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The nuclear industry is waking up to its gloomy future

The U.S. Nuclear Power Industry’s Dim Future Bloomberg Business Week By  July 18, 2013 ”……optimism has given way to despair. Four reactors have closed so far in 2013—a record for the industry. Because of the shale energy boom, natural gas prices crashed, followed by coal. Electricity demand fell during the recession and has yet to regain its 2007 peak. Bolstered by billions of dollars in green energy subsidies in the 2009 stimulus package, renewables, especially wind, have come on faster than many anticipated. Cap and trade never happened. And Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011 reminded the world just how dangerous nuclear power can be.

The industry hasn’t done itself any favors. A radioactive steam leak and a botched repair job have led to the permanent closure of three reactors in the last several months, two in California operated by Southern California Edison (EIX), and another in Florida run by Duke Energy (DUK). Faced with growing political opposition, billions of dollars of estimated repair costs, and cheaper alternatives, utility executives in both cases decided to pull the plug rather than fix the plants.


More troubling for the industry is the decision thatDominion Generation (D) made in May to close its Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin. Squeezed by cheap coal and natural gas and unable to find a buyer after looking for more than a year, Dominion shut down the facility rather than keep operating it at a loss.

A year ago, Exelon (EXC), the largest operator of commercial nuclear plants in the U.S., killed plans to build a 3,000-megawatt plant in Victoria County, Tex. After shuttering its Crystal River reactor in Florida, Duke Energy announced in May that it would not build two plants in North Carolina. In June, MidAmerican Energy, majority-owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK/A), decided not to go ahead with new nuclear plants in Iowa. Of those 24 applications for reactors filed in 2008, only four have resulted in new construction. “In a competitive market, you can’t even come close to making the math work on building new nuclear plants,” says Daniel Eggers, a utilities analyst with Credit Suisse (CS). “Natural gas is too cheap, demand is too flat, and the upfront costs are way too high.”…….

With fewer new plants, the average age of America’s fleet of reactors will steadily rise. A report by Credit Suisse projects that the total annual operating costs of running a nuclear power station could rise by 5 percent a year. Unless they get license extensions, 43 reactors will have to close within 20 years. The pressures on nuclear will only increase as more renewables come online. …

The bottom line: Of 24 applications submitted in 2008 to build nuclear power facilities, only four have resulted in new construction.

July 19, 2013 - Posted by | business and costs, USA

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