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Fort Calhoun nuclear plant no longer makes financial sense – CEO

nuke-plant-sadFlag-USAOPPD CEO: Shut down Fort Calhoun nuclear plant by end of the year ,   MAY 12, 2016. By Cole Epley

The Omaha Public Power District would permanently shut down its nuclear power plant at the end of the year under a plan its chief executive is presenting to the utility’s board Thursday.

That means engineers at Fort Calhoun Station would split their last atom in 2016.

Omaha Public Power District President and Chief Executive Tim Burke on Thursday morning is telling the utility’s board of directors it no longer makes financial sense to continue operations at Fort Calhoun…..

The plant’s now-rectified regulatory issues aren’t the reason for the recommendation to power down, though, Burke said. It’s simply become too expensive from a cost-benefit perspective to operate the country’s smallest nuclear plant, he said.

The utility spends $250 million each year to produce energy and maintain facilities at Fort Calhoun.

That’s a hurdle, Burke says, when it comes to achieving its goal of taking rates from about 7 percent below the regional average to 20 percent below that average.

And the utility’s revenues have been falling. First, there is lower demand for electricity as customers move toward energy efficiency. Second, the utility is getting less money for the excess power it generates that it sells on the open market.

Recently, an oversupply of natural gas and increased regional wind energy production has made it increasingly difficult for OPPD to make up for revenue shortfalls associated with flat or falling demand for electricity, Burke said…….

If the board follows through on the recommendation, OPPD’s wind and renewable generation will comprise 49 percent of the portfolio by 2020, up from 38 percent that is currently forecast.

OPPD’s relationship with renewables grew in 2014 when the utility approved a long-term generation plan that included the phase-out some of its coal-burning units, conversion of others to natural gas and added 400 megawatts of wind power from a massive wind farm near O’Neill, Nebraska.

Under the plan presented Thursday, those plans remain intact, but Burke said the most economically viable course is one that does not include nuclear power and effectively ends more than 40 years of nuclear generation…….

Burke said he expects the plant to enter a “cold shutdown” in October of this year, should the board proceed with the recommendation. In a cold shutdown, pressure and temperature conditions within the plant’s nuclear reactor are lowered to a level that prevents a nuclear chain reaction from occurring.

From there, the utility will proceed with various regulatory applications required to decommission the plant. That process includes dismantling the facility, decontaminating it and safely disposing of radiated materials.

Burke said radiated fuel rods likely would remain on the site — there is nowhere else to transport them since a proposed radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain in south-central Nevada is still in limbo. For now, radioactive waste from nuclear power plants is stored on-site in concrete casks.

Decommissioning can take 10 years under a process known as Decon, under which the plant is immediately dismantled and contaminated materials are either decontaminated or removed. In a deferred dismantling process known as Safstor, facilities are maintained for a period of up to 60 years and radioactivity decays to a safe level.

OPPD in its 2015 annual report estimated the costs to decommission Fort Calhoun would be about $884 million. The utility has socked away about $373 million for those costs.

The board will take 30 days to consider management’s proposal, during which time it will field concerns and suggestions from stakeholders and ratepayers.

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May 13, 2016 - Posted by | business and costs, USA

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