Wisconsin’s 556-megawatt Kewaunee Nuclear Power Station, located 27 miles southeast of Green Bay, permanently shut down yesterday after its owner, Dominion Resources, Inc., was unable to find a buyer for the 39-year old facility.
According to Dominion, the decision was purely economic; Kewaunee could no longer sell its electricity to utilities that could buy it cheaper from power plants fueled by natural gas.
Kewaunee went into service in 1974, but in 2008 was granted a 20-year license extension that would have permitted it to operate through 2033.
The recent boom in U.S. natural gas extraction, brought on by hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), has led to a market glut and a precipitous drop in prices — from about $12 per million BTU (mBTU) in 2008 to about $2 in 2012.
That Kewaunee is privately owned brings some uncertainty to the eventual decommissioning of the plant, since surcharges levied for such purpose are usually available only to publicly owned facilities.
In all, decommissioning is estimated to cost $900 million, and could take as long as 60 years.