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.



Lawsuit filed against AP1000 reactor design certification and NRC's approval of Vogtle 3 & 4 COLA

A lawsuit filed by attorneys Diane Curran of Washington, D.C., Mindy Goldstein of Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University in Atlanta, and John Runkle of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, challenges the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) approval of the Toshiba-Westinghouse "Advanced Passive" (AP) 1000 reactor design on Dec. 30, 2011, as well as the Feb. 9-10 NRC approval of the Vogtle nuclear power plants Units 3 and 4 combined construction and operating license application (COLA). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an environmental coalition including: Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League; Center for a Sustainable Coast; and Georgia Women's Action for New Directions. Those environmental petitioners are joined by co-petitioners from the "AP1000 Oversight Group": North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network; Citizens Allied for Safe Energy; Friends of the Earth; Nuclear Information and Resource Service; and Nuclear Watch South (nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates has served as an expert witness for the AP1000 Oversight Group). Dr. Arjun Makhijani of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) serves as the environmental coalition's expert witness on this lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the NRC's failure to apply lessons learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe before approving the AP1000 reactor design, as well as the Vogtle 3 and 4 COLA, is a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as additional laws and regulations. The plaintiffs cite the dissenting opinion written by NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko in the 4-1 split NRC Commissioners decision to approve the Vogtle 3 and 4 COLA. 

The AP has reported on this story.

Beyond Nuclear and its environmental coalition allies have filed identical legal challenges against the Seabrook nuclear power plant's license extension in New Hampshire, the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant's license extension in Ohio, and the Fermi 3 atomic reactor's COLA in Michigan. However, those proceedings have not yet reached the stage that the Vogtle 3 and 4 proceeding has -- final approvals by NRC, now timely for legal action in federal court.


Environmental coalition defends Fermi 3 EIS contentions against challenges by NRC staff and DTE

NRC file photo of Fermi 2 on the Lake Erie shore, where Detroit Edison wants to build a giant new reactorOn Feb. 13, 2012, attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo, on behalf of an environmental coalition, filed a rebuttal to challenges by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff and Detroit Edison. The agency and utility were challenging contentions filed by the environmental coalition on Jan. 11, 2012 concerning NRC's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) about the new Fermi 3 reactor, a proposed General Electric-Hitachi ESBWR (so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor"). The new contentions involve such issues as impacts on endangered and threatened plant and animal species, and their critical habitats, from the overall Fermi 3 proposal, as well as related sub-proposals, such as the contemplated transmission line corridor; radiological health impacts on the Monroe County community from Fermi 3, which has already suffered a half century of radiological and toxic chemical harm from the Fermi 1 and Fermi 2 reactors, as well as a number of giant coal burning power plants; and impacts on the Walpole Island First Nation, just 53 miles away across the U.S./Canadian border. The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. Beyond Nuclear has compiled all the filings relating to the battle over the Fermi 3 Draft Environmental Impact Statement.


"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."


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.


"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."


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) 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
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   and

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

Michigan continues to lose population

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. 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.
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.”
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."  ;
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.
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. 
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 

There is no justification for Fermi 3.

Frank Zaski