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Dominion Announces Plans To Close Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station In 2013 217

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the natural-gas-is-forever dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Due to low electricity prices in the Midwest, and an inability to find a buyer for the power station, Dominion will be shutting down and decomissioning Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station. One of two operating nuclear power stations in Wisconsin, Kewaunee's license from the NRC was not due to expire until the end of 2033."
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Dominion Announces Plans To Close Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station In 2013

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  • Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:10AM (#41738913)

    ... the times of low electricity prices will then be over soon.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:18AM (#41738951)

      Not likely. The reason they're shutting it down is that it's being undercut by cheap natural gas. A small, single-reactor power plant is very inefficient. Most plants have two or more large reactors. Economy of scale.

      • by nojayuk (567177)

        Current new-build reactors being constructed in China and elsewhere in the world generate three times as much electricity (1400MW) as this 1970s PWR does (550MW). The cost of fuel is trivial so the major expenses involved in running an older reactor are things like operating costs, staffing, maintenance and insurance which are similar or even greater than the newer designs due to economies of scale, rationalisation of design etc.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by trum4n (982031)
          The main issue is, they have no plan to replace it. They simply are lowering the electrical supply, and leaving it low, so they can claim they need to charge more.
          • How is Dominion going to charge more for electricity when once the plant is shut down they won't be producing any in Wisconsin?

            • by trum4n (982031)
              From what i'm seeing, there is a solid chance they are buddy buddy with local power producers. Also, if there's less power made in Wisconsin, they will have to bring it in from outside sources.
          • by Alien7 (310889)

            I grew up a few miles from this plant, the local area has seen many of the factories that used to use that power have shut down and moved out of the country. The price drop is due to the reduced demand for power in the rust belt...

            • But Barack Romney told me that they're bringing manufacturing back to the US!!!

              • by hrvatska (790627)

                But Barack Romney told me that they're bringing manufacturing back to the US!!!

                Even if true, it doesn't mean that manufacturing will return to the areas it left or employ the same number of people. Sometimes when a manufacturer returns to the US it's in the form of a more automated facility that employs fewer, but higher skilled, people. A lot of areas that lost manufacturing plants had advantages at one time that are no longer relevant. When a decision is made to re-establish manufacturing operations in the US, former rust belt locations are often not in the running because they

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          I can't speak for the US but the cost of fuel in the UK is definitely not trivial, especially when you consider the cost of storage and disposal once it is spent, and especially when competing with fuel free sources.

          • by nojayuk (567177)

            Actually the cost of uranium fuel for reactors is a fraction of the total price of generating electricity at 0.68 cents/kWh, (http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/nuclear_statistics/costs/) and that price is similar pretty much everywhere in the world that uses reactors for electricity generation. The operators spend more running the reactors (staff, equipment, insurance premiums, landscaping etc.) than they do fuelling them. Uranium oxide (yellowcake) currently costs about $50 a pound at the minehead whic

            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              Actually the cost of uranium fuel for reactors is a fraction of the total price of generating electricity at 0.68 cents/kWh

              So how much do you pay for electricity? 100 cents/kWh? In the UK fuel accounts for about 10% of the cost even on the cheapest tariffs, and that isn't what I would call insignificant.

              • by nojayuk (567177)

                Nuclear fuel is a fraction of the cost of generating electricity compared to the cost of coal or NG for the same amount of power. The cheapest non-nuclear fuel in the UK is coal at about 3p per kWh including mining, transport, processing etc. but not including sufficient pollution controls to prevent the release of CO2, sulphur compounds, nitrogen compounds, radon gas, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, uranium, thorium, radium etc. NG is a bit more expensive than coal and only releases CO2, a little sul

            • by epyT-R (613989)

              BUT ZOMG CHERNOBYL!!!@!@#@#$!

