EIA: Nuclear, coal will account for majority of U.S. generating capacity retirements in 2021

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest inventory of electric generators, 9.1 gigawatts (GW) of electric generating capacity is scheduled to retire in 2021.

In total, it appears that 30 plants (nuclear, coal, petroleum, and others) will be retired in 2021. Five nuclear reactors are included in the closure list—Indian Point-3, Byron (two units at the plant), and Dresden (two units at the plant). Those three plants produce 5.1 GW of power, accounting for more than half of the total capacity expected to be retired.

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.

The year in review 2020: Power and Operations

Here is a look back at the top stories of 2020 from our Power and Operations section in Newswire and Nuclear News magazine. Remember to check back to Newswire soon for more top stories from 2020.

Power and Operations section

Exelon CEO urges Illinois legislators to save nuclear plants

Crane

Christopher Crane, president and chief executive officer of Exelon, wrote in a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed, “The failure of national energy markets to support clean energy will soon force the premature retirement of two of [Illinois’s] six zero-carbon nuclear plants, putting thousands of people out of work, raising energy costs, and taking us decades backward in the fight against climate change."

Crane urged Illinois policymakers to act quickly, as they face critical decisions about the future of energy that will affect the state’s environment, the economy, and the health of every family for years to come.

Game-playing AI technique may lead to cheaper nuclear energy

In this AI-designed layout for a boiling water reactor, fuel rods are ideally positioned around two fixed water rods to burn more efficiently. MIT researchers ran the equivalent of 36,000 simulations to find the optimal configurations. Colors correspond to varying amounts of uranium and gadolinium oxide in each rod. Image: Majdi Radaideh/MIT

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Exelon show that by turning the nuclear fuel assembly design process into a game, an artificial intelligence system can be trained to generate dozens of optimal configurations that can make each fuel rod last about 5 percent longer, saving a typical power plant an estimated $3 million a year, the researchers report.

The AI system can also find optimal solutions faster than a human and can quickly modify designs in a safe, simulated environment. The results appear in the journal Nuclear Engineering and Design.

Study completed on BWRX-300 deployment in Poland

The completion of a study assessing the feasibility of deploying a fleet of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH) BWRX-300 small modular reactors in Poland was announced recently by the Polish firm Synthos Green Energy (SGE).

The feasibility study, which was prepared by Exelon Generation, was not made publicly available by SGE. The study covers the analysis of key aspects of SMR technology implementation, including cost issues, personnel policy, regulatory and security issues, construction models, and operational issues, according to SGE.

SGE is a subsidiary of Synthos S.A., a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland. According to SGE, it views SMR technology as an opportunity for the deep decarbonization of Polish industry and the country's heating sector.

Local leader speaks out to keep Byron nuclear plant open

Chesney

An Illinois lawmaker is hopeful that legislation is coming in the state that would benefit nuclear power plants. “I believe we’re going to have an incentive program that will be in partisan legislation,” said Andrew Chesney, Illinois state representative for the 89th District.

Chesney’s comment was included in a video story that aired on a TV news channel in Rockford, Ill. The news story focused on the negative financial impact that would result if the Byron nuclear power plant were to close in 2021.

Local pol goes digital to save Illinois nuclear plant

Demmer

Illinois State Representative Tom Demmer (R., Dixon) announced last week the creation of a website, savebyron.com, devoted to preventing the early closure of Exelon Generation’s Byron nuclear power plant.

According to the October 9 announcement, Demmer began working with the city of Byron, Ill.-based Wave Marketing to create the website following Exelon’s August decision to prematurely retire both the Byron plant and the Dresden nuclear plant, located in Morris, Ill., absent state legislation to aid the financially troubled facilities. Byron’s two pressurized water reactors are currently slated to cease operation in September of next year, followed in November by Dresden’s two boiling water reactors.

Letter from the CEO

Calling balls and strikes

Craig Piercy

As a not-for-profit scientific and professional organization, the American Nuclear Society’s raison d’être has always been the advancement of nuclear science and technology. While many among our diverse ranks may see themselves as advocates, it is important to recognize that ANS the organization will never take the place of industry trade associations like the Nuclear Energy Institute or the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council. No, we will always be dedicated first to serving the men and women of the nuclear community, both here in the United States and around the world, as a source of news, technical knowledge, professional development opportunities, and scientific fellowship.

