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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
Aug142014

Cost overruns and schedule delays at proposed new reactors in GA, SC, and TN

Aerial image of Vogtle nuclear power plant in GA, showing the operational Units 1 and 2, as well as the construction site for the proposed Units 3 and 4. Photo credit: High Flyer.We told them so. As the environmental movement warned 14 years ago, when the nuclear relapse was hatched by the Bush/Cheney administration, proposed new reactors at Vogtle 3 & 4 in Georgia, Summer 2 & 3 in South Carolina, and Watts Bar 2 in Tennessee are suffering major cost overruns and construction schedule delays.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has published an update on Vogtle 3 & 4, which currently are suffering a 21-month schedule delay, and $1.4 billion cost overrun. The delays could well get worse, at a staggering cost increase of $2 million per day of delay!

Similarly, as reported by SRS Watch, delays of up to three years, and cost overruns topping $500 million, are afflicting the Summer 2 & 3 proposed new reactors in SC.

Note that those April 1st projected opening dates for the new reactors at Voglte and Summer, listed in the updates above, are no April Fool's joke. GA and SC ratepayers are already being gouged for the new reactors' troubled contstruction, on their electricity bills.

Vogtle 3 & 4's financial risks also now implicate federal taxpayers, in the form of a $6.5 billion loan guarantee, likely to soon grow to an $8.3 billion loan guarantee. This is compliments of the Obama administration. So, if Vogtle 3 & 4 default on their loan repayment, federal taxpayers will be left holding the bag. This is 15 times more taxpayer money at risk than was lost in the Solyndra solar loan guarantee scandal. And that risk, of Vogtle 3 & 4 defaulting on its loan repayment, was judged, years ago, by the likes of the Congressional Budget Office and Government Accountability Office, as a much greater risk than Solyndra defaulting on its loan repayment.

Vogtle 3 & 4, as well as Summer 2 & 3, are Toshiba-Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors. They are experimental, never having been built before anywhere in the world, although AP-1000s are also under construction in China.

The proposed new reactor in Tennessee, that is also suffering cost overruns and schedule delays, is the Tennessee Valley Authority's long-mothballed Watts Bar Unit 2.

To add to the irony, the existing reactors at Vogtle, Units 1 & 2, were the poster child for cost overruns in the last generation of reactor construction, coming in at 1,300% their originally estimated cost!

And the operational Watts Bar Unit 1 took 23 years to build, from 1973 to 1996!

Monday
Jun092014

Two dozen groups urge State of MA to divest from Entergy due to safety and economic risks at Pilgrim

NRC file photo of Entergy's Pilgrim GE BWR Mark I on Cape Cod Bay in Plymouth, MABeyond Nuclear has signed onto an effort spearheaded by the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, and endorsed by two dozen local groups, to urge the State of Massachusetts to divest more than $8 million invested in Entergy. The signatory groups cited the economic and safety risks associated with the nuclear utility's problem-plagued Pilgrim atomic reactor. A June 4th letter was sent to Governor Patrick and Treasurer Grossman, as described in a June 9th press release.

NRC recently placed Pilgrim on its "degraded" performance short list. The only other reactor in the country with a worse performance designation is FitzPatrick in upstate New York. Both Pilgrim and FitzPatrick are General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor in Michigan was similarly designated one of the worst performers in the U.S. a couple years ago, after not one but two near-misses in 2011, and yet another one in 2012, as documented by David Lochbaum at Union of Concerned Scientists.

A year ago, energy economist Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School identified Entergy's six merchant reactors (half its national fleet), including Pilgrim, as at risk of near-term shutdown. This is due to a variety of factors, including economic uncompetitiveness and needed, costly safety repairs. In August 2013, Cooper was proven right, when Entergy announced the permanent shutdown of Vermont Yankee (another Entergy GE BWR Mark I) by the end of 2014.

Monday
Jun092014

Markey, Burgess Release Report Showing Legal Concerns over Energy Dept.’s Deals with Uranium Enriching Company

U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA)A new GAO report, requested by U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass., photo left) and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), finds that the shuttered U.S. Enrichment Corporation (USEC) facility received hundreds of millions of dollars worth of uranium, while ignoring laws and losing taxpayer money.

The report details a pattern of actions by DOE that kept USEC’s facility in Paducah, Kentucky open and subsidized the development of questionable centrifuge technology at its Ohio facility, even as the company was rated as junk bond status, threatened with de-listing from the New York Stock Exchange, and ultimately spiraled into bankruptcy.

