Before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 the nuclear energy industry in the United States was optimistic about the future. Nearly four years later, the industry is sinking from its own economic weight and more nuclear power plants risk getting shut down — not because of opposition from environmental organizations, but rather due to a combination of financial losses from diminished electricity demand, low market energy prices, stricter environmental standards and increased regulations that force licensees to make additional financial investments to remain in compliance.
In 2013, the Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin closed because it could no longer remain competitive and profitable due to falling electrical prices. In a press release Dominion chairman, president and CEO Thomas F. Farrell II admitted that the decision to shut down the plant was “based purely on economics.”
At the end of 2014, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant also shut down, despite having a license to continue operating through 2032, after losing the battle to remain financially viable. In an interview, Bill Mohl, the president of Entergy Corporation’s nuclear operations admitted that the projected revenues of the plant were “significantly lower than the projected costs.”
Entergy is not alone in combating the fiscal blues, Exelon Corporation has warned that several of its facilities are in deep water and running out of time to wait for any change in the markets.
It is difficult to imagine that there will be any significant or major expansion of nuclear energy in the United States, but the industry is struggling to ensure that it isn’t forced to undergo a major retraction.