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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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Thursday
Jul302015

Exelon threatens to close three reactors by early next year, absent $1.8 billion IL bailout

NRC file photo of two-reactor Quad Cities nuclear power plant in ILScott Stapf of the Hastings Group's tweet put it well: Nuclear blackmail: Exelon threatens to kill Quad Cities plant if IL lawmakers don't hand over loot.

As reported by Crain's Chicago Business, despite a windfall compliments of regional grid operator PJM (provided at ratepayer expense), Exelon Nuclear is nonetheless still threatening to close its two reactors at Quad Cities, unless the Illinois State Legislature provides it another massive bailout, to the tune of $1.8 billion.

Exelon has also said its downstate single reactor plant, Clinton, could be next to close, early next year, absent the state bailout. A dozen years ago, the Clinton site was a "Nuclear Renaissance" showcase, with a Nuclear Regulatory Commission rubber-stamped "Early Site Permit" for a second new reactor there, a proposal suspended many years ago now.

Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago has led the charge in opposition to the state nuclear bailout.

Earlier this week, E&E published an interview with John Rowe in which the former Exelon CEO said that shutting Illinois's uncompetitive atomic reactors is "the proper market-driven answer."

Tuesday
Jul282015

"Prefab Nuclear Plants Prove Just as Expensive"

"Burning money" graphic by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsRebecca Smith has reported in the Wall Street Journal that the "[m]odular method has run into costly delays and concerns about who will bear the brunt of the expense."

Joseph "Buzz" Miller, Georgia Power's executive vice president for nuclear development, is quoted as saying "The promise of modular construction has yet to be seen."

The two proposed new Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, Vogtle Units 3 & 4, that Georgia Power is building are years behind schedule, and billions of dollars over budget. $8.3 billion in federal nuclear loan guarantees, awarded by the Obama administration at no cost to the nuclear utilities, would leave taxpayers holding the bag if the project defaults on its loan repayment.

That's 15 times the amount of taxpayer money at risk than was lost to the U.S. Treasury with the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default several years ago.

The article also reports: "Stephen Byrne, president of South Carolina Electric & Gas [SCE&G], recently told investors his company is in discussions with Westinghouse and CB&I [Chicago Bridge & Iron] about the cost overruns and who will bear the burden. Utilities want those added costs to be shared, getting vendors to pay for some of the added expense but vendors are examining the claims. 'We feel that there’s an opportunity for a settlement in the future,' he said."

The two AP1000s under construction at Summer nuclear power plant in SC have been financed by repeated "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP) surcharges on ratepayer electricity bills over the past many years. Such a "nuclear tax" is illegal in most states.

These cost overruns and schedule delays were to be expected, based on the previous history of nuclear power in the U.S. and overseas.

In 1985, Forbes wrote "The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale."

In fact, ironically enough, Vogtle Units 1 & 2 were the poster children for cost overruns, coming in at 1,300% their originally estimated price tag.

And the Watts Bar Units 1 & 2 are the case studies in atomic reactor schedule delays. Watts Bar took from 1973 to 1996 to become operational. Watts Bar 2 began construction in 1972, and is still struggling to begin generating electricity, 23 years later!

Such problems extend overseas, as well. A decade-long delay, and huge cost overruns, at the Olkiluoto new reactor construction site in Finland have led to major lawsuits between the nuclear utility, TVO, and the bankrupt French reactor vendor, Areva, to determine who is liable.

Monday
Jul202015

Cleveland Plain Dealer editorializes against Davis-Besse bailout

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has published an editorial, "PUCO should reject FirstEnergy rate request."

And 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. See posting above, regarding this August 8th event.

Monday
Jul132015

Davis-Besse's attempted $3 billion ratepayer robbery hearings before the PUCO postponed yet again!

At Davis-Besse's front entrance in Oak Harbor, OH, Humpty Dumpty and Homer Simpson protest the Snow Job by recreating the Blizzard of '78--FirstEnergy and NRC's false root cause explanation of the severe cracking of Davis-Besse's Shield Building, that worsens with every freeze.The hearings were scheduled for April...then postponed to June...then to July...and now to August!

Pat Marida, coordinator of Ohio Sierra Club's Nuclear-Free Committee, reports:

"THE PUBLIC UTILTIES COMMISSION OF OHIO (PUCO) HAS POSTPONED EVIDENTIARY HEARINGS ON FIRSTENERGY’S BAILOUT REQUEST FOR WHAT I RECALL IS THE FOURTH TIME, TO AUGUST 31, FOR WHICH DATE WE WILL RESCHEDULE OUR RALLY.

Postponing is likely a good sign. PUCO has gotten a lot of push-back from the public, showing statistics that contradict the propaganda being fed to them by FirstEnergy. They will have a harder time rubberstamping the request and any complicity with industry would stand out.

RALLY AUGUST 31 with the Sierra Club and others at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.  Tell them, "DON'T CHARGE ELECTRIC RATEPAYERS $3 BILLION TO BAIL OUT FirstEnergy's unprofitable coal plants and the aging, accident-plagued Davis-Besse nuclear reactor!

