Entergy to close Plymouth’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station
October 15, 2015
Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station will be closed no later than June 2019, said operators on Tuesday, October 13th. Pilgrim is the last nuclear power plant in Massachusetts and the announcement comes one month after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission labeled the plant as one of the nation’s three least-safe reactors citing a timeline of mishaps at the plant. While opponents of the plant cheered the news, the shuttering of the plant will now pose serious questions to Massachusetts and New England, a region that already suffers some of the highest energy costs in the country.
Pilgrim is a 43 year-old plant that has been owned and operated by Entergy Corp. since 1999. Bill Mohl, President of Entergy Wholesale Commodities headquartered in New York, who oversees most of Entergy’s nuclear power plants said at a press conference on Tuesday that closing the plant “was an agonizing decision and an extremely tough call.” He cited that the plant was “simply no longer financially viable.” Entergy expects that the plant will continue to lose around $40 million a year until it closes which could be as early as 2017 if the plant does not refuel. Entergy will decide next year whether it chooses to refuel the Pilgrim plant.
Pilgrim supplies about 5% of the region’s energy, powering roughly 600,000 homes and businesses a year. The plant has been doing this for over four decades and accounts for about 84% of Massachusetts’ non-carbon-emitting energy. Besides the obvious energy reliance that the region has on the plant, Pilgrim annually provides more than $9 million a year to Plymouth, MA not including the tens of millions of dollars in additional financial benefits to the region. Mohl announced that the plant’s 633 employees will remain on payroll until the closure of the plant.
Governor Charlie Baker came out against the shutdown. Commenting on the plant’s closure, he said this “poses a potential energy shortage” for Massachusetts and New England. While calling for the development of more “clean, reliable, affordable” energy sources for that state he also commented in his press release that his administration will work closely with Pilgrim’s management team, Entergy, and federal regulators during this process.
Entergy still plans on meeting its commitments to ISO New England but will have to find another power source to replace the energy it has pledged. After the plant closure however, the remaining radioactive waste will have to remain at the Pilgrim until the federal government finds a suitable location for the spent fuel. Politicians however have been divided for decades on where to store the waste permanently.
Pilgrim’s closing will now encourage other energy firms to figure out ways to bring power up to the region. Kinder Morgan has proposed to bring 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas per day with its Northeast Energy Direct project. The energy giant plans to use existing utility infrastructure to achieve this while building some new corridors in upstate New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. While the projected $5 billion plan is set to be complete in 2018, it has met fierce opposition in western Massachusetts. With this project, Kinder Morgan also hopes to sell its pipeline capacity to electricity generators. Other projects that may help assuage the power shortage in the region are Eversource’s Northern Pass project, which annually promises 1,000 megawatts to the region, and Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market and Atlantic Bridge, which promises 500 million cubic feet of gas per day. Regardless of how energy firms respond to Pilgrim’s closure, the earliest completion of any of these projects is in 2016.
Pilgrim’s closing comes at a time when the prices of energy commodities such as fuel and natural gas has plummeted. Mohl cited the harsh reality of the glut in commodities along with the lack of federal and regional incentives for nuclear power plants as other reasons why Entergy chose to close the plant. Pilgrim’s workers are lobbying to keep the plant open. Craig Pinkham, the acting president of the Utility Workers of America Local 369, said in response to the closing that both Entergy and government officials should not walk away from such a valuable resource in the region. He has pledged that Pilgrim workers would like to work with both Entergy and Massachusetts’ government officials on a way to keep the plant operational, not accepting the Pilgrim’s closure as an inevitable event.
Whatever the case, pulling the plug on Pilgrim creates deep concern for a region that already struggles with some of the highest energy costs in the nation.
Brought to you by the EarlyBird Power Market Research Team.