More reactor shutdowns ahead? Exelon’s threat and Entergy’s nemesis.

Exelon threatens to close five reactors at three sites if Illinois won’t rig electricity market to favor more expensive nukes over cheaper renewables. We’ve been writing about this for weeks–warning about the nuclear industry’s upcoming campaign to force ratepayers to pay more for nuclear electricity than they otherwise would pay for electricity in the competitive marketplace–mostly over renewables and natural gas. In Illinois, Exelon is now making it explicit and threatening lawmakers that they will close its Byron, Quad Cities and Clinton reactors if the legislature doesn’t do something to guarantee it higher prices for electricity from those reactors. Sounds to us like a prize rather than a threat, but Exelon, of course, is putting it in terms of endangered jobs, lower tax revenues for the affected communities (surely one reason they added the Byron site, which hasn’t previously been on anyone’s likely sites to close, to their shutdown list: to try to have their “threat” affect more legislative districts), less reliable electricity (although they’re on pretty shaky grounds on that point) and so forth. None of that, of course, is anything responsible decommissioning and tax policies couldn’t effectively address–and almost certainly at a lower cost to Illinois ratepayers than excessive electricity rates for decades to come. The reality is that Exelon’s threat is that of a playground bully; it doesn’t want to close its reactors. What it wants is to keep them going for as long as possible despite their inability to provide cost-competitive electricity.

The Pilgrim reactor looms over nearby homes.

The Pilgrim reactor looms over nearby homes.

Meanwhile, the other utility that with Exelon has been most visible in its efforts to rig the marketplace is Entergy. And one of its most endangered reactors is Pilgrim. Thus, Entergy can’t be pleased that Massachusetts State Senator Dan Wolf is continuing his efforts to close the Fukushima-clone reactor as soon as possible, most recently at a standing room only meeting in Brewster. Some of Wolf’s quotes are worth repeating here:

“This is really old technology. It’s kind of a strange way to boil water, and the function of the plant is to boil water and create steam and use it to turn the turbines,” Wolf reflected. “Go home and look around your house for a piece of 60-year old technology. The only workable unit in your house that’s 60 years old in some cases is you. We don’t rely on 60-year old technology.”

“The plant was designed with a storage pool for 880 rods,” Wolf said. “There are now 3200 rods in the pool (when he toured the facility two years ago). I asked why was it designed for only 880? The answer was ‘it’s safe for 3200’. That’s not the question I asked. I wanted to know how they arrived at the limit.”

“When you walk around the plant it doesn’t look like you’d expect,” he noted recalling his tour. “They’re working with solid state (equipment), vacuum tubes, maybe some of it is up to date but some of it isn’t. They go to the junkyards of other power plants find replacement parts that still function. Then you go up to the top floor over the containment vessel. You step out and stick to the mat. What is that? It’s really a big piece of flypaper. The purpose is after you go around they want to take the radioactive material off the bottom of your shoes.”

“By the time I was done with the tour I felt this was the theatre of the absurd,” Wolf declared.

“What we’re experiencing with the re-licensing of that plant is a form of craziness. I can’t imagine a world in which that makes sense,” Wolf marveled. “Five percent of the energy in Massachusetts comes from nuclear plants, 14-percent in New England. I asked ISO New England if we shut down Pilgrim would we have enough electricity, without hesitation the answer was an unqualified yes.”

Convinced yet? We are.

Michael Mariotte


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One thought on “More reactor shutdowns ahead? Exelon’s threat and Entergy’s nemesis.

  1. paxus

    Clearly the same incredible sales people who sold us “too cheap to meter” and then stranded assets are now going after prices higher than market. The UK is just about to sign off on a crazy expensive new reactor construction program. Unless the EU stops them for illegal practices.


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