I worked at the Byron nuke plant for 29 years. The truth is, this plant, and others like it, have just about out lived their life expectancy. It's going to close someday whether we like it or not. It has been modified, repaired, equipment replaced and systems up-dated. There is only so much you can do to preserve it's existence and overall health. Like anything man made, it will have an end. The bean counters for Exelon figure cost verses income. Once the plant becomes more expense than profit, it will probably be shut down. Technology has come along way since these old dinosaurs were built, and with the cost of nuclear power, they won't survive. The Zion Nuclear Plant was closed many years ago because of this reason. It cost more to operate than it could make on paper. The real issue I see, is the cost of the spent nuclear fuel that is stored on site. Closing these sites does not get rid of that problem and the expense. These sites will still require security, maintenance, insurance, taxes, and more, to a plant that has no income. These cost will be there for many, many years, until the fuel finds a new home somewhere else. They told us, spent nuclear fuel has a 2500 year, half life. No one else wants the spent fuel. That's why it's stored on site. Who will pay for this clean up is a good guess, but it will probably come down to the consumers and tax payers, as usual. Don't get me wrong, Exelon is a very good company. They care much about the safety of these plants and the public. Because of government requirements, lack of government subsidies to the nuclear industry, high taxes, high insurance cost and high everything else, the nuclear industry has just about died. Just my opinion.
I was only a Mechanical Maintenance employee. During plant meetings we were invited to, it was mentioned how new reactors could used processed, spent fuel. I don't remember many of the details. That would be a great idea and I wish it was done. Who knows if it will ever happen. It's the overall cost of building anything nuclear that scares off investors. Wind generation has become a big thing all over. Right close to where I live in Illinois, there are many of these monsters sticking up, spinning in the wind, producing electric power. There was just an article in the local newspaper that stated Exelon is considering closing several of their nukes. Byron, Quad Cities, Dresden, LaSalle, Clinton and Braidwood may all be shut down, in the near future, because of their operational cost verses income. It's all about the bottom line, profits. Exelon stock was once priced at around the $90.00 mark back in 2007 to 2008. Now they are in the $32.00 range. That's a huge loss to Exelon, considering the amount of shares of stock there are.
I am an I&C tech at the R.E. Ginna plant (been there since 1988) don't sell yourself short, "only mechanical maintenance" you have years of experience as a radiation worker, keeping the public safe, providing clean reliable electricity, which others lack. In my opinion the problem is the time frame of return on investment, with a conventional nuclear power plant takes longer than the CEO's tenure to make a profit, the bean counters want money now, not in a decade, no matter the long term benefits. They also have a problem putting a price on reliability and environmental stewardship. The general public has no idea of the hoops we go through to ensure the safe operation of these plants, the INPO and NRC requirements and the pride we take in our work..
Thanks for the compliment, Michael. I guess I did have quite a vast level of nuke knowledge when I look back and really think about it. All the annual testing, the mandatory training, plus the training on valves, valve operators, pumps of all kinds, crane operating, welding, building maintenance and more. I retired being the lead walk down person for MMD. Our department did take pride in what we accomplished. We had a great shop with much nuclear experience. The real problem with at Byron was upper management. Most of them originated from the operating department. Some were good, but most were geared to much toward operations instead of maintenance. They always seemed to believe operating a plant was more important than maintaining it, to a degree. I always thought, if it breaks, you aren't going to run it. They would defer many maintenance items during an outage, just to get the outage finished per the schedule. Bonuses! I agree with what you said about the time it takes to return an investment in the nuclear world. I think todays investors what a return on their investment much faster than a decade. I also believe many people who live within a 50 mile radius of any nuclear plant, think more about it now, because of what happened to the Fukushima plant in Japan. I had many friends and family calling me when that disaster happened. They were very concerned and afraid. Fukushima didn't help with the negative feelings many people have towards nuclear power.