The end of the nuclear renaissance
Posted in the Brattleboro Forum
The end of the nuclear renaissance?
BRATTLEBORO -- During a press conference on Aug. 27 announcing the closure of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Bill Mohl, the president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities, said the decision to stop producing power at the plant was based on the economics of the plant, and not operational performance, litigation risks or political pressure.
"Simply put, the plant costs exceed the plant's revenues and this asset is not financially viable. Despite its excellent track record, Vermont Yankee is a single, small-unit nuclear station operating in a very challenging marketing environment."
Energy market analysts have concluded that innovations in hydraulic fracturing that helped drive down the costs of natural gas have doomed the short-lived nuclear renaissance that had been trumpeted by the nuclear industry and its advocates.
In recent months, four other older nuclear power plants have closed -- two reactors at San Onofre in California, Kewaunee in Wisconsin and Crystal River in Florida.
In addition, on Aug. 1, Duke Energy announced it is abandoning the Levy reactor project in Florida and nuclear power plant operators have canceled uprates at five other power plants.
A concern about over-reliance on natural gas has many market analysts concerned, as is ISO New England, which regulates the wholesale energy generation market in the six states, to the point that it is considering offering market incentives to encourage energy producers to diversify energy sources and construct new power plants.
"At every moment in time, the grid operator needs to have enough electricity to keep the lights on," said Mark Cooper, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School and the author of "Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics." "Some people have electricity to sell and their operating costs are very low. Nuclear power used to say that. It was their biggest selling point and they wore it on their sleeve, but now there are other producers whose operating cost are very low because the price of natural gas is fairly inexpensive."
Cooper said the current market conditions in New England and around the country are part of the deregulation craze that swept through the United States in the mid-2000s. At that time, energy producers were all gung-ho for deregulation because at the time it meant incredible profits, said Cooper.
"They loved it as long as the price was high," he said. "But markets tend to correct. When prices are high, new sources come online. Now that prices are low, the producers are complaining. The free marketeers don't like the free market when they are not getting rich."
What i am saying is our failure to have a national energy policy is causing this...basically we have nonexistent or weak oversight and development of our energy sector...
We need a government with teeth and credibility to develop our energy systems and regulate, and to think holistically.
The question is, what energy sector or source is not blackmailing the multitudes to make more profits...every one of them is in this grand game.
That is what happens when we allow them to make a non existent government or zero government...
"Amid the hype and PR, the smoke and mirrors, of the 'nuclear renaissance', the Status Report offers a hard-edged reality check."
-Walt Patterson, Associate Fellow, Chatham House, London
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