Fed judge dismisses law suit challenging IL nuke bailout

A Federal judge has thrown out a challenge to the State of Illinois’ legislated bailout of its uneconomical nuclear power plants. The court decision has implications for legal challenges still underway in New York and anticipated in other states where legislatures are looking to subsidize the financially failing nuclear power industry to keep more reactors from closing.

The state legislation establishing “Zero Emissions Credits” (ZEC) was passed in Illinois in 2016 to keep Exelon from closing the Quad Cities 1 & 2 and Clinton nuclear power stations. Beyond Nuclear is involved in a joint law suit in New York State to undo a similarly legislated bailout of the Fitzpatrick, Nine Mile Point 1 & 2 and Ginna nuclear power stations.

The industry lobby was able to convince enough IL and NY state legislators that costly and non-competitive nuclear power is a “zero” greenhouse gas emitter worthy of subsidization and guaranteed power contracts backed by indentured consumers. Now nuke lobbyists are hard at work in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and soon everywhere roughly half the nation’s exorbitantly expensive and aging nuclear power plants are economically failing.  

The fact is atomic power is not a “zero” carbon emissions generator. Long-lived nuclear waste and routine radioactive releases aside, yes it is true that nuclear power plants emit less carbon dioxide than a coal fired electricity generation. It is also true that greenhouse gas emissions is even more significantly be reduced by safer and less expensive renewable energy generators like wind and solar power. The studies show that 15% to 25% of nuclear power’s carbon emissions come from construction, maintenance and decommissioning of atomic power plants. The bulk of nuclear power's still significant emissions (an average of 65 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour) come from the uranium fuel chain (mining, milling, enrichment, nuclear fuel fabrication, and carbon-14 emissions from operations and long-term nuclear waste management). As finite resources of high-grade uranium ore are depleted, those carbon emissions increase. Wind turbines can now generate electricity at 3 to 8 gCO2/kwh due to the wind itself, as the Sun, truly being carbon free.

The real zero emissions come from the “negawatt” resources of efficiency and conservation.  As a society, we are not maximizing their availability and rapid deployment to more dramatically bring down emissions. The U.S. is awash in excess electricity and the waste of electricity is encouraged.  That said, even as society has only begun to scratch the surface of efficiency and conservation, it is why electricity demand has leveled off and begun to fall. Beyond Nuclear supports prioritizing subsidizes for making better use of electricity while using less. It is crazy that ratepayers and taxpayers are being bilked by the nuclear industry to pay for more dangerous excess and wasted energy.



EDF looking to keep flawed part in reactor to save $115 million

In September, the French nuclear safety authority, ASN, will render its final verdict on whether or not a flawed reactor vessel head, installed in the Flamanville reactor under construction in France, should stay put. ASN already hinted in July that it will greenlight the reactor to operate with the flawed part, as long as owner EDF replaces it about seven years into operation. But now EDF is asserting that maintenance and vigilance will likely be enough to avoid replacing the part altogether. The vessel head has carbon anomalies that could result in cracking and rupture of containment and a meltdown. But clearly EDF wants to avoid the hefty $115 million price tag for replacing the part. The Flamanville project, a French EPR design, has already tripled its original cost estimate, ballooning to more than $12 billion and is years behind schedule.

The flawed component came from the Creusot Forge, now closed as a investigation looks into how many similarly flawed parts might have been installed in other reactors, including 17 in the U.S. identified by Areva which owns the forge. Activists in France have a petition to ASN urging the agency not to approve the flawed component at all and calling for an end to the ill-fated an unnecessary EPR project. More


France puts a number on amount of reactors to be closed: 17

For the first time, the French government has put an actual number on planned nuclear reactor closures. It’s 17. The estimation was made by Environment Minister, Nicolas Hulot, a former environmental campaigner. While the reduction would achieve the same objective identified by the previous Hollande government — a 50% share from nuclear power, down from 75% by 2025 — it still represents a shift in approach, says Yves Marignac, director of WISE-Paris.

“Hulot is the first Minister to come out with a number of reactors to shut down,” wrote Marignac. “Neither Hollande nor any of his prime ministers and environment ministers have ever dared to give such a number.” This reluctance was a tactic, Marignac said, to avoid angering EDF, trades unions and politicians.

Hollande's pronouncements about shutdowns were vague and non-committal with the closure of France's oldest commercial reactor, Fessenheim, perpetually delayed. Campaigners have agitated for years for the plant's closure, often in large demonstrations (pictured.) But for Hollande, voicing empty rhetoric to keep pro-nuclear foes at bay, was politically and strategically simpler than putting a number and a date on actual nuclear plant shutdowns.

Hollande's predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, was an international nuclear salesman with no interest in ending French nuclear pre-eminence internationally. But now, with the virtual bankruptcy of Areva, and falsification scandals surrounding the forge it owns at Le Creusot -- which has manufactured what are now believed to be major safety components with serious technical flaws -- the French nuclear star is rapidly waning.

Anti-nuclear groups in France have historically been largely ignored by the media, but the “overall positive way this statement was received by the mainstream media somehow shows an increasing readiness of economic and political spheres to support such a change,” wrote Marignac of Hulot's announcement. 

Seeing this as “ the opening of an unprecedented process,” and “a first step in the right direction,” Marignac says, can lead to the crucial next steps of identifying the reactors to be shut down and creating a real timeline and deadline for this to happen. This represents, Marignac says, “a huge opportunity” to accelerate the French energy transition, and those who support it should get firmly behind the initiative to push it through to fruition.


Many hundreds of clean energy groups oppose dirty energy bill in U.S. Senate

A coalition of many hundreds of clean energy groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has written a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York), in opposition to Senate Bill 1460, the Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017.

The Washigton Post has reported on the letter of environmental opposition (see the section labeled "More on the Murkowski-Cantwell Energy Bill.")


122 countries endorse treaty to ban nuclear weapons

A treaty designed to lead to the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons was endorsed today at the United Nations by 122 countries. Inevitably, none of the nine nuclear weapons states signed the treaty, with, shamefully, the United States as the most vocal critic.

“It’s been seven decades since the world knew the power of destruction of nuclear weapons and since day one there was a call to prohibit nuclear weapons,” Elayne Whyte Gómez, president of the UN conference, told the Guardian. “This is a very clear statement that the international community wants to move to a completely different security paradigm that does not include nuclear weapons.” (Read the Guardian article.)

According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which took a leading role in making the treaty a reality, "Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their intentional or accidental detonation. Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992." (Read more from ICAN).