WI Nuke Signing Off May 7

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 @ 03:03 PM gHale

It is all set, the Kewaunee Power Station (KPS) will end its almost 40-year run of producing nuclear power in early May, Dominion Resources Inc. officials said.

The 560-megawatt power plant east of Green Bay, WI, is shutting down for economic reasons because of the low price of natural gas on the wholesale power market.

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In a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) late last month, Dominion said “it has decided to permanently cease power operation of KPS on May 7, 2013.”

Plant spokesman Mark Kanz confirmed Monday May 7 remains the target date for ending power generation at the reactor, which opened in 1974.

Including impairment charges, Kewaunee’s Virginia-based owner has reported $362 million in losses on the plant over the last three years.

The company, which bought Kewaunee in 2005, had been investing in it, making upgrades that were critical to a decision by the NRC to extend the life of the plant by 20 years.

But the natural gas supply boom, and the corresponding low price of natural gas, have made nuclear generation a bust at Kewaunee.

Since the creation of the wholesale power market in the Midwest, power plants can sell power either through a long-term contract to a utility or by competing with other generators to sell into the market, with the market price based on the cost to produce the power.

Kewaunee has not competed in that market because it sold all of its electricity under long-term contracts to two state utilities. But it would have had to compete in the market at the end of this year because the two utilities decided not to renew their long-term deals, which expire in 2013.

When no buyer emerged for the plant, and with no long-term contract on the horizon, Dominion said last fall it planned to shut down Kewaunee this year.

The shutdown of Kewaunee represents the loss of about one-third of the nuclear power generated in Wisconsin. The remainder comes from the Point Beach Nuclear Plant, which has long-term contracts to sell its power to utilities in Milwaukee, Sun Prairie and South Dakota.

The Kewaunee plant employs about 650 workers. The termination of workers affected by the closure should take place in waves, beginning several weeks after the plant shuts down.

Before cutting back on staffing, plant employees must move the radioactive fuel from the reactor to the spent fuel cooling pool. Once in the pool, fuel must remain there for five years before workers can move it again. The second move is to a concrete cask outside the power plant.

Nuclear plant owners must decommission the power plants and convert them to “greenfield” status for potential redevelopment. That process must occur within 60 years, according to the NRC.

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