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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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Tuesday
Jul262016

PUCO staff proposes shoring up FirstEnergy's credit rating on the backs of ratepayers -- but who's shoring up Davis-Besse's crumbling Shield Building?!

The "Whitewash of 2012" (weather sealing the Shield Building, 40 years too late), August to October 2012, which merely made matters worse, locking water in the walls, leading to Ice-Wedging Crack Propagation with every freeze-thaw cycle.From today's Midwest Energy News:

UTILITIES:
• Ohio regulators continue taking testimony on a third rate plan filed by FirstEnergy that would have customers pay $393 million to shore up the utility’s credit rating. (Toledo Blade)

While the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff proposes to save FirstEnergy's credit rating, and enrich FirstEnergy shareholders in the process, on the backs of electric consumers in Ohio with a hefty surcharge on their bills, who is proposing to shore up the crumbling Shield Building (rebar reinforced concrete containment) at the Davis-Besse atomic reactor?! Certainly not FirstEnergy, nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Not one penny of the currently proposed ratepayer bailout of FirstEnergy would go towards repairing or replacing the severely cracked, and worsening, Shield Building. FirstEnergy's plan is merely to monitor the growth of the cracking (which they used to deny was even happening), and woefully inadequately at that. NRC has approved this plan.

Replacing the Shield Building would cost billions. It is unclear that repair is even possible. The only "repair" FirstEnergy attempted -- the "whitewash of 2012" (applying weather-sealant to preclude water intrusion, 40 years too late, from August to October 2012) -- merely made the cracking worse, by locking water in the walls! (See photo, above left.)


The Ice-Wedging Crack Propagation, with every freeze-thaw cycle, due to water locked in the walls, will repeat numerous times this autumn-winter-spring coming up, depending on weather conditions. With each freeze, the cracking grows by a half-inch, or more, in circumferential orientation around the Shield Building exterior wall.

Subsidizing Davis-Besse's continued operation, at ratepayer expense, is a game of radioactive Russian roulette, putting those downwind, downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations at ever increasing risk of a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity. Thanks to everyone who continues to oppose FirstEnergy's attempted money grabs, aided and abetted by the PUCO staff. Davis-Besse must be shut down, before it melts down.

Thursday
Jul212016

Take action to prevent $8 billion nuclear bailout in New York that would worsen radioactive risks to Great Lakes drinking water supply!

Graphic art from AGREE action alertNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Public Service Commission (NY PSC) have proposed bailing out three Exelon Nuclear atomic reactors (Ginna, Nine Mile Point 1 & 2) in upstate NY, and a fourth on the Lake Ontario shore that Exelon now wants to purchase (Entergy's FitzPatrick), to the tune of $8 billion over 12 years. The burden of the bailout would be entirely shouldered by NY ratepayers: that is, households and businesses. Ironically enough, those massive funds would come out of New York's Clean Energy Fund. AGREE (Alliance for a Green Economy) has reported that the nuclear cut would gobble up a full two-thirds of the funding that was originally, and appropriately, intended to go for genuinely clean energy development -- namely, efficiency upgrades, and renewable sources of electricity such as solar photovoltaic and wind power.

Take action(s), below, ASAP to prevent this massive nuclear power bailout at ratepayer expense, that would worsen the risks of a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity into the drinking water supply for nine million people in two countries -- the U.S. and Canada -- and a large number of Native American First Nations downstream! Public comments are due by Friday, July 22nd, as the NY PSC only allowed an exceedingly short public comment period, in its rush to rubber-stamp the nuclear bailout!

TAKE ACTION!

You can use AGREE's online webform as is, or tailor it to your own words, and submit it to the NY PSC (AGREE will automatically cc it to Gov. Cuomo, as well.)

Also, use Public Citizen's webform as is, or make changes to what's written, and submit it to the NY PSC.

