Kewanee Nuclear Plant Shuttered for Good

Dominion on Tuesday permanently shuttered its 556-MW Kewanee nuclear plant located about 40 miles southeast of Green Bay, Wis. The 40-year-old Westinghouse pressurized water reactor generated 148 million MWh over its lifetime.

Dominion last fall announced it would close the 1976-commissioned plant because it was unable to grow a Midwestern nuclear fleet to take advantages of economies of scale, and Kewaunee’s power purchase agreements were ending at a time of projected low wholesale electricity prices in the region. The decision was based “purely on economics,” said David Heacock, president of Dominion Nuclear and chief nuclear officer of Dominion.

Station personnel will now begin removing all 121 fuel assemblies from the reactor and storing them in the used fuel pool before commencing activities to place the unit in SAFSTOR, Dominion’s chosen decommission strategy. The method, one of three strategies approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), involves long-term monitoring and storage of a closed nuclear unit. Under federal law, the company must decommission the unit and return the site to a greenfield condition within 60 years.

According to NRC regulations, all nuclear plant operators must set up a trust or other financial mechanism to cover decommissioning costs. Dominion’s most recent Form 10-K filing with the Securities Exchange Commission estimated, per site-specific studies completed earlier this year, that decommissioning of Kewaunee could cost up to $666 million. The company had about $578 million in the plant’s decommissioning trust, but Dominion said it believed the amounts would be “sufficient” to cover costs. “Dominion will continue to monitor these trusts to ensure they meet the NRC financial assurance requirements, which may include, if needed, the use of parent company guarantees, surety bonding or other financial guarantees recognized by the NRC,” it said.

Over the past year, Dominion announced about 3,945 MW of divestitures or decommissioning of its merchant fleet generation capacity.

Kewaunee’s permanent closure means 103 nuclear power reactors remain licensed in the U.S.

The NRC issued what may be one of the plant’s last violation notices on May 1, fining Dominion $70,000 in civil penalties for allegedly falsified fire drill records. An investigation by the federal regulator concluded that between August 2009 and December 2011, a former fire brigade trainer had conducted training sessions instead of actual fire drills. The former trainer then allegedly falsely claimed on required forms that the drills and response activities had been completed.

Sources: POWERnews, NRC, Dominion

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