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 announces three reactor closures: Clinton in 2017, Quad Cities 1 & 2 in 2018

Source: Company websites, PJM, Bloomberg IntelligenceAs anticipated by WTTW, and now confirmed with Exelon Nuclear filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

These three just announced reactor closures now join another already announced reactor closure by Exelon -- Oyster Creek, NJ in 2019. But Ginna, NY and Three Mile Island, PA are also non-competitive, and in serious trouble. Exelon is seeking massive ratepayer subsidies to keep those failing reactors afloat. (See graphic, above.)

But, despite Exelon's apparent moves to follow through on closing three reactors in IL, Crain's Chicago Business reports "Exelon could reverse the decision later if lawmakers act."

As David Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago, has already advised his members, we will need to remain vigilant.


A Darker Day Has Just Dawned for Two Long-Outdated Ohio Power Plants

Map by IEEFADavid Schlissel, the director of resource planning analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), has written an article sub-titled June 1 Marks the Start of a New Year in PJM Capacity Markets and an Abrupt 70% Drop in FirstEnergy's Revenues on Selling Generation Capacity from Its Sammis [Coal] and Davis-Besse [Nuclear] Power Plants.

The article begins:

It came as quite the paradox when CEO Chuck Jones announced in April that the company’s Sammis and Davis-Besse plants had  “contributed to” first-quarter earnings.

After all, FirstEnergy had been trying to get Ohio state officials to go along with a consumer-financed bailout of these failing assets—all part of a corporate scheme our research has shown would cost ratepayers $4 billion. The premise of the FirstEnergy bailout proposal, which federal regulators recently put on hold, is that outdated generators like the coal-fired Sammis and the nuclear-powered Davis-Besse are losing money because they can’t compete anymore.

If these two plants did indeed “contribute to” FirstEnergy earnings, it was only from FirstEnergy selling their capacity at inflated prices into regional markets.  And that ends today.

Schlissel reports that FirstEnergy gouged ratepayers in northern Ohio $600 million, in the past year alone, in excessive charges. FirstEnergy cynically manipulated this advantage several years ago, by gaming the system in terms of efficiency it should have bid into the PJM auction at the time, but did not. 

Schlissel concludes his article with this observation:

This change will severely reduce, if not eliminate, any supposed earnings contributions from the Sammis and Davis-Besse plants.  And it will make these units, along with similarly uncompetitive plants in PJM, even less financially viable than ever. (emphasis added)

As recently reported by Midwest Energy News, FirstEnergy's latest bailout scheme would "make Houdini blush," given its contortions in seeking to get around a rejection by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

What can you do as a resident of OH? Contact Gov. Kasich. Contact your state representative and your state senator. Contact the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Urge that FENOC's latest version of its bailout request be blocked at the state level, and not allow FENOC to do an end run around the FERC ruling, at massive ratepayer expense.

You can also thank the State of Ohio Office of Consumers' Counsel for his good work in opposition to this bailout, from the start.

Beyond Nuclear has helped lead a grassroots environmental coalition since 2010 in officially resisting the 20-year license extension sought by FirstEnergy at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor.  Contentions have included: the safety-significant severe cracking of the concrete containment Shield Building, which has grown a half-inch worse every time it has freezed at the site since late 2012, and will continue to do so; risky steam generator replacements;  and the simple fact that wind power alone, or solar photo-voltaics alone, and certainly the two in combination, coordinated with compressed air energy storage capabilities FirstEnergy already owns, could readily replace Davis-Besse's 908 Megawatts of electricity, reliably, likely much more affordably, and very certainly more safely, cleanly and securely.


Exelon lobbyists' coveted $1.6 billion bailout, at IL ratepayer expense, fails again, as legislative session ends

David Kraft, Executive Director, Nuclear Energy Information Service of ChicagoAs reported by the News-Gazette and Quad-City Times, Exelon Nuclear's lobbyists have failed in 2016, just as they did in 2015, as the state legislative session has ended, without passage of a $1.6 billion, multi-year bailout bill. Exelon seeks to gouge IL ratepayers, in order to prop up three non-competitive atomic reactors -- at Clinton and Quad Cities.

