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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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Thursday
Feb202014

DOE signs $6.5 billion federal nuclear loan guarantee for Vogtle 3 & 4

Aerial image of Plant Vogtle Nuclear Generating Station - photo credit to High Flyer. The photo shows the operating Units 1 and 2, as well as the construction site for proposed new Units 3 and 4.U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) will sign an agreement with Southern Co. and Oglethorpe Power for a $6.5 billion loan guarantee that puts federal taxpayers on the hook if the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactor project defaults on its loan repayments. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will speak at the proposed new reactor construction site at 2 PM Eastern today, Thursday, Feb. 20th (you can listen to his address by calling 1-800-282-1696).

President Obama gave the Vogtle 3 & 4 federal loan guarantee offer (for a total of $8.3 billion) the highest profile possible, by announcing it himself at a press event in Feb. 2010. Despite this, it has taken over four years for the project proponents to sign on the dotted line, given their reluctance to put any of their own "skin in the game," in the form of credit subsidy fees. The nuclear loan guarantee program was authorized in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, and $22.5 billion was approved by Congress and George W. Bush for new nuclear facilities on Dec. 23, 2007 ($18.5 billion for new reactors, $4 billion for new uranium enrichment).

The $8.3 billion Vogtle 3 & 4 federal loan guarantee is 15 times bigger than the infamous Solyndra solar loan guarantee, which defaulted on its loan repayment, a $585 million loss to the U.S. Treasury. But the Vogtle 3 & 4 loan guarantee is at much higher financial risk of default than was the Solyndra solar project!

Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter blasted the deal in a Common Dreams interview. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) also blasted the deal in a press release. Harvey Wasserman has penned an essay entitled "Obama's Nuke-Powered Drone Strike on America's Energy Future."

Please contact President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz, registering your disapproval of this $6.5 billion nuclear loan guarantee, and urging them not to grant the remaining $1.8 billion nuclear loan guarantee to project partner MEAG for Vogtle 3 & 4. Also urge them to withdraw any further nuclear loan guarantee offers, with the remaining $10.2 billion authorized for new reactors, and $4 billion authorized for new uranium enrichment.

But the federal nuclear loan guarantees, and even the CWIP charges which are gouging Georgia ratepayers, are not the only subsidies benefitting this proposed new reactor project. If Vogtle 3 & 4 do get built and operated, the George W. Bush DOE also obligated U.S. taxpayers to ultimate liability for the risks and costs of the high-level radioactive waste they would generate. DOE hastily signed the contract in the last days of the Bush administration, despite the fact that federal courts are awarding $500 million per year in damages to nuclear utilities for DOE's breach of contract for failing to begin taking title to irradiated nuclear fuel in 1998 under the contractual agreements signed in the mid-1980s. The hastily signed contacts were exposed by D.C. attorney Diane Curran, IEER President Arjun Makhijani, and Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps in a March 24, 2010 press conference based on a FOIA Request.

Thursday
Jan232014

Coalition files "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" on QA violations at Fermi 3

Environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge of ToledoAn environmental coalition has just submitted its "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" regarding quality assurance violations (QA) at Detroit Edison's (DTE) proposed Fermi 3 atomic reactor targeted at the Fermi nuclear power plant in Monroe County, MI on the Lake Erie shoreline.

Terry Lodge (photo, left) of Toledo serves as the coalition's attorney. Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds Associates, Inc. of Vermont serves as the coalition's expert witness on QA.

The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste MI, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

The coalition, joined by additional environmental, public interest, and concerned citizen allies, has opposed the Fermi 3 combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) since Detroit Edison filed it in September 2008.

Oral evidentiary arguments were held in Monroe last Halloween on the remaining two, of dozens of contentions submitted.

The other remaining contention regards the state-threatened Eastern Fox Snake, an indigenous constrictor whose habitat is found in wetlands along the shoreline of Lake Erie, which will be destroyed if Fermi 3 is built. The coalition submitted "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" regarding the Eastern Fox Snake as well.

The rest the contentions have been outright rejected by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, or else dismissed over time under attacks by DTE or NRC staff.

Meanwhile, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Department of Justice has settled with General Electric-Hitachi, imposing a $2.7 million civil penalty on the company for false statements it made to both the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding a safety-significant system on its proposed new so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) design. Under DOE's unfortunately named "Nuclear Power 2010" program (launched on Valentine's Day 2002, intended to see new reactor construction and operation by the end of the last decade), funded under the terms of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the ESBWR has enjoyed large taxpayer subsidies, a 50/50 cost-share with DOE for research, design, and licensing expenses. The false statements came to light thanks to whistleblower revelations.

