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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
Feb102012

"An NRC license does not guarantee ultimate project success"

Chemical and Engineering News quoted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps about the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 4 to 1 approval of combined Construction and Operating Licenses for Vogtle Units 3 & 4 in Georgia:

"...Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, a longtime nuclear power critic, noted, 'An NRC license does not guarantee ultimate project success. Atomic reactors have been NRC licensed and then nearly, or even entirely, constructed, and still blocked from operating.'...

...He pointed to facilities in Midland, Mich., Shoreham, N.Y., and Marble Hill and Bailey, Ind., that never operated, at a cost of billions to ratepayers.

...Kamps noted that a loan guarantee default for Vogtle Units 3 and 4 would be 15 times worse than the Solyndra solar energy manufacturer default that cost U.S. taxpayers $550 million."

Friday
Feb102012

NRC Commissioners approve 2 new AP1000s at Vogtle by 4 to 1 vote

Graphic courtesy of Fairewinds AssociatesBy a 4 to 1 vote, the Commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) today approved the combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) of Southern Nuclear Company, paving the way for two 1,100 megawatt-electric Toshiba-Westinghouse "Advanced Passive" AP1000s to be built at the Vogtle nuclear power plant near Augusta, Georgia. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko cast the sole "no" vote, while Commissioners Kristine Svinicki, George Apostolakis, William Magwood IV, and William Ostendorff voted in favor. Chairman Jaczko had previously cast the sole dissenting votes against such controversial proposals as: the 20 year license extension at the Oyster Creek, NJ GE BWR Mark I, the oldest operating reactor in the U.S. and identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4; and the Private Fuel Storage, LLC high-level radioactive waste "parking lot dump" targeted at the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in Utah. Recently, Beyond Nuclear's Linda Gunter pointed out that Chairman Jaczko, although not perfect, shows concern for safety that sets him apart from the other four NRC Commissioners.

Beyond Nuclear responded to the Vogtle Units 3 and 4 NRC approval with a media statement, pointing out that a NRC license does not ensure project success. In fact, some atomic reactors in the U.S. that were almost completely built, such as two reactors at Midland, MI -- or even entirely built, such as the Shoreham nuclear power plant on Long Island, NY -- were eventually cancelled, wasting many billions of dollars. Thus, the $8.3 billion federal nuclear loan guarantee announced by President Obama himself in Feb., 2010 still risks leaving taxpayers holding the bag if Vogtle Units 3 and 4 default on their loan repayments. This is 15 times more money at stake than was involved in the Solyndra debacle. Even if the reactors are constructed and operated, this would just add radiological risks to the financial risks. The George W. Bush administration, as one of its final acts in office, did the owners and operators of Vogtle 3 and 4 a huge favor -- at taxpayer expense -- by making the U.S. Department of Energy liable for any and all high-level radioactive waste that would be generated.

As mentioned in the NRC media release above, and as shown in photos at Southern Nuclear's website, major "pre-construction" construction has actually been underway at Vogtle 3 and 4 for years, long before today's NRC approval of the COLA. How's that possible?! As a parting gift to the industry he was about to go work for, just before leaving the NRC, Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield led the effort to get the word "construction" re-defined in NRC regulations. Now almost all the plant -- apart from the reactor itself and its containment -- can be built, even before the construction license is approved, and even before environmental impact assessments are undertaken. Merrifield strolled through the "revolving door" between regulator and regulated, going to work for the Shaw Group, which specializes in new reactor construction.

The 4 NRC Commissioners' "yes" votes ignore a major safety risk with the AP1000s, identified by nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates in Vermont (see image, above), who serves as an expert witness for an environmental coalition opposing numerous proposed AP1000s in various stages of development across the Southeastern U.S. Infamously, Toshiba, now merged with Westinghouse, was the architect and reactor supplier for the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor, which suffered the worst explosion during the nuclear catastrophe; its reactor building now resembles a large pile of twisted steel and rubble, and its reactor core and high-level radioactive waste storage pool are in a largely unknown (at least to the public) condition.

Tuesday
Feb072012

"There is no justification for Fermi 3"

Frank Zaski of Franklin, MI, a former member of the 21st Century Energy Plan Energy Efficiency Work Group, Michigan Climate Action Committee RCI TWG and the Midwest Governor's Association Renewable Energy Advisory Group, filed the following hard-hitting comments with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding the proposed new reactor at Fermi 3 in Monroe, Michigan. He concluded: "There is no justification for Fermi 3."

