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ARTICLE ARCHIVE

Nuclear Power

Nuclear power cannot address climate change effectively or in time. Reactors have long, unpredictable construction times are expensive - at least $12 billion or higher per reactor. Furthermore, reactors are sitting-duck targets vulnerable to attack and routinely release - as well as leak - radioactivity. There is so solution to the problem of radioactive waste.

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Saturday
Jul242010

Environmental coalition letter to U.S. Senate Appropriators opposing additional dirty energy loan guarantees 

 

On July 21st, a coalition of ten national environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, wrote the Members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, urging that no additional dirty energy loan guarantees for the fossil fuels and nuclear power industries be included in the Fiscal Year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantees and $7 billion in fossil fuels loan guarantees were included in the bill, approved in committee on a party line vote on July 22nd.  By contrast, renewables and efficiency loan guarantees were capped at a maximum of $3.8 billion -- meaning the actual level could be lowered. It seems that not only is the U.S. Dept. of Energy favoring nuclear projects over others, but so are U.S. Senate Appropriators. However, our pressure may have headed off an amendment in committee that would have larded even more radioactive and dirty fossil fuels pork onto these loan guarantee figures.

Last February, the Obama administration requested $34 billion in additional nuclear power loan guarantees, to add to the $20.5 billion already approved in 2007.

Thus far, the full House has approved $9 billion of additional nuclear loan guarantees -- approved on the House floor on July 1st as a rider on the Fiscal Year 2010 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, a bill intended to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as disaster relief. However, on July 22nd, by a 51 to 46 vote, the Senate rejected this House language. $10 billion to keep teachers on the job, rather than nuclear loan guarantees, was the primary issue of difference between the two houses, however. But, this means that the $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees will likely be dropped, as the House must either agree with already passed Senate language, or else the war funding and disaster relief appropriations bill will not pass at all.

Also, last week, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee approved $25 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees, matched by $25 billion for renewables/efficiency. The full House Appropriations Committee has yet to act on the bill. This $25 billion nuclear loan guarantee figure from the House would have to be reconciled with the $10 billion nuclear loan guarantee figure from the Senate.

The fight would normally now go to a conference committee between House and Senate Appropriators for the FY2011 Appropriations bill. However, a more likely scenario is that a "continuing resolution" (a CR) will be passed by both houses of Congress, freezing spending levels at FY2010 levels (meaning no additional nuclear loan guarantees, yet). Then, after November's mid-term elections, an Omnibus Appropriations bill would be proposed on both house floors, which would then go to conference committee, if necessary due to any differences, this December for final approval, to set funding levels for the remainder of FY11.

This will be a very dangerous time to guard against additions of large amounts of nuclear loan guarantees. It was on just such an Omnibus Appropriations bill, on Dec. 23, 2007 -- when most Americans were more concerned about holiday celebrations than Capitol Hill shenanigans -- that the current $20.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees were approved.

Thank you to all who contacted their U.S. Senators and Representative during the latest flurry of attempted nuclear power industry money grabs in the U.S. Congress. We will need to remain vigilant for the foreseeable future.

Saturday
Jul242010

U.S. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee passes good solar roofs bill, two bad nuclear bills

On July 22, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, passed a flurry of bills, including one good renewable energy bill, and two bad nuclear power bills.

The first bad nuclear bill is S. 2052, a "nuclear energy research initiative," which would authorize $50 million annually from fiscal 2011 through 2015 for the Energy Department to conduct research for lowering the cost of nuclear reactor systems. It would include the research of modular reactors, small-scale reactors, balance-of-plant issues, cost-efficient manufacturing and construction, licensing issues and enhanced proliferation controls. In carrying out the research, the department would be required to consult with the departments of Commerce and Treasury, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The bill would require the department, within 180 days of the bill's enactment, to publish on its website a five-year strategy to lower the costs of nuclear reactors and to hold a public workshop for comment. What's not mentioned is the fact that if $50 million per year could significantly lower the cost for new atomic reactors, the nuclear power industry would have already done this. After all, the twin-reactor Indian Point nuclear power plant made $1.2 million in before-tax net profit in 2009, so $50 million isn't that much money for such a filthy rich industry. But than again, if the nuclear industry can get taxpayers to cover such costs, why not just pocket that much more as profit?