Monday
Jan062014

Rust bucket reactors….By Harvey Wasserman

Harvey Wasserman, editor of Nukefree.org and author of Solartopia, has written a blog inspired by the announced closure of the Kewaunee atomic reactor in Wisconsin. He begins by stating 'The US fleet of 104 deteriorating atomic reactors is starting to fall. The much-hyped "nuclear renaissance" is now definitively headed in reverse.'

He points out that Kewaunee may be but the first domino to fall, describing the impact of "low gas prices, declining performance, unsolved technical problems and escalating public resistance" at numerous other old, age-degraded, troubled reactors across the U.S., including San Onofre, CA; Crystal River, FL; Cooper and Fort Calhoun in NE; Vermont Yankee; Indian Point, NY; Oyster Creek, NJ; and Davis-Besse, OH. But Harvey also points out the momentum applies to new reactors as well, such as at Vogtle, GA and Summer, SC, as well as overseas, in the wake of Fukushima, not only in Japan, but also India, and even Europe, led by Germany's nuclear power phase out.

Harvey writes about the flagship new reactors proposed in the U.S.:

"The two reactors under construction in Georgia, along with two in South Carolina, are all threatened by severe delays, massive cost overruns and faulty construction scandals, including the use of substandard rebar steel and inferior concrete, both of which will be extremely costly to correct.

A high-priced PR campaign has long hyped a "nuclear renaissance." But in the wake of Fukushima, a dicey electricity market, cheap gas and the failure to secure federal loan guarantees in the face of intensifying public opposition, the bottom may soon drop out of both projects.

A proposed French-financed reactor for Maryland has been cancelled thanks to a powerful grassroots campaign. Any other new reactor projects will face public opposition and economic pitfalls at least as powerful."

Harvey, a senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), will address "From Fukushima to Fermi-3: Getting to Solartopia Before It's Too Late" in Dearborn, MI on Dec. 7th at the official launch event for the new organization, the Alliance to Halt Fermi-3.

Wednesday
Jan012014

Vogtle nuclear loan guarantee drags into fifth round of delays

Aerial image of Plant Vogtle Nuclear Generating Station - photo credit to High Flyer. The photo shows the operating Units 1 and 2, as well as the construction site for proposed new Units 3 and 4.As reported by Platts, and conveyed in a Friends of the Earth press release, the December 31, 2013 U.S. Department of Energy deadline for finalization of the $8.3 billion federal taxpayer backed nuclear loan guarantee for Vogtle 3 & 4 has been extended yet again, for a fifth time, until the end of January, 2014.

As reported by FOE: "Freedom of Information Act requests and litigation revealed that the credit subsidy fee offered to Southern Company ranged from 0.8 to 1.5 percent. The credit subsidy fee is supposed to insulate against default, but the fee offered to Southern Company is woefully inadequate to cover the risks involved in major nuclear construction. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 32 percent of reactor construction is cancelled before any electricity is produced."

Watchdog groups have long called for a credit subsidy fee commensurate with the risk of the nuclear new build proposals. Congressional auditors reported several years ago that new reactors, historically, have had a 50% risk of cancellation and potential default. The Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee puts 15 times more taxpayer money at risk than did the Solyndra loan guarantee scandal, which had a significantly lower risk of default than does Vogtle 3 & 4.

Given the Obama administration offered the $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee nearly four years ago, and now this latest delay, concerns continue to mount that the project is a financial house of cards, and will ultimately leave taxpayers holding the bag. Nuclear Watch South has called for taxpayers to express their concerns to decision makers, as has Beyond Nuclear.

Friday
Dec272013

Atomic reactors? Electricity is but the fleeting byproduct; the actual product is forever deadly high-level radioactive waste!

At the first anti-nuclear power event Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps ever attended, in March 1993, Michael Keegan of Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes and Don't Waste Michigan pointed out that "Electricity is but the fleeting byproduct from atomic reactors. The actual product is forever deadly radioactive waste."

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear and Don't Waste Michigan, has said just as much to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement. So too has Beyond Nuclear directly itself.

A key conclusion of such public comments? The costs, liabilities, and risks of generating, storing, and "disposing of" high-level radioactive wastes mean that NRC approving proposed new reactor construction and operating licenses is a non-starter, as should have been revealed by the "hard look" required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) during NRC's court-ordered EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) undertaking.

The image to the left is the cover of the Beyond Nuclear pamphlet published for the Dec. 2, 2012 conference held at the U. of Chicago entitled "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High." Sponsored by Beyond Nuclear, FOE, and NEIS, it marked the 70th year, to the day, since Enrico Fermi fired up the first self-sustaining chain reaction in an atomic reactor, creating the world's first high-level radioactive waste, as part of the Manhattan Project's race to create atomic weapons, culminating in the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August, 1945.