Last updated: June 10. 2014 2:03PM - 1544 Views
By Jon O’Connell joconnell@civitasmedia.com

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PPL is spinning off its power generation assets in a merger with the international Riverstone Holdings LLC, a move geared toward making the two electricity providers more competitive.

Among more than a dozen other power plants that run on coal, gas and hydro power, PPL operates the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, a nuclear power plant, in Berwick, PPL said in a news release Tuesday.

Service to customers will not change, the news release says, and the new combined power generation capacity will exceed 15,000 megawatts. The merged companies now go by the name Talen Energy.

“Talen Energy will be a very significant player in the U.S. competitive generation market, bringing together the best of two robust businesses with a very strong presence in the PJM (mid-Atlantic) region,” William H. Spence, PPL’s CEO said, “Talen Energy will have significant scale, a very competitive cost structure and the financial agility to pursue growth opportunities.”

Following the merger’s closing, Spence said parent company PPL Corp. will focus on bolstering its utilities divisions.

PPL provides electric utility service to about 1.4 million customers in Central and Eastern Pennsylvania.

Updated 12:30 p.m.

Numerous energy and utility agencies, both state and federal need to green-light the merger before the deal is struck.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and — because PPL has the Berwick nuclear plant — the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) also needs to approve the merger.

First and foremost, the NRC verifies the new operator has the cash flow needed to keep a nuclear plant up and running.

The NRC also looks to be sure the new operator has a plan for eventually decommissioning the nuclear reactors when it is necessary, and they have the finances to do it.

The Berwick plant’s Reactor No. 2 currently is under close scrutiny by the NRC for exceeding its limit of unplanned shutdowns, NRC regional spokesman Neil Sheehan said.

The plant has two reactors that were built in the 1980s. Unit 1 has been operating without incident; however, Unit 2 has experienced several unplanned shutdowns over the last couple years that have required heightened NRC attention.

Close NRC scrutiny will continue regardless of the merger, but it’s too soon to tell if the issues at the Berwick plant will hamper the deal’s closing, Sheehan said.

“Our increased oversight is not going to change regardless of the owner,” Sheehan said. “We look at the performance of the plant, (not) the name of the owner on the top of the license.”

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