Another nail was driven into the coffin of nuclear energy this month, when Dominion announced the closing of the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant in Wisconsin.
The 556-MW nuclear facility in Carlton, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Michigan, is to be shut down, with decommissioning begun in 2013.
While there were several reasons given for the closure, one had to be the EPA rule prohibiting once-through cooling that would require constructing an expensive cooling tower.
At virtually the same time Dominion was making its announcement, Gale Klappa, CEO of Wisconsin Energy Corporation, was saying the state needed more nuclear power. He said the state’s nuclear power plants are aging quickly and will need to be replaced beginning in the next decade.
This is not an unusual situation.
As noted before (see What Killed Nuclear Power?), there are 104 nuclear plants in operation today in the United States, supplying 20% of the nation’s electricity.
All of these plants require a 20-year extension to their operating license before their existing license expires. Approximately 73 have already received extensions to their operating licenses, allowing them to operate for an additional 20 years beyond their original 40-year license.
A few will not get an extension for several reasons. As in the case of the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant in Wisconsin, two or more plants will also shut down in California for essentially the same reason: The need to build expensive cooling towers to eliminate once-through cooling. A few others, such as the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York and the Yankee nuclear plant in Vermont, may also not obtain operating license renewals.
Environmental organizations are lobbying hard to prevent these license renewals.
But, even if all the units are granted extensions, some will have to begin to shut down 20 years from now in the 2030s, unless they can receive a second extension. A second extension becomes problematic since the units will be 80 years old by the end of a second extension.
Unless new plants are built to replace the existing fleet of nuclear power plants, it would appear as though nuclear power in the United States faces a slow death.
There are only two new plants under construction (and a few more about to begin construction), but nowhere near enough plants are being planned to replace the existing fleet of nuclear power plants.
The bell tolls for the Kewaunee Nuclear Plant, and it will toll again as nuclear power dies in the United States.
For the nuclear industry, the following is appropriate: “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”-John Donne.
Read more of Donn’s columns at his blog, Power for USA.
Photo credit: Paul J Everett (Creative Commons)