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Nuclear Costs

Estimates for new reactor construction costs continue to sky-rocket. Conservative estimates range between $6 and $12 billion per reactor but Standard & Poor's predicts a continued rise. The nuclear power industry is lobbying for heavy federal subsidization including unlimited loan guarantees but the Congressional Budget Office predicts the risk of default will be well over 50 percent, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear opposes taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for the nuclear energy industry.

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Tuesday
Aug252015

VICTORY: DC PSC rejects Exelon Nuclear's takeover of Pepco!

Logo courtesy of Public Citizen's Energy and Climate ProgramThe Washington, D.C. Public Service Commission has voted unanimously to reject Exelon Nuclear's attempted takeover of the Mid-Atlantic electric utility Pepco. This blocks the acquisition, despite other jurisdictions -- including in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey -- having already approved the proposal.

As reported by AP: "[D.C. Public Service] Commission chairman Betty Ann Kane says the companies did not meet their burden of showing that the proposed merger would benefit the public."

Beyond Nuclear has been proud, honored, and privileged to be a part of the PowerDC coalition -- led by such groups as Public Citzen's Energy and Climate Program (see logo, left) -- sending out action alerts to our DC supporters, attending rallies, press conferences, and public meetings, bearing witness at Exelon Nuclear CEO Chris Crane's testimony before the D.C. PSC, etc. PowerDC deserves congratulations and thanks. It has consistently warned about the dangers of Exelon taking over Pepco, from the gouging of D.C. ratepayers in order to prop up dirty, dangerous, and uncompetitive old atomic reactors in IL, to the sabotaging of D.C.'s strides in renewable energy and energy efficiency. More.

Wednesday
Aug192015

"FirstEnergy backs away from free market, wants you to buy its more expensive power"

Davis-Besse is located on the Lake Erie shore in Oak Harbor, OH. The concrete Shield Building, located to the right of the cooling tower, is severely cracked. The cracking grows worse with every freeze.As reported by John Funk at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the half-baked request by FirstEnergy -- to overcharge ratepayers more than $3 billion on electricity bills, over the next 15 years, just to prop up the dirty, dangerous, expensive and old Davis-Besse atomic reactor and the Sammis coal burner -- is going to hearing on Aug. 31st. This, despite the fact that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff have repeatedly missed deadlines to publish their analysis and recommendations regarding the huge money grab.

Beyond Nuclear and environmental allies have officially intervened against the 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse since Dec. 27, 2010. Very recently, the environmental coalition's attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, as well as attorneys Diane Curran of Washington, D.C. and Mindy Goldstein of Atlanta, filed an appeal in the Davis-Besse Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land. The appeal, dubbed New York v. NRC II, challenges NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy. In its ruling on New York v. NRC I in June 2012, the court ordered NRC to carry out an Environmental Impact Statement on radioactive waste generation at atomic reactors like Davis-Besse, as well as to address: the risks of storage pool leaks of radioactivity into soil, groundwater, and surface waters; the risks of fires in storage pools; and the risk of a repository never being opened, meaning the irradiated nuclear fuel could remain on-site at places such as Davis-Besse indefinitely into the future. Beyond Nuclear et al. allege NRC flagrantly flouted the court orders. A favorable ruling for Beyond Nuclear in New York v. NRC II could mean a significant delay in the Davis-Besse license extension. Davis-Besse's initial 40-year license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017.

Saturday
Aug082015

Beyond Nuclear heads back to Columbus, OH to battle Davis-Besse $3 billion bailout

Beyond Nuclear is heading back to Columbus, Ohio, to resist FirstEnergy's attempted ratepayer robbery, to the tune of $3 billion, to prop up its dirty, dangerous, and uncompetitive Davis-Besse atomic reactor, and Sammis coal burner.

(Joining with grassroots Ohio environmental, public interest, and ratepayer rights activists, as well as the Sierra Club's national Beyond Coal campaign and Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Committee, Beyond Nuclear was there for a rally of 100 against FirstEnergy's money grab, at a protest at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio HQ in Columbus on June 15th. There'll be another rally on August 31st, as called for by the Ohio Sierra Club's Nuclear-Free Committee, which has also provided PUCO's email address, and the bailout docket number, for taking action!)

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps will present on a panel at one in a series of People, Peace, and the Planet sponsored by the Community Organizing Center. The events mark 70 years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

At the August 8th Peace Activist Conference at First Unitarian Universalist Church, Kevin will focus on the various debacles at Davis-Besse, from the current attempted ratepayer robbery, to more close calls with catastrophe than any other atomic reactor in the U.S. The safety risks are compounded significantly by Davis-Besse's cracked concrete containment Shield Building, which cracks worse every time it freezes.