Similarly to its threats/promises (depending on your perspective on the matter!) Exelon made last year, it has said it would close the single pressurized water reactor at Clinton by June 1, 2017, if the bailout was not approved by now. Likewise, Exelon has indicated it would permanently shut its two Fukushima twin design General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors at Quad Cities, without the bailout.

(See Beyond Nuclear's "Reactors Are Closing" website page, for a list of others at risk of near-term shutdown. the CEO of Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry's lobbyist HQ in DC, has admitted that 10 to 20 atomic reactors are at risk of shutdown due to being non-competitive, although he did not list them by name. However, Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School did list them, in a July 2013 report. Cooper listed a total of 38 reactors at risk of shutdown before their operating license expire, due to a number of factors; Cooper also listed the top 12 most at-risk of near-term shutdown. With the closure of Vermont Yankee, and the announced closures of Fort Calhoun in NE, FitzPatrick in NY, Pilgrim in MA, Cooper's predictions have been proven prescient and correct.)

However, Exelon did not live up to its words last year. In fact, as mentioned in the May 31st update for NEIS members (see link, below), Exelon has made this bluff and bluster several times now, and gone back on its word each time.

An Exelon spokesman has now said the company will make an official statement in the next days, in response to this year's repeat close of the legislative session without approval of its coveted $1.6 billion ratepayer bailout.

David Kraft (photo above), Executive Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS in Chicago), has issued a press statement in response to the failure of Exelon's lobbyists to gouge IL's ratepayers, yet again this year. (Kraft cites a spreadsheet of IL atomic reactor license expiration dates, viewable at this link.)

On May 31st, about six hours before midnight, Kraft also prepared an update for NEIS members, thanking and congratulating them for their citizen activism that has made such a big difference in this fight. NEIS has led the grassroots opposition in IL to the Exelon bailout bills.

Beyond Nuclear forwarded NEIS's action alerts to our contacts in IL a number of times in the past few critical weeks. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank our own supporters in IL, who took action, and thereby helped stave off this latest attempt at a $1.6 billion ratepayer-funded bailout for the filthy rich Exelon Corporation, the largest electric utility in the U.S.

Kraft warns that vigilance is needed in the weeks and months ahead, as Exelon Nuclear's lobbyists are powerful, desperate, and ruthless to the point of a scorched earth policy.

Given this, what can you do? Consult NEIS's latest action alert. Thank your state legislators that the bailout bill died with the end of the legislative session. And urge that they do everything in their power to keep it dead, whatever form it takes.

Kraft's press statement begins:

At last, the “nuclear hostage crisis” is over.  For now at least.

The failure of Exelon Corporation’s legislation to socialize the cost of its corporate losses at its Clinton and Quad Cities reactors to every ratepayer in Illinois is welcome news.  However, many other very real issues and effects have yet to be dealt with.

Exelon’s attempted $1.6 billion nuclear bailout overreach has acted much like a kamikaze – while self destructing, its failure has also taken down the asks of Commonwealth Edison, and for the fourth straight year, killed actions needed to fix the State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), one of the goals of the Clean Jobs Coalition.  Once again, Exelon makes it clear – if they can’t get what they want, they are perfectly willing to destroy the vital and necessary energy plans of others, leaving Illinois further and further behind in the ongoing worldwide energy transition.

And what of the other “nuclear hostages” – the workers at the reactors slated for closure, and the communities that depend heavily on Exelon’s financial support?  Well, no action was taken to protect them, either.  Despite the urgings of this organization since ComEd closed the Zion reactors in 1998, and with many legislators in the current legislative debate, no legislative efforts have been made to create the necessary “just transitions” plans to provide a financial buffer against the adverse economic effects of inevitable reactor closures.  The Clean Jobs Bill had provisions to protect affected workers and communities, but Exelon’s obstructionism killed that legislation.  It is more than ironic that the only advocates in behalf of the workers and communities who will be affected by Exelon’s unilateral decision to close reactors are anti-nuclear organizations like NEIS and the Clean Jobs Coalition.  Where is the IBEW, and the many local political backers of the Exelon bill when they are needed?