[To:] Fermi3.COLEIS@nrc.gov, Bruce.Olson@nrc.gov,

Docket ID NRC20080566, Fermi 3
 
Regarding: DTE’s Fermi 3 Docket ID NRC20080566
 
Per the NRC (68 FR 55910):

“The need for power must be addressed in connection with new power plant construction so that the NRC may weigh the likely benefits (e.g., electrical power) against the environmental impacts of constructing and operating a nuclear power reactor.”  
 
It is absolutely necessary for the NRC and DTE to update the Fermi 3 application with recent electric sales facts and forecasts. This update will show there is no need for power from Fermi 3 for the following reasons:
 
Sales forecasts used in DTE’s Fermi 3 application are now very dated and misleading
 
DTE’s current forecast indicates an electric sales DECLINE thru 2020 

Michigan’s poor economy and population loss are reducing electric demand
 
Michigan has enacted energy efficiency and renewable energy mandates

There is considerable surplus electric generating capacity in the Midwest market

CMS has suspended seven coal plants and dropped plans for a new plant
 
Fermi 3 would pose considerable risk to DTE and its’ ratepayers
 
Michigan’s Attorney General has questioned the economic viability of Fermi 3
 
 
In detail:

Sales forecasts used in DTE’s Fermi 3 application are very dated and misleading

The electric sales forecasts DTE used in their application are now 4 to 5 years old. They are based on a rate case filing to the MPSC from 4/2007 (U-15244) http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/viewcase.php?casenum=15244&submit.x=0&submit.y=0 And, the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) 21st Century Energy Plan published in January 2007. The forecast for this report was made in early 2006. To quote: "The MPSC Plan projected a statewide growth rate for electricity consumption of 1.3 percent over the period 2006 to 2025."
 
DTE’s current forecast indicates an electric sales DECLINE thru 2020

Quotes from DTE’s rate case U-16472 filing of October, 2010: 

“Service area sales are expected to decline to 46,988 GWh by 2020. This represents a 0.2% average annual decrease in sales from a dismal year in 2009. Any growth in service area sales due to positive economics is more than offset by the sales reductions due to the Company’s Commission-approved 2008 PA 295 Energy Optimization program.” 

“Detroit Edison’s service area system peak demand in 2009 was 10,627 MW. This was temperature normalized to 11,448 MW. Based on this 2009 temperature-normalized peak and a forecast service area peak demand of 10,551 MW in 2020, an average compound annual growth rate of -0.7% is expected. The peak demand declines due to 1) the expiration of four wholesale customer contracts, 2) a decline in residential air-conditioning sales, and 3) the effects of the Company’s Commission-approved 2008 PA 295 Energy Optimization program. The decline in residential air-conditioning sales, on average a decline of 1.8% annually, is mainly due to energy efficiency improvements as a result of federally mandated energy efficiency standards.”   P91 http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/16472/0001.pdf
The actual annual load factor in 2009 was 54.6% and DTE’s 2020 forecast is 54.4%. This indicates that DTE will have considerable excess capacity in 2020 without Fermi3.
 
See counter P74 and P91 in   http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/16472/0001.pdf   and http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/16472/0014.pdf

Michigan’s poor economy and population loss are reducing electric demand

Per DTE’s own economic outlook beyond 2012 for Southeast Michigan:

“Auto production volume, the largest single driver of economic activity in the region, should increase over the longer horizon, but only gradually and with considerable downside risk. Area steel production, which tends to rise and fall in step with auto output, is subject to the same limitations. Housing permits should recover very slowly as jobs and personal wealth pick up and 2 potential home buyers work off their debt. Employment is expected to increase but at less than the national pace. Population is forecast to decline through the forecast horizon of 2020.” P84 http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/16472/0001.pdf

Michigan continues to lose population

http://www.tv20detroit.com/news/local/79990192.html

Michigan has enacted energy efficiency and renewable energy mandates

Since DTE’s application was submitted, Michigan has mandated energy efficiency (1% annual savings) and renewable energy (10% by 2015) programs (PA 295) which have lowered the demand for conventional electric generation.  http://dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=MI16R&re=1&ee=1 Note, Michigan is behind other Midwestern states in energy efficiency and DTE is good at energy efficiency. DTE achieved 177% of their 2010 MWH target vs. 148% for the average Michigan utility. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mpsc/eo_legislature_report2011_369985_7.pdf
 
There is considerable surplus electric generating capacity in the Midwest market

One example, “American Electric Power (AEP) has one gigawatt more power than it needs in Ohio, according to the company’s Ohio Long-Term Forecast report to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, filed on April 15, 2011.”  http://ohiocitizen.org/?p=8036
 
Michigan’s CMS has suspended seven coal plants and dropped plans for a new one

CMS announced on December 2, 2011 they have cancelled plan for a new 830 MW coal plant plus the suspension of operation of seven smaller units in 2015. Reasons given in their press release:

