Monday, October 22, 2012

Nuclear Power Plants Closing

More Plants Closing Than Being Built in USA

We cannot win the war against global warming if nuclear power plants are not part of the mix.  But there is a disturbing trend developing in America: older nuclear plants are closing faster than we are building plants.  Combine this with the closure of all nuclear plants in Japan due to the Fukushima incident and you have a disturbing trend.

Dominion Resources Inc. has announced its plans to close and decommission its Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin after it was unable to find a buyer for the nuclear power plant. The Richmond, Va.-based energy provider on Monday said that the facility is expected to stop producing power in the second quarter of 2013. Dominion plans to record a $281 million charge in the third quarter related to the closing and decommissioning of the station. The company had announced plans in April 2011 to sell the facility it purchased from Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Wisconsin Power & Light Co. in 2005 for $220 million.

Progress Energy, now Duke Energy, has basically closed its Crystal River nuclear power plant. In 2009, Progress decided to upgrade some equipment and replace old steam generators with new ones. To get the generators in and out of the containment building, workers cut into the thick concrete wall.
Similar steam generator replacements had been successfully completed at 34 other nuclear plants, of which 14 involved cutting into the containment building. But when Progress workers cut into the wall, it cracked. After an attempted repair, workers retightened the steel tendons in the concrete that help support the structure and it cracked twice more. The plant has now sat idle for almost 10 percent of its life.

In addition, since 2009 Florida Power and Light and Progress Energy customers have paid for two nuclear power plants yet to be built. A 2006 law allows companies to charge customers more than a decade before the plants produce one watt of electricity. Customers have already paid an estimated one billion dollars. The companies say the plants will be built around 2022.

Southern California Edison's San Onofre nuclear power plant, which once supplied power to about 1.4 million homes in Southern California, has been out of commission since Jan. 31, when a steam generator tube carrying radioactive water sprang a leak, releasing a minuscule amount of radioactive steam. Edison submitted a proposal to the NRC to restart the plant's Unit 2 reactor — which showed less wear.  Edison wants to run Unit 2 at 70% power for five months to see if operating at the lower level would alleviate the overly-high-velocity steam flow that caused the tubes to vibrate and knock against each other. The more heavily damaged Unit 3 will remain offline indefinitely.

Sigh.  And only two new nuclear power plants are currently in the pipeline: 1) Plant Vogtle in Georgia and the SCANA facility in South Carolina.

(Wash Post, 9/22/2012, WPTV News Channel 5, 10/4/2012, Tampa Times, 9/1/2012, L.A. Times, 10/10/2012)

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