The Nuclear Retreat

We coined the term, "Nuclear Retreat" here at Beyond Nuclear to counter the nuclear industry's preposterous "nuclear renaissance" propaganda campaign. You've probably seen "Nuclear Retreat" picked up elsewhere and no wonder - the alleged nuclear revival so far looks more like a lot of running away. On this page we will keep tabs on every latest nuclear retreat as more and more proposed new nuclear programs are canceled.


Entries by admin (276)


Amid nuclear setbacks, Virginia utility pauses plans for new reactor

As reported by Southeast Energy News. (Utility Dive has also reported on this news.)

The Southeast Energy News article reports:

“Dominion is clearly realizing its bet on more nuclear in Virginia was a colossal mistake and waste of ratepayer subsidies,” said Mike Tidwell, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network [CCAN] and an outspoken opponent of additional reactors in Virginia.

Tidwell's CCAN joined with Beyond Nuclear, NIRS (Nuclear Information and Resource Service), Environment Maryland, Public Citizen, Baltimore-based Crabshell Alliance, and others to block Calvert Cliffs 3 (an Areva of France EPR, Evolutionary Power Reactor or European Pressurized Reactor), the proposed new reactor targeted at the Chesapeake Bay shore in Maryland.

Note that Dominion Nuclear had proposed building a Hitachi-General Electric ESBWR (so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" -- Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes has pointed out  that the supposed economic simplication simply means spending other people's money). The price tag for Dominion's North Anna Unit 3 is a whopping $19 billion.

As the Southeast Energy News article reports:

On one hand, estimates of future electricity demand suggest the possibility of demand growth, albeit not at a pace to justify what would be the most expensive single reactor construction project in the world to date: at least $19 billion. That is almost twice the latest estimates for each of the now canceled reactors in South Carolina [Summer Units 2 & 3; emphasis added].

The article also reports:

...neither GE nor Hitachi has a program underway to foster the size and depth of a supply chain for the pipes, valves, pressure vessels and other parts, along with the engineering skills, needed to complete one of its reactors on time and on budget. The ever-shrinking U.S. nuclear construction supply chain along with an aging workforce pose a significant obstacle to on-time, and on-budget construction, according to industry veterans.

Detroit Edison (DTE) has also proposed building an ESBWR, Fermi Unit 3. Given prevailing union wages in Michigan, Fermi 3 would likely cost more than $19 billion. This would mean that Fermi 3 would overcome North Anna 3, then becoming "the most expensive single reactor construction project in the world to date," to quote the Southeast Energy News article.

And given the lack of a supply chain, North Anna Unit 3 and Fermi 3's price tags would likely just skyrocket further. If Westinghouse has gone bankrupt (and parent company Toshiba of Japan itself is wobbly) trying to build Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000s (Advanced Passive 1,100 megawatt-electric reactors) at Summer 2 & 3 in South Carolina, and Vogtle 3 & 4 in Georgia, what will happen to General Electric and Hitachi?!

Beyond Nuclear has co-led a license intervention and legal intervention against Fermi 3 since 2009. Terry Lodge, legal counsel for Beyond Nuclear et al., will make oral arguments at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- the second highest court in the land, just under the U.S. Supreme Court -- on October 12th, culminating nearly a decade of resistance to Fermi 3. (The environmental coalition legally intervening against Fermi 3 includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. Other groups opposing Fermi 3 include CRAFT and ATHF3 -- Citizens Resistance Against Fermi Two, and Alliance to Halt Fermi 3.)


Inside the Carolinas nuclear fallout: An expected surge in U.S. nuclear plant construction has hit a dead end with two S.C. projects shelved

As reported by the Charlotte (NC) Business Journal:

A surge in nuclear plant development was going to be the bedrock of Charlotte's quickly growing and innovating hub of energy industry companies. The growth had already faded. But events of the past month have left the nuclear renaissance sputtering to an ill-fated conclusion. [rest of article behind Pay Wall]


Another one bites the dust! Duke Carolinas cancels the proposed new William States Lee III Nuclear Station!

In a letter to the North Carolina Public Service Commission, the major nuclear utility Duke Carolinas has requested leave to cancel its proposed new William States Lee III Nuclear (Power) Station, Units 1 and 2, targeted at Gaffney, Cherokee County, South Carolina.

John Runkle, an attorney based in Chapel Hill, NC, representing North Carolina Waste Awareness Reduction Network (NC WARN), pointed out that the utility applicant, Duke Carolinas, simultaneously filed for a rate hike of 16.7%, including $400 million for pre-construction costs for the now cancelled nuclear power plant.

