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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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Sunday
Mar082015

"Experts warned of nuke work overruns"

The Vogtle Unit 3 reactor pressure vessel, parked in front the Vogtle Unit 4 containment vessell bottom head, May 2013. Photo credit: Georgia Power.As reported by Matt Kempner in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the two new atomic reactors under construction at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Georgia are "more than three years behind schedule," and costs for just one partner, Georgia Power (a subsidiary of Southern Nuclear) "is at least $1.4 billion, or 23 percent, over original projections."

The Vogtle 3 & 4 construction project (see photo, left) is being financed through "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP), or "advanced cost recovery" -- that is, simply surcharging ratepayer electricity bills. This practice is illegal in most states, but has been made legal in Georgia, as well as South Carolina -- where two more new reactors at Summer nuclear power plant are also under construction (and also suffering schedule delays and massive cost overruns).

Highly controversial CWIP resulted in the loss to ratepayers of $3 billion, for a cancelled new nuclear power plant. Somehow that massive amount of money was spent, even though ground was not even broken on the failed project.

The Georgia Public Service Commission, the same agency that approved ratepayer CWIP surcharges in the first place, will now decide on whether or not ratepayers will eat the cost overruns at Vogtle 3 & 4.

In addition to gouging ratepayers, Georgia Power/Southern Nuclear is also gouging federal taxpayers, compliments of the Obama administration. In Feb. 2010, President Obama himself made the announcement that his U.S. Department of Energy was awarding $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees to the Vogtle 3 & 4 project. In addition to the loan guarantees, the actual loan is coming from U.S. taxpayers as well -- from the taxpayer-funded U.S. Finance Bank. In that regard, the federal nuclear loan guarantee is already a failure -- it was supposed to entice private investors to actually loan the money to the project.

Incredibly, the DOE didn't even charge a penny in credit subsidy fee. This means Southern Nuclear/Georgia Power has no skin in the game. If the loan repayment is defaulted upon, taxpayers will be left holding the bag, entirely.

Vogtle 3 & 4 have put at risk 15 times more money than was lost in the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default. And Vogtle 3 & 4's risk of default is actually significantly higher than Solyndra's risk ever was.

(Re: the RPV in the photo above, it actually was involved in a transport accident at the Port of Savannah in Jan. 2013, when its transport train carriage collapsed under its massive weight. It then limped back to the Port, where it was exposed to the elements for an extended period, covered only partially by run of the mill tarps.)

Thursday
Mar052015

"Maryland Attorney General opposes Exelon-Pepco merger, urges regulators to reject"

Logo courtesy of Public Citizen Energy ProgramAs reported by UtilityDIVE, the State of Maryland's Attorney General, Brian Frosh (Democrat), has filed a lengthy submission to the Maryland Public Service Commission on behalf of the State of Maryland and the Maryland Energy Administration, expressing strong opposition to the proposed merger of Exelon Nuclear and Pepco.

As reported by UtilityDIVE:

"This merger will harm Maryland customers, offers no tangible, incremental benefits of sufficiently meaningful value, and is not in the public interest," the document's conclusion reads. "Nothing in the filed testimony, or the evidence adduced during lengthy and comprehensive hearings, changes these facts."

Frosh's filing argues that the proposed merger would open Maryland ratepayers up to undue risk, expose them to anti-competitive harms not addressed by the merger application, and threaten the growth of renewables and distributed energy, among other consequences. Frosh also argues that the companies have not presented compelling plans to mitigate the possible harms:

"The proposed acquisition introduces substantial potential harms to Pepco and Delmarva customers and to the State as a whole, which are not subject to meaningful mitigation,” the brief reads.

Monday
Mar022015

"DC Consumer Advocate Seeks Delay in Exelon-Pepco Proceedings"

Logo courtesy of Public Citizen Energy ProgramAs reported by RTO Insider, Washington, D.C.'s consumer advocate, the Office of People's Counsel (OPC), has requested a months-long delay from the D.C. Public Service Commission in the Exelon-Pepco merger proceeding, because Exelon's recent filings are a "procedural mess." The OPC was joined in its motion to the D.C. PSC by the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington.

In addition, the article reports, "the American Antitrust Institute asked the U.S. Department of Justice to block the merger or impose mitigation measures."

Thursday
Feb262015

EXELON LEGISLATION, FERC COMMENTS A “DECLARATION OF WAR” ON RENEWABLES AND EFFICIENCY, GROUP ASSERTS

In a press release, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of Chicago has warned the energy future of IL is at stake, as Exelon Nuclear lobbyists have unveiled their wish list bill seeking $580 million from state legislators, at ratepayers' expense. In addition, Exelon seeks another $560 million from transmission grid operator, PJM Interconnection, also at ratepayers' expense.

NEIS has been defending IL ratepayers and residents against the state's nuclear utilities since 1981.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Entergy threatens to simply walk away from VY decommissioning after 60 years!

An aerial view of the known extent of the tritium contamination in soil and groundwater at the VY site, on the banks of the Connecticut River in southeastern Vermont.Entergy Nuclear is infamous for its arrogance. Now, reports the Associated Press, the country's second biggest nuclear utility, with one less than a dirty dozen atomic reactors in its fleet (Vermont Yankee -- VY -- was forced into permanent shutdown on Dec. 29th under intense public pressure), is threatening the State of Vermont to simply walk away from the radioactively contaminated site after 60 years, if the decommissioning is not yet completed.

The threat was made by Entergy Vice President Michael Twomey, to State of Vermont legislative committees. Under the Orwellian policy "SAFSTOR," the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) allows nuclear utilities to simply sit on permanently shutdown reactors, without doing radiological clean up or facility dismantlement.

Entergy only has about $666 million in the VY decommissioning fund -- only about half what is projected to be needed. The agreement to not require Entergy to put a single penny into the decommissioning fund, from when it took over VY in 2002 till now, was approved by Gov. Howard Dean's (D-VT) administration, well over a decade ago.

Entergy's plan is to keep the $666 million invested in the stock market, so its value can grow to the needed $1.25 billion. What happens if the money is lost in another stock market crash, Entergy is not saying. More.