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Exelon reactor closures show how the nuclear rot is really settling in for America

nuclear-costs1Exelon Corp. (EXC) Nuclear Plant Closures Point To Wider Challenges Facing US Nuclear Sector, International Business Times,  BY  @MARIAGALLUCCI ON 06/03/16 Exelon Corp.’s announcement this week that it plans to shutter two Illinois nuclear plants comes at a harrowing time for the U.S. nuclear power sector. Amid fierce competition from cheap natural gas and withering support from state policymakers, utilities are increasingly struggling to keep the aging, hulking power plants in operation.

Chicago-based Exelon (NYSE:EXC), which owns utilities serving Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore plus many power plants, said it will close its Clinton plant in mid-2017 and the Quad Cities plant in mid-2018. The nuclear stations lost a combined $800 million in the past seven years, despite being two of the company’s best-performing plants, Exelon said Thursday.

The power company had been waiting on Illinois policymakers to adopt measures to reward nuclear plants and other carbon-free power sources that help the state meet its climate change targets. The legislation included other provisions that would have slapped new charges on consumer energy bills. The policies are entangled in a broader budget war between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat……

Wholesale prices are likely to remain low in the next few years, which could spell a death sentence for aging plants in need of costly upgrades and lengthy repairs. The majority of the country’s 99 nuclear reactors are more than 30 years old and could operate potentially for as long as 80 years — but only if utilities can afford to keep them running.

Between 15 and 20 nuclear reactors are considered at risk of premature closure within the next five to 10 years, the Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group, has estimated.

Opponents of nuclear power say that may be a good thing, given the longstanding concerns over radioactive waste disposal and the looming threat of a meltdown, particularly in the wake of the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japan. An Associated Press investigation that year found that radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. nuclear power sites and in some cases contaminated the drinking wells of nearby homes.

Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear plant, which sits just 25 miles north of New York City, has faced a series of mishaps in the last year, including a power failure in the reactor core, an alarm failure and the escape of radiated water into groundwater. Federal officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are now investigating the degradation of critical stainless steel baffle bolts in one of the plant’s nuclear reactors.

“This aging nuclear power plant is becoming increasingly unreliable and puts the welfare of 20 million people at risk every day,” Paul Gallay, president of the citizen group Riverkeeper, which opposes Indian Point, said in a recent opinion piece………..

June 4, 2016 - Posted by | business and costs, USA

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