In addition, you can adapt, or simply sign and submit, a letter prepared by Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Here is an action alert, entitled "You won't believe how much the NY nuclear bailout will cost...speak up today!", sent out by Jessica Azulay at AGREE on Monday, July 18th:

It's Time to Hit the Brakes on Governor Cuomo's Extravagant 12-Year Nuclear Bailout

The push for a massive nuclear power bailout in New York just got a lot worse -- and the state agency pushing it doesn't want to consider other options or give the public any time to make our voices heard.

After saying for months that the proposed nuclear subsides would cost only $270 million over 12 years, a new proposal released just a few days ago raised the projected price to almost $8 billion. Yes, you read that right, Governor Cuomo and the New York Public Service Commission now want to spend $8 billion of New Yorkers’ money on bailing out the nuclear industry, and in particular, one company: Exelon. The cost will be paid by every electricity consumer in New York -- residents, businesses, and municipalities -- with higher energy bills.

This may be the largest corporate bailout or subsidy to one company in New York history. And the public has been given only 10 business days to comment on this new expensive plan. They are rushing to try to make a decision by August 1.

If we want to stop this, we need thousands of people to comment by Friday, July 22. So I am writing to ask you to please raise your voice.

Click here to comment today.

This is so much worse than even the original plan to bail out most of New York's nuclear power plants. If it goes through, New York will end up spending two times more money on bailing out dirty, old, dangerous reactors than on building safe, clean, affordable renewable energy. And we would be locked into paying this nuclear tax for over 12 years, until 2029. The PSC hasn’t even considered other options. They have done no analysis to see what it would look like if we replaced nuclear power in New York with efficiency or renewables.

That is outrageous and dangerous.

It risks nuclear meltdowns on the shore of Lake Ontario, drinking water for 9 million people, just miles from Syracuse and Rochester.

It steals billions of dollars from building the clean-energy economy New York needs and deserves.

And it blocks real climate solutions for over a decade, just to make more and more radioactive waste.

Please send a message to the Public Service Commission and Governor Cuomo now.

We are working closely with national, state, and local groups to get out the word and take action. You can get regular updates on our Facebook page and Twitter feed, and we will be sending out more email alerts over the next days and weeks. You can also get more detailed info on AGREE's website.

Please submit a comment today and then please tell you friends about this.
 
Thank you for raising your voice.

Sincerely,
Jessica Azulay
Alliance for a Green Economy

[Share the AGREE action alert on Facebook]

[Share the AGREE action alert on Twitter]

[Forward the AGREE action alert via email]

AND HERE IS AN ACTION ALERT PREPARED BY BEYOND NUCLEAR IN RESPONSE TO AGREE'S ALERT ABOVE:

Dear Friends and Colleagues concerned about the Great Lakes environment,

Please see the urgent action alert below from Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) in upstate New York.


While New Yorkers have the most direct stake in this matter, everyone has a stake in this decision, and should take action. This includes both Americans, and Canadians, as spelled out below.

New Yorkers of course have the most direct stake -- If you know New Yorkers, please alert them and urge them to take action ASAP!

But anyone who will travel to New York, would pay higher prices for traveling there -- businesses will likely increase costs, if forced to pay these nuclear bailout surcharges.

So here is an added section I included when I filled out the AGREE web form:

But it is not only New Yorkers who would be hurt by such nuclear power subsidies, at their expense. New York businesses would likely have to increase the price for their goods and services, to defray the increased electric rates they were forced to pay to prop up the old, failing reactors. So their customers would likely be forced to share the pain for these nuclear power surcharges. This would impact both New York residents, but also visitors and tourists. I fall in that latter category. I am a regular visitor to both New York City and other parts of the state. I oppose being forced to share the pain in this way, and this could influence my decisions on future visits to New York.

(In fact, AGREE encourages folks to personalize their comments to the New York Public Service Commission, which will be cc'd to New York Governor Cuomo.)

