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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.

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Friday
Dec232016

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.

Friday
Oct282016

Environmental coalition appeals to federal court in opposition to Fermi 3 proposed new reactor in MI

Terry Lodge, legal counsel for the environmental coalition resisting Fermi 3On Oct. 28th, Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge filed a legal appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) itself -- specifically, the proposed new transmission line corridor's exclusion from the Environmental Impact Statement.

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 rubberstamping proposed new reactor construction and operation.

Friday
Jul292016

Hinkley Point C in the U.K.: $50 billion radioactive white elephant stopped dead in its tracks?!

An article by Graham Ruddick in the Guardian, entitled "From feast to farce: how the big Hinkley Point C party was put on ice," reported that "the UK government was meant to be celebrating, but delays and second thoughts have left the project stalled."

The two new reactors at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, southwest England, would each be 1,600 Megawatt-electric French Areva European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs).

EPRs under construction in Finland (Olkiluoto 3) and France (Flamanville 3) are years behind schedule, and billions of dollars over budget. A major fabrication flaw in the reactors' lids and bases at those two projects may prove fatal, preventing completion and permanently blocking operation.

A proposed new EPR was blocked by an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland several years ago. That major environmental victory, blocking the flagship EPR in the U.S., likely prevented a total of seven EPRs proposed across the U.S., from Nine Mile Point, NY to Callaway, MO. Additional proposed new EPRs under consideration at Darlington, Ontario were also rejected.

The Guardian article reports that, just two hours after the board of directors of Electricité de France (EDF) voted, by a narrow 10 to 7 margin, to proceed with building the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in the U.K., the new British prime minister's cabinet secretary in charge of the file, announced the British government would review the matter, and not announce its decision in early autumn.

The high-level confusion/international incident was illustrated clearly by the sudden departure of Chinese nuclear power industry investors, who had flown to Europe for the party celebrating EDF's decision, only to have the U.K. government pull the rug out.

The EDF board vote would have been 10 to 8, but an opponent of the project resigned in protest before the vote took place, citing the extreme risk of the proposal. The six labor union representatives on the EDF board voted as a bloc against proceeding with Hinkley Point C. Their position is that the top priority should be placed on safety repairs and upgrades at France's own current fleet of 58 aging atomic reactors, the second most of any country on Earth. (The U.S. has 100 operating reactors.)

Terry Macalister reported in the Guardian on July 7th that the estimated price tag for Hinkley Point C had risen to a whopping 37 billion British pounds, or nearly $49.5 billion U.S., at current exchange rates.

At a Beyond Nuclear sponsored presentation in Takoma Park, Maryland on July 21st, U.K. professor and solar power expert, Keith Barnham, reported that, at certain times of year, British taxpayers/ratepayers would subsidize 7/9ths of the cost of the electricity exported to France from Hinkley Point C, simply because the demand does not exist in the U.K. He pointed out the irony of going forward with such a U.K. subsidy of France, after the BREXIT vote removing the U.K. from the European Union. Barnham is author of The Burning Answer: The Solar Revolution, a Quest for Sustainable Power.

Tuesday
Dec292015

"[WI] GOP lawmakers lead new effort to lift nuclear freeze"

As reported by Steven Verburg in the Wisconsin State Journal, for the fourth time in 13 years, WI legislators are attempting to repeal a now 33-year old ban on the construction of new atomic reactors in the state.

But groups like Clean Wisconsin oppose the legislation:

Nuclear power plants can take a decade or more to build, making them a poor way to respond to urgent needs for alternative energy sources, Clean Wisconsin’s Amber Meyer Smith told the Assembly committee in written testimony.

And radioactive waste must be protected indefinitely from weather, security risks and human error, Smith said.

Tuesday
Aug042015

"Duke Energy spending on Lee nuclear plant remains slow"

As reported by John Downey in Charlotte Business Journal, Duke Nuclear's spending on "pre-construction" activities at its proposed new Lee nuclear power plant in Gaffney, SC, has been relatively low in the past couple years -- if $3-4 million per month can be regarded as "low." After all, significant energy efficiency, and even renewable energy projects, such as wind power and solar photo-voltaics, could be built for that kind of money!

Duke Nuclear had originally proposed firing up Lee Unit 1 in 2017. But now initial start up has been postponed till 2024 at the earliest.

Duke proposes to build two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, just as is happening at Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA, and at Summer 2 & 3 in SC. Both the Vogtle and the Summer new reactor construction projects are billions of dollars over-budget, and years behind schedule.

Duke has not yet charged its $450 million in "pre-construction" activities to its SC rate-base, but it could under SC's generous "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP) law.

Already, South Carolina Electric & Gas and SCANA have charged their SC ratepayers more than half a dozen rate increases, entirely devoted to CWIP costs on building Summer 2 & 3, with the SC public service commission's blessing. SCE&G and SCANA have not applied for federal nuclear loan guarantees, however.

Vogtle 3 & 4 has slogged ahead, thanks not only to CWIP surcharges on GA ratepayer electricity bills, but also compliments of an $8.3 billion federal taxpayer-backed loan guarantee, and loan. President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz have provided that massive loan guarantee, and loan, without charging Southern Nuclear and its partners a single penny of credit subsidy fee, to protect federal taxpayers at least to some small extent, should Southern default on its loan repayment.

$8.3 billion is 15 times more federal taxpayer funding than was lost to the U.S. Treasury at Solyndra, when that solar loan guarantee repayment defaulted. But Vogtle 3 & 4 are at a significantly higher risk of defaulting, than was Solyndra when the solar loan guarantee was awarded.

More than $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantee funding remains available, for projects like Lee 1 & 2, or Fermi 3 in MI, to apply for. Lee 1 & 2 still needs COLA (combined Construction and Operating License Application) approval by NRC, something that Fermi 3 already won on May 1, 2015. However, Beyond Nuclear and allies continue to challenge the Fermi 3 license, now by appealing to the federal courts. One of the appeals by the environmental coalition is a challenge to NRC's Orwellian permission to grant the go ahead for "pre-construction" activities at new reactor construction sites, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.