Nuclear power plant outages in US up 60% over five-year average – Twice as high as last year

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Reuters data reports show US nuclear power plants outages were twice as high as they were last year, and over 60% higher than the over the five-year average. More than 18,000 megawatts (MW) of nuclear capacity was shut on Friday versus just 8,500 MW last year and a five-year average of about 11,400 MW.

In the spring of 2011, nuclear outages reached 32,800 MW in May. The average peak for the spring maintenance season is 22,500 MW out.  According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission half of the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors are over 30 years old. Most of the country’s reactors have applied for a 20-year extension. Sixty-two extensions have been granted so far, and 20 are still pending, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Currently 5 reactors (St Lucie 1 in Florida, Turkey Point 3 in Florida, Wolf Creek in Kansas, South Texas 2 in Texas and San Onofre 3 in California) entered shutdown modes weeks or months ago to replace major components and conduct work that could take months.  Reuters reported that reactor design modifications and operating changes based on lessons from Fukushima are expected to add millions of dollars in costs for nuclear operators, including Exelon Corp, Entergy Corp, Southern Co and others.

Siemens decision to pull out from nuclear business in Sept 2011 is just one example of how life post-Fukushima has begun wearing down the nuclear infrastructure.  AREVA announced that it suffered a massive loss in 2011, about 3.2 billion dollars.  Areva says the production of plutonium-mixed fuel for Japan have also stalled since the March 11th disaster.

PPL Corp. (PPL) Chief Executive Officer William Spence said new U.S. operating standards imposed in the wake of the reactor meltdowns in Fukushima, Japan, last year may prompt owners of single nuclear plants to consider selling them.

“There will be a lot of companies like ourselves that will have to look hard at their role in nuclear,” Spence said.


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