And Americans across the U.S. also have this at stake -- this could serve as a national precedent, to be applied in other states. The nuclear power industry in numerous states is attempting to do this too -- secure massive ratepayer bailouts, to prop up non-competitive, age-degraded, dirty and dangerous atomic reactors. We must nip this in the bud, we must block these nuclear industry lobbyist money grabs.

In fact, Exelon Nuclear, headquartered in Chicago, would gain the most of all from these New York subsidies. Exelon is seeking similar subsidies in Illinois, to prop up old, dirty, dangerous, non-competitive atomic reactors there. Of course, a meltdown in Illinois would be upwind of the Great Lakes' surface waters, and that atmospheric fallout of catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity could do great harm to the drinking water supply for 40 million people in two countries, as well as a large number of Native American First Nations.
In addition, the bad precedent in New York could be cited, officially or otherwise, as something to emulate in other states. Ohio comes to mind, where FirstEnergy Nuclear, for several years now, has not been successful (yet) in obtaining $4 billion, at the expense of ratepayers, to prop up its old, dirty, dangerous, non-competitive Davis-Besse atomic reactor (as well as its even older, dirty, dangerous, non-competitive Sammis coal burner). But FirstEnergy's lobbyists keep trying, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and others in state government keep trying to accommodate them, at ratepayer expense. That fight is still very much on. The good news is, if FirstEnergy is denied the multi-billion dollar bailout, this will significantly increase the probability that the money-losing (and dirty, dangerous, etc.) Davis-Besse atomic reactor and Sammis coal burner will simply be retired (at which point we can start watch-dogging Davis-Besse's every move on decommissioning, high-level radioactive waste management, etc.!)

Other states where such nuclear industry bailouts to prop up old, failing reactors are being proposed include Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
And a meltdown on the Lake Ontario shore in upstate New York could be a catastrophe for the entire Great Lakes bio-region, as well. (This makes the issue entirely relevant to Canadians, of course -- just as a Canadian reactor meltdown on the Great Lakes would impact Americans downwind and downstream, up the food chain, and down the generations.) That is another personal comment you could add to your web form submission. Here is the language I used regarding this point:

Propping up dangerously old reactors through massive ratepayer bailouts also increases the risks of a nuclear catastrophe. On the upstate NY shore of Lake Ontario, such a reactor disaster and catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity would devastate the entire Great Lakes bio-region, but especially the drinking water supply for nine million people in two countries, immediately downstream. The lifeblood -- the Great Lakes -- of one of the world's single biggest regional economies, across eight states and two provinces, as well as a large number of Native American First Nations, should not be put at risk in this way.

Please take action ASAP, to help prevent such risks to pocketbooks as well as health, safety, and the environment.

Thanks!

---Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear and Don't Waste Michigan
AND HERE IS A LINK TO A NEWS ARTICLE:

 

Thursday
Jul212016

Clearwater: Public comment now due Fri., 7/22 on PSC's proposed $7.6 billion nuclear subsidy in Clean Energy Standard -- sample letter attached

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc.'s Environmental Director, Manna Jo Greene, sent out the following action alert on July 20th:

Dear Friends and Colleagues.

On Friday, July 8 the NYS Department of Public Service Staff released a revised Clean Energy Standard proposal that would subsidize unprofitable nuclear reactors in Upstate NY. This updated proposal, Case #15-E-0302: Proceeding on Motion of the Commission to Implement a Large-Scale Renewable Program and a Clean Energy Standard, is estimated to cost $1 billion over the first two years, and could cost NYS ratepayers as much as $7.6 billion in steadily increasing subsidies by 2029. This proposal would force all electricity consumers in New York to spend $2 on nuclear subsidies for every $1 put toward programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency.  

Comments on the revised proposal were due Monday, July 18, however the PSC granted a brief 5-day extension -- not the customary 45 days granted to analyze the economic and legal implications of the Staff's revised proposal. 10 days is really not enough time to review these recommendations, when all of New York State will be affected by this proposal.  Attached and below is a template of comments that you can use or adapt; we are also still calling for an extenstion to be granted.  This is not a decision to be made in haste.

