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Kewaunee Nuclear Plant Decommissioned

The Kewaunee Power Station, a nuclear plant in Kewaunee County, will close next year and leave over 600 people without a job, the grid with less power and Kewaunee with a former nuclear site.

The plant produced about 5 million megawatt hours a year – enough to power almost 200,000 homes. It served Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) and Alliant Energy.

“It will certainly affect the grid,” said Charlie Severance, general manager of wholesale electric and renewable energy at WPS. “That was a lot of energy emanating out of one particular point.”

Severance said the area’s energy needs will be met without the plant and doesn’t expect a shortage because of the closure. WPS is buying the Fox Energy Center in Kaukauna to make up for the lost power.

The Kewaunee Power Station is owned by Dominion, a company based in Richmond, Va. that hoped to buy a fleet of nuclear plants in the Midwest when the price of natural gas was high.

Since the company bought the nuclear facility in 2005, the price of natural gas has plummeted and displaced energy needs from coal and nuclear.

“The pricing for electricity was on the upswing [in 2005],” said Rick Zuercher, manager of nuclear public affairs at Dominion. “It was more expensive, and we were expecting that the power demand, the price demand, would be the same or better than it turned out to be.”

Dominion was never able to purchase more plants, and the price to run just one plant in an area was too high to justify.

“If you have a nearby nuclear station, pre-existing nuclear station, you can share jobs and departments, you can share tasks, instead of having a separate group at one station,” Zuercher said. “You can spread the cost of a greater number of megawatts.”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires nuclear companies to fully decommission plants within 60 years of closing them. Dominion will close up shop by stopping production, taking fuel out of the reactors and storing it safely. Zuercher said the company will keep some staff and security at the plant.

The plant must be returned to greenfield status, or the condition the land was in before the facility as built.