Thursday, November 21, 2013

Court Ends Nuclear Plant Fees For Waste

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that nuclear power plants no longer have to pay $750 million a year in fees to the federal government to cover the long-term cost of storing their nuclear fuel.

That's good news for nuclear power plants, including a couple in Upstate New York that are struggling financially.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ruled that it was unfair for the Department of Energy to collect money for waste disposal when the department had no idea how much that might cost.
"Until the Department (of Energy) comes to some conclusion as to how nuclear wastes are to be deposited permanently, it seems quite unfair to force petitioners to pay fees for a hypothetical option,'' the court ruled."
The existing fee is one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour. At that rate, it appears that the court ruling would save the FitzPatrick nuclear plant in Oswego County about $6 million a year, based on the plant's output for 2012.

FitzPatrick, which is owned by Entergy Corp., is one of a handful of nuclear plants that industry experts say is struggling to make money at a time when cheap natural gas is depressing wholesale electricity prices.

Norris McDonald at James Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant
Dry Cask Spent Fuel Storage at James Fitzpatrick

Entergy officials released a short prepared statement today in response to the court ruling: "We are pleased with the court's decision and agree that, until the Department of Energy restarts its waste disposal program, the Nuclear Waste Fund fee our customers pay should be suspended."

The Ginna plant in Wayne County, another nuke thought to be at financial risk, could potentially save about $4.6 million based on its 2012 output.

Ginna Nuclear Power Plant

Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station in Oswego County, which is stronger financially because it has two reactors, could save an estimated $13.2 million based on its 2012 output. Ginna and Nine Mile Point are owned by Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, a division of Exelon Corp.

The Department of Energy said it is reviewing the court's opinion.  (Syracuse Post Standard, 11/20/2103)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Champlain Hudson Power Express

Hydro-Quebec is a Canadian state-owned utility that has received approval to sell power through the Champlain Hudson Power Express, a 330-mile long cable that will run through Lake Champlain, then follow railroad beds and down the Hudson. It recently requested access to state money to help fund the $2 billion project. The state's pot of money to support renewable energy projects currently comes from a utility bill surcharge on New York residents and cannot be distributed to companies from out of state.

The company that would build the line, Transmission Developers Inc.(TDI), is based in Albany. The project received state approval earlier this year, but still needs the go-ahead from federal regulators and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

TDI has not sought any state funds, company president Donald Jessome said, but he understands why Hydro-Quebec has sought financial incentives for the project.

Hydro-Quebec produces power from 60 hydroelectric, a nuclear and 27 thermal generating stations. New York uses the utility surcharge to support the development of alternative energy, but it is intended for projects by state companies.

Environmentalists and labor unions have hailed the project because it will decrease reliance on fossil fuels while creating hundreds of construction jobs over the four years it will take to construct. It will bring 1,000 megawatts of cheap renewable-energy power to New York, enough to power a million homes.

But the prospect of using state money to finance a foreign company's work on the project has drawn opposition from a local industry group.  (Capital New York, 11/18/2013)