Climate Change

Nuclear power is counterproductive to efforts to address climate change effectively and in time. Funding diverted to new nuclear power plants deprives real climate change solutions like solar, wind and geothermal energy of essential resources.



Nukes “too expensive to matter” in President Obama’s Clean Power Plan

President Barack Obama campaigns at a wind farm in Iowa, August 14, 2012. He had pledged to support clean energy in his second term, and his administration's EPA CPP does just that. (Photo: Reuters)Just as the Obama Administration rolled out its Clean Power Plan (CPP) another published scientific study disclosed the world’s glaciers are melting at a “historically unprecedented” rate, twice as fast as the previous decade. The good news amid such calamity is that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule on climate is a significant first step aimed at cutting U.S. global warming emissions from its coal-fired electricity generation. The new rule ranks renewable energy (such as solar photo-voltaics, and wind power -- see photo, left) and energy efficiency as the Best Systems of Emissions Reduction (BSER) for replacement energy. It also casts increasing doubt on the continued operation of more than a dozen “economically at-risk” U.S. nuclear power plants.    

The EPA’s final rule states “the main impact of this rule on the nation’s mix of generation will be to reduce coal-fired generation, but in an amount and by a rate that is consistent with recent historical declines in coal-fired generation… the trends for all other types of generation, including natural gas-fired generation, nuclear generation, and renewable generation, will remain generally consistent with what their trends would be in the absence of this rule.”

Those same trends already demonstrate that nuclear power’s false promise is consistently trumped by “a real-time revolution in efficiency-plus-renewables-plus-storage.”

Still, the nuclear industry and its champions are keeping their spin on it. The Administration’s EPA does grant two concessions important to the nuclear industry expansion agenda. First, the rule eases pressure on state emission reduction compliance standards by not penalizing those states for the potential failure-to-complete any of the five economically bankrupt nuclear generator projects currently under construction in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Tennessee’s Watts Bar 2 project has held on to a construction license for 43 years, longer than its still elusive 40-year operating license.

For existing reactors, while recognizing that expensive “power uprates” do not significantly reduce carbon emissions, states are limited to emissions reduction credit only for the incremental increase in thermal ratings to generate extra electricity output.

The climate rule rejects the creation of carbon reduction rewards for reactors with 20-year license extensions. 

It further does not allow for the preservation of a growing list of  “economically at-risk” operating units teetering on permanent closure that can be replaced with renewable energy and energy efficiency.  The nuclear industry had intensely lobbied the EPA to allow states to incentivize keeping dirty, dangerous, and expensive nukes operational that otherwise are headed for decommissioning. These troubled reactors include Indian Point 2 & 3 (NY), Ginna (NY), Fitzpatrick (NY), Oyster Creek (NJ), Three Mile Island (PA), Davis-Besse (OH), Pilgrim (MA), Byron 1 & 2 (IL), Quad Cities 1& 2 (IL) and Clinton (IL).

We can, however, expect that both the coal and nuclear industries will meet rulemaking with rule breaking, a strategy of endless litigation to stay implementation, and even more divisive political wrangling hinged on the next administration.  To this end, President Obama has warned, “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”


Ten foot sea level rise by 2100 would threaten coastal nuclear power plants

In an article entitled "Climate Seer James Hansen Issues His Direst Forecast Yet," Mark Hertsgaard has reported at the Daily Beast that "James Hansen’s new study explodes conventional goals of climate diplomacy and warns of 10 feet of sea level rise before 2100. The good news is, we can fix it."

Although the article lists nuclear power as a "non-carbon fuel," alongside solar, wind, and efficiency, as potential energy sources for averting climate catastrophe, it does not mention the famed NASA scientist's pro-nuclear advocacy. Hundreds of environmental groups have challenged Hansen's nuclear power advocacy as illogical and misinformed, while continuing to thank him for his essential work on climatology.

Along similar lines, IEER showed nearly a decade ago now that nuclear power is incapable of averting climate catastrophe, in its trailblazing 2006 book Insurmountable Risks by Dr. Brice Smith. IEER's president, Dr. Arjun Makhijani, followed up with a description of climate solutions, in his 2007 Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy.

Hansen's nuclear power advocacy also ignores the fact that nuclear power cannot operate safely in destabilized climatic conditions. For that matter, nuclear power has shown five times in 35 years that it can't operate safely in stable climate conditions (the meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, the explosion and fire at Chernobyl in 1986, and the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi 1, 2, and 3 in 2011).

