FirstEnergy details timeline for planned nuclear closures

FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), a competitive generation subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., on April 25 said that it has filed a certification letter with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) formally notifying the Commission of its decision to permanently deactivate nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania over the next three years, citing "severe economic challenges."

The company also provided further details on the specific timing of the planned closures.

FES said that the letter affirms the company's March 28, 2018, notification to PJM Interconnection, as well as its initial, informal notification to the NRC. The plant closures are subject to review by PJM for reliability impacts, if any. In the interim, the plants will continue normal operations, FES noted.

"We are actively seeking policy solutions at the state and federal level as an alternative to retiring these plants, which we believe still have a crucial role to play in the reliability and resilience of our regional grid," said Don Moul, president of FES Generation Companies and chief nuclear officer.

FES on March 29 asked Energy Secretary Rick Perry to issue an emergency order directing PJM to immediately begin negotiations to secure the long-term capacity of certain nuclear and coal-fired plants in the region and to compensate their owners "for the full benefits they provide to energy markets and the public at large, including fuel security and diversity."

The American Public Power Association recently urging the Department of Energy to reject the FES request.

"As early as mid-2019, we will begin facing decisions on each of these plants as to whether to refuel them or shut them down. Absent legislative or regulatory relief, we cannot continue to operate the plants on their current uneconomic basis," Moul said.

FES also noted that its subsidiaries and FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company on March 31, 2018, filed petitions under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code in order to facilitate an orderly financial restructuring. The case is proceeding in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, in Akron.

The retirement schedule of the nuclear plants is as follows:

  • Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, Oak Harbor, Ohio, by May 31, 2020
  • Beaver Valley Power Station Unit No. 1, Shippingport, Pa., by May 31, 2021
  • Perry Nuclear Power Plant, Perry, Ohio, by May 31, 2021
  • Beaver Valley Power Station Unit No. 2, Shippingport, Pa., by October 31, 2021

The closure of the plants will affect about 2,300 plant employees.

The total capacity of the nuclear plants to be deactivated is 4,048 megawatts. In 2017, the nuclear units contributed approximately 65 percent of the electricity produced by the FES generating fleet. The two nuclear plants in Ohio represent 14 percent of the state's overall generation capacity; the Beaver Valley units represent 7 percent of Pennsylvania's overall generation capacity.