The amount of nuclear plant capacity that has been eitherpermanently shut down or has been slated for closure in the Midwestand Northeast will create a potential new market of up to 1.55 Tcfper year for natural gas in those two regions, according to anupdated Washington International Energy Group (WIEG) study due tobe released Wednesday.

The results of the study provide a much-needed shot in the armto the pipeline industry that is constructing multiple new projectsinto the two areas to import Canadian gas, and in fact could signalthat the current expansions underway may be insufficient to meetthe added gas demands likely to be created by the nuclear plantshutdowns, said WIEG President Roger Gale.

An estimated 2,100 of MW equivalent of nuclear capacity isbeing shut down or will be closed in the Midwest, while more thantriple that – 6,700 MWe – either has been closed or is scheduledfor shutdown in the Northeast market and in Canada, he estimated.The bulk of the nuclear capacity likely to be permanently shut downis owned by Northeast Utilities and Commonwealth Edison, Gale said.The study is an update of the one commissioned last year by theINGAA Foundation.

Since the 1997 study, Gale reports six additional nuclearfacilities either have been permanently closed or have been slatedfor shutdown in the United States, while Ontario Hydro has closedseven nuclear units at two sites in Canada. “It is unclear whetherthese will be reopened,” he said. Of the nuclear capacity stillremaining, he estimated about another 33,700 MWe is vulnerable toclosure. This, when combined with the nuclear capacity alreadyslated for shutdown, puts a total nuclear capacity of 42,500 MWe injeopardy in the United States and Canada. This represents 37% oftotal nuclear capacity in both countries.

In the Northeast alone (New England, New York and theMid-Atlantic states), the amount of vulnerable capacity has jumpedfrom 14,000 MWe in 1997 to about 16,400 MWe this year. “It is notunlikely that all nuclear plants in New England will be shut downin the next few years,” Gale said.

In the Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, theDakotas and Nebraska), he reports vulnerable nuclear capacity hasrisen from 8,900 MWe last year to nearly 11,000 MWe in 1998, up23%. For the rest of the nation, he estimates about 15,100 MWe ofnuclear capacity is in jeopardy of closure, which is down from18,250 MWe in the 1997 study..

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