The pending closure of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station is the latest in a string of planned plant retirements that many industry analysts say forecast a shrinking role for nuclear in the nation’s energy mix.
Vermont Yankee, which began operating in 1972, is the fifth reactor in the country to be scheduled for closure over the past year, dealing another blow to industry hopes of a nuclear renaissance. While four new reactors are scheduled to come online over the next several years, analysts expect more nuclear plants to shut down, unable to compete economically with natural gas and, increasingly, renewable sources such as wind and solar.
“The economic pressures that have made Vermont Yankee not worth maintaining for the company are affecting all merchant nuclear plants,” said Ezra Hausman, vice president at Synapse Energy Economics Inc., a research and consulting firm in Cambridge. “Any company that has its own money on the line is taking a hard look at any investments” in nuclear power.
Entergy Corp., the Louisiana company that owns Vermont Yankee, said on Tuesday that it would shut down the 41-year-old plant next year because of increased operating costs and falling profits. As with other closed or closing nuclear plants, Vermont Yankee fell victim to a combination of age, low natural gas prices, and declining demand for electricity, analysts said.
Nuclear power today accounts for about 20 percent of the US electricity supply, and 31 percent of New England’s. As recently as five years ago, when crude oil prices were soaring to record highs and new laws and regulations aimed at slowing climate change seemed imminent, some analysts and industry officials predicted a comeback for emission-free nuclear power.
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