Nuclear Industry Forced to Adapt
From Post Gazette
By Ivan Penn
The nuclear construction industry.
An article in an industry publication last week noted that low natural gas prices and the sputtering economy reduce the need for new nuclear plants. It said four new reactors — two in Georgia and two in South Carolina — are likely to be the only ones the nation will see for the rest of this decade, possibly longer.
“Four new reactors will be added to the grid, but a fifth could be pushing it,” said K. Steiner-Dicks, a journalist reporting for the nuclear plant construction industry publication Nuclear Energy Insider.
The free market is also frowning on nuclear power.
Dominion Power announced last year that it would close its 556-megawatt Kewaunee nuclear plant in Wisconsin because it was no longer economically viable.
Platts, a global energy provider, reported last week that several other nuclear plants face early shutdown because of economics, including Entergy’s 838-megawatt James A. FitzPatrick plant in New York, and its 605-megawatt Vermont Yankee plant.
Even with the shifting landscape in the power industry, millions of Floridians in the areas served by Duke Energy (parent company of Progress Energy Florida) and Florida Power & Light continue to pay in advance for new nuclear plants that critics believe will never be built.
Duke Energy has yet to decide whether it will build the proposed $24 billion Levy County nuclear plant, for which the utility’s 1.6 million Florida customers already have paid more than $750 million. Duke will collect more than $1 billion from customers by 2017, whether the utility builds the plant or not.
Suzanne Grant, a Duke spokeswoman, said the utility is working to ensure Florida maintains a diverse energy mix. An overdependence on one source, such as natural gas, could subject customers to spikes in electric prices if fuel costs rise.
“There are only a few states that are as dependent on natural gas as Florida is,” Ms. Grant said. The Levy nuclear plant “continues to be the best long-term base load operator we have available.”
The Nuclear Energy Insider article said that while there is little demand for new nuclear plants in the United States, “the U.S. nuclear sector is going to focus largely on its progress as a nuclear technology exporter.”
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