“Our government has kept this uranium company on life support, wasting money and flouting the law, even though it was clear that it would end up in bankruptcy. This is the kind of government waste that Americans just don’t understand,” said Senator Markey, who is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “It’s time to commit this junk technology to the junk bin.”

Some of the uranium involved is associated with supplying replacement tritium for U.S. nuclear weapons.

Sen. Markey has issued a press release, including a summary, and a link to the full 112-page GAO report.

Wednesday
Apr302014

"Exelon CEO: 'We are not asking the state for a bailout'"

David Kraft, Director, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of ILThe Chicago Tribune reports that Exelon CEO Chris Crane denies the largest nuclear utility in the U.S. is seeking a bailout from the State of Illinois in order to stabilize its flagging fleet of atomic reactors:

'Crane told the Tribune Wednesday that a legislative fix is not in the offing.

“We are not – are not – asking the state for a bailout,” he said. “We are looking at different ways to contract/ sell energy from those plants into other markets, into other buyers, but there is not a state bailout.”

Crane said the company does not support subsidies for wind and does not support a 500-mile high voltage transmission line project pending approval at the Illinois Commerce Commission that would bring more wind into the state from Iowa.

“We are not considering a legislative fix to subsidize the nuclear plants in the state,” Crane said in an interview. ‘That is not anything we are working on.”'

On Nov. 6, 2013, E&E's reporter at Greenwire reported on Exelon's hypocricy in an article entitled "Nuclear giant taps wind tax credit that it's trying to kill."

As watchdog Dave Kraft (photo, above left), Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) in IL, points out, Exelon's denial of seeking a state bailout comes on the very same day it announced the takeover of Washington, D.C. area electrical utility PEPCO: "This may be the case -- for now. Who would need a bailout when all one has to do is 'buy' a marketful of unwilling sheeple, who would legally be available for fleecing?  And if the merger is not approved (as the Washington DC PUC will have something to say about this, and hasn't been favorable granting this type of merger in the past to even smaller nuclear-reliant utilities), Crane can always come back to Springfield at a later date to try again."

Dave published an analysis on March 3, 2014, "Exelon Nuclear -- Holding Illinois Hostage Yet Again?", as well as a related April 27th fact sheet, NO RATEPAYER BAILOUTS FOR EXELON’S “NUCLEAR HOSTAGE CRISIS."

Wednesday
Apr302014

Public Citizen: "Exelon-Pepco Merger Requires Additional Federal Consumer Protections; Office of Consumer Advocate at FERC Needed"

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

April 30, 2014

Contact: Tyson Slocum (202) 454-5191
Karilyn Gower (202) 588-7779

"Today’s announcement of a debt-laden acquisition of D.C.-based Potomac Electric Power Co (PEPCO) by Chicago-based Exelon raises concerns about shifting risks from Exelon’s massive unregulated wholesale generation portfolio to Pepco’s captive ratepayers. Stronger federal consumer protections are required, including the establishment of an Office of Consumer Advocate at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In addition, state and federal regulators must examine whether this transaction exposes ratepayers to too much risk.

As one of the largest operators of unregulated power plants in the regional market (PJM), Exelon is exposed to commodity price volatility risk. It appears as though Exelon is embarking on a strategy to mitigate that risk by expanding its control over captive ratepayers through the acquisition of local distributional utilities. The more captive ratepayers a large wholesale generator like Exelon has, the easier it is for it to find a guaranteed market to pass on higher wholesale costs. Therefore, this deal is all about shifting the operational risk away from Exelon’s shareholders and onto Pepco’s household consumers.

Part of Exelon’s wholesale operational risk stems from its nuclear power fleet. Exelon’s aging nuclear plants have been a drag on its profits, so adding more captive ratepayers through this deal will help Exelon shift its nuclear liability away from shareholders and on to ratepayers.

Exelon already controls captive ratepayers through its 2012 acquisition of Baltimore Gas & Electric, its existing captive ratepayers at Commonwealth Edison, and its acquisition of PECO in Pennsylvania.


With this proposed purchase, Exelon is essentially recreating a giant corporation. While Wall Street investors likely will cheer the risk-shifting away from Exelon’s shareholders and on to D.C. ratepayers, our concerns about the adequacy of consumer protections in the wholesale market require the adoption of additional reforms, including the establishment of an office of consumer advocate at FERC." (emphasis added)

[The year 2000 merger between Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) of Illinois and Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO), the largest and second largest nuclear utilities in the U.S., created the mega-nuclear utility Exelon. In 2011, Exelon merged with Constellation, adding Maryland and Upstate New York atomic reactors to its nuclear fleet.]