The Brattleboro Reformer has reported that UBS Investment Bank equity analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith has issued a white paper concluding that it may not be in Entergy's best financial interests to continue to operate its Vermont Yankee (VY) nuclear power plant. The article reports that Entergy stock has been given a "neutral rating" by UBS; that a number of Entergy's smaller, "merchant" atomic reactors, especially VY and FitzPatrick in Upstate NY, are not likely to generate much profit in the next two years, and by 2015-2016 run projected deficits. At VY, this is due to the expiration of purchase price agreements, as well as new taxes levied by the State of Vermont (recently upheld by a federal court against a legal challenge by Entergy), which since Feb. 2010 has officially called for VY's permanent shutdown.
"How profitable is the nuclear segment? It's not very. Entergy's nuclear portfolio doesn't generate a lot of cash," said Dumoulin-Smith.
"Notably, we believe both its NY Fitzpatrick and Vermont Yankee plants are at risk of retirement given their small size," stated the report.
Other relatively small sized, single unit, "merchant" reactors owned/operated by Entergy include the problem-plagued Palisades in Michigan, and Pilgrim in Massachusetts.
Dominion Nuclear's recently announced plan to close its small, old, single unit Kewaunee atomic reactor in Wisconsin, due to "economic reasons," has led to widespread speculation about the next domino to fall. A Dominion spokesman let slip that the utility was no longer able to afford needed major safety repairs at the four decade old reactor, deep into its "break-down phase" (see "Bathtub Curve of Nuclear Accidents," referring to the graph's shape, above left, compliments of David Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Project Director, Union of Concerned Scientists).
Kewaunee's announced closure, and the rumors at VY and FitzPatrick, comes despite the fact that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has rubberstamped 20-year license extensions at the four decade old reactors.
Vermont Public Radio has reported on this story. VPR quotes Fairewinds Associates nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, who points out that UBS's financial analysis did not even look at the nearly quarter billion dollars in repairs and safety upgrades needed at Vermont Yankee in coming years. VY needs a new condensor, with a price tag of $100 million. And post-Fukushima safety upgrades ordered by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission could easily cost tens of millions of dollars to implement. VY is a GE BWR Mark I, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.
So has the Rutland Herald, as well as SNL, which focused on the vulnerability of relatively small-sized merchant atomic reactors to "early retirement" due to adverse economics, as well as on the economic complexities of decommissioning permanently closed reactors.