VY Pinches Pennies while Duke Waves Bye-bye

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.”

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

One thought on “VY Pinches Pennies while Duke Waves Bye-bye

  1. Sue. I found this which appears to include an update. Most of this has been reported, but seeing it all knit together in this neat concise little package really drives the point home that just as you said in a previous diary — the sun is clearly setting on the nuke industry & cannot happen soon enough for me.

    Cooper announces Duke abandonment of Levy reactor fits into 2013 pattern of “rapid-fire downsizing” of nuclear power in U.S.

    Monday, Aug 05, 2013

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2013 PRNewswire-USNewswire

    — Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School and author of a July 17th report forecasting that three dozen reactors are at risk of early retirement, issued the following statement today:

    “The announcement by Duke that it is abandoning the Levy reactor project in Florida is the second such announcement by that utility in the space of just a few weeks. The Duke decision to pull the plug on Levy follows by just one day the announcement that the French-subsidized nuclear giant EDF is pulling out of the U.S. nuclear power market due to the inability of nuclear power to compete with alternatives and the dramatic reduction in demand growth caused by increasing efficiency of electricity consuming devices. Exelon, with the largest U.S. nuclear fleet, recently purchased the nuclear assets of Constellation in an effort to achieve synergies (i.e. lower the operating costs) of its nuclear assets. Entergy, the second largest nuclear operator, has reorganized its nuclear assets and is slashing staffing.

    And it does not stop there. In recent months, we have seen the shutdown of four reactors – San Onofre (2 reactors) in California, Kewaunee in Wisconsin, and Crystal River in Florida – and the death of five large planned ‘uprate’ expansion projects – Prairie Island in Minnesota, LaSalle (2 reactors) in Illinois, and Limerick (2 reactors) in Pennsylvania.


    What we are seeing today is nothing less than the rapid-fire downsizing of nuclear power in the United States. It is important to recognize that the tough times the U.S. nuclear power industry faces today are only going to get worse.


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