Today, October 24, 2016, the nation’s smallest nuclear power plant will permanently shutdown.
In June, 2016 the Omaha Public Power District’s (OPPD) board decided to shutdown Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant because it was no longer financially sustainable due to market conditions, the Clean Power Plan, and economies of scale.
Market conditions were the major factor in the decision. Historically low natural gas prices are a contributing factor; they reduce OPPD’s cost to generate electricity using natural gas. In addition, consumers are using less energy.
The final version of the proposed Clean Power Plan is another factor. It does not give carbon-free generation credit for existing nuclear plants such as Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant.
The board also looked at economies of scale. Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant is the smallest rated commercial unit in North America, based on accredited capability. Larger and multi-unit nuclear plants can spread costs over high levels of production.
Slow load growth and increasing regulatory and operational costs have led to the recent early retirement of several other U.S. nuclear generating stations.
OPPD President and CEO Tim Burke added, “As tough as this decision is, we cannot afford to ignore the changes happening around us. We must look to the future.”
Plant shutdown is only one of the first steps of the “decommissioning process” that could stretch on for as many as 60 years. During that process, the utility will have to decontaminate and disassemble elements of the power plant.
SAFSTOR and DECON are the two primary decommissioning options; OPPD will use the SAFSTOR method, which will provide both regulatory and financial flexibility as the plant is decommissioned. Both options have a similar path during the next five years. To learn more about these two decommissioning options check out website under Resources – Training – article “Nuclear Plant Decommissioning 101”.
The cost to decommission Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant is estimated at approximately $1.2 billion. As of the end of May 2016, OPPD has approximately $388 million in total available decommissioning funds, and was pacing toward full funding for a 2033 decommission date. To allow for decommissioning before 2033, OPPD will add to its decommissioning fund annually. The district expects to be able to cover the remaining costs without raising the existing rates.