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The Almighty Buck Power

Central New York Nuclear Plants Struggle To Avoid Financial Meltdown 270

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-the-lights-on dept.
mdsolar writes "As recently as four years ago, nuclear power companies were planning to spend billions of dollars to build a new reactor in Oswego County, alongside three existing nuclear plants. Then the bottom fell out. Natural gas-burning power plants that benefit from a glut of cheap gas produced by hydrofracking cut wholesale electricity prices in half. Now the outlook for nuclear power plants is so bleak that Wall Street analysts say one or more Upstate nuclear plants could go out of business if conditions don't change. Two Upstate nukes in particular — the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County and the R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant in nearby Wayne County — are high on the watch list of plants that industry experts say are at risk of closing for economic reasons."
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Central New York Nuclear Plants Struggle To Avoid Financial Meltdown

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:02AM (#44991045)

    Am I alone in wondering why the cost to the consumer remains the same?

  • Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gwstuff (2067112) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:06AM (#44991085)

    So what happens when a nuclear plant runs into financial difficulty? You cut your reactor monitoring staff? Drop to the cheap disaster management plan? Postpone the upgrade of the creaky boilers?

  • by KiloByte (825081) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:08AM (#44991101)

    Isn't that what the Free Markets are about? The most economically efficient survive and the least economically efficient do not?

    Slap quite clean but unpopular energy with MASSIVE regulations, force them to clean up every single bit of pollution, etc. On the other hand, let the dirty variant pollute all they want, literally dumping everything into the air. Because, you see, campaign donations are not bribes but wisely taking part in the political process, right?

  • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:10AM (#44991127)
    My reaction was, really? I haven't seen my electric bill go down by half...
  • by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:11AM (#44991145) Homepage Journal

    Isn't that what the Free Markets are about? The most economically efficient survive and the least economically efficient do not?

    No.

    Corporations are pictures of inefficiency. Ask any employee of one.

    You see financial success and assume (for no reason) that that success must be due to a superior product or value.

    In America, gaming the system and cheating is now considered S.O.P. for a business....that's **NOT** 'just the free market working'....it's immoral and criminal and we let them get away with it b/c of people like you who look only at the superficial appearance and just assume from there.

    Stop labeling all financial gain as 'just the free market' and start looking at what is really happening.

    The 'free market' is a concept independent of any ONE economic theory...it's a fundamental aspect of human behavior in **all contexts**...even in Soviet Russia they had a booming black market.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:16AM (#44991177)
    Clean is washing powder, not nuclear. That stupid propaganda has failed and nuclear would probably have a better reputation if it had never been tried since the person on the street is very much aware that nuclear has cleanup costs too.
    The US nuclear industry committed suicide anyway by lobbying against development of smaller reactors and thorium. At this point nobody is going to put up the capital for the huge 1970s dinosaurs that are their preferred option.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:18AM (#44991205)

    It's someone who disagrees with the parent poster, and therefore needs to be called names.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:20AM (#44991227) Journal

    Who's it going to be this time?

    Gas. You're already subsidizing gas in that the government is providing a free license to trash the place with fracking and will eventually (i.e. you eventually) have to pay for the cleanup. They get to keep the profit.

    The invisible hand: grabbing you by the balls since 1764.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:21AM (#44991241)

    And you probably won't...the utility companies will come up with some justification for not passing the savings along to consumers.

  • by ultranova (717540) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:27AM (#44991301)

    is the minds of the Slashdot nuke fanbois blowing a gasket.

    Not at all. Of course you can produce energy cheaper by burning fossil fuels than with nuclear, because fossil fuel plants are allowed to externalize most of the costs of energy production, such as pollution. Once these externalities - such as turning every coastal city into a New Orleans - is taken into account, nuclear power is cheapest and safest.

  • by jdev (227251) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:33AM (#44991343)

    The long run problem here is that natural gas prices are highly volatile. Prices are super cheap right now because of a big increase in supply while demand doesn't change much and storage costs are big. Prices may stay low for a few years, but nobody knows what will happen later. If we ramp up electricity production through natural gas though, that will increase demand driving up prices again. When natural gas prices go back up, that could be rough on consumers.

