Pilgrim is closing: When and Why

Pilgrim (above), Vermont Yankee, and Fitzpatrick all have the same design as the three reactors which suffered meltdowns in Japan.

Pilgrim (above), Vermont Yankee, and Fitzpatrick all have the same design as the three reactors which suffered meltdowns in Japan.

The following is largely from Entergy to shut Pilgrim nuclear power plant as early as 2017: exec and also draws on articles from the Cape Cod Times, the Patriot Ledger, and Beyond Nuclear.

On October 13, 2015, William Mohl, president of the Entergy Wholesale Commodities announced that Pilgrim nuclear power station will close as early as the spring of 2017, because the unit is losing about $40 million annually with little chance that its economics will improve in the foreseeable future.

Entergy closed its Vermont Yankee reactor in 2014, and will announce by November whether it will shut its FitzPatrick reactor in Scriba, New York, that “is facing similar economic situations” as Pilgrim, Mohl said. All three are the same design as the three reactors which suffered meltdowns in Japan.

Mohl said Pilgrim will shut no later than June 1, 2019 but Entergy will decide by the first half of 2016, after further discussions with grid operator ISO New England, whether to carry out refueling and maintenance at Pilgrim that is scheduled for the spring of 2017. If a decision is made not to refuel Pilgrim, he said the unit would be permanently shut, decommissioned and placed in Safestor, which can last for up to 60 years.

The Cape Cod Times reported that: David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, …predicted Entergy could decide to close the plant before the next refueling, when some spent fuel rods are removed from the reactor and replaced. “If you are going to sell a car, you’re not going to fill the tank up with gas,” he said. “It’s tens of millions of dollars to refuel. They don’t want to put money in they won’t get back.”

Low current and forecast power prices, along with Pilgrim’s operating costs, have made it “clear” that “Pilgrim is simply no longer financially viable” Mohl said, citing “natural gas prices driven by an abundance of shale gas”. He criticized Massachusetts for proposing an energy policy that he said would provide economic incentives for the state’s utilities to buy electricity generated by hydroelectric facilities in Canada.

Mohl said another factor in the company’s decision to shut Pilgrim was the estimated cost of $45 million to $60 million that would be required to bring the plant into compliance with US Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements.

He said Entergy will decide by the first half of 2016 whether to carry out refueling and maintenance at Pilgrim that is scheduled for the spring of 2017. If a decision is made not to refuel Pilgrim, Mohl said the unit would be permanently shut, decommissioned and placed in Safestor, which can last for up to 60 years.

The Patriot Ledger reported, “Mohl said Tuesday that Entergy had set aside about $870 million to decommission Pilgrim, but the process could be delayed if the final cost comes in higher than that. The estimate for decommissioning Vermont Yankee, another Entergy nuclear plant, came in at $1.25 billion.”

Julien Dumoulin-Smith, an analyst with the investment bank UBS, said “We see the Pilgrim plant retirement as a positive in so far as the company is closing” and “We suspect the company could well opt to retire the plant early (May, 2017)”.

Beyond Nuclear adds:
“…in order to run the reactor nearly four more years with one more refueling, Entergy would have to get permission from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to operate the reactor without a major required safety modification that is now part of Pilgrim’s operating license put there by a federal Order issued by the Commission on June 6, 2013 and finalized on August 19, 2015.

Entergy’s effort to stanch Pilgrim’s financial hemorraghing means that the company will try to avoid a costly upgrade (in the range of $15 million) to its fatally flawed GE Mark I containment system; a system identical to those that failed under severe accident conditions at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The first modification (Phase 1) for a “severe accident capable” containment vent is required to be installed before the reactor would be allowed to restart following its May 2017 refueling outage. Entergy may in fact permanently close sooner (Summer 2017) rather than risk a fight.

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One Response to Pilgrim is closing: When and Why

  1. David Agnew says:

    In short, if the Atomic Energy Commission had done it’s job in 1972, Pilgrim would have never opened. Had the NRC done it’s job in 2011, Pilgrim would have closed in March of that year. If it does it’s job now, Pilgrim will close now.