The New York Times has reported on the economics that have not only led to the Kewaunee atomic reactor's (photo, left) announced closure in Wisconsin, but also other pressures and forces on reactors, from Entergy's Indian Point near New York City to Vermont Yankee, Duke's Crystal River in Florida, Exelon's Oyster Creek in New Jersey, and Southern California Edison's San Onofre. The article speaks of "[t]he industry’s renewed glimpse of its mortality" and states "the nuclear industry may be nearing its first round of retirements since the mid-1990s." Kewaunee's closure will be the first at an American atomic reactor since several (Yankee Rowe, Massachusetts; Zion 1 & 2, Illinois; Big Rock Point, Michigan; Millstone Unit 1, Connecticut) in the mid to late 1990s.
The article also reports that sometimes the costs of generating atomic energy are more than the revenues generated from the electricity sold:
'Bruce E. Biewald, the chief executive of Synapse Energy Economics, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., compared the nuclear plants to old coal plants now facing big capital expenses. The cost of new pollution control equipment has coal companies “writing off hundreds of millions of dollars right and left,” he said. Much the same is now true for nuclear plants. “An asset that might have been worth a couple of billion dollars is now basically worthless,” he said. And with average costs approximating average revenue, some reactors face higher-than-average costs.
Christopher Crane, the chief executive of Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear operator, said his company’s reactors sometimes found themselves selling electricity at hours when the market price was negative, driven below zero by a surplus of wind energy late at night during periods of low demand. In other words, they have to pay when they produce power, instead of being paid. And even during hours of higher demand, prices on the open market are low because of the low price of natural gas. The price of natural gas has to recover for his older nuclear plants to avoid being “challenged,” he said.'
This is reminiscent of the findings in the Union of Concerned Scientists report by Doug Koplow, which found that nuclear power subsidies have been so large, it would have been less expensive for the federal government to simply purchase electricity on the open market and give it away for free.