(The Charlotte Business Journal has reported on Duke's requested rate hike in North Carolina.

As the article reports:

The proposal that Duke Carolinas should recover its investment to date in the Lee Nuclear plant is also likely to rouse opposition.

The North Carolina share of that investment would be about $368 million.

Fountain and Duke Carolinas count that money as part of the “smart investments” Duke is making in a cleaner energy future. Although the utility wants to cancel the Lee plant, Fountain says, Duke will hold onto the Nuclear Regulatory Commission license it got for the plant in December to keep the option of building a different nuclear plant some time in the future. The license remains effective for 40 years after it is issued.

But there will be opposition to Duke’s charging customers for an abandoned plant. And it is not clear that Duke had authorization from regulators to spend that much money on the pre-construction costs.)

NC WARN has issued a press release:

Duke Energy’s Nuclear Boondoggle: Cancellation After Tragic Delay – NC WARN News Release

As the US nuclear “renaissance” collapses, we urge CEOs to turn hard toward climate protection

NC WARN's press release links to more than a decade's worth of resistance to W.C. Lee nuclear power plant, and related efforts to block identically designed Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 proposed new reactors at other southeastern sites.


Lou Zeller, executive director of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), raised a toast "to the demise of another nuclear dinosaur," in celebration of a decade of hard fought, and now successful, opposition to W.S. Lee. BREDL intervened against W.S. Lee before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), at the dawn of the now largely cancelled "Nuclear Power Renaissance" (Relapse, more appropriately; see below).

Zeller also acknowledged Runkle and others' work in the rate process proceedings of the South Carolina Public Service Commission, and North Carolina Utilities Commission, which expanded and strengthened the fight against W.S. Lee.

The now cancelled William States Lee III Nuclear (Power) Station, Units 1 and 2, had already received Combined Licenses (for construction and operations) from the Nuclear "Rubber-stamp" Commission, despite BREDL's best efforts in its intervention.

But note the status of NRC's list of Combined License holders:

Can we largely -- hopefully soon, entirely -- say "Nuclear Renaissance" denied? "Nuclear Relapse" denied!

And this is not just in the U.S. Take our neighbor, Canada, for example. The Canadian nuclear establishment in industry and government had hoped to build new reactors in Ontario and Alberta. The latter faded away many year ago. Beyond Nuclear's reactor oversight project director, Paul Gunter, travelled to Alberta more than once to speak out against those proposed new reactors.

And re: the former, proposed new build at Bruce Nuclear Generating Station on Lake Huron, and at Darlington Nuclear Generating Station on Lake Ontario, have been largely to entirely blocked, not only due to abysmal economics, but also to a groundswell of opposition -- in environmental, licensing, and legal proceedings. In 2010-2011, Beyond Nuclear's radioactive waste watchdog, Kevin Kamps, provided expert witness support, regarding high-level radioactive waste issues, to Northwatch, in its environmental and licensing intervention against the Darlington new build, which later went to court).

As revealed by the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report, such a cancellation of proposed nuclear new build is the growing trend worldwide.


A nuclear boondoggle by any other name is still a boondoggle: then, now, forever 

For those learning English around the globe, Voice Of America (VOA) broadcast a new language lesson by telling the story of the latest crash landing of the financially out-of-control V.C. Summer atomic power construction project. South Carolina electric utilities had to call it quits on two half-finished Westinghouse Electric AP-1000 reactors with sunk costs between $ 9 billion and $11 billion, six years behind schedule, the bankruptcy of Westinghouse, possibly parent company Toshiba and nowhere near knowing how much more and how much longer it might take to finish. When VOA contacted Beyond Nuclear, the producer was looking for some historical perspective on the industry’s latest financial meltdown in the 21st Century from the anti-nuclear movement that began in the 1970’s. 

As one co-founding activist with the Clamshell Alliance in New England, we all became familiar with “You can be sure, if it’s Westinghouse” to mean that it is going to be very, very expensive and way behind schedule.  The “Clams” literally opposed the first groundbreaking shovel full next to the environmentally sensitive saltwater estuary in Seabrook, New Hampshire. In August 1976 there were two non-violent site occupations on the construction site organized by “affinity groups” and several large, legal assemblies to rally the public and inspire more principled resistance. The two Westinghouse 1150 megawatt electric pressurized water reactors were promised to Public Service Company at $450 million each. Fourteen years later and thousands of arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience and four bankrupted electric utilities, the final estimated construction cost of completion for Unit 1 in 1990 was close to $7 billion. Unit 2 construction was permanently cancelled in 1989 with an estimated $900 million in sunk costs. The Seabrook boondoggle was not an isolated event nor were Westinghouse reactors the only designs that lost control of cost-to-completion and time-to-completion. More than 120 units of nation’s nuclear power plant construction orders and projects of 1970’s and 1980’s, roughly half, were cancelled or abandoned with tens of billions of dollars in sunk cost. As Forbes reported in the magazine’s February 11, 1985 cover story headlined “Nuclear Follies,” “The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale. The utility industry has already invested $125 billion in nuclear power … only the blind, or the biased, can now think that most of the money has been well spent.”

