May is Kewaunee Closes

i missed the Dominion Resources shareholder meeting this year after having attended faithfully every year for perhaps half a dozen.  Perhaps CEO Tom Farrell missed my annoying questions about how the utility which i own two shares of continues to waste money on plans for another reactor at North Anna, which will likely never be built.

I was not able to be there to gloat over the fact that Dominion was forced this month to close the Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin. i would be gloating for as the NY Times wrote about this plants closure:

The decision was viewed as an early sign that the wave of retirements of old generating stations across the Midwest is now stretching from the coal industry into nuclear power, driven by slack demand for energy and the low price of natural gas.

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Also in this NYT article Dominion’s Farrell said of the closure of the plant.

“This decision was based purely on economics.”

It will not surprise people who watch nuclear power closely to hear that this is not what Dominion often says about how they make decisions.  As with the North Anna 3 project we often hear that we need “a mix of fuels”.  This is what the PR people have cooked up to rationalize the poor economics of this plant, we are not doing it to make money for the company, we are doing it because it is important to have a diversified portfolio of energy types.  Using this pathetic logic, Dominion would be opening day care centers where they were harnessing kids on treadmills.

No, the real reasons are always they same.  They build reactors for the money, but the reason they can not be direct about it, is because were it public where the money was coming from, there would be additional problems.  For example, the utilities in Georgia and Florida are able to charge their customers now for reactors they are building or even thinking about building.

Then there are tricks like the “stranded assets” gambit, where the utility says “We built these reactors thinking we were a monopoly, and now that you are changing the rules and we are not a monopoly, we should get profit from these poor investments as if the market did not exist.”  As crazy as this sounds, it has resulted in hundreds of billions being transferred from rate payers to utilities.

How Dominion’s plan to make money on North Anna 3 is not completely clear.  But rest assured it is not because they think there will be a carbon tax in the US (this was used as a justification for a while) and not because they believe they need to keep all options open (otherwise they would be more serious about renewables).  Dominion is not the largest contributor to political campaigns in the state of Virginia because it feels candidates dont have enough money to run their campaigns.  The reason is that they have a clever plan to bilk customers (and sometimes the state) for money and they are confident that they can pull it off.

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