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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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Monday
Jul282014

Environmental coalition urges NRC Commissioners to approve ASLB review of agency staff's NEPA violations at Fermi 3

Although atomic reactors and their transmission lines are inextricably interconnected, NRC failed to include them in its Fermi 3 FEISThe National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) demands that major federal actions require the lead agency to take a "hard look" at the impacts of the proposal, alternatives to it, as well as mitigative actions, and communicate all that to the public for its response, in order to arrive at a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and "preferred action."

But, as an environmental coalition, including Beyond Nuclear, has warned for two and a half years, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has been derelict in its NEPA duty at Fermi 3, a proposed new ESBWR (General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor") atomic reactor on the Great Lakes shore in Monroe Co., MI. NRC has failed to analyze the environmental impacts of Fermi 3's nearly 30-mile long transmission line corridor, which would pass through various ecosystems, including forested wetlands, likely home to endangered and threatened plant and animal species.

On July 7th, the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel, overseeing the Fermi 3 Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceeding, essentially agreed with the coalition, sending a 60-page memo to the NRC Commissioners requesting permission to review the matter. The ASLB cited U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), concurrence that NRC has not done its NEPA duty.

A short four days later, the four remaining NRC Commissioners (Commissioner Apostalakis left the agency on June 30th) ordered briefs from the parties engaged in this proceeding by July 28th.

The coalition's attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, met the challenge of that very short deadline, filing a motion supporting the ASLB's review of the NEPA violations.

The nuclear utility, DTE (formerly Detroit Edison), as well as the NRC staff, filed motions opposing the ASLB's requested NEPA review. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the nuclear power industry's lobbying arm, also filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief, urging the NRC Commissioners to block the ASLB's NEPA review.

The environmental interveners, DTE, and NRC staff now have an August 7th deadline by which to respond to one another's July 28th briefs to the NRC Commissioners.

The coalition (which also includes Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and Sierra Club Michigan Chapter) has officially resisted the Fermi 3 COLA since March, 2009. It has filed dozens of contentions against the proposed new reactor, all of which have been opposed by DTE and NRC staff, and ultimately were rejected by the ASLB.

Thursday
May152014

"OPG dealt setback on plan for new reactors"

As reported by the Globe and Mail of Ottawa, Ontario, a Canadian judge's ruling in favor of an environmental coalition's legal challenge against new reactors proposed at the Darlington nuclear power plant on the Lake Ontario shore east of Toronto has dealt a setback to provincially-owned Ontario Power Generation's nuclear expansion plans.

As reported:

'A federal judge has invalidated Ontario Power Generation’s licence to build new reactors at its Darlington site, saying the federal regulator did not sufficiently consider the potential for a severe accident or waste issues involving spent fuel.

Justice James Russell ordered the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to re-establish a review panel and address the “significant gaps” in its assessment of chemicals on site, the risk of an extreme accident, and the disposal of spent fuel.

Greenpeace Canada, which launched the judicial challenge, welcomed the decision, saying it will force federal regulators to consider controversial aspects of nuclear construction projects that have typically been left to later assessments. “It’s unprecedented for any nuclear project in Canada to face the kind of regulatory scrutiny the court is demanding,” Greenpeace campaigner Shawn-Patrick Stensil said Thursday.

Justice Russell noted the review panel had acknowledged that “no solution has yet been implemented for the long-term management of used [radioactive] fuel,” but that it failed to adequately assess the implications of that situation.'

And, as the article concludes:

'[E]nvironmental groups have also challenged the regulator’s environmental assessment of OPG’s plan to refurbish existing reactors at Darlington, a project that is the cornerstone of the Liberal government’s long-term energy plan.'

There are currently four reactors at Darlington. At one point, OPG proposed adding four more, but more recently scaled back its expansion plans to two additional reactors.

Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, served on Northwatch's expert witness team in spring 2011. He challenged OPG's risky plans for high-level radioactive waste on-site storage associated with its proposed new reactors at Darlington. The Canadian federal regulatory review panel hearings took place in late March 2011, amidst the surreal aftermath of the beginning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe.

Friday
Apr252014

Radioactive "Moral Hazard": DOE loans, and guarantees, $6.5 billion for two new reactors for a 0%, $0.00 credit subsidy fee!

