Tag Archive | Crystal River

Victory at San Onofre

In February of this year Duke announced it was closing the Crystal River reactor in Florida.

In May, Dominion Resources closed the Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin.

Yesterday, Southern California Edison announced they were closing troubled two reactors at San Onofre outside San Diego, CA.

New Dawn without nuclear?

New Dawn without nuclear?

Before 2013, the last time a reactor was permanently closed in the US was the late 1990’s.  There is a reason it has been almost a decade and a half for any other reactors to close in the US.  It has been the policy of US utilities and the NRC to do everything they can to keep reactors open for as long as possible.  This is just starting to change, but not because they want it to.

As the price for renewables continues drop and natural gas prices look like they will stay low for a bit (due largely to fracking), the prospect of  expensive repairs to reactors make restart less attractive.    Also energy demand in many places is not following it’s classical endless increase.  But even in this environment every closure is a fight, in this case it took local grass roots opposition combined with the will California senator Barbara Boxer threatening an investigation to force the nuclear utilities hand.  The utilities share prices increased on news of the closure.

It is also worth noting that the very rosy price estimate of $3 billion to decommission the plant is over $300 million more than is in the fund to decommission it.   These 4 closures will start to point out that not only did the industry collectively under estimate the cost of building reactors, it has not been saving enough money to decommission them.  Yet, these same wrong rosy numbers are being used to build new reactors in the US.  But even this combined with absurd subsidies seems not enough to revive the industry this time.

 There are only 100 operating reactors in the US, a handful of which are down and will likely never start up again.  This is the lowest number in decades, literally.  We have finally reached the edge and are coming back, but our work is just starting.

Don't spoil the view

Don’t spoil the view

Another two bite the dust

Duke energy has announced that it will not be building two new reactors at the Shearon Harris site in North Carolina after wasting $70 million on the ill conceived pipe dream, which it wants the rate payers to reimburse.  Duke, which is the largest utility in the US, decided in February to shutter it’s idled Crystal River reactor both because it had one of the most expensive malfunctions in US history and because the utility was able to bilk rate payers for $1.6 billion for closing the plant.

Crystal River reactor - we make mistakes, you pay for them.

Crystal River reactor – we make mistakes, you pay for them.

And while both of these announcements are good news, Duke is hardly retiring from it’s plans to build reactors, because it has been so profitable to plan them even when they are not going to build them.  The case in point is the two Levy reactors Duke “plans” to build in Florida, the most expensive reactors in US history at $24.7 billion.  [Remember that this is the proposed cost going into the project.  Typical reactors in the US are well over 200% overbudget, meaning the actual cost of this project might well be over $75 billion].  Despite there not being a single brick laid at the Levy plant, Duke has already gotten $1.5 billion from Florida rate payers for the proposed project, which means it can simply pocket $150 million in profits – even if it never decides to build the reactor.

This nuclear cost crime is so unpopular in the state that the unusually pro-nuclear Florida legislature just tightened cost recovery requirements to include that the Public Utilities Commission needs to determine that the project is not just feasible but “reasonable.  This will make it slightly harder for corporate criminals like Duke to get away with these tricks, but sadly only slightly.