"...reduced customer demand for electricity due to the recession and slow economic recovery, surplus generating capacity in the Midwest market, and lower natural gas prices linked to expanded shale gas supplies.  Lower natural gas prices make new coal-fired power plants less economically attractive."  http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=101338&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1635741&highlight=  ;
 
Fermi 3 would pose considerable risk to DTE and its ratepayers

Fermi 3 is estimated to cost $12 billion and DTE’s total market cap is only $8.8 billion. The huge debt to finance this plant would pose considerable financial risk to DTE’s shareholders, lenders and ratepayers. http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=DTE
 
Michigan’s overall electric rate is higher than in 36 other states. The substantial rate increase required to pay for this plant would put severe financial stain on Michigan’s fragile economy and particularly on our poorest ratepayers. Only 11 states have residential electric rates higher than in Michigan. Our residential rates increased 19% since 2009, a faster rate than in almost all other states.   http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/fig7p5.html 
 
Michigan’s Attorney General has questioned the economic viability of Fermi 3

“In his exceptions, the Attorney General points to several reasons why the COLA-related projections should not be included: Detroit Edison’s current excess generating capacity, declining sales, the questionable economic viability of constructing a nuclear plant, the lack of a concrete plan for when construction will occur, and no comparative analysis of the costs and benefits of a nuclear plant compared to other generating possibilities.” P71 http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/16472/0374.pdf 

There is no justification for Fermi 3.

Frank Zaski

Monday
Feb062012

"Fermi 3 foes urge health analysis"

NRC file photo of Fermi 2, located on the Lake Erie shore near Monroe, MI -- just north of OH, and a mere 8 miles from OntarioThe Detroit News has reported, in an article entitled "Fermi 3 foes urge health analysis," that indications of health damage from the operations of Fermi 2 be further studied before any plans for a new reactor at Fermi 3 move forward. The article reports on the questions raised in a recent report by Joe Mangano, Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, such as why Monroe County suffers from inexplicably high rates of infant motality, low birth weights, cancer mortality, and non-fatal cancer incidence.

Mangano serves as an expert witness for the international environmental coalition officially intervening against the Fermi 3 proposal. The coalition's member groups are Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

The article quoted from Mangano's submission: "Of 19 indicators, the Monroe County rate change (before and after Fermi 2 began operating) exceeded the state or nation for all 19...".

The article also quoted from Don't Waste Michigan's Michael Keegan: "It's important to establish what the situation is...If you're talking about putting another reactor into play, you need to know where you are with baseline cancer statistics."

Friday
Feb032012

Strong resistance mounted against Fermi 3 new reactor proposal in Monroe, Michigan

Satellite photo of Lake Erie showing extent of algal blooms -- which would be made worse by thermal and chemical discharges from Fermi 3An environmental coalition issued a media release on January 12, 2012, announcing numerous filings in response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Fermi 3. The environmental coalition has opposed Detroit Edison's proposal to build a General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) since the nuclear utility's combined Construction and Operations License Application (COLA) to NRC in 2008.

In 2009, the coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (CACC), Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, intervened and won standing, as well as the admission of several contentions, before an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB). One of those contentions concerns thermal and toxic chemical discharges from Fermi 3 which would worsen harmful algae blooms already running rampant in Lake Erie's shallow, fragile, and biologically productive Western Basin (see photo above left).

Environmental group filings submitted by the Jan. 11, 2012 deadline for public comment on the NRC DEIS for Fermi 3 included: the environmental coalition's comments and contentions; comments by Great Lakes United, a U.S./Canadian/Native American First Nations coalition of environmental groups; comments by CACC; comments by the Council of the Three Fires, representing the Walpole Island First Nation; comments by Lake Erie Waterkeeper, as well as an addendum; comments by Beyond Nuclear Launch Partner Keith Gunter; comments by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Michigan Environmental Council; comments and an addendum by Jessie Collins; comments by Beyond Nuclear; comments by the International Oversight Board; comments by Don't Waste Michigan on behalf of the environmental coalition interveners regarding evacuation, drinking water and additional issues; comments by the Great Lakes Environmental Law Clinic; comments by Pat Marida of the Ohio Sierra Club; comments by the IHM Justice, Peace, and Sustainability Office; and comments by Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

Comments by experts on behalf of environmental/health as well as consumer/ratepayer perspectives included: comments by coalition expert witness Joe Mangano of the Radiation and Public Health Project;  comments by Jim Welke; comments by National Lawyers Guild attorney Thomas Stephens, including on Walpole Island First Nation issues; comments by Ned Ford, consultant to the Sierra Club and expert witness serving the environmental coalition interveners in this NRC COLA proceeding; and comments by Frank Zaski of Franklin, MI, an expert on the "need for" (or, more accurately, lack of need for!) Fermi 3, who concludes: "There is no justification for Fermi 3."

