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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
Feb202014

Coalition files Petition to NRC to strengthen reactor license extension rules due to significant new revelations on radioactive waste risks

Environmental coalition attorney Diane CurranA Petition for Rulemaking was filed on Feb. 18th by Washington, D.C.-based attorney, Diane Curran (photo, left), as well as Mindy Goldstein of the Emory U. Turner Environmental Law Clinic, to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The Petition seeks to re-open the License Renewal GEIS (Generic Environmental Impact Statement), in order to consider new and significant information about irradiated nuclear fuel storage impacts that was generated by the NRC Staff during the Expedited Spent Fuel Transfer proceeding, carried out under NRC's Fukushima "Lessons Learned" activities. Curran and Goldstein filed the Petition on behalf of three dozen environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear.

One of these risks newly recognized by NRC Staff is the contribution of high-level radioactive waste storage pool risks to reactor catastrophes, and vice versa.

NRC staff has also admitted that release into the environment of even a small fraction of the contents of a high-level radioactive waste storage pool could cause the long-term dislocation of more than 4 million people, and could render more than 9,000 square miles of land uninhabitable for long time periods. What would the socio-economic costs of such a catastrophe be? Don't people have the inalienable right to safety, health, and environmental protection?

The filing urges that no reactor license extensions be approved by NRC until the Petition for Rulemaking has been integrated into NRC's safety regulations.

The coalition has issued a press release.

Thursday
Feb202014

Beyond Nuclear/PSR speaking tour across MI a big success!

Alfred Meyer, PSR board memberAlfred Meyer (photo, left), national board member of Physicians for Responsibility (PSR), spoke throughout Michigan on a tour organized by Beyond Nuclear from Feb. 12-17. His presentations of "Nuclear Power: What You Need to Know about Price, Pollution and Proliferation" were dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jeff Patterson, PSR's Past-President.

Alfred's first stop on Feb. 12, at Grand Rapids' Fountain Street Church, drew 35 attendees, despite the wintry weather. Corinne Carey of Don't Waste MI video-recorded the talk, and will post it to cable access t.v. in the near future.

Alfred had a productive day in Kalamazoo on Feb. 13th. His presentation at Western Michigan University (WMU) was attended by over 50 people, and garnered an extended interview by Gordon Evans on WMUK Radio, as well as an article by Yvonne Zipp in the Kalamazoo Gazette. Alfred also spoke at a press conference held at WMU's impressive solar panel array, launching a campus climate campaign to divest the university from fossil fuel investments. Alfred was also interviewed by Dr. Don Cooney, WMU Social Work professor and Kalamazoo City Commissioner, and Dr. Ron Kramer, WMU criminology prof., on "Critical Issues: Alternative Views" t.v. program. The interview will be aired on Kalamazoo cable access in the near future, as well as posted to YouTube.

The tour stop in South Haven (4 miles from Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor) on Feb. 14 drew 25 attendees, despite it being Valentine's Day. Kraig Schultz of Michigan Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter video-recorded the talk, and will post the recording to the MSEF YouTube channel in the near future.

Ferndale in Metro Detroit on Feb. 15 drew 75 attendees. Damon J. Hartley of the Peoples Tribune did a write up and took lots of photos.

Monroe's event (within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone from the GE BWR Mark I, Fermi 2, as well as the proposed Fermi 3) on Feb. 16, drew 30 attendees, and garnered coverage in the Monroe News (text, PDF). The Ann Arbor (home base for PSR's new MI chapter) event on Feb. 17 also drew an audience despite an impending winter storm.

Beyond Nuclear has been honored and privileged to work with the following groups to make this speaking tour a success: Michigan Physicians for Social Responsibility; Sierra Club; Fountain Street Church; WMU Lee Honors College; WMU Environmental Studies program; WMU Institute of Government and Politics; Michigan Safe Energy Future (both Kalamazoo and South Haven chapters); Don't Waste Michigan; Ferndale Public Library; Alliance to Halt Fermi 3; Ellis Library; Don't Waste Michigan; Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes; and the Ecology Center.

Thursday
Feb202014

DOE signs $6.5 billion federal nuclear loan guarantee for Vogtle 3 & 4

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.U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz has announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) will sign an agreement with Southern Co. and Oglethorpe Power for a $6.5 billion loan guarantee that puts federal taxpayers on the hook if the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactor project defaults on its loan repayments. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will speak at the proposed new reactor construction site at 2 PM Eastern today, Thursday, Feb. 20th (you can listen to his address by calling 1-800-282-1696).

President Obama gave the Vogtle 3 & 4 federal loan guarantee offer (for a total of $8.3 billion) the highest profile possible, by announcing it himself at a press event in Feb. 2010. Despite this, it has taken over four years for the project proponents to sign on the dotted line, given their reluctance to put any of their own "skin in the game," in the form of credit subsidy fees. The nuclear loan guarantee program was authorized in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, and $22.5 billion was approved by Congress and George W. Bush for new nuclear facilities on Dec. 23, 2007 ($18.5 billion for new reactors, $4 billion for new uranium enrichment).

The $8.3 billion Vogtle 3 & 4 federal loan guarantee is 15 times bigger than the infamous Solyndra solar loan guarantee, which defaulted on its loan repayment, a $585 million loss to the U.S. Treasury. But the Vogtle 3 & 4 loan guarantee is at much higher financial risk of default than was the Solyndra solar project!