We have sent the attaached to about 1,500 elected officials in more than 100 municipalities in the Hudson Valley and NYC.  This same letter can be adapted to your organization or sent by you as an individual  (and/or ou can also sign on to the AGREE organizational letter at www.allianceforagreeneconomy.org/organizational-sign-nuclear-bailout as well). Please adapt and please follow up with your elected official to ask that they also send one in. 

Letters urging the New York State Public Service Commission to reconsider the proposed mandatory nuclear subsidies and requesting an extension of the period for public comment should be submitted by email to secretary@dps.ny.gov, and addressed to:

Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess

Secretary to the Commission

New York State Public Service Commission

Three Empire State Plaza

Albany, New York 12223-1350

 

Dear Secretary Burgess:

I request that the NY State Public Service Commission reconsider the recommendations in the Staff’s Responsive Proposal for Preserving Zero-Emissions Attributes in Case 15-E-0302 for a mandatory nuclear subsidy that is estimated to cost New Yorkers more than $7 billion over the course of the next 12 years. 

The California Public Utility Commission recently created a plan to phase out their last nuclear power plant, by facilitating a joint agreement between Pacific Gas & Electric, the unions representing the plant workers, environmental groups and municipal officials, which will replace the power generated by Diablo Canyon with 100% renewable energy and energy efficiency over the course of nine years, while protecting the workers’ jobs and providing for retraining where needed, without mandating any subsidy that ratepayers would fund. 

New York has no such plan, yet the Department of Public Service is proposing to impose an estimated $7.6 billion subsidy to underwrite the currently unprofitable operation of FitzPatrick, Ginna, and Nine Mile Point nuclear power stations.  Staff’s proposal, originally estimated to cost of between $59 and $658 million over the first seven years, has now been revised to cost an estimated $953 million for only the first two years.  The subsidy rate charged to ratepayers will escalate from $17.48 per MWh in 2017-2019 to $29.15 per MWh in 2027-2029 (depending on energy and capacity price adjustments), locking New York ratepayers into a huge subsidy over the course of the next 12 years.

Staff’s proposal now also considers including Indian Point, which the NY State Department of State has determined to be inconsistent with the Coastal Management Plan for environmental and economic reasons, and unnecessary to maintain reliability.  Including Indian Point in the proposed nuclear subsidy could add another $4 billion to the total cost of its proposal, which would be funded by ratepayers, including residents of all income levels, large and small businesses, non-profits, and municipalities.  In the Mid-Hudson region, this would compound already high rates and the Lower Hudson Capacity Zone surcharge.

Because the Load Serving Entities – the utilities and Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) – would be required to bill their customers for the so-called Zero Emission Credits (ZECs), customers would no longer have the option of choosing to purchase 100% renewable energy, because they would be forced to pay the nuclear surcharge regardless of whether or not they want to purchase nuclear power.

By referring to nuclear power as having zero-emission attributes, the Staff’s proposal ignores emissions generated in mining, milling, transporting and storing nuclear fuel, and the planned and unplanned releases of radioactive isotopes and other emissions associated with nuclear operations.  The proposal likewise ignores the creation of high-level radioactive waste in the form spent nuclear fuel rods, which will likely be stored in New York State for many decades. It also exaggerates the reliability of aging nuclear facilities, which have recently experienced increasingly frequent outages due to leaks, fires, electrical problems, and, in the case of Indian Point, severely degraded baffle-former bolts inside the reactor.

The Staff report also leaves many unanswered questions regarding the actual cost that will be borne by ratepayers and how this will affect our economy, especially for low and moderate income families, businesses who operate on the margin and municipalities with stretched budgets that are capped.

[I/We] urge the Public Service Commission to deny the Staff’s Responsive Proposal for Preserving Zero-Emissions Attributes in its current form.  Because the Staff’s recommendations will have significant economic impacts on the [MUNICIPALITY] and our constituents, [I/we] also request that the PSC extend the deadline for filing comments on the Staff’s proposal to the full 45-days, as is customary under State Administrative Procedures Act (SAPA), to allow adequate time to review the substantial changes contained in this proposal.

