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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
Mar272015

"Maryland PSC delays decision on Pepco-Exelon merger"

Logo courtesy of Public Citizen Energy ProgramAs reported by UtilityDIVE and Argus Media, the Maryland Public Service Commission (MD PSC) has given itself till May 8th to decide whether or not to approve the proposed $6.8 billion merger between Exelon Nuclear and the Mid-Atlantic electric utility Pepco. There have been multiple postponements by the MD PSC over the decision, amidst opposition and concerns, including from the State of Maryland Energy Administration.

The MD PSC was originally scheduled to reach a decision in February. Exelon hopes to complete the merger by September.

Friday
Mar272015

Is the Exelon Nuclear Takeover of Pepco in the Public Interest?

Tim Judson, Executive Director of NIRS. Photo courtesy of NIRS.As just announced by the University of the District of Columbia's (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law, two panels of experts will examine the question of whether or not the proposed purchase of PEPCO by Exelon Nuclear is in the public interest for District of Columbia ratepayers.

UDC School of Law has a web post on the event, and asks that those planning to attend RSVP in advance.

The event will be held on Wed., April 8, 2015 from 7 to 10 PM in the UDC School of Law's Moot Court Room, 5th Floor, at 4340 Connecticut Ave., NW in Washington, D.C.

The first panel, "still under construction," will include Tim Judson, Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and author of the report "Killing the Competition: The Nuclear Power Agenda to Block Climate Action, Stop Renewable Energy, and Subsidize Old Reactors" (photo, left). Judson has testified against the Exelon-Pepco merger, as to the Maryland Public Service Commission.

The second panel will include: Attorney and Georgetown Law Professor Scott Hempling; D.C. People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye (UDC Law '83); Maryland People's Counsel Paula Carmody (UDC Law '80); and U. of Delaware Prof. Jeremy Firestone, Esq., Ph.D., and Delaware Intervener.

Tuesday
Mar172015

Exelon Nuclear announces sign off by Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, MD, on its merger with Pepco

Logo compliments of Public Citizen's Energy ProgramThe two counties comprising Pepco's residential customer base in Maryland -- Montgomery and Prince George's -- have just agreed to the merger of the electric utilities Exelon and Pepco, according to an Exelon press release.

UtilityDIVE has reported on this story.

Exelon is the largest nuclear utility in the U.S., with around two dozen dirty, dangerous, and expensive aging reactors in its nationwide fleet.

Despite the positive spin of Exelon's high-priced PR campaign, the simple truth is that the counties, and other organizations expressing support for the merger, have sold out cheap. Exelon's commitments to low income and other ratepayers in the Pepco service area are quite minimal. Exelon's commitments to energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy expansion are likewise small-scale, compared to what is possible and needed.

To the contrary, Exelon has declared "nuclear war" against renewables and efficiency, as unwanted competition to its nuclear and fracked natural gas generators.

And perhaps most significantly of all for hard-working Maryland ratepayers: Exelon's thinly veiled motivation for merging with Pepco in the first place is to secure a solid rate base of customers, which it can milk to help prop up uncompetitive, and ever more dirty (as due to tritium leaks), dangerous (as due to meltdown risks), and age-degraded atomic reactors in Illinois -- where Exelon is simultaneously seeking massive ratepayer bailouts.

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.