The second bad nuclear bill, S. 2812, entitled "Nuclear Power 2021, with an amendment," would require the Energy Department to work with private sector partners in a program to develop a standard design for two small modular nuclear reactors and to get the two designs certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by 2018. At least one of the reactors would be required to have a capacity of 50 megawatts or less. Requiring a date certain reactor design certification from NRC increases safety risks, by pressuring NRC to approve an unsafe design before safety flaws are corrected. This bill smacks of the same pitfalls as "Nuclear Power 2010," a Bush administration program launched on Feb. 14, 2002 -- the very same day the dangerously flawed Yucca Mountain dump got the official thumbs up. "Nuclear Power 2010" aimed to not only certify, but even construct and begin operations at two full-scale atomic reactors by 2010. The reactors chosen for the program, the AP1000 and the ESBWR, have been plagued with design defects. The AP1000's shield building is vulnerable to earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes, and is not even structurally sound enough to hold up an emergency cooling water tank on its upper roof. The ESBWR was so flawed, NRC staff had to ask 6,000 Requests for Additional Information on its design -- of the 6 ESBWRs proposed across the U.S., all but one has been cancelled.

The good renewable bill is the "10 Million Solar Roofs & 10 Million Gallons of Solar Hot Water Act," S. 3460, which, if "fully implemented, this legislation would lead to 30,000 MW of new PV, tripling our total current U.S. solar energy capacity. It would increase by almost 20 times our current energy output from PV panels. The legislation would rapidly increase production of solar panels, driving down the price of PV systems and it would mean the creation of over a million new jobs."

Not only is Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent of Vermont) the sponsor of S. 3460, he was the only Senator on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to oppose the two bad nuclear bills described above. No matter where you live, call Sen. Sanders' office at (202) 224-5141, fax him at (202) 228-0776, or fill out his webform at http://sanders.senate.gov/contact/contact.cfm, to thank him for opposing nuclear power and supporting solar power!

Check the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee member list to see if you're Senator is on there, and contact them to express your disappointment in their support for the bad nuclear power bills.

Monday
Jul192010

3rd Annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, July 30-August 1

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps helped lead the nuclear power and uranium mining workshops at the 1st (2008) and 2nd (2009) annual "Protect the Earth" gatherings held at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. These events were devoted to stopping metallic sulfide and uranium mining throughout Michigan's Upper Peninsula, particularly at the sacred Ojibwe "Eagle Rock" site on the Yellow Dog Plains near Lake Superior. Save the Wild U.P., one of the annual gathering's sponsors, has an excellent map showing the location of this Kennecot "Eagle Project," numerous other metallic sulfide mining proposals, and three known uranium mining proposals.

Uranium mining is unprecedented in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, although it has already devastated Ojibwe lands at Elliot Lake, Ontario to the east, as described in the book of Serpent River First Nation testimonials edited by Lorraine Rekmans and Anabel Dwyer, and as depicted in an iconic photo by Robert Del Tredichi showing a wall of uranium tailings, visible behind the trees -- radioactive waste from the Stanrock mill near Elliot Lake, Ontario. Serpent River First Nation environmental minister Keith Lewis reported in "This Is My Homeland that a "string of pearls" -- numerous atomic reactors -- had been proposed on the Canada side of Lake Superior at one point. But indigenous and other resistance beat the proposal back. However, he warned, those plans could easily be dusted back off.