The Detroit News ran an article on Feb. 6th entitled "Fermi 3 foes urge health analysis," about Mangano's findings.

In addition, comments by numerous concerned citizens, and individual environmental and environmental justice activists, representing many other groups and expert perspectives, were submitted: comments by Vic Mack; comments by Sierra Club member Tiffany Hartung; comments by Art Myatt; comments by Hal Newnan, of the South East Michigan Group of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter; comments by Kathy Barnes of Don't Waste Michigan; comments by Vincent Rossi; comments by Pat Lent; comments by Anabel Dwyer; comments by Kim Bergier; comments by Anne and Peter Bray; comments by Bobbi Filanda; comments by Cady Sontag; comments by Carolyn Doherty; comments by Chance of Berlin Township; comments by Corinne Carey of Don't Waste Michigan; comments by Christy Anderson; comments by Edward Podorsek; comments by Esther Marcus; comments by Ethyl Rivera; comments by Gayle Bettega; comments by Lance Englund; comments by Leona Duffey (V.P., Westland Homeowners Committee for Environmental Conservation; Sierra Club, South East Michigan Group, Conservation and Energy Committee; comments by Lisa Kasenow; comments by Marcee Meyers; comments by Sigrid and Ron Dale; comments by Kent Newman; comments by R.E. Lankford; and comments by James Gill.

Additional comments by opponents to, as well as proponents of, the Fermi 3 proposal were made at the December 15, 2011 afternoon and evening sessions of NRC public comment hearings held at Monroe County Community College. Refer to the NRC transcripts of the afternoon and evening sessions.

In addition, a PDF scan was made of some of the hard copy documents -- both pro and con Fermi 3 -- available as handouts or presented as testimony at the public comment hearings. By the way, Beyond Nuclear, as well as other environmental groups such as the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, had information tables set up at the pubilc hearing. So did Fermi 3 applicant Detroit Edison (DTE), the pro-nuclear power American Nuclear Society, and the NRC. NRC's press release about, and summary of, the December 15th meeting, as well as its slides shown at the beginning of both sessions is also available. NRC's sign in sheets have also been posted.

In addition, various local, county, state, and federal government agencies, as well as some elected officials, weighed in. These included: the U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service; the Michigan Department of Natural Resources; the Monroe County Planning Commission; Michigan State Representative Dale Zorn; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5.

While the City of Monroe Water System -- which provides water from Lake Erie to 75,000 local residents -- expressed support for Fermi 3, it also expressed concerns about negative impacts on water quality from construction activity erosion and run off into Lake Erie, as well as about the potential impacts of a catastrophic radioactivity release; it also called for Detroit Edison assistance in upgrading and modernizing its radiological monitoring equipment.

DTE submitted comments in support of its Fermi 3 application, including engineering corrections and comments by Peter Smith.

NRC Staff responded to interveners' contentions on Feb. 6, 2012, as did DTE. DTE also included three attachments: an MDEQ wetlands permit; an NPDES permit; and an MDNR endangered species document. 

On February 13, 2012, the environmental intervenors' attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, filed a rebuttal against NRC and DTE challenges to the coalition's Jan. 11th proposed contentions. The coalition issued a media release.

Regarding a simultaneous, parallel proceeding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) is "a cooperating agency with respect to the overall proposed Enrico Fermi 3 Nuclear Power Plant project." ACE recently issued a Public Notice concerning the "application by Detroit Edison Company for a Department of the Army (DA) permit to conduct dredging and filling activities and install structures associated with the proposed Enrico Fermi Unit 3 nuclear power plant in Lake Erie at Frenchtown Township, Monroe County, Michigan." A number of intervening and allied environmental groups have contacted ACE requesting public hearings on its involvement with the Fermi 3 proposal. For example, Michael Keegan of Don't Waste MI provided comments to, and requested hearings from, ACE.

ACE responded to Patricia Marida, Chair of the Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear Issues Committee, on Jan. 25, 2012. A nearly identical response by ACE was sent to Terry Lodge, attorney representing the environmental coalition intervening against Fermi 3. Even though ACE states "We conduct public hearings for the purpose of acquiring information or evidence which would be considered in evaluating the activities for a proposed DA permit action that may impact the waters and wetlands of the United States," it has not responded in the affirmative to Marida's, Lodge's, and others' requests for public hearings on this matter.

Watch this very same site for future postings in this proceeding, such as the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board's rulings on these matters.