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Economics Point Toward Closure for Up To 20 U.S. Nukes

Ben Jacobson/Wikipedia
Ben Jacobson/Wikipedia

A leading nuclear industry lobby group in the United States says its members aren’t being paid enough for their power, threatening the shutdown of 15 to 20 generating stations in the country.

“Nuclear’s carbon-free generation still makes up about 20% of the United States supply,” UtilityDive reports. “But while the plants may be necessary to meet environmental goals, they are having a difficult time competing.”

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Speaking at a U.S. Department of Energy summit last week, Marvin Fertel, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said more than a dozen plants face possible early closure because they are uneconomic at today’s market wholesale power rates—“a sign” the blog remarked, “that their reliable carbon-free generation is not being properly compensated.”

The message appears to have reached U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who told the summit that “the importance of incentivizing continued [nuclear] operation is very clear. Solutions are less clear.”

Earlier this month, the Omaha Public Power District proposed closing its 478-MW Fort Calhoun nuclear plant, the smallest in the U.S., and the Tennessee Valley Authority gave up on its unfinished Bellefonte nuclear station in Alabama and put it up for sale. Last month, Moody’s Investor Services reported that low natural gas prices threatened widespread nuclear and coal plant closures.

Those closures may bring owners less financial relief than they anticipate. As expensive as nuclear power plants are to build, safely shutting them down will also cost hundreds of billions, potentially trillions of dollars, Climate News Network reported last month.