FirstEnergy gives notice to deactivate four units

29 March 2018

FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) has notified regional transmission organisation PJM Interconnection that it will deactivate the Beaver Valley, Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants during the next three years. The company, which is aiming to leave the competitive market, is seeking legislative policy solutions to keep the plants operating.

The Perry plant (Image: FirstEnergy/NRC)

Davis-Besse, a single-unit pressurised water reactor, and Perry, a single boiling water reactor, are in Ohio. According to the US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), they generate 14.1% of the state's electricity. The two-unit Beaver Valley PWR plant is in Pennsylvania. The four units' total capacity is 4048 MWe and together they provided about 65% of electricity produced by the FES generating fleet last year.

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, particularly from shale gas developments, and subsidised wind power, leaving well-performing nuclear units at risk of closure for economic reasons.

Don Moul, president of FES Generation Companies and chief nuclear officer, said the decision to deactivate the facilities had been a difficult one.

"Though the plants have taken aggressive measures to cut costs, the market challenges facing these units are beyond their control," he said.

The state of Ohio is considering legislation that would support the continued operation of nuclear power plants by recognising their contribution to clean energy generation. State governments in New York and Illinois have already adopted such policies. FirstEnergy Corporation has said it will continue to advocate for Ohio to adopt such legislation, although it already announced in November 2016 its intention to withdraw from the competitive electricity market.

FES said the plants will continue to operate normally as the company continues to work towards legislative solutions or the possible sale of the units as an alternative to deactivation. The process to prepare for a potential deactivation, including preparing a detailed decommissioning plan and amending plant licences, can take over two years, FES said. The company has verbally notified the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the planned deactivations.

"We call on elected officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania to consider policy solutions that would recognise the importance of these facilities to the employees and local economies in which they operate, and the unique role they play in providing reliable, zero-emission electric power for consumers in both states," Moul said. "We stand ready to roll up our sleeves and work with policy makers to find solutions that will make it feasible to continue to operate these plants in the future," he added.

The Beaver Valley and Davis-Besse units have all received renewed operating licences from the NRC. The licence for Beaver Valley unit 1 expires in 2036, unit 2 in 2047 and Davis-Besse in 2037. Perry is currently licensed to operate until 2026. Davis-Besse earlier this week returned to service after a 24-day refuelling outage, breaking its own previous record of 38 days set in 2012.

FES is a competitive generation subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp, and the nuclear units are operated by FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company. A strategic review of FES's remaining generating capacity - two coal plants and one natural gas plant - is also under way as part of FirstEnergy's plan to leave the deregulated market.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News