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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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Saturday
Sep092017

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.)

Friday
Sep012017

Media coverage of Georgia Power/Southern Nuclear's decision to forge ahead with Vogtle 3 & 4, despite it all

Wednesday
Aug022017

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

Tuesday
Aug012017

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.

Thursday
Feb092017

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.