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.



"Exelon's Proposed Acquisition of Pepco: Corporate Strategy at Ratepayer Expense"

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has released a new report, Exelon's Proposed Acquisition of Pepco: Corporate Strategy at Ratepayer Expense.

Here’s an overview, and here's a snapshot:

  • The deal, if it goes through, would expose customers to rate increases aimed at supporting Exelon’s struggling business model;
  • it would undermine the District of Columbia’s renewable-energy initiatives;
  • and it would expose ratepayers to long-term risks that are significantly larger than the short-term protections and public benefits claimed by Exelon.

Exelon's "struggling business model"? Dirty, dangerous, expensive, age-degrading, and ever less competitive nuclear power plants, most of which are nearly a thousand miles away from Pepco's service area in D.C. and Maryland!

The full report is posted here.


Davis-Besse: Economic powerhouse, or house of cards?

"Nuclear power burning money" image, created by Gene Case of Avenging Angels, was featured on the cover of The Nation magazine. Used with permission of the artist.As reported by FierceEnergy, First Energy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) commissioned the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI, of which it is a leading member utility) to publish a report on the economic benefits brought by the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor to the Ohio economy.

Apparently, unlike in Illinois, where Exelon pressured th state legislature to order state agencies to write the report, FENOC had to turn to its own trade association and lobbying arm to do it. So much for even the pretense of objectivity. (But even the IL state agency reports showed the sky would not fall if Exelon's five reactors closed!)

Here is what Tim Judson, Executive Director of NIRS, had to say about the FENOC/NEI report:

"FirstEnergy and NEI are out with their own Exelon-like report claiming that Davis-Besse is indispensable. Might be good to cite to the Illinois agencies’ report yesterday saying Exelon and NEI basically exaggerated their doomsday predictions. The fact that Davis-Besse is only like 5% of the state’s generation capacity ought to make this whole thing laughable – especially given the untapped renewable energy and efficiency potential after the state suspended them last year – but the [FierceEnergy] article below also leaves out the piece that FirstEnergy is demanding at least a $182 million/year subsidy to keep [Davis-Besse] and its coal plants online.

That is actually based on the average contract price for all four plants FirstEnergy is trying to include in the contract. In reality, [Davis-Besse's] operating costs are higher than the coal plants – especially considering [FirstEnergy] is likely including the cost of replacing the steam generators (and, who knows, the shield [building] wall?). So the portion that is Davis-Besse costs are probably at least at the $71/MWh level Exelon is likely seeking for Ginna in New York, and maybe higher. But at that level, the ratepayer subsidy for Davis-Besse would be more in the $225 million/year range. Again, that would be a total cost above the market price of electricity."


"Has Exelon been crying wolf?"

A map of Nuclear Illinois, prepared by NEISAs reported by Kari Lydersen of Midwest Energy News in an article entitled "Illinois report says Exelon nuclear straits not so dire," a massive bailout of $580 million per year at ratepayer expense may not be justified. Chicago-based Exelon, the country's single largest nuclear utility, has lobbied the Illinois legislature for the hand out, in order to prop up five (of 11 still operating) atomic reactors in the state, at risk of closure due to their inability to economically compete on the open market. This report was mandated by a legislative resolution rammed through over public objections earlier this year due to Exelon lobbyist pressure.

David Kraft, Executive Director of Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), was quoted. More.


"Playing chicken with Illinois' electric rates won't improve the climate"

Peter BradfordSo warns Peter Bradford (photo, left) in an op-ed published in Crain's Chicago Business. Bradford served on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the Three Mile Island meltdown. He has also served as chairman of the State of New York, and State of Maine, public utility commissions. He now serves as an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School.


"Success for program that funded Solyndra"

"Burning money" graphic by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsAs reported by the Washington Post, "20 of 30 clean-energy projects that got loans are generating revenue." The article refers to the federal energy loan guarantee program.

In fact, as reported," In California, Tesla Motors has flourished, paying back a $465 million loan nearly 10 years early."

Congressional Republicans had attempted to make a lot of hay out of the "Solyndra scandal," a solar loan guarantee that defaulted, costing federal taxpayers $435 million.

Even now, as the article reports, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says "We are not out of the woods by any stretch. Our oversight efforts will continue as problems still persist, and more needs to be done to protect billions of dollars in taxpayer interests."

But as much noise as Upton and his Republican colleagues have made, for years, about Solyndra, they have had nothing to say about the Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee. Awarded by the Obama administration to Southern Nuclear and its partners, the $8.3 billion federal taxpayer-backed loan guarantee (and loan -- it comes from the taxpayer-funded U.S. Finance Bank) for two proposed new reactors in Georgia represents 15 times more taxpayer money at risk than was lost at Solyndra. And the risk of loan default at Vogtle 3 & 4 is significantly higher than the risk that the Solyndra was initially deteremined to have been.

But then again, Upton is one of the nuclear power industry's "best friends in Congress," as documented over the years by Beyond Nuclear in a two-page summary; a full-length backgrounder; and supporting documents, showing individual campaign contributions to Upton, tied to the nuclear power industry, as well as nuclear power industry-related political action committee campaign committee (PAC) campaign contributions made to Upton. In return for the favors, Upton has long supported nuclear power industry lobbying priorities at every turn.

Upton went so far as to sponsor a bill in 2009 that would have defined nuclear power as "renewable energy." His bill fell just short of passage in the Energy and Commerce Committee, when four pro-nuclear Democrats (such as Barrow from Georgia) supported it. It is all the more ironic, and telling, then that Upton opposes renewable loan guarantees, but supports nuclear power loan guarantees.