Nuclear power plant retirements continue due to low natural gas prices

Exelon has 4 other nuclear facilities at risk of early retirement: Byron, Ginna, Nine Mile Point, Three Mile Island

Nuclear plant

NEW YORK – Exelon Corp. says that it will retire Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear facilities and may precipitate other nuclear plant closures as the trend of nuclear shutdowns continues, according to Fitch Ratings.

The planned shutdowns highlight difficult operating conditions for merchant generators due in large measure to low natural gas and energy prices amid sluggish demand.

Nuclear units are particularly vulnerable because of their high fixed operating and capital costs. Clinton will close on June 1, 2017 and Quad Cities in June 2018.

Both Quad Cities and Clinton have been cash flow negative for several years, and management had previously indicated closure was a strong possibility without a rebound in energy and capacity prices and the passage of legislation in Illinois that would reward low carbon-emitting power plants.

The situation came to a head when Quad Cities did not clear the 2019/2020 PJM forward capacity auction and the potential Illinois legislation stalled.

Although Clinton did clear the Midwest independent System Operator (MISO) capacity auction, the prices were inadequate. The two facilities have a strong operating record and provide nearly 2,500 MW of carbon-free capacity.

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Fitch considers several other plants at risk of early retirement including the Byron, Ginna, Nine Mile Point and Three Mile Island nuclear facilities also owned by EXC.

Three Mile Island did not clear the PJM capacity auction for the second consecutive year and only a portion of Byron’s capacity cleared the auction.

Byron is committed to operate through May 2020. Ginna and Nine Mile Point could be saved by a proposed clean energy mandate in New York that would include a credit paid to nuclear operators to help keep plants in operation.

EXC had previously announced plans to retire the Oyster Creek unit in 2019.

Similarly, Entergy announced plans to close the Fitzpatrick and Pilgrim units in Jan. 2017 and no later than June 2019, respectively.