Exelon Nuclear's overreach has generated other powerful opposition, including the Office of IL Attorney General, Lisa Madigan. A spokesperson from AG Madigan's office, testifying at recent IL state legislative hearings on the proposed bailout, pointed out that Exelon's atomic reactors have already been paid for by IL ratepayers -- twice! It is entirely inappropriate, she indicated, that IL ratepayers be forced to pay for them all over again, for a third time. 

On May 25th, Exelon Nuclear suffered another blow, when its Quad Cities, IL and Three Mile Island Unit 1, PA nuclear power plants failed to clear the PJM auction for capacity markets in 2019-2020, because their electricity is non-competitive with other sources' sales price bids. (See PowerMag coverage here.)


New York State Action Alert: Speak Up for Renewables and Against Nukes

Image by AGREEJessica Azulay with Alliance for a Green Economy has sent out the following action alert. If you reside in New York State, please take direct action, as she instructs. And please spread word to everyone you know.

If you do not live in New York, but know people who do, please share this alert with them ASAP. Thanks!

Action Alert: Speak Up for Renewables and Against Nukes

The comment deadline on New York's "Clean Energy Standard" policy is fast approaching. Have you had your say yet?

The Clean Energy Standard would provide modest support for renewable energy while giving a massive consumer bailout to unprofitable nuclear reactors. Join thousands of people who are speaking up to improve the renewable policy and dump the nuclear subsidies.

Click here to submit a comment saying yes to renewables and no to nukes.

Time and time again, people like you have changed New York's energy policy for the better. When thousands of people submit comments and speak up, Governor Cuomo and the public agencies listen. Let's make sure this time is no different.

You can read a detailed summary of the proposed Clean Energy Standard policy here. In brief, the Clean Energy Standard would require that renewable energy use in New York grows to 50% by 2030. Unfortunately, the proposed Clean Energy Standard would also require that utility companies buy "Zero Emissions Credits" from unprofitable nuclear plants in order to subsidize reactors that would otherwise close. This is a nuclear bailout plain and simple.

We support the renewable requirements in the Clean Energy Standard, and we encourage New York to do even more. But we oppose the nuclear bailout because nuclear energy is not clean, renewable, or safe. And it's not a good use of our money or a viable climate solution.

The deadline for public comments on this plan is June 6. Submitting a comment is simple and quick. Our easy comment form has a pre-written sample comment that you can change to your liking. And our website has lots of information and talking points.

In addition to opposing the nuclear subsidies, we encourage you to comment in support of offshore wind and energy efficiency, two crucial pieces of the sustainable energy transition that are currently not included in the proposed policy.

Please let me know if you have any questions. We are here to help you get your comments in. Remember, the deadline in Monday.

Don't wait, submit your comment here.

Jessica Azulay
Alliance for a Green Economy


FirstEnergy mum on fate of two old Ohio power plants in regional auction

As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, today's PJM capacity market auction for the 2019-2020 timeframe appears to have not gone well for FirstEnergy, vis-a-vis its problem-plagued, non-competitive Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Lake Erie shoreline east of Toledo.

The article quotes two of the many parties opposed to FirstEnergy's request for a multi-billion dollar bailout, at ratepayer expense, to prop up Davis-Besse:

"Today's favorable electricity auction shows that competitive markets can provide better prices for consumers than government bailouts and subsidies for utilities," said Ohio Consumers' Counsel Bruce Weston on Tuesday evening. "Ohioans' electric bills should follow the low prices in the market."

Weston's analysts and outside experts have testified that the deal approved by the PUCO would add about $100 a year for the next eight years to every residential customer's electric bills.

The Ohio Manufacturers' Association, representing both small companies and larger industries, has also opposed the FirstEnergy plan.

"The [auction] result shows the forces of supply and demand are working, attracting new generation resources, resulting in lower clearing prices," said spokesman Ryan Augsburger. "The bottom line, the market is producing savings and reliability for customers large and small."