Four Illinois nuclear power plants have made a national list of reactors that are likely to be retired early. Clinton, Dresden, LaSalle, and Quad Cities are among 38 nuclear plants nationally with risk factors for early retirement -- with Clinton singled out as among the 12 at greatest risk -- according to researcher Mark Cooper, an economic analyst at the Vermont Law School. Cooper says as the nuclear plants age, they can’t match the price of electricity generated by natural gas, coal, wind and solar.
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“While nuclear has always claimed low fuel costs, it turns out that their other costs – which have to be paid out of what’s left after you get the market-clearing price – are actually much higher,” he said. And while it’s possible the price of natural gas will go up, Cooper says analysts don’t expect it, and owners of nuclear power plants would be making a gamble if they sustained money-losing operations for a decade hoping not only to see natural gas (or other fuels) go up in price, but also that they would go up by enough to make nuclear generation cheaper by enough to warrant all the money-losing until that happens. Cooper says he isn’t predicting when these plants will close, just that they’ll become uneconomical earlier than expected, and policymakers should not be caught by surprise. The Nuclear Energy Institute, representing plant owners, said that the utilities’ decisions on the viability of individual nuclear power plants are based on business circumstances unique to those facilities.