      • by quetwo (1203948)

        And natural gas has become so cheap because everybody invested in it after Wall St. tanked. Natural Gas was seen as the most stable commodity at the time, and became one of the most heavily invested resources (because it was pretty expensive at the time). Now, many are taking their money out of NG because the bottom fell out and investing elsewhere -- meaning the price will go up again (and seeing that many places are not riding out their investments in NG, but rather shuttering plants, it is looking like

        • by rahvin112 (446269)

          Well that post can only be described as blatantly misstating the truth. Investment flowed to natural gas because fracking proved so successful. The gas they started pulling out of the shale formations was HUGE, almost 9 times expected volumes. It helped at the time that prices of gas were at record highs but they would have drilled the shales even if it hadn't been because for the companies involved proven resources are borrowable and sellable assets even if the current price is shit.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:20AM (#41738959)

      ... the times of low electricity prices will then be over soon.

      You still have low electricity prices in the USA. In the UK prices have doubled in under a decade [castlecover.co.uk]

      • by Quakeulf (2650167)
        With loving and caring companies such as British Gas [bbc.co.uk] the UK economy will surge into oblivion and beyond.
      • In the UK prices have doubled in under a decade

        That's because their North Sea natural gas supply has been used up. Output peaked in 2000. With gas fields, production increases rapidly after drilling, much faster than with oil. At the end of a field's life, it falls off rapidly, much faster than with oil. For oil, there are "stripper wells", producing less than 10 bbl a day as crude slowly seeps through cracks in the rock. The US has about a million of those, and it adds up. Gas doesn't work that way; it can be extracted at high speed, but when it's gon

  • Now comes the fun part, explaining to the tax payers and anyone else involved, why it stops producing electricity today, but they still pay for the cleanup and stoarage of the radiated materials for the next hundred or so years. Was that cost factored in to all the 'cheap energy prices' the electricity was sold for?
    • by Eightbitgnosis (1571875) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:30AM (#41739015) Homepage
      The answer to your question can be found in a magical and mysterious thing called TFA
      • by slashdyke (873156)
        You are right, I should have read the article. Now that I have, I would have to modify my earlier statement to say, that I hope they have put enough funds aside. I know here in Canada, the government makes it very easy for businesses to get away with minimal coverage, and if anything goes wrong, well we tax payers get stuck with it in the end.
    • by Your.Master (1088569) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:32AM (#41739027)

      My understanding is that in the US, that's prepaid to the federal government on a charge-per-unit-energy basis, so that's already paid for (give or take any shortfall or surplus compared to the actual net present value of the cost of storage).

      • by biodata (1981610)
        So the federal government has all this money in the bank waiting to be spent on the clean-up, or they have already spent it all and will be taxing future generations?
    • by ScottyLad (44798) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:35AM (#41739043)
      The answer, as so often is the case, is in TFA...

      Kewaunee's decommissioning trust is currently fully funded, and the company believes that the amounts available in the trust plus expected earnings will be sufficient to cover all decommissioning costs expected to be incurred after the station closes.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        In the US you don't do full clean up. The site is made safe and the reactor is entombed, meaning the land is written off and can't be used for anything else. That is fine when you have plenty of land I suppose.

        In the UK it costs a lot more because we require the power company to put the land back as it was before the plant existed, including complete removal of the reactor and decontamination of the site. Actually that isn't quite true because due to the huge cost we agreed to pay for much of it ourselves,

    • by nojayuk (567177) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:37AM (#41739055)

      Yes, the cost was factored in. All US nuclear operators pay 0.1c per kWh generated to the US government to deal with spent nuclear fuel. They also pay into a fund for decommissioning reactors at end-of-life; I don't know whether this particular reactor's fund is paid off.

      I don't know if they're going to decommission this reactor quickly or not; British practice is to seal the reactor building after final defuelling, demolish the ancillary buildings like turbine halls etc. which have no radiological problems and let the reactor vessel "cool down" for about 80 years in a custodianship period. That costs very little to do (basically a wire fence, secure doors and a few watchmen) and at the end of that period the rest of the plant can be demolished like any other building, with maybe some asbestos to worry about.

      Faster decommissioning of the site requires the reactor vessel, the only part which is noticeably radioactive, to be removed and then buried in a pit for a few decades after which it can be dug up and treated as regular scrap. All of the really radioactive material on the site is in the fuel rods and that is dealt with separately when the reactor is taken out of service.

      • by delt0r (999393) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @06:20AM (#41739473)

        Yes, the cost was factored in. All US nuclear operators pay 0.1c per kWh generated to the US government to deal with spent nuclear fuel.

