They haven't been running much at all.Found this,
CLINTON, Ill. — Exelon's six nuclear power plants in Illinois have failed to turn a profit
over the last five years, and the 27-year-old plant here is the most vulnerable for closing, a Chicago Tribune analysis has found.
Chicago-based Exelon, parent of Commonwealth Edison, and the nation's largest operator of nuclear power plants, said last month that unless market conditions
improve, it will announce plant closings by the end of this year.
Shutting down nuclear generators would have been unthinkable less than a decade ago. They were once the most profitable form of generated power. But since then, cheap natural gas and a boom in wind power have driven down electricity prices, eroding nuclear power's profits
As recently as mid-2008, competing sources of generation had very high costs relative to nuclear plants, said Travis Miller, director of utilities research at Chicago-based Morningstar. "As those fossil fuel costs came down substantially from those peaks five years ago, nuclear has lost a lot of its cost advantage when you consider the amount of capital investment
The Tribune analyzed hourly power prices that Exelon's reactors in Illinois received over six years and determined the plants haven't made enough money to cover operating and ongoing capital costs since 2008. Among the newspaper's findings:
•Exelon's plant in Clinton, the only one without a second reactor, is in the worst financial shape of the company's Illinois nuclear installations. The plant's power prices plummeted from $42 per megawatt-hour in 2008 to $22 in 2009 and have held below $29 on average each year since. Single-reactor plants like Clinton cost between $45 and $55 per megawatt-hour to operate, according to the NorthBridge Group.
•Exelon's Dresden plant is faring the best of the Illinois plants, but it still isn't profitable. In 2010 and 2011, the plant eked out $33 per megawatt-hour in sales, offset by operating costs ranging between $35 and $40 per megawatt-hour.
•Quad Cities and Byron have been hit the hardest by "negative" price conditions, meaning Exelon paid the operator of the electric grid to take its power. Because nuclear plants operate around the clock, they are continually producing power, and in 2012, the Quad Cities plant was paying the grid operator to take its power 8 percent of the time. In 2010, the Byron plant was paying out 7 percent of the time.
•Clinton's operating costs are the highest per megawatt-hour compared with its sister plants. Clinton, which supplies electricity to 1 million homes, also is vulnerable because it sells electricity to a less lucrative market than its sister plants, one that's flush with cheap electricity generated by wind turbines.
•In 2013, power prices at Clinton fell below zero 1.7 percent of the time. That means Exelon paid to have Clinton's power taken away during those hours. The average cost to Exelon when prices were negative: $53 per megawatt-hour.
Exelon has other tools to help offset losses. Its plants receive "capacity" payments, a reservation fee
paid by the grid operator for power. For all of Exelon's Illinois plants other than Clinton, such payments have boosted revenue by $1 to $8 per megawatt-hour, depending on the year. Clinton's capacity payments last year were just pennies. Exelon can also hedge against a decline in power prices through fixed price contracts.
But it's not enough. Exelon officials, in a conference call last month, detailed some of the company's challenges.
"Despite our best-ever year in generation, some of our nuclear units are unprofitable at this point in the current environment, due to the low prices and the bad energy policy that we're living with," said Chief Executive Chris Crane. "A better tax policy and energy policy would be the clear answer, but if we do not see a path to sustainable profits, we will be obligated to shut units down to avoid the long-term losses."
On Friday, Exelon officials did not dispute the newspaper's findings.
Analysts also have identified Clinton as a likely candidate for closing, along with plants in Byron and Quad Cities. Exelon's other plants are in Dresden, Braidwood and LaSalle. Exelon also operates two nuclear plants in other states. They were not included in the Tribune's analysis.