By Michael Mariotte

Another one bites the dust: New York’s Fukushima-clone Fitzpatrick reactor will close permanently next year.

In mid-September, I wrote a piece delving into prognostication–always a dangerous endeavor–identifying (with tongue slightly in cheek) the nation’s most troubled nuclear reactors and dividing them into two piles: pawn or toast. Toast was those reactors most likely to shut down; pawn indicated that while on the precipice, the utilities would go to great lengths to avoid shutting them down.

Only six weeks or so later, enough has happened to revisit that list and see how we’ve done.

I wrote then that Entergy’s Fitzpatrick reactor was toast. Yesterday, Entergy announced that Fitzpatrick will close permanently at the end of its current fuel cycle–sometime toward the end of next year. Pretty good prediction, though I wrote that Entergy wouldn’t make the announcement until December. As it turns out, the reactor is losing so much money that Entergy couldn’t wait to end its misery.

And I wrote that Pilgrim, which Entergy announced last month will close by 2019, and probably in 2017 or even earlier, was a pawn. Oops. But I also wrote, “Entergy probably wouldn’t survive as a company if it had to close Pilgrim, Fitzpatrick and Indian Point, so it will fight mightily to keep at least two of those sites open. Of course, who cares if Entergy survives?” Entergy, of course, cares whether Entergy survives, and it’s now placing all of its bets on keeping Indian Point open despite a growing grassroots campaign against it and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s insistence that it close.

The alternative for Entergy is to get out of the Northeast entirely and concentrate on its southern presence, which consists of badly-maintained and operated reactors like Arkansas One, which is at the very bottom of the NRC’s worst reactors list. Recognizing that its entree into the Northeast has been an abject failure would be a good move for Entergy, whose roots are in the South anyway: Entergy was born from Middle South Utilities, which operated in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas; its expansion came by buying up obsolete reactors, like Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee, at a discount, and running them as cheaply as possible for as long as possible.

Despite the fact that Indian Point is, for now, a cash cow for Entergy, the handwriting is on the wall. A smart company would be trying to figure out what kind of concessions it could get from the state to go ahead and close Indian Point. Given how badly Gov. Cuomo wants it shut, those concessions could be substantial. And making some kind of deal now would allow Entergy to at least get something out of its New York adventure, and return to its base with something in its pocket.

Gov. Cuomo has said that his opposition to Indian Point doesn’t extend to Fitzpatrick, and has made some crocodile tears statements that Entergy shouldn’t close that reactor and lay off all those people. The reality however is that Entergy has been looking for a deal …read more

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