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.



Environmental groups oppose old and new reactors at Fermi nuclear power plant

NRC file photo of Fermi 2Multiple environmental groups have met an arbitrarily short, 11:59pm Eastern deadline, and officially intervened against the application by DTE (Detroit Edison) to extend the operating license at its Fermi 2 atomic reactor (photo, left) for an additional 20 years. Fermi 2's operating license is currently set to expire in 2025.

DTE's Fermi nuclear power plant, most infamous for the October 5, 1966 "We Almost Lost Detroit" partial meltdown of its Unit 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor, is located on the Lake Erie shore of southeast Michigan, in Monroe County.

Beyond Nuclear has entered into coalition with Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, as well as Don't Waste Michigan, to file four contentions against Fermi 2's license extension.

Two of the contentions concern radioactive waste. The first is about the risk of catastrophic irradiated nuclear fuel storage pool fires. Fermi 2's storage pool holds around 600 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel, more than all four destroyed units at Fukushima Daiichi put together (419 tons). The second radioactive waste contention is about the lack of safety and environmental assurances, since the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy was declared null and void two years ago by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and NRC has not yet replaced it.

Another contention concerns the General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, and its containment's, long-known, fatal design flaws. Fermi 2 is largest GE Mark I BWR in the world, almost as big as the melted down Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 and 2 reactor cores put together. 

The final contention is about the interconnected risks between the age-degraded Fermi 2, and the untested, proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor, including the vulnerability of both sharing a common off-site electricity transmission corridor.

The three groups, joined by Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, as well as the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter, have also been intervening against the Fermi 3 proposed new reactor since March, 2009.

Both coalitions challenging Fermi 2, and Fermi 3, are represented by Toledo-based attorney Terry Lodge.

Citizens Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT) separately filed 14 contentions of its own against the Fermi 2 license extension. CRAFT released a press release.


Cost overruns and schedule delays at proposed new reactors in GA, SC, and TN

Aerial image of Vogtle nuclear power plant in GA, showing the operational Units 1 and 2, as well as the construction site for the proposed Units 3 and 4. Photo credit: High Flyer.We told them so. As the environmental movement warned 14 years ago, when the nuclear relapse was hatched by the Bush/Cheney administration, proposed new reactors at Vogtle 3 & 4 in Georgia, Summer 2 & 3 in South Carolina, and Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee are suffering major cost overruns and construction schedule delays.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has published an update on Vogtle 3 & 4, which currently are suffering a 21-month schedule delay, and $1.4 billion cost overrun. The delays could well get worse, at a staggering cost increase of $2 million per day of delay!

Similarly, as reported by SRS Watch, delays of up to three years, and cost overruns topping $500 million, are afflicting the Summer 2 & 3 proposed new reactors in SC.

Note that those April 1st projected opening dates for the new reactors at Voglte and Summer, listed in the updates above, are no April Fool's joke. GA and SC ratepayers are already being gouged for the new reactors' troubled contstruction, on their electricity bills.

Vogtle 3 & 4's financial risks also now implicate federal taxpayers, in the form of a $6.5 billion loan guarantee, likely to soon grow to an $8.3 billion loan guarantee. This is compliments of the Obama administration. So, if Vogtle 3 & 4 default on their loan repayment, federal taxpayers will be left holding the bag. This is 15 times more taxpayer money at risk than was lost in the Solyndra solar loan guarantee scandal. And that risk, of Vogtle 3 & 4 defaulting on its loan repayment, was judged, years ago, by the likes of the Congressional Budget Office and Government Accountability Office, as a much greater risk than Solyndra defaulting on its loan repayment.

Vogtle 3 & 4, as well as Summer 2 & 3, are Toshiba-Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors. They are experimental, never having been built before anywhere in the world, although AP-1000s are also under construction in China.

The proposed new reactor in Tennessee, that is also suffering cost overruns and schedule delays, is the Tennessee Valley Authority's long-mothballed Watts Bar Unit 2.

To add to the irony, the existing reactors at Vogtle, Units 1 & 2, were the poster child for cost overruns in the last generation of reactor construction, coming in at 1,300% their originally estimated cost!

And the operational Watts Bar Unit 1 took 23 years to build, from 1973 to 1996!


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.


"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.


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.