Exelon, which owns the Ginna nuclear power plant, has agreed to buy the FitzPatrick plant in Oswego for $110 million. That means that Exelon will own all three of Upstate New York's nuclear power generators. And all three are struggling.
In recent years, each of the plants has been flagged by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission for non-critical mechanical or safety violations. Each has also been losing money, though the dual-reactor Nine Mile Point in Oswego has reportedly fared better than Ginna and FitzPatrick.
The financial losses are owed to fracking and New York's competitive electricity market. Fracking has generated a glut of inexpensive fuel for the state's natural gas-fired power plants, and new plants have been coming online. Since the natural gas plants can produce lots of power cheaply, they drive down the prices that other generators can get for their electricity. Upstate's nuclear plants haven't been able to charge enough to cover operating costs, let alone turn a profit.
The state approved a clean energy standard last week that includes a multi-year bailout for nuclear plants; Exelon will now be the chief beneficiary. The standard requires the state's investor-owned utilities, including Rochester Gas and Electric, to purchase "zero emissions credits." The plants produce very large quantities of emissions-free energy, and will be an important power source as the state transitions to renewables, officials say. The whole idea of the credits is to make sure that the generators stay up and running by providing compensation beyond what the plants can make by selling their power to the grid.
Anti-nuclear power activists blast the plan. They say that propping up the plants, which they see as unsafe, could cost state utility customers as much as $8 billion over the next 12 years.