This should not in any way dissuade us, however—either individually or as a community—from engaging in the public discussion about nuclear technology, especially when debates become tainted by outright falsehoods or “fake news.” As we have seen in stark relief over the past eight months of pandemic-dominated life, the scientific community has a societal obligation to stand up and set the record straight when misinformation crops up. Simply put, we have to be prepared to call balls and strikes.

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NRC denies challenge to Three Mile Island’s emergency plan

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a petition by Three Mile Island Alert (TMIA) challenging Exelon’s request to revise its site emergency plan for the closed Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Exelon submitted a request to the NRC to amend its TMI-1 license to reflect the reduced risks of the defueled reactor, which was permanently shut down in September 2019.

In an order issued on October 8, the NRC commissioners upheld a decision by an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denying TMIA’s petition to intervene and request a hearing in the license amendment request. That decision, issued on January 23, 2020, found that the antinuclear group had not established standing in the case and that its contentions were inadmissible.

Labor union leader weighs in on closure of Illinois nuclear plants

Lonnie Stephenson, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, wrote an op-ed published in the September 25 Chicago Sun-Times touting the benefits of nuclear power in Illinois and decrying Exelon’s plan to prematurely shutter the Byron and Dresden plants.

Exelon to close Byron and Dresden plants in 2021

Exelon Generation, operator of the largest nuclear reactor fleet in the United States, intends to downsize that fleet next year by retiring its Byron and Dresden plants. In an announcement released early this morning, Exelon said that the two-unit Byron, located near Byron, Ill., would be permanently closed in September 2021, followed in November by the two-unit Dresden, located in Morris, Ill.

Byron is licensed to operate for another 20 years; Dresden, a much older facility, is licensed for another decade.

UWC 2020: A call for transformational change

Bowing to current COVID-19 realities but buoyed by the success of June’s virtual Annual Meeting, ANS event planners returned to the virtual realm for this year’s Utility Working Conference. Originally scheduled for August 9–12 at Marco Island, Fla., the condensed event was held Wednesday, August 11, wherever registrants’ computer devices happened to be located.

In addition to 26 educational sessions and workshops, UWC 2020 featured an opening plenary session titled “Achieving Transformational Change: A leadership discussion,” moderated by Bob Coward, MPR Associates principal officer and ANS past president (2017–2018). Plenary panelists included representatives from three utilities—Arizona Public Service (APS), Exelon, and Xcel Energy—plus the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In addition to coverage of the opening plenary further below, Newswire also covered other UWC sessions from the day, which are available for reading here:

  • More from UWC 2020 Click here
  • More from UWC 2020: Round 2 Click here
  • More from UWC 2020: Round 3 Click here

The opening plenary coverage starts directly below:

UWC Virtual Summit takes place today - Register now!

The 2020 Utility Working Conference Virtual Summit promises to be a valuable experience for all attendees—and may exceed previous in-person UWC meetings in some ways.

“This program overall is the most aggressive and complex that we have ever put together,” said Vince Gilbert, this year’s technical program chair, who has been actively involved with the UWC since 1998.

The normally three-day event is being shortened to a one-day online meeting—August 11—due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Don't miss out on this unique event. Register now for the virtual summit.

Can't participate live? No problem, you can access all of the sessions afterward on demand at your convenience.

Exelon, EDF ask NY to okay proposed nuclear deal

Exelon Generation and Électricitéde France have asked the New York Public Service Commission to approve the transfer of EDF’s 49.99 percent ownership interest in Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG) to Exelon, which owns 50.1 percent. CENG is the owner of New York’s Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants, as well as Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs.

Illinois plants set outage performance marks

Four of six Illinois nuclear power plants—Braidwood, Byron, LaSalle, and Quad Cities—set operational records while conducting spring refueling outages amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Performance records include the shortest refueling outage (18 days) at LaSalle; the shortest refueling outage at Quad Cities (16 days), as well as the completion of the site’s longest continuous run (722 days); and the completion at both Braidwood and Byron of their sixth consecutive continuous cycle of operations, also known as a “breaker-to-breaker” run, according to a May 7 press release from Exelon Generation. Exelon’s average outage duration in Illinois this spring was 17 days, a full two weeks shorter than the national average, the release stated.