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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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Friday
Feb072014

Exelon considers closing two GE BWR Mark Is in IL

As reported by Crain's Chicago Business, Exelon -- the largest nuclear utility in the U.S. -- is considering shuttering its Quad Cities nuclear power plant, because it cannot compete on the wholesale electricity market. Quad Cities consists of two General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

At the same time, Exelon is considering permanently closing its single unit Clinton nuclear power plant -- a GE BWR Mark III. A decade ago, Exelon was riding high at Clinton -- recipient of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubber-stamp support for an "Early Site Permit" for a proposed new reactor at the site.

Wednesday
Jan012014

Vogtle nuclear loan guarantee drags into fifth round of delays

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.As reported by Platts, and conveyed in a Friends of the Earth press release, the December 31, 2013 U.S. Department of Energy deadline for finalization of the $8.3 billion federal taxpayer backed nuclear loan guarantee for Vogtle 3 & 4 has been extended yet again, for a fifth time, until the end of January, 2014.

As reported by FOE: "Freedom of Information Act requests and litigation revealed that the credit subsidy fee offered to Southern Company ranged from 0.8 to 1.5 percent. The credit subsidy fee is supposed to insulate against default, but the fee offered to Southern Company is woefully inadequate to cover the risks involved in major nuclear construction. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 32 percent of reactor construction is cancelled before any electricity is produced."

Watchdog groups have long called for a credit subsidy fee commensurate with the risk of the nuclear new build proposals. Congressional auditors reported several years ago that new reactors, historically, have had a 50% risk of cancellation and potential default. The Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee puts 15 times more taxpayer money at risk than did the Solyndra loan guarantee scandal, which had a significantly lower risk of default than does Vogtle 3 & 4.

Given the Obama administration offered the $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee nearly four years ago, and now this latest delay, concerns continue to mount that the project is a financial house of cards, and will ultimately leave taxpayers holding the bag. Nuclear Watch South has called for taxpayers to express their concerns to decision makers, as has Beyond Nuclear.

Friday
Dec272013

Environmental coalition meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS public comment deadline

Environmental coalition attorney Diane Curran

(Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, expert witness on behalf of this environmental coalition, has estimated that storage and disposal of irradiated nuclear fuel could add $210 to $350 billion onto the costs of nuclear-generated electricity in the U.S. In addition, the once-per-century replacement of dry cask storage across the U.S., assumed by NRC in its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS, would add another $100 billion per replacement, Cooper estimates. Cooper asserts that NRC cannot ignore such "staggering" costs in its EIS on the costs and risks of generating irradiated nuclear fuel in the first place -- that is, approving new reactor construction and operating licenses, and old reactor license extensions.)

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The coalition is represented by a team of attorneys, including Diane Curran (photo, left) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, Washington, D.C.; Mindy Goldstein, Director, and Jillian Kysor, Fellow, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, and Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney, Riverkeeper, Ossining, NY.

The coalition is also represented by a team of expert witnesses, including Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD; David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chattanooga, TN; Dr. Gordon Thompson, Executive Director, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA; and Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

The environmental coalition's comments, as well as its expert witnesses' declarations, have been posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) website, as well as at the bottom of a press release featuring the work of Dr. Cooper on the economic costs of irradiated nuclear fuel management. The coalition's comment and expert witness declarations are also posted at the NIRS website.

Curran, on behalf of three environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and SACE), in alliance with Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as four state attorneys general (CT, NJ, NY, and VT) won a landmark legal victory on June 8, 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NRC had to carry out an environmental impact statement on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy and rule, including the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel in pools and dry casks. The Dec. 20th public comment deadline on the DGEIS is a part of that court-ordered process.

Tuesday
Dec172013

"A Christmas Peril": Obama DOE poised to risk $8.3 billion of taxpayer money on Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee

Street theater performers, activist supporters, and members of the news media in front of DOE HQ on Dec. 11, 2009 protesting nuclear loan guarantees in solidarity with an International Climate Day of ActionIn late November, partners in the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactor construction project in Georgia announced that they are "almost over the finish line" in negotations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regarding an $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee.

