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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
Jan302012

Beyond Nuclear expert witness testimony against high-level radioactive waste risks to be generated by new Canadian reactors

In October 2011, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps was honored to be asked by Families Against Radiation Exposure in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada to serve as its expert witness in a proceeding before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission regarding Cameco's application for a five year license extension at its Uranium Conversion Facility, just off downtown and very near residential neighborhoods. Cameco's waterfront facility is amongst the oldest nuclear industrial sites in the world, first opened in 1932 as a radium extraction plant. Port Hope's residents have suffered many decades of radioactive pollution and contamination as a consequence.

Kevin submitted his written comments to CNSC on December 19, 2011. He focused on the radioactive stigma impacts to Port Hope, including on property values, as well as threats of flooding at the site due to climate destabilization, as well as security risks given Cameco's (and its predecessor Eldorado's) involvement in the nuclear weapons industry, as well as depleted uranium (DU) munitions. Kevin then attended a three day long hearing before the CNSC, from January 17 to 19, 2012, at which he testified.

In late March, 2011 Kevin also served on the Northwatch team, along with Northwatch's Brennain Lloyd and Great Lakes United's John Jackson, at a Joint Panel Review concerning proposed new reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant, just a short distance west of Port Hope. Kevin focused on high-level radioactive waste risks associated with that proposal. A coalition of environmental groups in Ontario has since filed a lawsuit challenging the decision to move ahead with those new reactors.

Friday
Jan272012

Resistance continues against "Fermi 3" proposed new ESBWR targeted at Monroe, Michigan

A satellite photo dated Oct. 7, 2011 shows the extent of harmful algal blooms in Lake ErieAn 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).

The January 11th filings included: the environmental coalition's comments and contentions; comments by CACC; comments by the Council of the Three Fires, representing the Walpole Island First Nation; comments by Lake Erie Waterkeeper; comments by Beyond Nuclear Launch Partner Keith Gunter; comments by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Michigan Environmental Council; and comments by expert witness Joe Mangano of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

Friday
Jan272012

"Another One Bites the Dust!": Progress Energy may cancel two new AP1000s targeted at Levy, Florida!

Graphic courtesy of Fairewinds Associates

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Progess Energy has announced an indefinite suspension of the construction plans for two Toshiba-Westinghouse so-called "Advanced Passive 1000" (AP1000) atomic reactors targeted at the greenfield (no old reactors already there) site at Levy, Florida. That's the good news. The bad news is that Florida ratepayers are nonetheless locked into paying "advance" charges for the new reactors on their electricity bills month after month for years to come, even though the reactors may never get built. Such "Construction Work in Progress" charges are illegal in most states, although have been made legal in such states as Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia in an effort to grease the skids for new atomic reactor proposals, at ratepayer expense.

By the end of last year, Progress Energy's 1.6 million Florida ratepayers had already made $545 million in "advance" payments on their electricity bills toward the Levy new reactors, or an average of about $340 per person. Progress Energy fully intends to extract yet another $555 million from its ratepayers in the years ahead, or another $350 per person, whether or not the reactors actually get built and fired up.

The Levy new reactors have been a case study in cost overruns. As the article reports, Progress Energy first estimated in 2006 that a single AP1000 would cost as little as $4 billion. The very next year, the projected price tag had jumped to $10 billion per reactor. A year after that, Progress added a second new reactor to the proposal, and estimated the cost at a total of $17 billion. But last year, the price projection had reached $22 billion for the twin AP1000s.

The project has also been a case study in schedule delays. In 2006, Progress said its new reactor would fire up in 2016. By 2009, Progress admitted the opening date had slipped two years into the future, to 2018. By 2010, the opening date had retreated yet further, to 2021. Progress is now admitting that the project won't open till 2027, if at all.

Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer at Fairewinds Associates in Vermont and expert witness for an environmental coalition opposed to new AP1000s targeted throughout the Southeast, was quoted as saying "It's a dramatic strategy change (by Progress)...Now, it looks like they're retreating." Gundersen has identified a major safety flaw in the AP1000's supposedly "advanced, passive" design, which could actively pump hazardous radioactivity into the environment during an accident (see graphic, above).

Thursday
Dec222011

NRC approves AP1000 design for new reactors proposed in Georgia and South Carolina

As reported by the New York Times, the five Commissioners of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission today approved the design certification for Toshiba-Westinghouse's so-called "Advanced Passive 1000" (AP1000, which is actually an 1,100 Megawatt-electric reactor) reactor design. This would allow construction of two new reactors at Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, and two new reactors at Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina, to accelerate. The approval comes despite a major design flaw identified by nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, working on behalf of an environmental coalition opposing new AP1000s proposed across the Southeast. Both the Vogtle and Summer new reactor projects enjoyed ratepayer subsidies in the form of current "Construction Work in Progress" charges on electricity bills, something that is illegal in most states. In addition, the Vogtle project received an $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee, announced by President Obama himself in February, 2010. If actually built, this would be the first new reactor order actually constructed in the U.S. since October 1973. All other orders after that point were either cancelled outright, or abandoned midway.

Saturday
Sep172011

NRC rules new reactor licensing proceedings can continue full steam ahead despite Fukushima

As reported by the Newburyport News, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has decided to proceed "full steam ahead" with the Seabrook license extension proceeding, despite a legal intervention by Beyond Nuclear and environmental allies to suspend the proceeding in the wake of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe.

In addition, Beyond Nuclear at the Fermi 3 new reactor proceeding, and the Davis-Besse license extension proceeding, and environmental allies at many additional old and new reactor proceedings, including new reactor design certification proceedings, have been rebuffed by the NRC Commissioners in a parallel call for license and design certification proceeding suspensions in the wake of Fukushima. At the time of the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979, the NRC effectively suspended any and all license proceedings for a year and half. Not so this time, in the aftermath of the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

General Electric, reactor vendor for the Boiling Water Reactor Mark 1 design -- which overheated, melted down, exploded, and breached containment three times at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan -- has two new reactor designs undergoing design certification, as well as numerous Combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) proceedings in the U.S. The new G.E. designs are the so-called Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), and the so-called Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR). COLA proceedings are in progress for the ABWR at the South Texas Project, and for the ESBWR at Fermi 3 in Michigan. Beyond Nuclear is an official party to the interventions opposing the ESBWR design certification, as well as the COLA at Fermi 3.