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New Jersey among Many States Combatting Early Nuclear Retirement

December 13, 2018

A study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists and applauded by the Nuclear Energy Institute claimed that 21 of 60 nuclear plants in the United States are at risk of early retirement largely due to inadequate rates of return and lower pricing of other competing generation types. To combat early retirements, many states are establishing nuclear subsidy programs to compensate financially challenged nuclear plants for the environmental attributes of
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NextEra to Close Duane Arnold Nuclear Plant in 2020

August 27, 2018

On July 27, 2018, NextEra Energy Resources announced that Duane Arnold Nuclear Plant will close in late 2020. Licensed until 2034, Duane Arnold had previously planned to shut down in 2025, following the expiration of its current Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between NextEra Energy, who owns 70% of the plant, and Alliant Energy, Duane Arnold’s largest customer. In exchange, Alliant will submit a $110 million buyout in September 2020 to cover the remaining five years of the PPA. Alliant will also purchase 340 MW from four NextEra wind facilities located in Iowa in exchange for ending the PPA. Officials for both Alliant and NextEra say cheaper prices for alternative energy sources drove the decision to close the plant.

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Entergy to Sell Vermont Yankee Nuclear Facility

April 19, 2018

Entergy Corporation and the State of Vermont reached an agreement on the sale of Vermont Yankee in Vernon, VT to a subsidiary of NorthStar Group Services, Inc. (NorthStar). When the plant came offline for economic reasons in December 2014, Entergy estimated decommissioning and site restoration would cost $1.2 billion and take 60 years. However, NorthStar estimates decommissioning could begin as early as 2019 and take seven to nine years. NorthStar expects to finance the project via a trust that currently holds $570 million, along with cash guarantees from NorthStar ($140 million) and Entergy (up to $40 million). Supporters of NorthStar’s plan include Vermont’s attorney general, the town of Vernon, and other state and local stakeholders. Critics argue that NorthStar’s plan leaves citizens financially and environmentally vulnerable should problems arise and that NorthStar itself lacks requisite experience.

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A Unanimous Vote for Vogtle

January 10, 2018

On December 21, 2017, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) voted unanimously to approve Georgia Power’s request to proceed with the construction of Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Waynesboro, GA. The decision, originally schedule for February 2018, was moved to December so Georgia Power could take advantage of current tax provisions if the commission decided to not approve the company’s plans to proceed.

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PSEG Threatens to Close Salem Hope Creek without Subsidies

December 21, 2017

PSEG CEO, Ralph Izzo, has told members of the New Jersey legislature that the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants will be shut down unless they receive financial support. Speaking to the state Senate Environment and Energy Committee and the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, citing data from a study PSEG commissioned from the Brattle Group, Izzo said that as current hedging contracts expire, current market pricing will erode plant profits and force the closure of the plants. The announcement sparked immediate outcry from the PJM Independent Market Monitor (IMM), the New Jersey chapter of the American Petroleum Institute, and opponents of nuclear subsidies.

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A Boost for Baseload Generation

November 13, 2017

On September 28, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) proposing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) direct competitive power markets (RTOs and ISOs) to update their rules to “accurately price” what the proposal describes as “fuel-secure” generation.

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South Texas Project Produces Nuclear Power throughout Hurricane Harvey

September 21, 2017

On August 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in south-central Texas as a category 4 storm with 130-mph sustained winds, heavy rain, and devastating storm surge in coastal areas. Despite being in the affected region and calls from three watchdog groups to shut down the plant, the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear power station continued to generate power at full capacity throughout the historic event.

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Georgia Power Recommends Completing Vogtle

September 1, 2017

Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power, with agreement from the other three co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power, and Dalton Utilities), has filed its recommendation with the Georgia Public Service Commission to complete the Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 project. The Vogtle project has been plagued by cost overruns, delays, and the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, the project’s original contractor, and caused many to examine whether the project should be completed. Units 3 and 4 were originally expected to be completed at a cost of $14.3B and were scheduled to be online in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Cost overruns and delays have caused the estimated cost of the project to increase to more than $25B and estimated online dates to be pushed out five years.

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Floating Nuclear Power: A Resurfacing Concept

July 17, 2017

The concept of floating nuclear power plants recently resurfaced. It is under review in Siberia, led by Russia, and a potential fleet is under consideration for the South China Sea by China. Sounds like something from science fiction except that it was contemplated almost 50 years in the past. PSE&G contracted to have two nuclear power plants built at a shipyard in Florida and then floated up to the New Jersey coast. The project was cancelled in 1978 in part because the 1970s energy crisis caused local power demand to fall off.

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Combined Operating Licenses Provide Nuclear Options for the Future

July 10, 2017

Given recent significant challenges to the economics of the nuclear generation industry, it makes sense that development of new nuclear generation is extremely limited. However, that does not mean that utilities are not keeping their options open for future nuclear development. Combined Operating Licenses (COLs) issued by the NRC provide power companies the option to defer potential nuclear plant development into the future. The COLs provide an “option value” to utilities as they make bets on the future energy market.

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Tough Environment for Nuclear: Two Exelon Plants Fail to Clear PJM Auction

June 7, 2017

PJM recently closed its 2020-2021 delivery year capacity auction. The auction was the first for grid resources under PJM’s new capacity-performance regime. Two Exelon nuclear facilities, Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and Quad Cities in Illinois, failed to clear the auction. Exelon has cited two primary reasons for failing to clear the auction. The first being the lack of federal or Pennsylvania energy policies that value zero-emission nuclear energy, and the second being the fact that Illinois has not yet decided whether to include Quad Cities in their zero-emission credit program under the newly signed state Future Energy Jobs Act.

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Nuclear Power Finds Hope in the Illinois Next Generation Energy Plan

May 11, 2016

Investor-owned utilities in Illinois recently announced their support for sweeping energy legislation to address unprofitable nuclear operations after results from MISO’s April capacity auction saw an approximate 50% YoY decline to $72/MW-day. If the proposed Next Generation Energy Plan (NGEP) fails to be passed before the current legislative session ends on May 31, Exelon plans to retire its Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants, which would decrease the state’s carbon-emission-free electricity significantly.

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