Emissions, Nuclear, O&M, Policy & Regulations, Reactors

OPPD Suggests Closing 500-MW Ft. Calhoun Nuclear Plant by End of 2016

Ft. Calhoun nuclear power plant returns to normal NRC oversight

Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) CEO Tim Burke said it “no longer makes financial sense” to continue operating the single-unit 500-MW Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska.

Burke recommended the plant’s shut down during the Board of Directors’ monthly meeting. The board will review his recommendation and may vote on it at the June 16 board meeting. If it is approved, the plant would cease operations by the end of 2016. It is considered the smallest rated unit in North America, based on accredited capability.

Burke blamed slow revenue growth, market conditions and increasing regulatory and operational costs as reasons to close Fort Calhoun, and said they were the same reasons seven other reactors have shut down since 2013.

“The economic analysis clearly shows that continued operation of Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station is not financially sustainable,” Burke said. “The analysis considered market conditions, economies of scale and the proposed Clean Power Plan.”

The plant returned to normal U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) oversight in March 2015. It shut down in April 2011 for a refueling and maintenance outage, but the Missouri River inundated the plant with floodwaters, which extended the shut down. An electrical fire and performance issues led to the NRC increasing oversight of the plant and keeping it offline for two additional years. OPPD had contracted with Exelon Generation (NYSE: EXC) to manage the plant during the increased oversight period.

OPPD said it will look into the possibility of building or purchasing additional types of generation, such as natural gas, wind or solar as needed. The utility will scale down the number of workers as the decommissioning process goes on.

“Decommissioning takes years, and staffing reductions would take place in a thoughtful and phased manner,” Burke said. “We are assessing positions that would need to be retained to ensure public safety and site security if we move forward in this process.”

Subscribe to Nuclear Power International magazine