First Energy To Close Nuclear Plants

FirstEnergy says it is getting out of the nuclear power business within the next three years. The company's power plant subsidiaries FirstEnergy Solutions and the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. late Wednesday informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and regional grid manager PJM Interconnection that it will close its nuclear power plants within three years.  The companies plan to close the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Toledo in 2020, and both the Perry nuclear plant in Lake County as well as the two-reactor Beaver Valley nuclear plant near Pittsburgh in 2021.

The companies made no mention of filing for bankruptcy.  Closing the nuclear plants years from today does nothing to alleviate the heavy debt FirstEnergy Solutions has amassed -- more than $2.8 billion to creditors and another $1.7 billion to the parent company FirstEnergy Corp.  FirstEnergy Solutions has a $100 million debt payment due in the first week of April.

The companies are still looking for a way to avoid an immediate bankruptcy if it can secure extra funding for its nuclear plants from Ohio and Pennsylvania. So far, lawmakers have ignored FirstEnergy's pleas for special nuclear subsidies.

With a total generating capacity of more than 4,000 megawatts, the three power plants in 2017 generated about two-thirds of the electricity that the companies produced. They also contributed more than $540 million in local taxes and provided jobs for about 2,300 people.

In 2016 the company began circulating a pamphlet among Ohio lawmakers proposing its nuclear plants get extra funding from customers -- $300 million extra annually -- because they don't produce any carbon dioxide. The "zero emission credits" were modeled on similar programs in Illinois and New York for certain nuclear plants.

Legislation creating the "ZECs" for FirstEnergy's plants has languished in House and Senate committees for more than a year. And Jones has said he thought bankruptcy would be unavoidable, though he has stressed such a decision would be up to FirstEnergy Solutions, and not the parent company.  (, 3/28/2018)