        Which is stupid since there is no incentive to reduce waste. You pay the same per kWh no matter how much waste that kWh produces.

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          The US government has chosen not to reprocess spent fuel as a matter of policy. This means the 30-odd billion dollars it has been given by the nuclear generating companies over the past few decades as a result of the 0.1c per kWh levy has to cover the cost of safe disposal of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of complete fuel rod assemblies currently in store rather than a few thousand tonnes of actual non-recyclable waste which would be the result of reprocessing.

          Reprocessing doesn't actually save much mon

          • by delt0r (999393)
            Personally i think once through cycles are pretty stupid really. Reprocessing reduces U mining impact as well as the waste burden. However does anyone really reprocess successfully, as in produce a significant proportion of the countries fuel? (not bomb grade material). Even in France its a token effort really IIRC.
            • The problem stems from completely short term thinking. If you're a publically traded corporation, the shareholders will have your head for trying to maintain long term profitability over immediate profits. Today it's cheaper to buy fresh Uranium and enrich it than it is to reprocess so ... we'll just wait to start reprocessing until it's too late to actually do that. Same for any nuclear revolution -- natural gas is cheap now and we have a 100 year supply at current uses, so let's quadruple our use of it a

          • The way I understand it is, Spent Fuel Rods are dangerous primarily because of the cesium 137 content. The Cesium has a half-life of about 30 years, so it is gone for all practical purposes after 10 half-lives or 3 centuries. Then the result is pretty much pure plutonium, with a bunch of inert filler, and very easy to process.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In my state, Maine, we had one of the first "large" nuclear reactors fully decommissioned. I think it took around a decade, and one of the last things they did was ship the reactor vessel to some southern state (by rail or barge) for processing/disposal. Then the containment building was demolished. The only thing left is a several acre concrete pad they constructed on which they placed "dry-cask" storage containers full of spent fuel. This fuel must remain on site, at a cost of around $1,000,000 per y

      • I don't know if they're going to decommission this reactor quickly or not.

        from TFA it said safe shutdown - with proper maintenance and oversight they could conceivably restart it at some future date if the economics change. I'm willing to bet they wait on decommissioning to both allow the radioactivity to decay and keep earning money on the trust fund.

  • by Ecuador (740021) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @04:15AM (#41738937) Homepage

    I mean, why would the Dominion need nuclear power plants in the first place? Are they out of dilithium?
    And even if they did need nuclear power plants, why would they be in the Alpha Quadrant?

  • And I like it, because we can focus on next-generation technology. In the first half of 2012, 40% of our energy requirement can from renewable resources, which means we'll have the mature technology for sale when other countries want to switch :)
    • by Viol8 (599362) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @06:13AM (#41739451)

      ITYF thanks to your idiotic chancellor that german power companies are starting to build coal fired replacements for those shut down nuclear plants. So much for germany being green eh?

      Renewables you say? Would those be the windfarms in the north which are 600km from where most of the energy is needed in the south? And given that the wind doesn't always blow - what other renewables did you have in mind? Solar? Yeah , right, in northern europe... suuure. Hydro? Nope, not enough locations. Tidal/wave? Same problem as wind with power transmission. So what is this great hope you germans have for renewables?

      • by rmstar (114746)

        thanks to your idiotic chancellor that german power companies are starting to build coal fired replacements for those shut down nuclear plants.

        It is quite an irony that Merkel was the one to pull the plug. She and her party have been in favor of nuclear power for decades. The nuclear industry thanked them by causing lots of embarrassing scandals. As a consequence, the point was reached when Merkel decided it was better to part with them. The Fukushima incident presented an excellent opportunity to do so.

        So

        • by dbIII (701233)

          It is quite an irony that Merkel was the one to pull the plug

          Not really. Thatcher and Carter were both keen fans of nuclear power but both pulled the plug on industries that were using unchanging nuclear technology as a excuse to extract money from the taxpayer instead of improving the technology to a point where it would be economicly viable in it's own right.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          To never again have anything to do with the nuclear industry, it seems. That they have to resort to coal and gas is, in this way, also a failure of the nuclear industry. They fucked up.