Kevin will also discuss the inextricable links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and what we can do to abolish both.

Beyond Nuclear, along with Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Ohio Green Party, have intervened against Davis-Besse's 20-year license extension since Dec. 27, 2010. Davis-Besse's current 40-year license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017. The coalition is represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge.

In 2013, the Sierra club joined the coalition to resist Davis-Besse's risky experimental steam generator replacements. Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Associates, Inc. in Burlington, VT served as the coalition's expert witness.

Tuesday
Aug042015

"Duke Energy spending on Lee nuclear plant remains slow"

As reported by John Downey in Charlotte Business Journal, Duke Nuclear's spending on "pre-construction" activities at its proposed new Lee nuclear power plant in Gaffney, SC, has been relatively low in the past couple years -- if $3-4 million per month can be regarded as "low." After all, significant energy efficiency, and even renewable energy projects, such as wind power and solar photo-voltaics, could be built for that kind of money!

Duke Nuclear had originally proposed firing up Lee Unit 1 in 2017. But now initial start up has been postponed till 2024 at the earliest.

Duke proposes to build two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, just as is happening at Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA, and at Summer 2 & 3 in SC. Both the Vogtle and the Summer new reactor construction projects are billions of dollars over-budget, and years behind schedule.

Duke has not yet charged its $450 million in "pre-construction" activities to its SC rate-base, but it could under SC's generous "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP) law.

Already, South Carolina Electric & Gas and SCANA have charged their SC ratepayers more than half a dozen rate increases, entirely devoted to CWIP costs on building Summer 2 & 3, with the SC public service commission's blessing. SCE&G and SCANA have not applied for federal nuclear loan guarantees, however.

Vogtle 3 & 4 has slogged ahead, thanks not only to CWIP surcharges on GA ratepayer electricity bills, but also compliments of an $8.3 billion federal taxpayer-backed loan guarantee, and loan. President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz have provided that massive loan guarantee, and loan, without charging Southern Nuclear and its partners a single penny of credit subsidy fee, to protect federal taxpayers at least to some small extent, should Southern default on its loan repayment.

$8.3 billion is 15 times more federal taxpayer funding than was lost to the U.S. Treasury at Solyndra, when that solar loan guarantee repayment defaulted. But Vogtle 3 & 4 are at a significantly higher risk of defaulting, than was Solyndra when the solar loan guarantee was awarded.

More than $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantee funding remains available, for projects like Lee 1 & 2, or Fermi 3 in MI, to apply for. Lee 1 & 2 still needs COLA (combined Construction and Operating License Application) approval by NRC, something that Fermi 3 already won on May 1, 2015. However, Beyond Nuclear and allies continue to challenge the Fermi 3 license, now by appealing to the federal courts. One of the appeals by the environmental coalition is a challenge to NRC's Orwellian permission to grant the go ahead for "pre-construction" activities at new reactor construction sites, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Thursday
Jul302015

Uncompetitive IL nukes to recieve $600 million annual subsidy under PJM plan

"Burning money" image by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsAs reported by Scott DiSavino in Reuters, a new "capacity factor" subsidy, at ratepayer expense, is being offered by the Pennsylvania New Jersey Maryland (PJM) grid operator to Exelon Nuclear, to help prop up several uncompetitive atomic reactors in Illinois.

"Capacity factor" refers to nuclear power's 24/7 "baseload" avaiability, but ignores the fact that nuclear power plants can experience years-long safety-related shutdowns.

The article concludes that "extra revenues from the capacity auction could keep the money losing reactors operating for a few more years until possible new carbon standards are available," as Exelon lobbies "federal, state and regional policy makers [to] find ways to compensate generators for the environmental and reliability benefits that non-carbon emitting nuclear plants provide."

Of course, nuclear power is not zero carbon. And, as David Kraft, Director of NEIS, has pointed out, other sources of electricity have inherent upsides, deserving of societal support. Wind power and solar photo-voltaics, for example, as well as energy efficiency, release even less greenhouse gases than nuclear power, and also do not generate forever deadly radioactive waste.

Nor do efficiency and renewables risk catastrophic reactor meltdowns, as Exelon's age-degrading reactors in IL are at ever greater risk of experiencing. Yet, these renewable and efficiency electricity sources are not being awarded benefits, at ratepayer expense, for such society-friendly aspects.

One of those federal policies that could unduly further benefit the nuclear power industry is the Obama industry's Clean Power Plan, to be announced on August 3rd.