Sincerely,

[NAME]

[TITLE, if any]

[ORGANIZATION, if any, or MUNICIPALITY]

[CONTACT INFO] 

 

You can also file this comment directly on line at: http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/MatterManagement/CaseMaster.aspx?MatterCaseNo=15-e-0302

If you do send in comments, please forward us a copy [to: mannajo@clearwater.org].


Many thanks,


Manna
Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Director
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc.
724 Wolcott Ave., Beacon, NY 12508
845-265-8080 x 7113  Fax: 845-831-2821
www.clearwater.org 

><((((º>    ><((((º>     ><((((º>     ><((((º>

The following three attachments were included with the action alert:

Memorandum re: Public Service Commission Staff Proposal for Subsidizing Nuclear Power Plants in NY State;

PSC STAFF'S RESPONSIVE PROPOSAL FOR PRESERVING ZERO-EMISSIONS ATTRIBUTES (July 8, 2016);

Sample letter from New York State elected officials or organizations asking PSC to rethink mandatory 12-yr nuclear subsidy (7.20.16).

Wednesday
Jun292016

A radical plan to bailout struggling nukes -- federal government takeover!

As reported by Bloomberg Government's Mark Drajem, Edward Kee, the founder of the Nuclear Economics Consulting Group, has a not so modest proposal to "save the nukes": a federal government bailout, or outright takeover, akin to the $700 billion rescue package for Wall Street banks and the Big Three automakers in the aftermath of the 2008 U.S. economic crisis.

Of course, Kee's outrageous scheme seems to forget, the U.S. government -- that is, federal taxpayers -- as well as electric ratepayers, have been subsidizing nuclear power for decades, to the tune of tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars, as Doug Koplow documented in a comprehensive 2011 report commissioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

But then again, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute made the astute observation, many years ago, that the only places where nuclear power is enjoying a significant growth spurt, are in countries with highly centralized economies, such as China and India.

That is, the public pays, while the nuclear robber barons profit.

The small number of reactors under construction in the U.S. operate along the same lines. The two new reactors under construction in Georgia -- Vogtle Units 3 and 4 -- enjoy not only ratepayer subsidies dubbed "Construction Work in Progress," or "advanced recovery" surcharges on electric bills, but also $8.3 billion in federal taxpayer nuclear loan guarantees, compliments of the Obama administration.

The two new reactors under construction in South Carolina -- Summer 3 and 4 -- have foregone federal loan guarantees, instead doubling down on gouging ratepayers. Remarkably, one-fifth of South Carolina ratepayer electric bills now go towards building the two reactors, after the ninth "pay-in-advance" rate hike, in just the past several years, as reported by the Charleston, South Carolina Post & Courier.

And the latest nuclear establishment fad -- so-called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) -- have also enjoyed many hundreds of millions of dollars of federal taxpayer subsidization, a trend that will continue, if the national nuclear labs, reactor vendors, and nuclear utilities of the U.S. continue to get their way.

Kee's immodest proposal also seems to forget that nuclear industry lobbyists, as from Exelon and Entergy, demanded competitive electricity markets back in the 1990s and early 2000s. They hoped to make even more profits than they were already making under regulated monopolies that they then enjoyed. Now that atomic reactors can't compete with cheaper sources of electricity, in the markets their own lobbyists demanded be created, nuclear utilities are crying foul, and demanding the clocks be turned back, and their profits again guaranteed, at ratepayer expense.

The proposal for government takeover of failing atomic reactors extends from the federal level to the state level. As reported by Syracuse.com, in New York State, for example, local elected officials, nuclear power plant unions, and a former Republican Public Service Commission chairman have called for the State of New York Power Authority to take back over at Entergy's FitzPatrick, scheduled to close in January 2017. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has rejected that idea, although he does support ratepayer subsidies in the form of "zero emissions credits" under the Public Service Commission's Clean Energy Fund program, in development. Groups like NIRS and AGREE have led the resistance to that particular form of bailout, which would burden New York ratepayers to the tune of billions of dollars over time.