          It's hard not to fuck up when a country which is perfectly capable of running safe nuclear operations suffers from absolutely massive scale protests when a reactor on the other side of the world suffers from issues due to a natural disaster on the massive scale. I was in Germany when this happened. They were interviewing the protesters and I kid you not several of them actually were seriously worried about the nuclear fallout from Japan reaching Germany.

          Think about that for a moment. It's fear like this tha

      • by acidfast7 (551610)

        I stand corrected, it's only to 25% in the first half of 2012 from 20% in 2011. Of that 20% of total consumption (in 2011), 19,500GWh came from hydro; 46,500GWh from wind; 31,920GWh from biomass; 5,000GWh from waste; 19,000GWh from PV; 18.8GWh from thermo.

        Also, 600km is nothing (roughly 2 hours by train or 3 by car).

        To be honest, I think your concerns are moot, at best.

      • by acidfast7 (551610) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @07:58AM (#41740199)

        In September 2010, the German government announced a new aggressive energy policy with the following targets:

        Increasing the relative share of renewable energy in gross energy consumption to 18% by 2020, 30% by 2030 and 60% by 2050

        Increasing the relative share of renewable energy in gross electrical consumption to 35% by 2020 and 80% by 2050

        Increasing the national energy efficiency by cutting electrical consumption 50% below 2008 levels by 2050

        • Ok, now tell Africa they can't have electricity at all so we can maintain emissions targets.

      • The things are getting old and expensive to maintain so an economic decision is just getting an attractive coating of green paint.
        The real choice to scrap nuclear was made quite a few years ago when there were no more plans to build reactors. You can't stop building reactors and then expect to be able to start again with no trouble two decades later.
  • How was it paid for? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by frovingslosh (582462) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @07:22AM (#41739821)

    How was the plant paid for? I know that in my area that the power companies have managed to get the regulation authorities to increase the price of electricity long before the plant is ever built, letting the customers pay for the construction. And without giving the customers stock in the company, even though they are effectively forced to become investors. And this is done with the claims that the electricity is needed and it will keep rates low.

    Now they want to shut down the plant? Because building it did help keep rates low? If it was financed completely with private money then they might just get away with that. But if it was financed with rate payer money. then there ought to be a hell of a lawsuit over this move that will drive down supply and drive up rates.

  • The NY Times reports that the Kewaunee Power Station will close early next year because the owner is unable to find a buyer and the plant is no longer economically viable driven by slack demand for energy and the low price of natural gas [nytimes.com]. âoeThis was an extremely difficult decision, especially in light of how well the station is running and the dedication of the employees,â says Dominion CEO Thomas F. Farrell II. âoeThis decision was based purely on economics.â When Dominion bought the plant from local owners in 2005, it signed contracts to sell them the electricity, a common practice, but as those contracts expire, the plant faces selling electricity at the lower rates that now dominate the energy market. Other companies have also reported falling revenues, although they may not be on the verge of closing reactors because they are in regions where the market price of electricity is higher. The closing, which did not catch many in the industry by surprise, highlights the struggle of the U.S. "nuclear renaissance." A decade ago, the nuclear industry talked about a nuclear renaissance due to rising fossil fuel prices and concerns about meeting greenhouse gas emissions, but the nuclear revival did not occur in the United States as the cost of fossil fuels like natural gas fell [reuters.com] and the federal government has been slow to put a price on carbon. "A number of nuclear units won't run their 60-year licensed lives if current gas price forecasts prove accurate," says Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "The determining factor is likely to come at the point at which they need to decide on a major capital investment."
  • Instead, we should be shutting down OLDER reactors and bringing in smaller thorium reactors that can also burn up the stored waste. The time is coming when nations are going to tax for carbon emissions. When that comes, they will wish that they were on nukes.
  • by TheSync (5291) on Tuesday October 23, 2012 @11:22AM (#41741523) Journal

    Meanwhile the Bruce nuclear plant [canadianenergyissues.com] near Tiverton, Ontario will soon have an eighth operating reactor unit, and a total operating capacity of 6,300 megawatts and will be North America's largest nuclear plant.

  • One of the key features of a nuclear power plant is that once you've paid the huge construction costs it's not that expensive to operate.

    If they think they might ever need a nuclear plant in the future, they'd be much better off to mothball it until electricity prices go up.

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