    Here's a graph highlighting gas prices over the past 40 years [ourfiniteworld.com].

  • by beamin (23709) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:38AM (#44991379)

    Until, of course, you have a situation like Fukushima.

    Decentralized renewables are cheapest and safest, when all risks and external costs are factored in.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:44AM (#44991423) Homepage
    nuclear and other power plants should not be allowed construction without adequate consideration of cleanup cost. as it stands, superfund is a joke considering an insolvent or nonexistant subsidiary deprecated after the working lifespan of a reactor just lets the government foot the cleanup bill under the guise that its insolvent or nonexistent.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superfund [wikipedia.org]
    in TFA the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant is arguably at the end of its useable lifespan (30-40 years.) Coincidentally so is the Ginna plant. for those keeping track of the joke that is Nuclear Regulation in america, both have been given a 30 year extension despite having gone from megawatt to gigawatt in their installed versus actual capacity. the reactor cleanup cost would likely go to Entergy...who would either declare bankruptcy or drag the government and mohawk energy (a prior owner) into court over potentially responsible party definition as that would determine who has to clean things up. if Mohawk were to declare themselves insolvent, or the PRP could not be identified in court, the entire site would become an orphan share. that means no one has to clean it up but the taxpayer out of the congressional general fund. its lemon socialism.

    Entergy likely understands the cost to litigate its way out of a superfund cleanup is way cheaper than actually cleaning a nuclear site and once its absolved of cleanup, it can focus on investing in the gas fracturing movement, which is likely vastly more lucrative than maintaining 40 year old nuclear sites.
  • by Jawnn (445279) on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:51AM (#44991483)
    ...that all the "clean, safe, and cheap" promises were just so much bullshit? And that the hustle still continues now that it's time to pay for cleaning up the mess they made? I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 30, 2013 @08:55AM (#44991507)

    Because fracking fluid and methane in your drinking water is so much healthier?

  • by UnknownSoldier (67820) on Monday September 30, 2013 @09:08AM (#44991643)

    There is an old joke: The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.

  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Monday September 30, 2013 @09:18AM (#44991713)

    government is providing a free license to trash the place with fracking

    Smith's 'invisible hand' has no relation to government shielding favored businesses from the costs of their process. If you are going to blame some for grabbing you by the balls, please take a look down and see whose hand it is.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Monday September 30, 2013 @09:28AM (#44991787) Journal

    mith's 'invisible hand' has no relation to government shielding favored businesses from the costs of their process.

    Depends on how you define "cost". It doesn't cost you anything to dump whatever crap you want into the air and water unless government regulation imposes a cost on you. Your results may cause others to incur costs. The thing is the invisible hand of the free market doesn't actually work well in this situation because it's a situation where people can save money by making others incur costs indirectly.

  • Re:So... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mspohr (589790) on Monday September 30, 2013 @09:35AM (#44991841)

    The "invisible hand" includes all of the factors which influence decisions. This includes both private profit motives as well as government regulations.
    So in the case of fracking, the fact that the government has created a favorable legal environment (loose regulations, shielding from liability, tax incentives, etc.) all factor into the decision by the private sector to invest in this profitable activity. The fact that the government is doing a poor job of regulation (exemption from clean water laws, for example) helps push the decision to drill and frack.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by green is the enemy (3021751) on Monday September 30, 2013 @09:38AM (#44991865)
    Letting a short-term downturn in natural gas prices ruin other established energy producers just strikes me as unwise. Reliable energy infrastructure, like nuclear power, takes decades to build up. Natural gas prices are volatile. It may be cheap now, and may easily double or quadruple again in the near future for unforeseen reasons. Nuclear power is not volatile like this.
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday September 30, 2013 @09:57AM (#44992095)

    What exactly do you suggest they do?

    Stop billing themselves as "clean" until they figure out what to do with their hoarded mess.

  • by NatasRevol (731260) on Monday September 30, 2013 @10:14AM (#44992291) Journal

    Considering we don't yet know all the costs of clean up and impact for Chernobyl OR Fukushima, I'm not sure how you can state that nuclear is the cheapest.

    Like how long until Japan can fish in the seas to the east of them?

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