Electric power prices stay low as nuclear units refuel

Two more nuclear units have gone offline during the fall refueling season — the Exelon Byron 2 facility in Illinois and the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) Cooper plant in Nebraska, according to GenerationHub.

Based on Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) data, it appears that nine of the nation’s 100 nuclear units are currently not generating power. Most nuclear units in the United States like to shut down every 18 months to refuel and do needed maintenance.

“We are going through a refueling and maintenance outage at Cooper that began Saturday night,” an NPPD spokesperson said Sept. 29. “It is anticipated that the outage will be about 30 days.

“Main maintenance work will be an inspection and cleaning of the torus pressure suppression pool and replacement of the “B” reactor recirculation motor and pump impeller, a unit that has been in operation for 40 years,” the NPPD spokesperson went on to say.

NPPD’s Cooper plant in Brownville, Neb., was commissioned in the 1970s. It is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) that can generate roughly 800 MW. In 2013, NPPD decided not to invest in expanding the nuclear power plant’s generating capacity.

Exelon said Sept. 29 that Byron Unit 2 is offline after 516 consecutive days of operation. Operators at Byron 2 took the facility offline this morning for scheduled refueling and maintenance activities after an 18-month non-stop run, Exelon said in a statement.

More than 1,500 additional workers will join the 850 permanent Byron Station employees for work during the outage, Exelon said.

Byron’s Unit 1 will continue to supply carbon-free electricity to Exelon customers in Northern Illinois and other areas during the outage, the company said. Byron Generating Station is in Ogle County, Ill., about 25 miles southwest of Rockford.

Both Byron units are PWRs commissioned in the 1980s. Both can generate more than 1,100 MW.

Spot power prices come in below $50/MWh

Meanwhile the mild fall weather appears to be keeping spot power prices modest.

None of the 10 regions tracked by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed a spot power price above $50/MWh on Sept. 29.

Southern California had the highest reported spot power price at $48.25/MWh.

Meanwhile, the next-month delivery price of natural gas continues to linger below $4/mmBtu with 3.98/mmBtu being the Nymex price posted Sept. 29.

Both New York City and the Mid-Atlantic recorded regional spot natural gas prices below $2/mmBtu. The Mid-Atlantic spot gas price was $1.62/mmBtu.

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