FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant on the shore of Lake Erie. (Photo by Jeff Reutter via Creative Commons)
Two Ohio utilities are pursuing state and federal regulatory actions to help make their coal and nuclear plants more competitive.
FirstEnergy has filed a complaint asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to void May’s capacity auction by grid operator PJM Interconnection to the extent that it includes demand response. Demand response satisfies electricity needs at peak periods as a result of certain users agreeing to temporary cutbacks.
Meanwhile, American Electric Power (AEP) is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to let it charge consumers for some of the costs for certain coal-fired power plants.
If they succeed, the utilities could get more money for power plants that presumably could not otherwise compete as well against other resources in the electric capacity market.
Exelon’s Byron Generating Station in northern Illinois. (Photo by Michael Kappel via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
by Jeffrey Tomich
Illinois House leaders Friday filed a resolution urging federal and state agencies to adopt policies and rules that would enhance the competitiveness of Exelon Corp.’s nuclear fleet in the name of preserving thousands of Illinois jobs and millions of dollars in taxes paid annually to the state.
The resolution, scheduled for a hearing before the House Environment Committee today, is the latest signal that the financial health of Exelon’s six nuclear plants in its home state is going to loom large as state agencies craft a plan to meet carbon standards for existing power plants to be issued by U.S. EPA in a week.
“It’s increasingly likely that the Legislature is going to deal with this issue,” said David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, a Chicago-based consumer advocacy group.
“What we would like to see here is a comprehensive discussion of the least-cost way to meet the carbon rules,” he said. “What we wouldn’t want to see is a bailout that sticks consumers with all the risks of markets.”
Cooling tower at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station at Oak Harbor, Ohio. Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski.
At the same time that FirstEnergy is pursuing a 20-year operating license extension for its Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio, the utility also wants more time to demonstrate that it complies with fire safety standards.
FirstEnergy wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to give it until December 31, 2015 to show how the plant will meet risk-based standards for preventing and responding to fire.
The company’s submittal would otherwise have been due on June 30.
Exelon’s Byron Generating Station in Illinois. (Photo by Michael Kappel via Creative Commons)
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Nathanael Massey
Energy giant Exelon Corp. announced this week that it avoided 18 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, meeting its carbon reduction goals seven years ahead of schedule.
The goal, first established in 2008, aimed to reduce 15.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. It was met and exceeded by shutting down old power plants, by improved performance in its sizable nuclear fleet and by energy efficiency measures on both the customer and supply sides of the meter, among other measures.
Radioactive waste from an Argonne National Laboratory facility is shipped via truck to Idaho in 2010. (Photo by Argonne National Laboratory)
Illinois is currently home to the largest amount of nuclear waste of any state, and the industry is content to keep it that way, at least for the time being.
Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) were in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook recently to discuss a new “waste confidence rule” that would allow spent nuclear fuel to be stored at reactor sites for 60 years after the plants close.
Nuclear industry employees and supporters say waste has been stored onsite for years and can be safely stored there in pools and dry casks for decades more. Industry opponents counter that natural disasters, terrorist attacks or accidents could mean catastrophe when waste is stored on reactor sites in populated areas.
The waste confidence rule was originally adopted in 1984 as the result of a 1979 federal court decision. The original rule posited that a permanent waste storage site would be available by 2009; a 2010 update to the rule vaguely stipulated that permanent storage would be ready “when necessary.”
As a result of a lawsuit, in 2012 a federal appeals court ordered the NRC to go back to the drawing board with the waste confidence rule and the related environmental impact statement.
(Photo by Samat Jain via Creative Commons)
New geology research says radioactive wastes are unlikely to enter groundwater from a proposed Canadian disposal site less than a mile from Lake Huron.
The research raises questions about future disposal on both sides of the border as radioactive waste continues to sit at power plants around the Great Lakes.
Ontario Power Generation is planning an underground disposal site for low and intermediate level nuclear waste at Kincardine on the Bruce Peninsula in western Ontario. The categories include most things in the United States’ classifications for low-level radioactive waste. For power plants, that includes things like contaminated equipment, clothing, protective gear, and cleaning supplies, as well as filters and reactor water treatment residues.
Starting on September 16, the Canadian government’s joint review panel will hold a public hearing on the project’s environmental assessment. Construction could start within two years, says a timetable on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s website.
Low water levels in Lake Michigan near Traverse City in 2008. (Photo by Michigan Sea Grant via Creative Commons)
Low water levels in the Great Lakes pose potential operating and efficiency problems for Midwest power plants.
It’s one of several ways power plants are increasingly vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather, an issue recently highlighted in a Department of Energy report.
Several plants in the Midwest have already had to take action in response to water-related conditions. Others must monitor conditions carefully to avoid being left high and dry.
Michigan’s Cloverland Electric Cooperative knew it had a problem last year. Output at its hydroelectric plant at Sault Sainte Marie kept dropping dramatically before bouncing back up.
“We experienced about a 60-80 percent drop in the plant’s output,” says Phil Schmitigal, Cloverland’s Director of Generation.
The problem wasn’t inside the 36-megawatt plant, but outside in the St. Mary’s River, which connects Lake Superior with the lower Great Lakes. Cloverland’s plant draws river water in from a 2-1/4 mile long canal that runs from near Ashmun Bay on the west to downstream of the Sabin Lock on the east.
The LaSalle nuclear plant in Illinois. (Photo via NRC)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Hannah Northey
Exelon Corp. is scrapping expansion plans at nuclear plants in Illinois and Pennsylvania because of waning demand for electricity and competition with subsidized wind generators.
The country’s largest owner of nuclear reactors announced Wednesday it would sideline plans to add capacity to its LaSalle nuclear plant 75 miles southwest of Chicago and its Limerick plant 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Exelon has added about 1,400 megawatts of power to the grid by conducting “extended power uprates” at its nuclear plants, a process that involves installing larger pumps and valves with greater capacity to increase a reactor’s output by up to 20 percent.
That process at the LaSalle and Limerick plants, however, was derailed by market conditions and cheap wind, and Exelon has instead decided to take a $100 million hit in the second quarter, according to the filing.
Michael Vickerman is program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin.
By Michael Vickerman
Though equipped with a license to operate for an additional 20 years, the Kewaunee nuclear power station rode into the sunset this week, having generated its final kilowatt-hour.
Dominion Resources, the Virginia-based company that owns the 550 MW facility along Lake Michigan, plans to spend nearly $1 billion to decommission the facility and transform the acreage back to its former status as farm fields. The process could take as long as 60 years.
It’s more than a little odd to see a 39-year-old nuclear plant taken offline in a state that’s replete with middle-aged fossil units. But in this story, age and fuel type matter less than the extremely unfavorable market structure confronting an independently owned baseload plant in the Upper Midwest, especially one lacking a power purchase agreement.
A cask of nuclear waste is loaded onto a truck at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. (Photo via ANL)
A proposal in the U.S. Senate has advocates concerned that Illinois could become a leading contender for storing nuclear waste from around the nation.
The discussion draft of a Senate bill released April 25 and open for public comment until May 24 launches a process to create a “centralized interim storage” site (CIS) for nuclear waste that is currently stored at reactors nationwide.
And a June 2012 study [PDF] by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory using spatial modeling suggests that northern Illinois would be among the top possibilities.
Many nuclear energy critics oppose the concept of centralized interim storage, saying that the long-distance transport of nuclear waste to such sites would pose serious risks, and that interim storage sites could become financial and safety burdens especially if a long-term waste repository is never created.