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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
Feb022017

Beyond Nuclear on Solartopia Radio re: Collapse of Atomic Energy Industry

THE COLLAPSE OF THE ATOMIC ENERGY INDUSTRY once again comes to Solartopia Green Power and Wellness Hour Radio. [The show is at 5pm Eastern on Thursday, Feb. 2nd -- listen live! -- and will be posted at the Solartopia Radio Show's archives afterward.]

LINDA SEELEY of the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace fills us in on the catastrophic Diablo Canyon nukes, surrounded by earthquake faults and in a tsunami zone.  We examine the deal being made to shut it down, and the effort to make that happen faster.

KEVIN KAMPS of Beyond Nuclear and TIM JUDSON of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service chime in on the collapse of Westinghouse, the overages in nuclear construction around the world, the appointment of an non-regulatory new chair for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the procession of state bailouts, and much more.

As we approach a green-powered Earth, we pray no more of these obsolete, obscene nukes will explode, and that the transition to renewables will proceed as fast as possible.

Thanks to host Harvey Wasserman for having us on once again. It's an honor and a privilege to appear alongside colleagues from NIRS and Mothers for Peace!

Thursday
Jan052017

How Georgia officials pantsed ratepayers over the holidays

Mr. Burns, Nuclear Scrooge of Simpsons infamy, wasn't stingy when it came to handing out "Atomic Fireballs" as a stand in for the radioactive waste the nuclear industry would like the public to "consent" to "swallowing," during a protest outside NRC's "Nuke Waste Con Game" public comment mtg. in Perrysburg, OH, 2013. While Radioactive Man is on the take, re: the Atomic Fireballs, it is Planet Earth, and all future generations of all living things, on the receiving end of the subsidized high-level radioactive waste generation, as at Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA.As reported by Matt Kempner in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial:

...The Georgia Public Service Commission — a body of five officials that most voters don’t even realize existsyanked Georgia consumers’ pants down to their ankles. One thing they exposed in the process: a big gap in the state’s system for regulating a powerful business monopoly.

It took PSC commissioners less than six minutes, without debate, to unanimously slap customers of Georgia Power with responsibility to pay for billions of dollars in cost overruns tied to the for-profit company’s expansion of nuclear Plant Vogtle. The PSC allowed only the barest of reductions in Georgia Power’s profit margins. Even that is a temporary measure compared to decades the company is likely to be pulling in fully caffeinated profits in this arrangement.

But ignore that, because the PSC also ordered that a note be inserted in Georgia Power bills to declare, essentially, what a deal you’re getting.

They decided to include this message because, well, if you just look at your Georgia Power bill you won’t actually notice anything that looks like savings.

In reality, the PSC’s Dec. 20 vote didn’t give Georgia Power and its parent the Southern Company the entire moon, just most of it.

That’s not the way PSC commissioner Stan Wise saw it.

“It’s an extraordinary balance of interests of all the parties,” Wise said during the hearing.

Some others, like consumer advocacy and environmental group leaders, disagreed. But the most troubling issue is how weak of an effort the state put forth to actually do its job... [emphasis added]

Similarly, it took the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners less than a minute to rubber-stamp a 20-year license extension at Fermi 2 in Michigan, on Dec. 23, 2015. The NRC Commissioners "Affirmation Session" took place in an NRC HQ building largely devoid of human beings -- everyone had already taken off for the holiday break. Nevermind that Fermi 2 is a Fukushima Daiichi twin desighed General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor. We've all seen what THOSE are capable of!

And the radioactive Grinches who stole Christmas, at the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactors construction site in Waynesboro, GA, and at Fermi 2, laughed all the way to the bank.

Thursday
Dec292016

Troubled Chinese Nuclear Project Illustrates Toshiba's Challenges

The Wall Street Journal, in an article entitled "Troubled Chinese Nuclear Project Illustrates Toshiba's Challenges," shows how its not just U.S. new atomic reactor costs overruns and schedule delays causing a "nuclear nightmare" for one of Japan's largest corporations, and a global leader of the nuclear power industry.

