More nuclear units return to service; spot power prices slip below $50

The power generation snapshot for Nov. 24 indicates that temperatures have moderated; spot gas and power prices have decreased and fewer nuclear power reactors are offline.

With official winter creeping closer, it appears that only four of the nation’s 100 nuclear reactors were at zero generation early Nov. 24.

For example, the Xcel Energy (NYSE:XEL) Prairie Island nuclear plant in Minnesota was listed at 28% generation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reactor status report. The facility has been down for a planned refueling and maintenance outage, an Xcel spokesperson said the company will be issuing a news release in a few days when the reactor returns to full power. The refueling outage at the 550-MW facility began Oct. 9.

In addition, the Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG) Salem 1 facility in New Jersey returned to service Sunday, Nov. 23, a spokesperson confirmed. The unit had been offline for a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage since Oct. 19. The unit continues its power ascension towards full power. It was listed at 60% early Nov. 24.

Major work at Salem 1 included replacing various valves, relays, actuators, and seals as well as one third of 193 fuel assemblies in the reactor core. Several inspections were conducted including portions of the service water header, moisture separator reheater tube bundle and the main condenser. Maintenance was performed on the vital and non-vital electrical busses, station power transformer and main generator end winding, PSEG said.

Salem 1 is on an 18-month refueling cycle. It produces approximately 1,175 MW. The neighboring Salem Unit 2 and Hope Creek remain at full power.

After being swamped with heavy November snowfall in recent days, Buffalo, N.Y., was expected to see temperatures in the 60s – and potential flooding on Nov. 24, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The Nov. 24 energy prices also reflect more moderate temperatures in many areas. All of the 10 regions tracked by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) recorded spot power prices below $50/MWh. Southern California was the most expensive at $49.22. Eight of the 10 EIA regions listed price decreases on Nov. 24.

As recently as Nov. 19, when parts of the Northeast and Great Lakes were being battered by snow, New York City recorded a spot power price of $92.89/MWh.

EIA also reported Nov. 24 that Boston and New York can expect high natural gas prices again this winter.

Average forward prices in Boston this winter are expected to be $13.70/mmBtu, which is $2.33/mmBtu lower than the winter of 2013-14 but much higher than previous winters.

Forward prices for New York City for the winters of 2014-15 and 2015-16 are significantly lower than the spot prices for the unusually cold winter of 2013-14. The forward prices are still slightly higher than the spot prices for the 2012-13 winter, even though several pipeline expansion projects within the past two years have added new capacity to flow more natural gas from the Marcellus region into New York City, EIA said.

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