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.Southern Alliance for Clean Energy reports in a press release entitled "New Documents Confirm Utility Giant Southern Company Gets Sweetheart Deal from Energy Department for Multi-Billion Nuclear Loan Guarantees for Vogtle Reactors":

"As revealed today in an Energy & Environment News story by Hannah Northey, the credit subsidy fee for utility giant Southern Company and its utility partner, Oglethorpe Power, for billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantees, is nothing, $0. This shocking information was disclosed two months after the Department of Energy (DOE) finalized terms of $6.5 billion worth of loan guarantees that were offered as part of an $8.3 billion package to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. A third partner in the project, MEAG, has yet to have their $1.8 billion loan guarantee finalized."

Please register your disapproval of this nuclear sweetheart deal, at taxpayer expense and risk, to President Obama, your two U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative! You can be patched through to your Members of Congress via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

More.

Tuesday
Apr222014

"Security Issue at Fermi Probed"

NRC file photo of Fermi 2, located on the Lake Erie shore in Monroe Co., MI.The Monroe Evening News has reported that Detroit Edison's Fermi 2 atomic reactor was found to have a security breach earlier this year, which could have allowed access to the "Protected Area" (including the reactor and control room). Detroit Edison claimed the vulnerability was corrected that very day. Security-related matters are almost always cloaked in secrecy, post-9/11, so the public can not know exactly what is being described.

Beyond Nuclear is part of an environmental coalition, including Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (CACC), Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario (CEA), Don't Waste MI, and the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter officially intervening before NRC's Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board (ASLB) against a proposed new reactor targeted at the same site, Fermi 3. The proposed new reactor's design is a GE-Hitachi, so-calleed "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor," which has been built nowhere in the world before. Even the ESBWR design certification has experienced major problems, such as 6,000 Requests for Additional Information by NRC itself, and a legal settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over fraud and falsifications regarding the ESBWR steam dryer design.

Fermi 2 could apply to NRC for a 20-year license extension as early as this year. Fermi 2 is the largest General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor in the world. It is nearly as big as Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 -- of identical design -- put together.

Friday
Mar282014

RMI: "Nuclear Power's Competitive Landscape and Climate Opportunity Cost"

Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, RMITitiaan Palazzi, Special Aid, RMIAmory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, and Titiaan Palazzi, Special Aid (photos, left), of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, CO, presented "Nuclear Power's Competitive Landscape and Climate Opportunity Cost" at "Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Energy" held at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, on 28 March 2014.

Lovins and Palazzi report that, when compared to nuclear power: (1) Efficiency and renewables are far cheaper; (2) Renewables can deliver similar or better service and reliability; (3) Renewables can scale faster;  and (4) For climate protection, efficiency and renewables are far more effective solutions than new nuclear build, which indeed is counterproductive.

Lovins and Palazzi's economic critique extends not only to proposed new atomic reactors, but even to existing, age-degraded reactors. They state "Reactors are promoted as costly to build but cheap to run. Yet as Daniel Allegretti ably described, many existing, long-paid-for U.S. reactors are now starting to be shut down because just their operating cost can no longer compete with wholesale power prices, typically depressed by gas-fired plants or windpower."

Lovins and Palazzi conclude that "efficiency is clearly cheaper than average nuclear operating costs, which exceed 4¢/kWh [4 cents per kilowatt-hour] at the busbar and 8¢ delivered. Thus overall, for saving coal plants’ carbon emissions, efficiency is about 10–50x more cost-effective than new nuclear build—or about 2–12x more cost-effective than just operating the average U.S. nuclear plant."

Regarding nuclear power's retreat, Lovins and Palazzi report:

"Nuclear power also has to run ever faster to stay in the same place as its 1970s and 1980s growth turns into a bulge  of retirements. After the next few years, retirements will exceed all planned or conceivable global nuclear additions, even with all license extensions as shown here. Power reactors’ terminal decline will be over by about 2060—and in view of both competition and aging, this projection by Mycle Schneider [Mycle Schneider et al., World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013] is more likely to overstate its longevity than its brevity."
They conclude their presentation by stating: "So whether you choose e fficiency, cogeneration, or renewables, just being nearly carbon-free does not make new nuclear build an effective climate solution. Rather, because it saves ~3–50x less carbon per dollar than its main competitors, and deploys slower, new nuclear build reduces and retards climate protection. If climate is a problem, we must invest judiciously, not indiscriminately, to get the most solution per dollar and per year. Anything less makes the problem worse. Nor do we need nuclear power to offset PVs’ and windpower’s variability, or to scale faster than renewables, or to save or make money, because, as we’ve seen, nuclear power cannot do any of these things. So there is no reason to build more nuclear plants. Capital markets, seeing big new costs and risks without offsetting benefits, long ago reached the same conclusion. Existing nuclear plants, a future idea whose time has passed, will simply retire; the only choice is how quickly and at what cost to whom. End of story." (bold added)