Operations cease at OPPD’s Fort Calhoun nuclear plant

The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) was closing the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant on Oct. 24 after 43 years of electric generation.

The OPPD board’s decision in June, to cease nuclear operations, was the result of a review of various future resource portfolio scenarios.

Board members took into account market conditions, with consumers using less energy and low natural gas prices; economies of scale, as Fort Calhoun is the smallest rated commercial unit in North America based on accredited capability, OPPD said in a statement.

Also, the federal Clean Power Plan does not give credit for existing nuclear power plants, OPPD said.

By ceasing operations at the plant and rebalancing the generation portfolio, OPPD expects to save between $735m and $994m over the next 20 years. The decision enables OPPD to freeze rates, with no general rate increase anticipated for five years.

OPPD currently has 570 workers currently at the plant. “No more staff reductions will be announced until the first quarter of 2017,” an OPPD spokesperson told GenerationHub. “By mid-2018, we will have somewhere between 300 and 350 employees still at the plant,” the spokesperson added.

OPPD has selected the safe storage or SAFSTOR method of decommissioning. OPPD will file a formal plan with Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the first quarter of 2017.

The pressurized water reactor (PWR) in Washington County, Nebraska was listed at 79% power early Oct. 24 as it started its final day of operation, according to NRC data.

The 479-MW plant accounted for 34% of OPPD’s total electricity generation and 9% of the state’s electricity generation, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).

“The premature closing of Fort Calhoun illustrates the situation in which well operating nuclear facilities are forced to shut down as a result of weak market conditions,” said NEI President and CEO Marvin Fertel.

“This is especially the case with smaller, single-unit facilities in unregulated markets such as in Nebraska where economies of scale make it challenging to generate electricity at a competitive price,” Fertel added.

“Fort Calhoun provided tremendous direct and indirect economic benefits to its surrounding communities. And its closing will remove a full 25% of the state’s carbon-free electricity from the grid,” Fertel said.

Fort Calhoun was licensed to operate until 2033. “Without change, there will be more plant closings resulting in similar negative economic and environmental consequences,” Fertel 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 wayneb@pennwell.com.