Ten foot sea level rise would not only flood major cities, as Hansen's study has warned. It would also flood many coastal nuclear power plants, threatening not only reactor operations, but also on-site radioactive waste storage (see U.S. reactors located along both coastlines on the map in the Beyond Nuclear pamphlet about "routine" radiation releases into surface waters).

Even if not directly inundated, such sea level rise would threaten nuclear power plants located at higher elevations, or further inland, with storm surges and other extreme weather coming off the oceans.

For more information on why nuclear power cannot operate safely in a destabliized climate, see Beyond Nuclear's "Climate Chaos and Nuclear Power" fact sheet, published in 2008.


Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor has had a bad week

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor, a Fukushima twin-designOn Jan. 26th, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) slapped Entergy Pilgrim (photo, left) with two "White Findings" in the aftermath of four unplanned shutdowns in 2013, and Entergy's failure to properly carry out ordered follow up corrective actions. This means Pilgrim will remain on NRC's "degraded" performance short list of the worst (a.k.a. most risky) reactors in the country.

Pilgrim is identical in design and vintage to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 -- a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor.

On Jan. 27th, Pilgrim bore the brunt of the "Juno" blizzard, and was forced to shut down shortly into the storm. As reported at NRC's website, a full week later, it remains shut down. NRC issued its PNOs (Preliminary Notifications of Occurrence) regarding this most recent unplanned shutdown on Jan. 28th (see the bottom two entries). Another, related, NRC PNO is dated Jan. 29th.

On Jan. 30th, Entergy Pilgrim got slammed again -- this time, by a letter from Pilgrim Watch's Mary Lampert, "PILGRIM WATCH COMMENT/QUESTIONS [re:] FLEX MOORING PLAN-LESSONS LEARNED FROM JUNO BLIZZARD." (See Attachment A.)

And on Feb. 2nd, the same day that NRC initiated its Special Inspection Team re: this most recent unplanned shutdown, Pilgrim Watch, joined by the Town of Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee, slammed Entergy Nuclear, as well as NRC, with a series of hard-hitting questions. They demand Pilgrim remain shut down until their questions are answered.


"PILGRIM STATION: Power stays on in most of Plymouth, but not at nuclear plant"

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor, located south of Boston on Cape Cod Bay. Plymouth, MA bore the brunt of winter storm "Juno," but Pilgrim was one of the only electric grid casualites.As reported by Wicked Local Plymouth, despite bearing the brunt of severe winter storm "Juno," about the only part of the electric grid that did not handle it well was Entergy Nuclear's Plymouth atomic reactor. Despite nuclear power industry claims of being reliable during the Polar Vortex of 2014, Pilgrim has been at 0% power now for several days, after its ties to the electric grid became dysfunctional due to ice and high winds. Tellingly, despite Pilgrim's disconnection from the electric grid, the lights remain almost entirely on in the greater Boston area.

Thus, Pilgrim's safety and cooling systems, circulating water through the hot core, are currently being run by emergency diesel generators currently, until connections to the primary, offsite electric grid can be restored. If this continues for many more days, a resupply of diesel fuel will be required, to keep the emergency generators operational.

Pilgrim's severe winter weather shut down comes immediately on top of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decision to increase inspections and oversight at the Fukushima Daiichi twin design and vintage atomic reactor (a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, that fired up in 1972), due to numerous unexpected shutdowns in the past many months and years.


NRC to send Special Inspection Team to Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor after snow storm shutdown

Ironically enough, NEI left this Tweet up for days after Pilgrim was shut down by snow storm "Juno"!As reported by the Boston Globe, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will send a 4-5 person Special Inspection Team to Entergy Nuclear's Pilgrim atomic reactor next week, to investigate why snow storm "Juno" shut the plant down very early last Tuesday morning.

As of Friday evening, NRC's website is still showing Pilgrim at 0% power. Emergency diesel generators are running the plant's safety and cooling systems.

As reported by the Washington Examiner, NRC had warned before the snow storm, packing hurricane-force winds, that as many as 26 atomic reactors along the eastern seaboard, and further inland, could be forced to shut down.

For its part, the industry's lobbying and PR HQ, Nuclear Energy Institute, was bragging up nuclear power's reliability during severe winter weather. Ironically, it left it's Twitter ad (see above left) up for days after Pilgrim was forced to shut down in the face of the snow, ice, and wind storm's ferocity.