear units alongside its existing Harris plant near New Hill in Wake County, N.C.
The Florida Public Service Commission recently granted a four-month extension to Duke Energy Florida to address various issues related to replacement fuel and power costs associated with CR3. A hearing is schedule Oct. 21-23 in Florida.
Prior to Kewaunee and CR3, the last domestic nuclear power plant to be shuttered was Millstone 1 in Connecticut, which Northeast Utilities closed in 1998. Dominion subsequently bought the rights to the Millstone station a few years later.
The recent retirements have slowed something of a nuclear power comeback. Subsidiaries of Southern (NYSE:SO) and SCANA (NYSE:SCG) are involved in building new units in Georgia and South Carolina respectively. In addition, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is finishing its Watts Bar 2 plant in Rhea County, Tenn.