Three more reactors scheduled to retire in coming years Both units at California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power station are scheduled to be retired by 2025. US nuclear electricity generation decreased for a second consecutive year in 2021, by 1.5% year over year to 778 million MWh, accounting for 19% of electricity generation, the Energy Information Administration reported.

US nuclear power plants ran at an average 93% capacity last year, which helped offset some power generation losses stemming from the shutdown of Unit 3 of the Indian Point nuclear station in in New York state.

Capacity factors measure how much of the time units operate, and nuclear units tend to be run more of the time than almost all other electricity-generating technologies. The EIA said the US nuclear power fleet has achieved an average annual capacity factor of at least 90% in every year since 2012.

Indian Point-3, the last of three nuclear power reactors at the Indian Point nuclear power station, closed in April 2021 despite warnings that shuttering the plant could increase the state’s short-term reliance on fossil fuels and increase emissions.

Power company Entergy Corporation said one factor in the closure was sustained low and projected wholesale energy prices that reduced revenues.

Holtec International has since completed the acquisition of the shut-down nuclear station from Entergy for decommissioning.

The EIA said six nuclear power units with a total capacity of 4,736 MW (net) have retired since the end of 2017. They are Oyster Creek, Pilgrim-1, Three Mile Island-1, Indian Point-2, Duane Arnold-1 and Indian Point-3.

Three more reactors with a combined 3,009 MW net of capacity are scheduled to retire in the coming years: Michigan’s Palisades is scheduled to retire later this year, and California’s Diablo Canyon will retire one unit in 2024 and one in 2025.

Although output has been rising from renewable energy sources and from turbine plants using natural gas, the US nuclear fleet continues to operate at high and consistent utilisation rates, the EIA said. Financial pressures from competitive wholesale power markets remain the primary cause of nuclear power plant retirements.

Four units at two sites in Illinois had announced their intention to retire but then reversed that decision after the Illinois state legislature provided financial incentives to support the nuclear units’ continued operation. The four units were Byron-1, Byron-2, Dresden-1 and Dresden-2.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was enacted in November 2021, includes the allocation of $6bn to prevent the premature retirement of existing nuclear power plants. The funding will be made available to nuclear power plants that might otherwise retire and that are certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as safe to continue operations.

Two nuclear generating units now under construction in Georgia – Vogtle-3 and -4 – are scheduled to come online by the end of 2023. Each unit is rated at 1,117 MW, and they will be the first nuclear units to come online in the US since Tennessee’s Watts Bar-2 in October 2016.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the US has 93 nuclear power reactors in commercial operation. In 2020 they provided 19.7% of the country’s electricity.

Date: Wednesday, 13 April 2022
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