At the June 2010 Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Wisconsin, Kevin also met with Gabriel Caplett and Teresa Bertossi, editors of Headwaters: Citizen Journalism for the Great Lakes. Along with youth from the Keewenaw Bay Indian Community who had recently been arrested trying to defend Eagle Rock from bulldozers, Gabriel and Teresa gave an emergency presentation at Wisconsin's Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free networking caucus about the imminent mining threat at the sacred site. Hence the urgency of this year's 3rd annual Protect the Earth Great Lakes Community Gathering.

Check out this year's beautiful poster. This year's event will feature Ojibwe environmental justice activist Winona "No Nukes" LaDuke as keynote speaker, and renowned Native American musician Joanne Shenandoah. See the text of the email announcement just sent to Beyond Nuclear here.

Friday
Jul162010

U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy & Water Appropriations approves $25 billion in additional nuclear loan guarantees

Thanks to everyone who acted on our alert and called your U.S. Representatives. Unfortunately, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations earlier today did approve $25 billion in additional nuclear loan guarantees on the Fiscal Year 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. By the way, the bill also would provide $7 billion to the Dept. of Energy for maintaining and even expanding the nuclear weapons complex, and $1 billion for U.S. Navy nuclear reactors. Just over $5 billion would be appropriated for cleaning up the radioactive messes left over from manufacturing nuclear weapons in the first place. And another $824 million would go to the DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, for research and development aimed at expanding atomic energy. Congressman Pastor (D-AZ), the chairman of the subcommittee, put out a statement breaking down these and other funding levels.

While the bill also approved $25 billion in loan guarantees for renewable and energy efficiency projects, there is already more money than the renewables and efficiency industries can use in the federal energy loan guarantee coffers. This is especially true, because the DOE has decided to charge such projects a 10% or higher "credit subsidy" fee for applying for loan guarantees, while only charging the nuclear industry around a 3% application fee, even though the former are less financially risky, while nuclear is more financially risky. These "credit subsidy" fees are supposed to cover the cost of project defaults. But the Congressional Budget Office has predicted, based on the nuclear industry's past record, that well over 50% of new reactors will default on their loan repayments, leaving taxpayers holding the bag for 49% of the repayment on defaulted loans. A 10% or higher credit subsidy application fee for a loan guarantee is cost prohibitive to most renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Just this week, the Government Accountability Office slammed DOE for its half-baked energy loan guarantee program, including for inappropriately favoring nuclear projects over and above renewables projects!

Friends of the Earth has appropriately asked "Did Democratic Leadership Try to Buy a House Seat with a $25 Billion Nuclear Bailout?" Regarding the July 1st House approval of nuclear loan guarantees but rejection of safeguarding teachers' paychecks, FOE stated "Nuke Industry Bullies Students, Demands Lunch Money." We appreciate their insightful communications on these mind boggling nuclear power industry money grabs at taxpayers' pocket books, aided and abetted by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Senate has not taken up this $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees, nor the $9 billion in nuclear loan guarantees passed on the House floor on July 1st as part of the emergency war funding bill. Thus, calls to U.S. Senators urging they block any new nuclear loan guarantees would be valuable right now. The Capitol Switchboard can patch you through: (202) 224-3121.

Also, the full House Appropriations Committee, and the full House of Representatives, have not yet approved the $25 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees -- so now is the time to continue calling your U.S. Representative at the number above, and urge that they strip the nuclear loan guarantees out of the Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations act! 

Thursday
Jul152010

Urgent alert: act now to block $25 billion MORE in nuclear loan guarantees on FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill!

Call your U.S. Representative as soon as possible via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to do all they can to block $25 billion in additional nuclear power loan guarantees scheduled to be voted on by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water tomorrow, Thursday, July 15th at 2pm.