Not only would federal taxpayers back this massive loan guarantee -- they would also provide the loan, via the federal taxpayer-funded U.S. Finance Bank.

Giving the deal the highest possible profile, President Obama himself announced the award in Feb. 2010. However, DOE and proponents like Southern Nuclear have been squabbling ever since, about how much company "skin in the game" would be required to secure the loan guarantee. Documents unearthed thanks to a multi-year court battle waged by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) under the Freedom of Information Act showed that a paltry $17 to $52 million were being asked at certain points in time. Despite this, Vogtle 3 & 4's pushers have been very reluctant for nearly four years now to sign on the dotted line.

The Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee amounts to 15 times more taxpayer money at risk than was lost in the infamous Solyndra solar loan guarantee scandal ($535 million). Only, Vogtle 3 & 4's risk of default is significantly higher than Solyndra's was!

Meanwhile, Vogtle 3 and 4's behind-schedule, over-budget construction proceeds, funded by the gouging of ratepayers under Georgia's Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) charges on electricity bills -- illegal in most states.

In addition, over the past year, DOE has also forked over another $450 million in taxpayer subsidies to the nuclear power industry, in R&D support for "Small Modular Reactors." However, as pointed out by Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey of St. Louis, at 200-300 Megawatts-electric, SMRs should not be called "small." Two subsidy installments of around $225 million each have gone to NuScale-Fluor and Babcock & Wilcox-Bechtel, targeting construction at Idaho and the Tennessee Valley Authority, respectively.

On Dec. 11, 2009, Beyond Nuclear teamed up with Public Citizen and other allies like NIRS and FOE for a street theater at DOE HQ in Washington, D.C. entitled "A Christmas Peril." (see photo, above left; thanks to Public Citizen for an excellent video record of the fun event, complete with a soundtrack!) The performance, featuring the Ghosts of Nuclear Power's Past, Present, and Future, warned about and protested against President Obama's and DOE's decision, just a couple of months later, to award the $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee for Vogtle 3 & 4. The warning is as relevant as ever, now that Obama's DOE is poised to ink the deal, nearly four long years later.

Contact President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz. Urge them to cancel the financially risky Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantee, before taxpayers get left holding the bag for many billions of dollars of unpaid loans if and when the project defaults. And urge them to stop subsidizing so-called SMRs -- after a half-century of enjoying the lion's share of taxpayer and ratepayer energy subsidies, nuclear power should at long last either stand on its own two feet in the marketplace, or else crawl into the dust bin of history where it belongs.

Also urge your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to block any further subsidies, including loan guarantees, for nuclear power. They can be contacted via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Tuesday
Dec172013

Expert to NRC: Hidden costs of reactor waste storage & disposal make nuclear power less attractive than wind, solar, efficiency

Mark Cooper of Vermont Law SchoolOn Thurs., Dec. 19th at 11 AM Eastern, Diane Curran and Mark Cooper (photo, left), attorney and expert witness, respectively, representing a coalition of dozens of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, will hold a press conference entitled: EXPERT TO TELL NRC THAT HIDDEN COSTS OF REACTOR WASTE STORAGE & DISPOSAL MAKES NUCLEAR POWER LESS ATTRACTIVE THAN WIND, SOLAR, AND MORE ENERGY EFFICIENCY; Do High Costs of Nuclear Now Make Licensing and Re-Licensing Indefensible in Terms of the Economics?; Comments to NRC From Economist Mark Cooper State Federal Agency Must Consider Full Cost of Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal.  Cooper serves at the Vermont Law School. Curran serves at Harmon Curran Speilberg + Eisenberg LLP in Washington, D.C. See the Hastings Group's press advisory, with instructions on how to listen-in to the press conference, either live in real time, or to the audio recording afterwards.