Tuesday
Dec272016

Massive cost overruns and long construction delays plunge Toshiba-Westinghouse into "nuclear nightmare"

"Burning money" graphic designed by Gene Case of Avening Angels was featured on The Nation Magazine's cover in 2003, accompanying Christian Parenti's feature article on the nuclear power relapse in the U.S.As reported by Bloomberg, Toshiba-Westinghouse has been plunged into a financial "nuclear nightmare" -- with losses, over just the past few trading days, amounting to $4 to 5 billion (yes, with a B!) -- losses amounting to more than 40% of its stock value. This is due to cost overruns, mounting into the billions of dollars, and years-long schedule delays, at four new reactor construction sites in the U.S.

The debacle stems from Toshiba-Westinghouse's acquisition of the Chicago Bride & Iron (CBI) new reactor construction firm, in a vain attempt to get control of already astronomical, but still skyrocketing costs, at the Vogtle 3 & 4 reactors construction site in Georgia, as well as the Summer 2 & 3 reactors construction site in South Carolina.

Toshiba-Westinghouse's AP-1000 (so-called Advanced Passive, 1,100 Megawatt-electric) reactor design was touted as the flagship of the so-called "Nuclear Renaissance," not only in the U.S., but internationally.

However, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc., working for a coalition of environmental groups, many years ago identified a potentially fatal flaw in the design's containment. This could result in catastrophic amounts of hazardous radioactivity being pumped into the environment, in the event of an AP-1000 reactor core meltdown.

Besides Toshiba-Westinghouse's financial free fall, the public also faces mounting monetary risks.

In Georgia, the nuclear utilities have got state residents -- and the American public -- coming and going: Southern Nuclear, Georgia Power, et al. are charging ratepayers Construction Work in Progress (CWIP), or advance cost recovery, "nuclear tax" surcharges on their electricity bills, to fund construction of Vogtle 3 & 4.

But in addition to that, the Obama administration awarded Vogtle 3 & 4 an $8.3 billion (yes, with a B!) federal nuclear loan guarantee. And even the loan itself came from the taxpayer-funded U.S. Finance Bank.

If the Vogtle 3 & 4 project goes belly up, Georgia ratepayers could have invtested billions of dollars, without ever seeing a single kilowatt-hour of electricity generated at Vogtle 3 & 4; U.S. taxpayers could be left holding the bag for the entire nuclear loan guarantee, as the Obama administration did not see fit to require any (a 0% credit subsidy fee) nuclear utility skin in the game whatsoever!

Vogtle 3 & 4's $8.3 billion nuclear loan guarantee puts at risk more than 15 times the amount of taxpayer money lost at the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default. And Vogtle 3 & 4's risk of default was judged to be higher than was Solyndra's, when both projects were just getting going.

Although Summer 2 & 3 did not seek federal nuclear loan guarantees to finance construction, CWIP charges alone in South Carolina have been severely onerous. Around 20% of ratepayers' electric bills are going towards construction of the two AP-1000s, with no end in sight for the out of control increases in the two reactors' price tags.

Wednesday
Dec072016

Rauner signs Exelon nuclear bailout (and NEIS response)

As reported by AP.

NEIS posted the following comment in response to the AP article, and the passage of the Exelon Nuclear bailout in IL:

NEIS COMMENT:

If Gov. Rauner really and truly believes that, " closing the plants would have "devastated the two communities,"  then he should have worked to bail out the potentially devastated communities, not the hugely profitable private corporation. 

For over 2 years our organization argued that the State must insist that a "just transitions" program be instituted to protect reactor (and perhaps coal) communities from the withdrawal of "company town" utilities.  Absent such a proactive plan, this "bailout tango" will be repeated in the future when Byron, LaSalle, Dresden and Braidwood start to become "unprofitable" for Exelon.  We spelled out potential funding mechanisms, which are eminently negotiable. We left copies of this plan at the offices of over 40 legislators and state officials, including Governor Rauner's office, Rep. Madigan's office, Sen. Cullerton's office, the AG's office, and numerous individual legislators including Sen. Radogno, the Clean Jobs Bill sponsors, and others.  We personally gave copies to Sen. Chapin Rose, and representatives from the Quad Cities chamber of commerce and City Administrator of Clinton.  We made it part of our testimony before the House and Senate Energy Committees.  We urged that it become a topic of discussion and negotiation in the current legislation. 

No luck.

Evidently. legislators love 6-hour public hearings, and annual bailout proceedings.  It's much easier to pass the bills along to disempowered ratepayers than to engage in responsible governance.  Happy holidays, all.

--David Kraft, Director, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Chicago--