As anticipated, Entergy to close FitzPatrick nuclear plant

In a move that should come as no surprise given previous company statements, Entergy (NYSE:ETR) said early Nov. 2 that it plans to retire its James A. FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Scriba, NY, in late 2016 or early 2017.

Entergy is informing the operator of the electric grid, the New York Independent System Operator (NY ISO) and the New York State Public Service Commission (NYSPSC) that it will retire the plant at the end of the current fuel cycle.

The news comes less than three weeks after Entergy announced its intention to retire the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts no later than 2019 (and possibly sooner). Entergy Wholesale Commodities (EWC) President Bill Mohl had said Oct. 13 that the company expected to make a decision by the end of October on whether to also retire FitzPatrick.

The FitzPatrick plant generates 838 MW of nearly carbon-free electricity, enough to power more than 800,000 homes, Entergy said in a news release. Like Pilgrim, FitzPatrick is a single-unit boiler water reactor (BWR). FitzPatrick is a larger generator than Pilgrim. Pilgrim is listed with a capacity of roughly 685 MW.

FitzPatrick employs more than 600 workers, and has been a part of the Oswego County community since it began generating electricity in 1975.

Entergy said Nov. 2 that the decision to close FitzPatrick is based on the continued deteriorating economics of the facility. The key drivers cited by the company include significantly reduced plant revenues due to low natural gas prices, a poor market design that fails to properly compensate nuclear generators like FitzPatrick for their benefits, as well as high operational costs.

Entergy and New York State officials worked tirelessly over the past two months to reach a constructive and mutually beneficial agreement to avoid a shutdown, but were unsuccessful, Entergy said in a news release.

“Given the financial challenges our merchant power plants face from sustained wholesale power price declines and other unfavorable market conditions, we have been assessing each asset,” said Entergy Chairman and CEO Leo Denault,. “As part of this review, we previously announced the closure of the Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station in Massachusetts and have now decided that despite good operational performance, market conditions require us to also close the FitzPatrick nuclear plant,” Denault continued.

When FitzPatrick closes, Entergy will have one power generating facility in operation in New York State, the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y. Entergy has previously made the case that the economic conditions facing Indian Point Units 2 and 3 are much better than the situation facing other Entergy nuclear plants in the Northeast.

Entergy was expected to further discuss the FitzPatrick retirement during a quarterly earnings call later in the day.

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.