New Reactors

The U.S. nuclear industry is trumpeting a comeback - but only if U.S. taxpayers will foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear is watchdogging nuclear industry efforts to embark on new reactor construction which is too expensive, too dangerous and not needed.


Entries by admin (98)


Fate of U.S. Nuclear Now Hinges on One Utility in Georgia


WSJ: Scana Abandons Nuclear-Site Plans

As reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)/Dow Jones News Service, South Carolina utilities have decided to pull the plug on two new reactors less than 40% constructed in Jenkinsville, adjacent to the 33-year-old Summer Unit 1 atomic reactor.

The article reports:

The move to halt work on the South Carolina project will likely prompt U.S. regulators and utility chiefs to think twice before proposing any more nuclear plants.

The next shoe to drop could well be the Vogtle Units 3 and 4 new build in Georgia, as the article reports. Both Summer 2 & 3, as well as Vogtle 3 & 4, are (were?!) Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000s, an experimental new reactor design.

The massive cost overruns (in the billions of dollars per reactors), as well as several year long construction schedule delays, forced Westinghouse Electric of Pittsburgh to declare bankruptcy earlier this year. Westinghouse's Japanese parent company, Toshiba, has also been thrown into financial distress by the fission fiasco.

The South Carolina utilities' decision appears to be a most wise one.

The WSJ article reports:

The South Carolina power plant was about to get even more expensive. Santee Cooper, a state-owned electric utility that was a minority owner in the plant, provided figures that suggested the final costs to build the facility by 2024 would swell to about $25.7 billion. When first proposed in 2008, it was projected to cost $11.5 billion. Before Monday, most recent projections called for it to cost around $14 billion.

Southern Company, Georgia Power, GA Public Service Commission (PSC), and other decision makers in GA, should take heed.

Not only are billions of dollars of GA ratepayer money on the line, but so too are $8.3 billion in U.S. taxpayer money -- in the form of federal nuclear loan guarantees, awarded a few years ago by Obama's Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, despite widespread warnings about the financial (not to mention radioactive) risks.

DTE and the MI PSC should also take heed. Beyond Nuclear and coalition partners have been resisting the proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor in s.e. MI since it was first proposed. DTE filed for a construction and operating licnese in Sept. 2008. The Beyond Nuclear et al. environmental coalition intervened in early March 2009, represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge. Lodge will argue our appeals at oral hearings in D.C. federal court in the near future, on such issues as quality assurance (QA; Fairewinds Associates, Inc. chief engineer Arnie Gundersen has served as our expert witness), as well as violations of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act).

As revealed by the State Attorney General of Virginia (where an identical reactor design to Fermi 3 is also proposed to be built, at North Anna nuclear power plant), the price tag for the ESBWR design (the ironically named "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor") is a whopping $19 billion.

Michael Keegan of Don't Waste Michigan in Fermi 3's host Monroe County has pointed out that Fermi 3 could well cost more than North Anna 3, given the higher prevailing wage in MI than in VA. And re: the ESBWR name, Keegan has pointed out the only thing economically simplified about the design, is that DTE would spend other peoples' money to build it -- namely ratepayers, if CWIP (Construction Work in Progress, a.k.a. advanced cost recovery, or nuclear "tax" surcharges on ratepayers' electric bills) is allowed to occur, and U.S. taxpayers, if federal nuclear loan guarantees are awarded.


Nuclear power expansion for DTE in Michigan is long-range strategy option


170 Conservation Groups Urge Senate to Reject Zinke for Interior Secretary

As reported in an environmental coalition press release: Congressman Would Do Irreparable Damage to Endangered Species, Public Lands, Climate.

In a letter to U.S. Senators, Beyond Nuclear joined with Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, and 166 more groups to urge they vote against Trump's nominee for Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, Republican U.S. Representative from Montana.

The letter and press release mention Zinke's horrible record re: the Endangered Species Act.

Beyond Nuclear, in coalition with several additional environmental groups, raised an endangered species contentions against the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor in Michigan. While numerous threatened and endangered species would be harmed by Fermi 3 construction and operation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission excluded all the rest, narrowing legal arguments to one species -- an indigenous constrictor, the Eastern Fox Snake. While the environmental coalition's legal counsel, attorney Terry Lodge from Toledo, kept the contention alive for several long years -- despite repeated attempts by Detroit Edison and NRC staff to kill it -- in the end, the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled in favor of construction and operation of Fermi 3. The chief judge absurdly claimed the final ruling re: the Eastern Fox Snake represented a "NEPA victory." (NEPA is short for National Environmental Policy Act.)

Truth be told, it wasn't a victory for the Eastern Fox Snake. One of only four habitats for the threatened species on the very ecologically fragile Great Lakes shoreline would be destroyed by the construction and operation of Fermi 3.

The environmental coalition is still appealing the licensing of Fermi 3, including a NEPA challenge against the proposed transmission line corridor. If built, the corridor would further harm threatened and endangered species -- including the Eastern Fox Snake -- by destroying critical habitat, including forested wetlands.


Environmental coalition defends its legal appeal, seeks to block Fermi 3 proposed new reactor in Michigan

Terry Lodge, legal counsel for the environmental coalition resisting Fermi 3

An environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, is entering its 10th year of resistance (2008-2017) against Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi Unit 3 reactor in southeast Michigan on the Great Lakes shoreline.

On Dec. 23rd, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge filed a Reply Brief, in defense of a legal appeal originally filed in October, at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second highest court in the land, just below the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Reply rebuts challenges to the appeal brought by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Detroit Edison (DTE).

Lodge serves as legal counsel for an environmental coalition opposing Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor in Monroe County, MI on the Lake Erie shoreline. The coalition -- including Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizen Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste MI, and Sierra Club MI Chapter -- has resisted Fermi 3 since 2008. It has been joined by additional allies, such as the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3, as well as Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two, and others.

The appeal focuses on safety-significant quality assurance (QA -- Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. serves as the coalition's expert witness) violations at Fermi 3, as well as violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by the NRC itself -- specifically, the proposed new transmission line corridor's exclusion from NRC's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Re: the latter, this is the first ever legal challenge against a highly controversial 2007 NRC regulatory rollback involving the Orwellian change in the definition of a single word -- construction -- in the agency's regulations. NRC Commissioner Merrifield orchestrated the change, just before retiring from the agency, and going to work for the Shaw Group, which specializes in new reactor construction. Merrifield was paid a handsome salary at his new job, inspiring the phrase "Merrifield-go-round" for this particular instance of the revolving door between government and industry.

The legalistic shenanigans allowed NRC to disregard major federal actions in the EIS, such as the building and operation of a transmission line corridor. But the coalition holds that the NRC's trickery happens to be illegal under NEPA, no matter how convenient it is to the agency for rubber-stamping proposed new reactor construction and operation.