UBS expects new operator for Wolf Creek nuclear plant

UBS Investment Research said June 17 that it is becoming increasingly likely that owners of the Wolf Creek nuclear plant in Kansas could bring in an outside company to help operate the nuclear station soon.

Subsidiaries of Westar Energy (NYSE:WR) and Great Plains Energy (NYSE:GXP) each own a 47% stake in the 1,200-MW facility near Burlington, Kan. Kansas Electric Power Cooperative owns the remaining 6%.

The owners of Wolf Creek issued a request for proposals (RFP) last fall regarding the operation of Wolf Creek, a Westar spokesperson said June 18 in response to a GenerationHub inquiry.

“We invited interested parties to submit services ranging from consulting to taking over plant operations. The process is still under way,” the company spokesperson said.

“We continue to anticipate, when (rather than if) management will pursue to contract for an independent operator to run its Wolf Creek unit,” according to a recent assessment by UBS analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith. “With the unit suffering recent operational issues—and costs projected to continue to escalate materially—we see a clear rationale behind pursuing an independent contractor,” Dumoulin-Smith said.

The UBS official mentioned Exelon (NYSE:EXC), the nation’s largest nuclear operator, as one possible option.

Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating is currently operator of the plant.

The Kansas City Star reported May 20 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had found that a Wolf Creek nuclear contractor had wrongfully fired an engineer who reported apparent safety violations.

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.