Thanks to everyone who, over the past several weeks, responded to our numerous action alerts and contacted their U.S. Representative to "declare independence from a nuclear industry bailout" by urging opposition to the $9 billion in new nuclear loan guarantees snuck onto the Fiscal Year 2010 emergency supplemental spending bill (a bill primarily intended to provide additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as disaster relief). Unfortunately, the House passed the measure late at night on Thursday, July 1st -- ironically, at the 11th hour, as they were rushing to leave town for the 4th of July congressional recess! This happened despite an outcry from national environmental as well as taxpayer groups, and opposition expressed by nine Members of the House -- led by U.S. Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) -- to the nuclear power industry money grab. This $9 billion represents an "advance" into FY2010 of a part of the $34 billion increase in the nuclear power loan guarantee funding requested by the Obama administration earlier this year. The U.S. Senate has yet to act on the $9 billion "advance" proposal (so call both your U.S. Senators via the Capitol Switchboard and urge that they block it!).

The big stink we raised about that $9 billion "advance" may have led House Appropriations Committee leaders to decide not to include the additional $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees requested by the Obama administration in the FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill unveiled in late June. But pro-nuclear power Democrats on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee -- namely Chet Edwards (D-TX), Chaka Fatta (D-PA), and Marion Berry (D-AR) -- made a stink of their own, leading to the postponement of the bill's mark up session in late June. A coalition of environmental groups urged House Appropriators at that time to strip the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees from the bill. (Luminant has proposed building new reactors in Edwards' district; Fattah represents Philadelphia, a hometown to Exelon, the largest nuclear utility in the U.S., which hopes to build new reactors; Berry is from the host state to the "Arkansas Nuclear One" twin reactors, owned by Entergy, the second biggest nuclear utility in the U.S., which hopes to build numerous new reactors in the Southeast).

But now the FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations bill is back on the front burner, and unfortunately does contain the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water is scheduled to meet on Thursday, July 14 at 2pm Eastern time to vote on the FY2011 spending bill, including this major increase in nuclear loan guarantees. A dozen national environmental groups wrote House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today, urging the $25 billion in nuclear loan guarantees be removed from the bill.

Please call your U.S. Representative right away via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to block this pre-emptive bailout to the already heavily subsidized and filthy rich nuclear power industry. If your Member serves on this subcommittee, it is especially vital that you call them. If your Member serves on the full House Appropriations Committee, urge them to weigh in with their colleagues on the subcommittee. And if your Member does not sit on the Appropriations Committee, urge them to protect the American taxpayer by weighing in with their colleagues who do serve on the committee.

You can also track down your House Member's DC fax number to fax in a handwritten letter, or their website to submit a webform or email, via the Library of Congress website. But be sure to act right away!

In February, President Obama himself announced the awarding of $8.3 billion in nuclear loan guarantees for new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia. This leaves another $10.2 billion in new reactor loan guarantee funding at the Dept. of Energy, likely poised to be awarded to the new French Areva "Evolutionary Power Reactor" proposed at Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland. In addition, in May the Energy Secretary awarded $2 billion in loan guarantees for a new Areva uranium enrichment facility targeted at Idaho. DOE has committed another $2 billion towards a new uranium enrichment facility proposed by U.S. Enrichment Corp. in Portsmouth, Ohio. This initial $22.5 billion in nuclear loan guarantees was originally appropriated at the end of 2007.

The additional $9 billion approved by the House two weeks ago would likely go towards new reactors at the South Texas Project. The added $25 billion now proposed could go towards yet more new reactors targeted at Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina -- new reactors that Friends of the Earths' South Carolina organizer Tom Clements has helped lead opposition against. None of these new reactor designs have yet received final design certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, nor construction and operating licenses. In fact, numerous serious design flaws have been documented with the new reactor proposals, as the price tags continue to skyrocket. The Congressional Budget Office has put the financial risk of a default on loan repayment, leaving taxpayers holding the bag, at over 50%. Just two days ago, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that the Dept. of Energy loan guarantee program is still flawed, and has inappropriately supported nuclear power over renewables and efficiency. The risks of large-scale radiological releases remain to be seen.