Wednesday
Jun292016

UBS: Atomic reactors under long-term contracts also at risk for closure

"Burning Money" graphic by Gene Case, Avening Angels, as featured on the cover of The Nation magazine in 2003, accompanying Christian Parenti's report on the nuclear power relapse.As reported by Matthew Bandyk at SNL Financial and Robert Walton at UtilityDIVE, it's not just single unit, small sized atomic reactors in competitive marketplaces for electricity that are succumbing to a record-breaking, and accelerating, trend of closure announcements.

UBS Securities has noted (in its June 23rd report entitled U.S. Electric Utilities & IPPs: Reacting to Retirements) that even atomic reactors with lucrative, long-term Power Purchase Agreements, such as Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan, are non-competitive, and facing imminent shutdown. So too are multi-unit nuclear power plants, such as Xcel Energy's Prairie Island Units 1 and 2 in Minnesota.

As Bandyk at SNL reported it:

Since 2012, when Dominion Resources Inc. revealed its Kewaunee nuclear facility in Wisconsin was unable to make money in wholesale electricity markets and would be retired, small nuclear reactors operating in deregulated merchant environments have been facing the most pressure. Plants that did not sell purely on a merchant basis, but had the extra security of a long-term power purchase agreement, were seen as in better shape.

Long-term contracts, however, may not be a savior in some cases going forward. "We see long-term contracted plants as also at particular risk of shutdown" because of the lack of rate-base incentive for utilities and high operating costs, the [UBS] report said.

Bandyk continues:

The Palisades facility could become the leading example of this potential trend. The nuclear plant sells its output to CMS Energy Corp. subsidiary Consumers Energy Co. under a long-term contract through 2022, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. But due to the high price of this contract, both Consumers and Entergy may find it mutually beneficial to give up Palisades and replace it with a lower-cost solution like power from merchant power plants in the Midwest, according to the report. (emphasis added)

This corresponds strongly with the analysis provided by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, in a Forbes column entitled "Closing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Will Save Carbon and Money." Lovins points out that "Renewables and efficiency cost less than operating many nuclear plants."

UBS recommends that Palisades should close by spring 2017, as a favor to Entergy's and Consumer Energy's/CMS's shareholders, and as a huge favor to regional ratepayers, who have been gouged for the past decade on their electric bills.

(This is the second time since April that UBS has recommended Palisades' closure -- but the latest report has added the suggested date: spring 2017.)

With the approval of the Michigan Public Service Commission in 2007, Consumers Energy/CMS contracted to purchase every single megawatt-hour of electricity Entergy would produce at Palisades till 2022. NIRS executive director Tim Judson has stated it is by far the highest Power Purchase Agreement he has seen. Combined with Entergy's refusal to make very costly but vitally needed major safety repairs (embrittled reactor pressure vessel annealing; steam generator replacement; reactor lid replacement), Judson points out that something must be seriously out of whack at Palisades, for Entergy to still be unable to keep its head above water, given such financial advantages, at ratepayer expense and downwind/downstream safety risk (Palisades is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline, drinking water supply for many millions downstream).

Bandyk also reported:

Closing Palisades "could not only save money for [Entergy] in operating the plant and accelerating its strategic positioning away from nuclear but also reduce delivered costs to CMS consumers avoiding the cost of such a high-priced PPA," the report said. A likely scenario would be Entergy announcing the retirement this fall so Palisades could be shut down around its spring 2017 refueling outage, the UBS analysts said. (emphasis added)

In fact, Entergy's CEO recently advised potential investors that the company is looking to get out of the failing merchant atomic reactor business.

UBS has also reported that closure of Xcel Energy's twin unit Prairie Island, MN nuclear power plant by the mid-2020s is a distinct possibility.