Former Exelon CEO says Exelon should shut those reactors

Former Exelon CEO John Rowe says things current Exelon executives would rather not hear.

Current Exelon executives put their fingers in their ears when former Exelon CEO John Rowe (above) speaks.

Exelon executives must feel like former Exelon CEO John Rowe is kind of like the crazy uncle who has to be invited to the party even though whenever he opens his mouth to speak the entire room will cringe.

The problem for Exelon is that Rowe isn’t crazy, and he has been speaking out a lot, especially in the past week.

Last Friday, we linked to one interview he gave recently where he said he would have been quicker to close Exelon’s uneconomic reactors than the current Exelon regime–which still hasn’t closed them and is still floundering around trying to get someone, anyone, to order ratepayers to bail them out. So far, unsuccessfully.

Yesterday, E&E Publishing ran another interview with Rowe,  which expands on his thoughts and surely caused unpleasant abdominal pains and teeth-gnashing in Exelon’s executive suite and boardroom. You see, Rowe is one of those retired execs whose stature has only grown since he left the company and his thoughts carry weight, especially in Illinois. And he’s still got some clout, perhaps more than Exelon itself these days: for example, he’s actually friends with Chicago Mayor and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, unlike the current Exelon suits.

So here’s what Rowe said about Exelon’s uneconomic reactors:

I’m living in a fairy world because I don’t have the numbers and I’m not responsible for them anymore. But in my opinion, you shut those three plants down. You say they have become uneconomic just like some old coal plants are uneconomic. And in a world that’s driven by unfriendly market prices and unfriendly public policy, you shut them down.

He went on to say that his former colleagues at Exelon “have to figure this out for themselves,” adding:

Rowe would have closed Exelon's Oyster Creek reactor already.

Rowe would have closed Exelon’s uneconomic Oyster Creek reactor first, then the uneconomic Illinois reactors. Exelon refuses to close any of them, and thus it’s losing money on all of them.

I love nuclear power plants. For [current Exelon CEO] Chris Crane, it’s his life. He would probably go further to keep a plant running than I would go. I don’t believe there’s anything divine about markets, but I believe they’re pretty important….

In some ways, I believe the only way a utility has credibility in saying that something isn’t making any money is if it’s actually willing to shut it down. If I were there, I think I’d have shut the New Jersey plant [Oyster Creek] down first. It’s the oldest, it’s the smallest, and it would have given credibility to what Exelon is saying about the other four. Nuclear power plants have been shut down before around the country.

As for the idea that EPA’s Clean Power Plan should encourage nuclear power:

…I don’t think it’s EPA’s job to encourage a new nuclear world. I think that would be one of the most expensive solutions it could pursue.

Now, before you get the idea that Rowe has become some kind of green or anti-nuclear crusader, he’s not. At all. He loves nuclear power and thinks EPA should encourage existing reactors. And while he supports renewables, he’s a bit skeptical about them, and does not support Renewable Energy Standards nor subsidizing them the way nuclear power has been subsidized for decades.

But Rowe, unlike the current short-sighted and economically-challenged management at Exelon, understands electricity markets and finances and, also unlike Exelon’s current management, is not afflicted with the kind of greed mentality that insists they should get whatever they want just because they want it. Rowe understands that is not how the world works. Rather than trying to force the world to adapt to Exelon, as the current regime is attempting, Rowe’s history was one of trying to steer Exelon through the real world that was presented.

I was cleaning out some old boxes the other day and came across a brief Nuclear Monitor piece I wrote in 1998–before Exelon even existed. At the time, Rowe was CEO of Unicom, the parent company of Illinois’ Commonwealth Edison which eventually became part of Exelon. Rowe had announced that Unicom was selling off its coal plants to raise needed cash, but was bemoaning the fact that he couldn’t sell the company’s nuclear reactors instead. Why? Because, Rowe said, nobody would buy them.

The more things change….

Michael Mariotte

July 28, 2015


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4 thoughts on “Former Exelon CEO says Exelon should shut those reactors

  1. Peter Sipp

    Refreshing to see Mr. Rowe has a real world picture of atomic energy. Ha…nobody would buy the reactors in ’98. Those who did are sorry now. May the end be soon for Exelon. The stock’s value is slipping on the NYSE. It was 30.93 the other day. Pepco will be wise to steer clear of a merger with Exelon.

  2. Kaye

    I enjoyed the comments on Nuclear Hotseat of Diane D’Arrigo of NIRS discussing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s idea to “change radiation evaluation standards from current linear no-threshold to the false science of hormesis”

    I was surprised to learn that the NRC is not just considering hormesis.

    Here are the OTHER changes that are under consideration.

    These are the recommendations to the NRC from Dr. Carol S. Marcus:

    ” (1) Worker doses should remain at present levels, with allowance of up to 100 mSv (10 rem) effective dose per year if the doses are chronic.

    (2) ALARA should be removed entirely from the regulations. The petitioner argues that “it makes no sense to decrease radiation doses that are not only harmless but may be hormetic.”

    (3) Public doses should be raised to worker doses. The petitioner notes that “these low doses may be hormetic. The petitioner goes on to ask, “why deprive the public of the benefits of low dose radiation?”

    (4) End differential doses to pregnant women, embryos and fetuses, and children under 18 years of age. ”

    So, they want citizens to have as much radiation as nuclear workers; they want to take away lower dose protections for children and unborn children; they want to take away AS LOW AS REASONABLY ACHIEVABLE; and they want to raise worker doses.

    How can public awareness be raised about this?

    The NRC is requesting comments until September 8th.

    How can we get more people to comment?

    FYI, comments to the NRC can be submitted anonymously here:!submitComment;D=NRC-2015-0057-0010

    And here is the link to learn more:

    1. Michael Mariotte Post author

      Note: NIRS will be preparing sample comments for people to submit to NRC on this issue, and will be alerting our lists and making it as easy as possible to submit comments.

      We should note that this is not NRC-initiated. Rather, this is a petition for rulemaking submitted by a small group of extremely pro-nuclear people who believe radiation, other than in very high doses, is essentially harmless. This view has been rejected by the vast majority of radiation scientists in the U.S. and elsewhere, and by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. It is, in my view, very unlikely the NRC would accept this concept. However, it is important to fight back against such nonsense….

  3. womanforpeace

    We the People must be as concerned with the SAFETY of our energy sources as we are with the CLEANNESS of them. The choices we make today need to be CLEAN, SAFE and RENEWABLE, if we want to be able to continue LIVING on this planet! NO ONE WANTS TO BUY A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT BECAUSE OF THE DANGER OF CONTAINMENT AND STORAGE OF ITS DEADLY, POISONOUS WASTE.


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