Beyond Nuclear's Paul Gunter blasted the deal in a Common Dreams interview. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) also blasted the deal in a press release. Harvey Wasserman has penned an essay entitled "Obama's Nuke-Powered Drone Strike on America's Energy Future."

Please contact President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz, registering your disapproval of this $6.5 billion nuclear loan guarantee, and urging them not to grant the remaining $1.8 billion nuclear loan guarantee to project partner MEAG for Vogtle 3 & 4. Also urge them to withdraw any further nuclear loan guarantee offers, with the remaining $10.2 billion authorized for new reactors, and $4 billion authorized for new uranium enrichment.

But the federal nuclear loan guarantees, and even the CWIP charges which are gouging Georgia ratepayers, are not the only subsidies benefitting this proposed new reactor project. If Vogtle 3 & 4 do get built and operated, the George W. Bush DOE also obligated U.S. taxpayers to ultimate liability for the risks and costs of the high-level radioactive waste they would generate. DOE hastily signed the contract in the last days of the Bush administration, despite the fact that federal courts are awarding $500 million per year in damages to nuclear utilities for DOE's breach of contract for failing to begin taking title to irradiated nuclear fuel in 1998 under the contractual agreements signed in the mid-1980s. The hastily signed contacts were exposed by D.C. attorney Diane Curran, IEER President Arjun Makhijani, and Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps in a March 24, 2010 press conference based on a FOIA Request.

Thursday
Feb202014

Davis-Besse: from Hole in the Head, to hole in the containment wall

NRC file photo of NRC inspector visually examining severe cracking in Davis-Besse's Shield Building wall in Oct., 2011.FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) ran its Davis-Besse atomic reactor to the breaking point in 2002. The Hole-in-the-Head fiasco -- a nearly complete breach of the reactor vessel closure head, or lid -- was the most infamous near-miss to a major reactor accident in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979. The Hole-in-the-Head fiasco added up to a boondoggle totaling more than $600 million.

Now it has been revealed that Davis-Besse has a hole in its Shield Building wall -- an essential component of the radiological containment structures -- that extends up to 12 inches through its 30-inch width, a full 40% way through. Davis-Besse has operated for over two years, at full power, with this potentially fatal flaw in its Shield Building wall.

The gap or air space was discovered last Thursday, and publicly revealed Friday, during the current Davis-Besse steam generator replacement project, which has breached Davis-Besse's Shield Building for an unprecedented fourth time. The previous three breaches include the pre-operational Initial Construction Opening in the 1970s; the 2002-2004 reactor lid replacement project; and the 2011 reactor lid replacement project. Each breach risks further damaging the Shield Building, where severe cracking was discovered in late 2011. In September 2013, FENOC admitted that the severe cracking is growing worse over time.

NRC Region III Staff are holding a Webinar on Davis-Besse's current steam generator replacement project on Thursday, Feb. 20th, from 6 to 7 PM Eastern. The Webinar was scheduled before revelation of the hole in the containment wall. Please pre-register and attend the Webinar. Beyond Nuclear and Don't Waste MI have generated a series of sample questions you can put to NRC during the Webinar.

Beyond Nuclear helps lead environmental coalition efforts challenging both the steam generator replacements, as well as FENOC's application for a 20-year (2017-2037) license extension at Davis-Besse. Terry Lodge, Toledo-based attorney, serves as legal counsel for the environmental coalition in both NRC proceedings.

Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer, Fairewinds Associates, Inc., serves as expert witness for the coalition in the "experimental" steam generator replacement intervention. Gundersen serves as expert witness for Friends of the Earth on the botched San Onofre 2 & 3 steam generator replacements, which has led to the permanent shutdown of those two reactors -- a multi-billion dollar boondoggle. Gundersen was also instrumental in outing the truth on the fatal cracking in Crystal River, FL's concrete containment, also caused by a botched steam generator replacement, another multi-billion dollar boondoggle. Gundersen has alleged that Davis-Besse's steam generator replacement has taken the same shortcuts on safety, made all the worse by its Shield Building's already very questionable, and worsening, structural integrity.

The coalition launched the challenge against the steam generator replacement in May, 2013, and defended its challenge in June and July -- twice in one month! -- 2013. The NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) which heard the intervention quickly dismissed it, without addressing the merits, effectively green-lighting Davis-Besse's shortcuts on safety. Beyond Nuclear has posted the entire docket of the steam generator intervention on its website.

The Toledo Blade and Cleveland Plain Dealer have reported that the Davis-Besse steam generator replacements will cost $600 million.

Beyond Nuclear has filed a Freedom of Information Act Request on the gap in the Davis-Besse Shield Building wall.

The Toledo Blade has reported on this story, on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15.

NRC posted an Event Notification Report on Feb. 18, and a Preliminary Notification of Occurrence (PNO) on Feb. 19.

Friday
Feb072014

Nuclear utilities beg for bailouts to avert reactor shutdowns, Obama administration appears amenable

In a pair of articles, E&E's Hannah Northey reports that nuclear utility giants such as Exelon and Entergy are lobbying hard for changes to electricity marketplace rules that would enable them to keep uncompetitive atomic reactors operating. For its part, the Obama Dept. of Energy appears poised to do all it can to prop up its favorite dirty, dangerous, and expensive energy industry.

Northey quotes an Exelon spokesman as admitting not just Quad Cities (two reactors) and Clinton (one reactor) in IL are at risk of near-term shutdown, but a total of five reactors altogether, although he would not specify the other two.

Northey also quotes an Entergy official, who compares the risk of numerous additional near-term atomic reactor meltdowns to driving off a cliff.