Solid Nuclear Performance Bolsters Exelon Earnings, Uprates Under Scrutiny

Exelon’s 2011 earnings met the company's expectations, executives said, thanks in part to strong performance from its fleet of 17 reactors.

In a conference call Wednesday, chairman John W. Rowe said the firm’s nuclear operations achieved a capacity factor of 93.3 percent for the year – the ninth in a row that factor has been above 93 percent. The company reported it completed five scheduled refueling outages in the last quarter of 2011, with 11 non-refueling outage days during that period at Exelon-operated plants.

Exelon is in the process of merging with Constellation Energy, and Rowe said the deal remains on track to be completed in the first quarter. The company expects the merger to close soon after it rounds up final approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and state agencies.

Exelon has been working to increase the power at a number of its reactors. In a question and answer session, an analyst asked how lower natural gas prices would affect the economics of uprate projects in the next few years. Rowe said that, through this year and into the next, the company will reassess capital programs including uprates scheduled for 2015 and beyond. CEO Christopher M. Crane said the company will closely watch the most expensive extended power uprates, considered for the LaSalle, Peach Bottom and Limerick plants. Electricity prices are still at levels needed to make those uprates economical, he said, but the company retains the option to stop one or more of the projects if market conditions compel it.

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