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Tuesday
Jan122010

'It’s like the inmates are running the jail'

Eartha Jane Melzer's article, "Group urges suspension of license process for new Fermi nuclear plant," in the Michigan Messenger reports on Beyond Nuclear's and environmental coalition allies' efforts to challenge the proposed Fermi 3 reactor in Monroe, MI based on quality assurance violations at Detroit Edison Company, "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) designer General Electric-Hitachi, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself. Responding to NRC's conclusion that Detroit Edison's "failure to establish a Fermi 3 QA program resulted in inadequate control of procurement documents and ineffective control of contract services performed by [subcontractor] Black and Veatch (B&V)," the environmental coalition's expert witness Arnold Gundersen, a nuclear engineer, concluded "That’s like having the inmates running the prison."

Monday
Jan112010

ESBWR design may soon dwindle to a single proposed new reactor in U.S.

Detroit Edison may be the only nuclear utility in the U.S. to continue standing by the General Electric-Hitachi "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) design if Dominion Nuclear of Virginia abandons it. Dominion is reported to now be considering a new Areva EPR or Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000 reactor, instead of an ESBWR at its North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia. Beyond Nuclear has helped lead the environmental coalition effort to block a new ESBWR targeted at Detroit Edison's Fermi nuclear power plant in Monroe, Michigan -- most recently raising quality assurance contentions regarding the ESBWR design and the Fermi 3 new reactor license application. Dominion's cold shoulder would be an especially bad blow to the ESBWR design, given North Anna is the reference reactor for the design -- meaning it was supposed to set precedents for NRC licensing decisions for ESBWRs proposed across the U.S. However, about a year ago, Entergy and other nuclear utility coalition partners in NuStart decided to abandon the ESBWR proposed at River Bend, LA; Entergy also abandoned an ESBWR proposed at Grand Gulf, MS; and Exelon abandoned two ESBWRs targeted at Victoria County Station, TX. This begs the question -- what doesn't Detroit Edison get that these other nuclear utilities do about the problems with the ESBWR design? DOE also seems to understand the ESBWR's problems -- DOE has indicated it will not grant taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to ESBWR proposals at the present time.

Wednesday
Jan062010

"...why don’t we just nationalize the nuclear industry like the French?"

Roger Witherspoon's "Nuclear Power and the Bottomless Bank: Envisioning a Nuclear Future--Funded by Taxpayer Dollars" in EMagazine spells out the financial and radiological risks being pushed in Congress at the nuclear industry's behest.

Wednesday
Jan062010

Electricite de France has 9 reactors off-line as demand spikes during deep freeze

France must resort to importing electricity during a severe cold snap because 9 of its 58 reactors are shut down for various reasons. This calls into question nuclear power industry claims of being a reliable source of baseload electricity, and further shatters the myth that nuclear power in France operates without a hitch. As the Union of Concerned Scientists reported in its 2006 "Walking a Nuclear Tightrope: Unlearned Lessons of Year-plus Reactor Outages," nuclear power's un-reliability has plagued the U.S. time and time again. In a destabilized climate, such atomic outages will only increase as a safety precaution.

Wednesday
Jan062010

Post-mortem on South Texas Project new reactor deal "meltdown"

"Operation:CPS--The mysterious death of a done nuclear deal" by Greg Harmon in the San Antonio CURRENT provides an extensive analysis of the unraveling of the business partnership between the City of San Antonio's municipal utility CPS Energy and NRG Energy/Toshiba. The proposal to build two new Toshiba-Westinghouse "Advanced Boiling Water Reactors" (ABWRs) at the Bay City, Texas site near the Gulf of Mexico suffered a major blow when it was revealed in October that CPS Energy's cost estimate for the project was $4-5 billion too low, something that Dr. Arjun Makhijani and other critics had predicted years earlier, as Harmon reports:

"With CPS on the hook for its 50 percent of the project until a buyer is found or a resolution is negotiated with NRG and NINA, to date there is one clear winner: the opposition — especially the opponents who questioned the project’s cost estimates from the beginning.

In the spring of 2007, NRG had just raised its estimate for the STP expansion from $6 billion to $8 billion to stay in line with Toshiba. But on the steps of City Hall, anti-nuclear forces issued what has turned out to be a prescient warning to the City Council: Costs were likely to cruise at least $4 billion higher— to at least $12 billion and possibly up to $17.5 billion, according to work performed by Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

“We want [the City Council] to take their time to look at the real numbers … and to get the right information,” said SEED’s Hadden at the time, who added that it would be the ratepayers of San Antonio who would be stuck with the consequences of bad or manipulated math.

A second analysis later suggested the final figure could even top $20 billion. This soothsaying ability allowed members of Energía Mía and Southwest Workers Union to sing a re-tuned “Deck the Halls,” called the “We Told Ya So Jingle,” outside CPS Energy’s downtown offices this past December: Doctor Arjun Makhijani/ Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha/ He predicted costs arising/ Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha/ City Council didn’t listen/ Ha ha, etc./ See Toshiba’s eyes a’glisten/ Ha ha, etc."

Revealing the deep-rooted flaws in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program for new atomic reactors, DOE had selected the South Texas Project Units 3 and 4 as  a top candidate for receiving taxpayer-backed loan guarantees before the CPS "meltdown" came to light.

Thanks to Eliza Brown, Clean Energy Advocate at the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition in Austin, Texas for calling this article to our attention.