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Monday
Feb112013

Bonnie Raitt's "Slipstream" wins the GRAMMY for Best Americana Album!

Bonnie Raitt accepting last night's GRAMMY for Best Americana AlbumLong-time anti-nuclear activist and Beyond Nuclear supporter Bonnie Raitt just entered double-digit Grammy territory with her Best Americana Album at last night's Grammy Awards! Bonnie is a founding member of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE), which played Madison Square Garden and Battery Park in New York City in 1979 in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979, and the Bay Area last summer in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, in partnership with the Guacamole Fund. Beyond Nuclear has had the privilege and honor of having information tables at many a Bonnie Raitt concert across the U.S. over the years!

Friday
Feb082013

Entergy Watch: Bill in Vermont State House seeks more stringent Vermont Yankee decommissioning 

The Vermont State HouseAs reported by AP, a bill has been introduced in the State of Vermont legislature, opening yet another battlefront against Entergy's Vermont Yankee atomic reactor. The legislation seeks to establish more exacting decommissioning clean-up standards than are required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), with an added price tag of $40 million.

‘‘They've had a history of backing away from agreements and promises, and we want to make sure we protect the residents of Vernon and, by extension, Vermont taxpayers from liability related to decommissioning the plant,’’ said Rep. Margaret Cheney, vice chair of the House committee and a lead sponsor of the bill.

Chief among the "rogue corporation" Entergy's "broken promises" to the Green Mountain State was a signed agreement to shutdown Vermont Yankee by March 22, 2012 if it failed to obtain a renewed Certificate of Public Good (CPG) from the Vermont Public Service Board. The Vermont State Senate voted 26 to 4 in Feb. 2010 to block the issuance of the CPG, due to reasons other than radiological safety (NRC's jurisdiction) recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as falling under state authority. Nearly a year later, Entergy still operates VY without the required CPG.

Friday
Feb082013

Entergy Watch: New CEO admits times are tough at Entergy's merchant reactors

Leo P. Denault, Entergy's new CEO and Chairman of the BoardAs reported by Reuters, Entergy Nuclear's new CEO and Chairman of the Board, Leo P. Denault (pictured left), has admitted "its merchant nuclear power plants are in 'challenging economic situations,'" and "'[n]ear-term power prices are challenging for some merchant nuclear generating units in certain competitive markets.'" The admission came during a fourth-quarter earnings call.

The article continues:

"He said some plants are in the more challenging economic situations for a variety of reasons, including 'the market for both energy and capacity, their size, their contracting positions and the investment required to maintain the safety and integrity of the plants.' (emphasis added)

He would not name the plants but said, 'There are years when certain plants' cash flows can be negative at today's forward price curve.'"

UBS has concluded that the financial pressures could force Entergy to close Vermont Yankee, FitzPatrick in New York, and even Pilgrim near Boston yet this year.

A Dominion spokesman admitted last October that the high cost of making needed safety repairs was a major factor in the nuclear utility's decision to close Kewaunee in Wisconsin by mid-2013. It was the first announced closure of an atomic reactor in the U.S. in 15 years.

Friday
Feb082013

Entergy Watch: Pilgrim Coalition urges NRC to require Mark I atomic reactor to shutdown during historic winter storm

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim Mark I atomic reactor, on a more calm, sunny dayAs reported by Wicked Local Plymouth, in the lead up to what is being reported as an historic winter storm about to hit the Northeast, Pilgrim Coalition and Cape Cod Bay Watch are calling on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to order Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor shutdown, "arguing that a prolonged power outage, flooding, high winds, and snow and ice could cause several serious problems at Pilgrim."

However, as of 2:30 PM, NRC's "Current Power Reactor Status" report shows that Pilgrim is operating at 83% power. All other reactors in the Northeast are also operating, either at, or very close to, 100% power levels.

In a press release, Pilgrim Coalition spokespeople stated:

“This is predicted to be a historic storm with severe consequences,” said Pine DuBois, Executive Director of Jones River Watershed Association. “Winds are supposed to pick up Friday night during high tide and continue through the even higher tide Saturday morning. Near hurricane gusts will be out of the east, hitting Pilgrim head-­‐on. At other times during high winds, Pilgrim’s water intake pumps have failed.”

“Entergy could not keep the lights on during the Super Bowl -­‐ can we be sure they’ll provide enough power to Pilgrim during the storm?” duBois added.

According to Karen Vale, Campaign Manager at Cape Cod Bay Watch, “This historic storm emphasizes that rising sea levels and frequent, more severe storms make Pilgrim’s continued operations increasing risky. We hope that the NRC will close Pilgrim until the threat of the storm passes.”

As Beyond Nuclear's Freeze Our Fukushimas campaign has warned, no matter the cause (earthquake and tsunami, or historic winter storm at high tide), any prolonged loss of power to atomic reactors can lead to meltdown and catastrophic radioactivity releases. Entergy's Pilgrim is an identical twin design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4, a General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor.

Friday
Feb082013

"Exelon cuts dividend by 41%," as NRC investigates "deliberate" deception regarding decommissioning funds

Between the Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, Crain's Chicago Business, and Reuters, it has been reported in recent days that Exelon Nuclear: has seen its stock price drop by two-thirds since 2008; is under investigation by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for "deliberate" deception involving a billion dollar shortfall in its decommissioning funds; and has cancelled $2.3 billion in risky power uprates at age-degraded reactors, in order to shore up its credit rating and increase shareholder dividends.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has long shined a spotlight on the inadequacy of decommissioning funds across the nuclear power industry, as by requesting Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigations into NRC oversight (or lack thereof).

Ironically, Exelon, the largest nuclear utility in the U.S., is looking to expand holdings in its renewables (wind, solar) portfolio, in order to improve its return on investment in the short term. However, it is also poised to gouge its ratepayers at the earliest opportunity, by increasing the price it charges for nuclear electricity. More.