This recent interview on Platts Energy Week makes it clear that low natural gas prices in North America are partially responsible for pushing nuclear power plants off of the grid.
Natural gas prices in the US are about 1/3 of global average prices; in any other commodity market, that would be a clear indication of a practice known as “dumping”. That practice is often done with the underlying motive of eliminating competition in preparation for later price increases. Since the multi-year US natural gas glut has been assisted by capital injections from multinational oil and gas companies, it seems obvious to me that keeping prices low in North America is part of the petroleum industry’s long term growth strategy.
It is my contention that even small nuclear plants can compete against natural gas when gas is priced at a level that is profitable for the supplier. When some of the suppliers in the market use their immense cash flows from selling oil to drill enough gas wells to keep its price below the actual cost of production, that seems to indicate that there are other strategies in play.
Feel free to disagree and challenge my logic. It will be an interesting conversation.
Full disclosure: Since I have a day job on a design team for a small modular reactor, I have a strong vested interest when a financial analyst implies that 560 (Kewaunee) or 620 (Vermont Yankee) MWe nuclear power plants are too small to effectively compete. The plants my employer is designing will produce 360 MWe in a standard two-unit configuration. The thoughts and opinions I express on the Internet is my own and do not necessarily reflect the position of my employer.