| Sept 12
Sept 12 Entergy Corp, which is shutting
down its Vermont Yankee reactor, plans to keep its five
remaining merchant nuclear power plants in service, a top
executive told Reuters.
"At this point in time, we have not made any decision to
shut down any of our other facilities," Bill Mohl, president of
Entergy Wholesale Commodities, said on Wednesday.
In August, Entergy said it would shut 41-year-old Vermont
Yankee when the Vernon, Vermont, plant's fuel cycle ends in the
fourth quarter of 2014, due in part to weak natural gas and
power prices. This was the fifth reactor closing announcement
over the past 12 months.
Earlier this year, Dominion Resources Inc shut the
Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin, citing weak market conditions,
while Duke Energy Corp and Edison International
decided not to fix damaged nuclear reactors at Crystal River in
Florida and San Onofre in California, partly because of the high
cost and uncertain timing of repairs.
Mohl said other factors in shutting Vermont Yankee were the
significant costs of maintaining the 620-megawatt reactor, and
markets in New England that do not adequately compensate nuclear
plants for the huge amounts of carbon-free power they generate
around the clock.
As natural gas prices have dropped, New England has
significantly increased its reliance on the fuel for electric
generation. More than half of the power sold in the region now
comes from gas-fired plants, up from less than 30 percent in
2001, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Increased use of gas for power generation has led to
pipeline constraints and price spikes in New England.
Entergy, the second-largest operator of U.S. nuclear power
plants behind Exelon Corp, also owns two reactors at
Indian Point in New York and one each at Palisades in Michigan,
Pilgrim in Massachusetts and FitzPatrick in New York. It also
operates a reactor at Cooper in Nebraska for the Nebraska Public
"Our single-unit plants are challenged in New York and New
England," in part because of low market prices, Mohl said.
He said the company was "working through the trough in the
market" by implementing efficiency improvements at all plants.
It refueled Pilgrim earlier this year and plans to do so at
FitzPatrick in 2014.
Palisades is different than Entergy's other reactors because
it has a long-term agreement to supply power to a unit of CMS
Energy Corp through the early 2020s, Mohl said.
He said Entergy was always looking for partnerships,
acquisitions like its 2011 purchase of a gas-fired plant in
Rhode Island, and deals to manage assets for others like
Nebraska Public Power.
Mohl did not rule out selling or retiring other assets, but
added: "It's a challenging business right now, but we do believe
nuclear generation is critical and will continue to be a key
part of our portfolio."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants Indian Point, which is
about 40 miles north of Manhattan, to shut down.
Entergy, however, wants to keep the plant running. In 2007,
the company filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to
renew the reactors' operating licenses for an additional 20
years. The original 40-year operating licenses expire on Sept.
28, 2013 for Unit 2 and in December 2015 for Unit 3.
Mohl said those opposed to the plant's continued operation
had filed a record 150 legal contentions. The NRC judges decided
to hear 16 of them.
Mohl said the process to relicense the reactors, including
any appeals, might last until 2017 or 2018.
Entergy, however, can continue to operate the plant after
the reactor licenses expire as long as the renewal process is
"We are working to engage the state to come up with a
practical solution," Mohl said, " ... so we are certainly open
to discussions as we work through the relicensing issues."
(Additional reporting by Joe Silha in New York; Editing by Lisa