EMAIL THE PUCO and tell them No Nuclear and Coal Bailouts!  No rate hikes to subsidize FirstEnergy!  The PUCO is seeking public comments.  Here is the address: Email docketing@puc.state.oh.us and begin your statement with “Please file this as an opposition comment under CASE #: 14-1297-EL-SSO.”

FirstEnergy led the fight that overturned Ohio's renewable and efficiency standards. BOO!  Now the PUCO is going to decide whether to hand them an enormous monetary gift, at the expense of the public health and purse. 

                                                NO BAILOUTS!  NO KIDDING!"

Pat mentioned "at the expense of the public health and purse" in her alert above.

Here is a passage from a Davis-Besse backgrounder Beyond Nuclear published a few years ago, on how bad the public health and property damage would be if Davis-Besse has a catastrophic radioactivity release:

"How  bad  would  the  casualties  and  property  damage  be?  The  NRC-­commissioned,  Sandia  National  Lab-­conducted “Calculation  of  Reactor  Accident  Consequences”  (CRAC­‐2)  report [officially titled as the 1982 Sandia Siting Study or as NUREG/CR-2239] sheds  terrifying  light  on  this  question.  NRC  actually  tried  to  bury  the  report,  but  U.S.  Congressman [now U.S. Senator]  Ed Markey  (D‐MA),  who wrote  a  four‐page  letter  to  NRC  Chairman  Jaczko, expressing  his  concerns  about  the  recently  revealed  shield  building  cracking  at  Davis­‐Besse) [46] forced  CRAC‐2’s  publication  via  his  congressional  hearing  powers  in  1982.

CRAC­‐2  lists  the  following  casualty  and  property  damage  figures from  a  catastrophic  radioactivity  release  at Davis­‐Besse:  1,400  Peak  Early  Fatalities;  73,000  Peak  Early  Injuries;  10,000  Peak  Cancer  Deaths;  $84  billion  in  property  damage.  But  CRAC­‐2  was  based  on  1970 U.S.  Census  data;  populations  around  Davis‐Besse  have  grown  significantly  in  the  past  42  years,  meaning  that  those  casualty  figures  would  now  be  much  worse.[47] And  when  adjusted  for  inflation  from  1982  dollar  figures,  property  damage  would  today  surmount  $187  billion in  2010  dollar  figures.[48]"

And the CRAC-2 report did not account for a severely cracked concrete containment Shield Building, which cracks worse every time it freezes at Davis-Besse! That's why we entitled our backgrounder "What Humpty Dumpty doesn't want you to know: Davis-Besse's cracked containment Snow Job." (see image, above left)

Ironically, that $3 billion would be about what it would take to replace Davis-Besse's Shield Building. But FirstEnergy has no such plans, nor does NRC have any such requirement. FirstEnergy would simply pocket that $3 billion, at the expense of ratepayers. It would line the pockets of FirstEnergy shareholders and corporate executives. No structural repairs would be made, using that money, at Davis-Besse. This is unacceptable.

Please take action! Urge the PUCO to reject FirstEnergy's bailout request (see PUCO's email address, above).

Thursday
Jun182015

COOPER: "NUCLEAR WAR AGAINST THE FUTURE" MAY DELAY … BUT WILL NOT STOP … THE RISE OF RENEWABLES, ENERGY EFFICIENCY, AND 21ST CENTURY TECHNOLOGY

Dr. Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment Vermont Law SchoolAs posted by the Hastings Group:

Expert: Pandering to Nuclear in EPA Clean Power Plan, IL and NY Bailouts of Exelon, and FirstEnergy Reactor Prop-up Plan in OH, Only Postpone the Transformation of the Electricity Sector… at Considerable Expense to Ratepayers.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 17, 2015 – The 20th Century model of large baseload electricity generation, including nuclear reactors, is in an irreversible decline in the face of the emerging 21st Century decentralized power model relying on renewables, energy efficiency, and technology-based demand management, according to a new report by Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School.

The Cooper report, "Power Shift: The Deployment of a 21st Century Electricity Sector and the Nuclear War to Stop It," is available online at
http://www-assets.vermontlaw.edu/Assets/iee/Power_Shift_Mark_Cooper_June_2015.PDF.

For policymakers and ratepayers, Cooper's stark conclusion means that last-ditch efforts to prop-up nuclear power with amendments to the EPA Clean Power Plan, state-level subsidies (e.g., Exelon's "nuclear blackmail" threat of Illinois lawmakers over five reactors in that state and FirstEnergy's bailout scheme involving the Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio), attacks in Indiana, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina and other states on renewable energy standards, and preferential rate-setting arrangements (e.g., Exelon's Ginna reactor at Rochester, New York) are costly detours on the road to a much more consumer friendly, reliable and sustainable low carbon electricity sector … (more) …

To read the full 06/17/15 news release, click here.
To read the new "Power Shift" report, click here.
To listen to streaming audio of the 06/17/15 news event, click here. (Available after 4 p.m. EDT on 06/17/15.)

MEDIA CONTACT: Alex Frank, (703) 276-3264 or afrank@hastingsgroup.com.