These are troubled times in the nuclear club.
While Entergy has confirmed that it will, indeed, cut thirty jobs at Vermont Yankee by year-end, a 4% reduction from current staffing levels; Duke Energy has thrown in the towel altogether on two of its Florida nuclear facilities.
Duke announced its intention to close its Crystal River facility last February, following “botched” repairs to the containment vessel and escalating costs to undo the damage. It hopes ultimately to stick it to the ratepayers rather than shoulder the full burden of its $1.65 billion investment in Crystal River.
The plant, which began operating in 1977 was close to its “sell-by” date, but like Entergy with VY, Duke thought they could squeeze another couple of decades of profit from Crystal River. They were sadly mistaken and apparently ill-prepared to suck it up.
Now Duke says it will not replace the Crystal River facility, and it is scuttling plans for a new Florida nuke in Levy County; one for which Florida ratepayers have already made considerable investment.
Under a controversial Florida law, consumers have been paying for Levy in advance of construction. Legislators promised the “advance fee” would get nuclear projects built both faster and cheaper.
Except that, in the case of Levy County, it has done neither.
The bottom line: Duke customers may end up paying roughly $3 billion for Crystal River and Levy.
So, instead of the Nuclear Christmas they were promised by Duke and its unfortunately named predecessor, “Progress Energy;” Floridians are finding a shipload of coal in their stockings.
State representative Mike Fasano is crying foul:
“Shame on Duke Energy, Progress Energy for taking the public on this ride knowing that they were never going to build the nuclear plants,” Fasano said. “Shame on them.”
He wants the Legislature to conduct a full investigation into Duke’s nuclear follies; but the spectacular fail comes as no surprise to two Vermont experts who, early on, warned that the Levy County project would come to no good end.
Mark Cooper, a senior research fellow for Economic Analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School and Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates were among those who cautioned against the wisdom of investment in new nukes.
Gundersen says that despite the public investment so far, Duke is doing the right thing in pulling the plug on Levy County’s new nuke; and it would certainly seem so, since new nuke projects seem to be folding all over the place, and the market is finally getting the message that the economics are just not there to support nuclear.
Better late than never, I suppose. I wonder if Florida ratepayers would agree?
This Fairewinds video particularly spoke to me because I have passed Pickering, Ontario many times, driving on the 401 to Toronto. Just twenty short miles from a city of 4-million people, the Pickering recently hosted Arnie Gundersen as he addressed Canadian nuclear regulators on the vulnerabilities of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. It is stunning to hear Canadian regulators acknowledge that the containment systems at Pickering are “nowhere near as strong as the ones at Fukushima.”