Lower natural gas prices force closure of US nuclear power station

One of Wisconsin's three nuclear reactors would be shut next year after Dominion Resources Inc said it was not able to find a buyer for the Kewaunee Power Station.

According to the Virginia-based company, the low price of natural gas, which set prices for the Midwest wholesale power market, was a key factor in the decision. The company's agreements for sale of power generated by Kewaunee to two Wisconsin utilities expires next year, and those utilities did not want to keep buying it.

The shutdown would be the first for a reactor in the country since the late 1990s, when plants in Connecticut and the Zion nuclear plant -- just across the Illinois line from Kenosha County -- were shuttered.

Late last year, Alliant Energy Corp, Madison, said it called off negotiations with Dominion about a power purchase deal. The remainder of the power was sold to Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corp.

"This was an extremely difficult decision, especially in light of how well the station is running and the dedication of the employees," said Thomas Farrell II, Dominion's chairman and chief executive, in a statement.

"This decision was based purely on economics. Dominion was not able to move forward with our plan to grow our nuclear fleet in the Midwest to take advantage of economies of scale."