FirstEnergy takes "unwelcome" step towards plant closures

16 August 2018

FirstEnergy Solutions Inc (FES) has taken its next step towards the closure of three nuclear power plants, filing plans related to the decommissioning with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The Beaver Valley, Davis-Besse and Perry plants are scheduled to close during the next three years unless legislative policy solutions can be found to keep them operating.

Perry (Image: NRC/FirstEnergy)

The company on 15 August said it had filed with the NRC details of the training programme for the professionals who will supervise the removal and on-site storage of fuel from the plants after their shut-down.

"Today's NRC submission is a necessary milestone for us but not a welcome one," Don Moul, FES president and chief nuclear officer, said. "Our nuclear plants provide important environmental, economic and fuel-diversity benefits to our region, but we cannot continue to operate them without state-level policy relief in Ohio and Pennsylvania or immediate and significant market reforms that provide meaningful compensation for the unique attributes nuclear generation provides."

Davis-Besse, a single-unit pressurised water reactor (PWR), and Perry, a single boiling water reactor (BWR), are in Ohio, while the two-unit Beaver Valley PWR plant is in Pennsylvania. The plants' combined capacity is 4048 MWe and in 2017 they contributed about 65% of the electricity produced by the FES generating fleet. The two Ohio plants represent 14% of the state's electric generation capacity and 90% of its carbon emissions-free capacity, the company said.

However, Ohio and Pennsylvania are in a deregulated electricity market, where generators compete against each other to sell power to suppliers through competitive auctions. Nuclear plant operators in such markets have faced competition from low-cost gas and subsidised wind power, leaving well-performing nuclear units at risk of closure for economic reasons. In March, FES notified regional transmission organisation PJM Interconnection of its intention to deactivate the plants, citing market challenges facing these units.

"We intend to work with Ohio and Pennsylvania officials towards a solution that will enable these plants to continue contributing to cleaner air and regional energy security," Moul said yesterday. "In the meantime we will move forward with the required steps towards deactivation," he added.

A solution must be reached by mid-2019, when FES must either purchase the fuel required for Davis-Besse's next refuelling or proceed with the shutdown.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News