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.



Wal-Mart on FirstEnergy's Ohio power proposal: 'Simply not appropriate'

As reported by Columbus Business First, the retail giant Wal-Mart has spoken out in the strongest possible terms against FirstEnergy's attempt to gouge ratepayers -- including businesses -- in order to prop up its uncompetitive Davis-Besse atomic reactor and Sammis coal burner.

The Ohio Consumers Counsel has estimated the bailout would cost ratepayers $3 billion over the next 15 years, if it is approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

Beyond Nuclear has opposed Davis-Besse's 2017-2037 license extension for the past five years. This included oral testimony at PUCO public hearings in Akron and Toledo last January, as well as written comments to PUCO since. Most recently, Beyond Nuclear has taken the fight to the second highest court in the land, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal alleges that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has violated the Atomic Energy Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Administrative Procedures Act. A favorable court ruling would strike a blow to Davis-Besse's bid for a 20-year license extension.

Columbus Business First also reported on the first day of the FirstEnergy bailout hearing before PUCO, with an article entitled "Who cares about FirstEnergy's power plan? Ohio's manufacturers, hospitals and retailers, for starters."


"Exelon plans cost cuts, won't rule out layoffs"

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Illinois-based Exelon Nuclear has warned its employees that layoffs may lie ahead, as five atomic reactors in the state continue to hemorrhage money.

Exelon has been buffeted recently. The Washington, D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) rejected Exelon's proposed takeover of Mid-Atlantic utility Pepco. The PJM capacity auction left Exelon reactors in three states in the lurch. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan did not give nuclear lobbyists, especially at Exelon, what they wanted. And the Illinois State Legislature went on summer recess on May 31st, without giving Exelon the $1.5 billion bailout it requested, at ratepayer expense, to prop up its uncompetitive reactors.

During testimony under oath before the DC PSC, Exelon Nuclear CEO Chris Crane, who wrote the memo that prompted the Chicago Tribune article above, also indicated that should Exelon takeover Pepco, job cuts at Pepco will follow. Exelon and Pepco have made known they plan to appeal the DC PSC's rejection by the 30-day deadline.


"Protests greet FirstEnergy rate request hearings"

Photo compliments of Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear-Free CommitteeJim Provance, Columbus Bureau Chief for the Toledo Blade, has reported on "Protests greet FirstEnergy rate request hearings."

The protest took place at the HQ of PUCO, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, in the state capital, Columbus. It marked the beginning of weeks of formal hearings, where PUCO will consider FirstEnergy's requested ratepayer bailout, including to prop up its dirty, dangerous, expensive, age-degraded, and uncompetitive Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo on the Lake Erie shoreline.

Speakers included Harvey Wasserman of Solartopia fame, Bob Fitrakis of Columbus Free Press, Neil Waggoner of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, and Pat Marida of Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Committee (who posted photos, including the one to the left). More.


"Gas deal could signal Southern’s drift from new nuclear projects"

As reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a $12 billion deal merging Southern Co. and the AGL natural gas utility could mark the end of the "nuclear renaissance" for Southern.

The article reports:

This deal signals that “the nuclear renaissance is over for Southern,” said Robert “Bobby” Brown, a regulatory lawyer and former member of Georgia’s utility regulator, the Public Service Commission.

The article goes on:

The Atlanta company is building two new nuclear power units at its Vogtle site in Georgia and an advanced-technology coal-fired plant in Mississippi. Both those projects are years behind schedule and have resulted in billions of dollars of cost overruns that will be born by Southern’s shareholders or customers, or both. (emphasis added)

The Obama administration awarded Southern and its partners at Vogtle 3 & 4 a whopping $8.3 billion in federal taxpayer-back loans and loan guarantees. If the project defaults on its loan repayment, federal taxpayers would be left holding the bag.

That's 15 times more money than was lost to the U.S. Treasury by the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default. And Vogtle 3 & 4's risk of default is higher than Solyndra's was determined to be when the solar loan guarantee was awarded.

In addition to taxpayer subsidies, Vogtle 3 & 4 has been financed by "Construction Work in Progress" -- surcharges on ratepayers' electricity bills that are illegal in most states.


Crain's Chicago Business: "Exelon wants a market that's not quite so open"

Crain's Chicago Business concludes its editorial critical of Exelon's request for a $1.5 billion ratepayer bailout from the Illinois State Legislature, in order to prop up several of its uncompetitive atomic reactors:

Funny thing about competitive markets: Sometimes prices go up and sometimes they go down. Yet Exelon's recommended solution to helping its existing plants is greater governmental intervention in the form of mandatory surcharges. If the company wants Springfield to mandate higher rates for its generation facilities, it should become a regulated company—with a set return on investment—and abandon the fiction that it's all about an open market.

Crain's also gets in some good licks regarding Exelon's hypocritical position opposing wind power subsidies (lobbying to eliminate them as unwanted competition for its nuclear division, while its own wind power division took advantage of them -- a position that got it kicked out of the American Wind Energy Association!), as well as its generation of forever deadly radioactive waste (which the public also subsidizes, by the way; energy economist Mark Cooper at Vermont Law School has calculated that the first 200 years of radioactive waste management will cost ratepayers and taxpayers $210-450 billion! That figure alone doubles the cost of nuclear generated electricity, except that the externality has never been accounted for!).