Searching for lost revenue from shut-down nuclear plants, NY law allows towns to assess waste storage

Indian Point nuclear power plant. Photo: Entergy Nuclear

Communities across the United States where nuclear power plants have been shut down face huge gaps in tax revenues, sometimes in the tens of millions of dollars. States such as New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, and California are watching events in New York now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a new law that says cities can “assess the economic value of storing waste” on sites where nuclear plants once operated, as reported by Bloomberg.

Palisades license transfer request submitted to NRC

The Palisades nuclear plant will be permanently retired in the spring of next year. Photo: Entergy Nuclear

Entergy Corporation and Holtec International have jointly submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for approval of the transfer of the licenses for the Palisades nuclear plant, in Covert, Mich., to Holtec, following the plant’s permanent shutdown and defueling in the spring of 2022.

The application, dated December 23, also requests approval of the license transfer of Entergy’s decommissioned Big Rock Point facility near Charlevoix, Mich., where only the independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) remains.

NRC passes on Pilgrim Watch’s license petition

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant was shut down in May 2019. Photo: Entergy Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied a request by the antinuclear group Pilgrim Watch for a hearing in the transfer of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant’s license from Entergy to a subsidiary of Holtec International for decommissioning. The NRC commissioners issued the order denying Pilgrim Watch’s petition to intervene and request a hearing on November 12.

Pilgrim Watch submitted its petition against the transfer of Pilgrim’s license from Entergy to Holtec Decommissioning International in February 2019. The NRC staff, however, approved the transfer in August 2019, while the petition was still under review. NRC regulations allow staff to approve a license transfer under the condition that the commissioners may later move to “rescind, modify, or condition the approved transfer based on the outcome of any post-effectiveness hearing on the license transfer application.”

A separate petition against the license transfer submitted by the state of Massachusetts was withdrawn in June, following a settlement agreement between the state and Holtec.

Pilgrim permanently ceased operations in May 2019. Holtec plans to decommission the plant (with the exception of the independent spent fuel storage installation) on an eight-year schedule to permit partial site release by the NRC.

Final outage completed at Palisades plant

Palisades: The Covert, Mich., plant reentered commercial operation on October 21 for one last run. Photo: Entergy Nuclear.

Entergy Corporation’s Palisades nuclear power plant returned to service on October 21, following the completion of the Covert, Mich., facility’s final refueling and maintenance outage, which began on August 30.

The company invested more than $86.5 million during the outage, according to Entergy. The plant’s 600 full-time nuclear professionals worked with approximately 800 supplemental workers to replace reactor fuel and to inspect and upgrade hundreds of pipes, pumps, electrical components, and other equipment.

Entergy takes net-zero pledge, teams with Mitsubishi to decarbonize with hydrogen

Paul Browning, Mitsubishi Power, and Paul Hinnenkamp, Entergy, sign the joint agreement on September 23. Photo: Entergy

New Orleans–based Entergy Corporation last week announced a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, joining a growing list of major energy companies to make that promise—including Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Southern Company, Xcel Energy, and Public Service Enterprise Group. And, like those companies, Entergy says that it sees nuclear playing an important role in the realization of that goal.

When a nuclear plant closes

Theresa Knickerbocker, the mayor of the village of Buchanan, N.Y., where the Indian Point nuclear power plant is located, is not happy. What has gotten Ms. Knickerbocker’s ire up is the fact that Indian Point’s Unit 2 was closed on April 30, and Unit 3 is scheduled to close in 2021. The village, population 2,300, is about 1.3 square miles total, with the Indian Point site comprising 240 acres along the Hudson River, 30 miles upstream of Manhattan. Unit 2 was a 1,028-MWe pressurized water reactor; Unit 3 is a 1,041-MWe PWR.

The nuclear plant provides the revenue for half of Buchanan’s annual $6-million budget, Knickerbocker told Nuclear News. That’s $3 million in tax revenues each year that eventually will go away. How will that revenue be replaced? Where will the replacement power come from?

Indian Point-2 to power down for good today

Control room operators at Entergy Corporation’s Indian Point Unit 2 will permanently shut down the 1,028-MWe pressurized water reactor today, April 30, after more than 45 years of producing electricity for New York. The remaining operating reactor at Indian Point, the 1,041-MWe Unit 3, is scheduled to be retired exactly one year from now, on April 30, 2021.

Vermont Yankee closure announced – There is work yet to be done

viewfromVermontOn August 27, Entergy announced that it plans to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in the fall of 2014, when the plant's current fuel is depleted. Entergy plans to decommission the plant using the SAFSTOR option, which consists of defueling, mothballing the plant for a period, then dismantling it by the end of 60 years. Entergy said that it is closing the plant because it is no longer projected to make money, considering the estimated future natural gas prices. Electric power generated by gas is now over 50 percent of the ISO-New England grid.

Why don't we "mothball" shutdown nuclear plants?

In May 2013, the United States lost a perfectly functional and well-maintained nuclear power plant, the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant. Last week, Entergy announced that it would be shutting down a second such plant, Vermont Yankee, after its current fuel load has been consumed. In both cases, the owners indicated that the plants were no longer economical due to market conditions; namely, the low price of natural gas, the presence of subsidized renewable energy suppliers that can pay the grid to take their power and still receive revenue for every kilowatt-hour generated, and an insufficient market demand for electricity in the markets where the plants were attempting to sell their output.

Vermont Weather Gets Colder – Vermont Yankee Politics Continue Hot

Some long-awaited events related to the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant took place toward the end of 2012, such as the trial of some members of the Shut It Down Affinity Group (known to the media as the "nuclear grannies") who have been arrested many times for blocking Vermont Yankee's gates.  Some unexpected events have occurred as well, such as a Public Service Board ruling and a brand new lawsuit by a long-term intervenor.

Some Big Changes in Vermont

Since the previous View from Vermont posted June 12, courts have issued several decisions that will have a major effect on nuclear power nationally, and on the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in particular. The Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act has moved attention from these important federal court decisions, which otherwise would have received more publicity (outside of Vermont).

Facts and fears at NRC public review in Vermont

View from VermontVermont Yankee's annual NRC performance review for the previous calendar year was held May 23, in Brattleboro Union High School, within 10 miles of the plant. In previous years, annual reports and state meetings have been held here, and in the Vernon Elementary School, across the road from the plant. The town of Vernon stopped hosting plant-related events due to behavior of some attendees.

The Vermont Yankee Follies Continue

Since March 22 of this year, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant has been operating via a 20-year license extension granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The State of Vermont has been barred from attempting to shut down the plant by federal court injunctions. Nonetheless, the follies surrounding the plant continue, with all stakeholders participating: the legal system, the legislature, plant supporters, and plant opponents.