So when the nuclear power industry announced it would venture back into the financial quagmire it should have immediately been recognized as folly. Nuclear power promoters ignored the warning signs and the tombstones in reframing a financial disaster into a “renaissance.” Nuclear power plant construction came at with such risk, all the major financial institutions warned that merely announcing construction would result in the downgrade of the company’s credit.  In 2006, a Standard & Poor’s analysis of nuclear power development found “nuclear generation generally to have the highest overall business risk compared with other types of generation.” By 2007, Moody’s Investment Services acknowledged that this growing risk was due to the “size and complexity of the project, the long-term nature of the construction cycle and the uncertainties associated with all-in [total] costs, regulatory oversight” and many other unknowns. A 2009 report by Citigroup GlobalMarkets Inc. entitled “New Nuclear – The Economics Say No,” identified that construction costs, power price and operational costs for new reactors are large and variable enough so as to be dubbed “The Three Corporate Killers.”

Historically, the nuclear power ad men are skilled at re-imaging the same technology without legitimately addressing its fundamental economic failure, inherent dangers and long term despoiling of the environment. Splitting atoms to make steam to generate electricity remains an extremely wasteful use of energy. Only 33% of the heat in the fission process actually goes into making electricity while the remaining 67% has to be dumped into the environment to keep the reactor core from melting. The electricity industry is the leading consumer of increasingly precious water resources with a single nuclear power station consumes up to three billion gallons per day.  The extreme cost of inefficiency and wasteful resource consumption has never been and never will be sustainable. 

The industry is now eager to send politicians and consumers chasing yet another illusive and extremely expensive mirage, unproven Small Modular Reactors. The results should be expected to be no different. A handful of industrialists will walk off with tons of taxpayer and ratepayer money and fissile power projects will fizzle out in cancelled and abandoned projects. After repeatedly failing to demonstrate their argument for generating nuclear power on “economy of scale,” the industry now intends to sell its new notion that giant assembly lines in astronomically expensive factories will re-make the economics nuclear power competitive. In fact, it is a merely re-writing the prescription for financial disaster at the expensive of ratepayers and taxpayers. 


Money and time wasted and no new reactor designs to show for it

The majority of pro-nuclear boosters appear finally to have swallowed a dose of reality -- and have ceased clinging to the idea that "new nuclear power plants" and even "new reactor designs" will be the energy answer of the near future. The error- and omission-filled pro-new-nuclear propaganda piece, Pandora's Promise, was out of date almost as soon as it was released. Even its producers and stars have jumped ship and instead now clamor to keep old, economically failing and technically deteriorating nuclear plants going, just to justify a continued existence.

In a telling piece of research -- A retrospective analysis of funding and focus in US advanced fission innovation -- by Abdulla et al, a look was taken at how US spending has affected nuclear power development and new reactor design. Unsurprisingly, the authors noted that: 

"despite spending $2 billion since the late 1990s—no advanced design is ready for deployment. Even if the program had been well designed, it still would have been insufficient to demonstrate even one non-light water technology. It has violated much of the wisdom about the effective execution of innovative programs: annual funding varies fourfold, priorities are ephemeral, incumbent technologies and fuels are prized over innovation, and infrastructure spending consumes half the budget. Absent substantial changes, the possibility of US-designed advanced reactors playing a role in decarbonization by mid-century is low." [emphasis added.]

As the authors also explained in their conclusion: 

"In this paper, we do not seek to present a comprehensive diagnosis of the problems facing nuclear energy innovation in the US. Rather, we have reconstructed NE’s budget history and evaluated how close the office has come to achieving its advanced reactor mission. Our research shows that, as currently structured, NE has neither the funding levels nor the programmatic focus that it needs to deliver on its mission of developing and demonstrating one or two advanced reactor designs by mid-century. This comes despite multiple strategy roadmaps and billions of dollars of appropriations."

The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that enough money and time has already been wasted on a failed technology that has zero role to play in our energy present or future.