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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
Aug032013

"Thank you, Tallahassee, for making us pay so much for nothing"

Tampa Bay Times Business Columnist, Robert Trigaux, has let Florida state legislators and the Public Service Commission have it "for passing a law forcing Duke Energy customers to pay up to $1.5 billion in higher rates for a long proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County that will not be built...And no, Florida customers, you're not getting any of that money back."

Trigaux continues "The real reason the witless sheep in Tally let this happen is that power companies wanted to shift both the cost and the risk of building a nuclear plant on to its customers and off of its shareholders...Nowhere in the country do you see big Wall Street firms or banks lending billions of dollars to electric utilities for nuclear plants. The risk is too high. The recent history of building nuclear plants is plagued with fantastic delays and enormous cost overruns."

His column is an excellent exposé on "advance fee recovery" or CWIP -- Construction Work in Progress -- which is illegal in most states. In Indiana in the 1980s, for example, Citizen Action Coalition successfully sued the Hoosier State's would-be nuclear utilities for making illegal CWIP charges on ratepayers' electricity bills. The court ruled the utilities had to return hundreds of millions of dollars to ratepayers. Two nuclear power plants, at Bailey and Marble Hill, were stopped dead in their tracks.

In 1976, Kay Drey -- now a Beyond Nuclear board member -- helped lead a statewide referendum making CWIP illegal in Missouri, a law, enacted through grassroots democracy at its best, that still stands. In Iowa, Mike Carberry, of Green State Solutions and Friends of the Earth, has helped lead an environmental/ratepayer coalition which has successfully fended off nuclear lobbyists at the state capital for several years, blocking legalization of nuclear CWIP.

But CWIP has been made legal in several southeastern states, thanks to nuclear industry lobbyists' sway over state legislators and governors' mansions there. Floridians have now learned the hard way why nuclear CWIP is a really bad idea. But Georgians and South Carolinians are beginning to learn the same hard lesson. Even Georgia's Republican governor has suggested that Southern Co. shareholders should eat some of the major, all-too-predictible cost escalations at Vogtle 3 & 4; South Carolinians have seen a half-dozen rate increases in just the past few years, all going towards keeping up with Summer 2 & 3's skyrocketing pricetag.

Friday
Aug022013

Speaking out against foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors

Recently elected to the U.S. Senate, Ed Markey (D-MA) has watchdogged the nuclear industry for four decades while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, he has spokean out against NRC weakening its rules on foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors.For several long years, an environmental coalition comprised of NIRS, Beyond Nuclear, Public Citizen, and Southern Maryland CARES co-intervened against the proposed new atomic reactor at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay, and won. The death blow in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing proceeding was dealt by a contention against foreign ownership of U.S. atomic reactors, argued pro se by NIRS executive director Michael Mariotte. Baltimore-based Constellation Energy abandoned the project, leaving French government-owned Electricite de France (EDF) holding the bag with 100% ownership stakes, a clear violation of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Reading the writing on the walls, no other U.S. nuclear utility stepped forward to fill the void. The project was doomed, and ultimately defeated.

As NIRS states in its press release below, "Earlier this week, EDF announced that it is permanently leaving the U.S. nuclear power market and will no longer attempt to build new reactors here."

Now NRC is trying to loosen its rules prohibiting foreign ownership of U.S. reactors. NIRS put out the following message:

"[T]oday NIRS submitted lengthy comments to the NRC--supported by 65 other groups [including Beyond Nuclear] -- urging the strengthening of the rules implementing the Atomic Energy Act's ban on foreign ownership, control or domination. The legislative history of the Act shows that Congress intended that no more than about 25% of a reactor can be foreign-owned, but the NRC has moved far away from that over the years. It's time that the agency do what Congress intended and actively prevent foreign control of U.S. nuclear reactors. Here is a press release about the comments; here are the comments themselves (pdf); and here are comments submitted today by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) [photo, above left] (also pdf).

The NRC is planning a webinar on the issue on August 21. Here is the information; contact the NRC if you'd like to speak during this meeting."

Friday
Aug022013

Dr. Gordon Thompson's "devastating critique" of NRC's HLRW storage pool fire risk whitewash

Dr. Gordon Thompson, executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, MAYesterday, to meet the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) arbitrarily short 30-day deadline for public comments on its "Draft Consequence Study of a Beyond-Design-Basis Earthquake Affecting the Spent Fuel Pool for a US Mark I Boiling Water Reactor" (NRC-2013-013), attorney Diane Curran and expert witness Dr. Gordon Thompson filed a blistering response on behalf of an environmental coalition of 26 groups, including Beyond Nuclear.

In her cover letter to NRC, Curran wrote: "...the Draft Consequence Study is not a credible scientific document. While the study purports to be a broad scientific inquiry into pool fire phenomena, in fact it is a very narrow study that ignores basic pool fire phenomena and important pool fire accident contributors. It misleadingly implies that a severe earthquake causing complete draining of a fuel pool is the primary source of risk to a spent fuel pool, and assumes that open-rack low-density pool storage is not advantageous without even examining it. In short, the Consequence Study appears designed to advance the authors’ pre-determined and unsupported conclusion that high-density pool storage is safe."

Thompson makes clear that a partial drain down of a high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool is an even worse-case scenario than a complete drain down, for air cooling provided by convection currents -- which might otherwise prevent ignition of the irradiated nuclear fuel's combustible zirconium cladding -- is blocked by the layer of water in the bottom of the pool. Thompson points out that any technically-competent analyst who has been paying attention to pool-fire risks since 1979 would have known that, and charges NRC with being deliberately misleading. He also points out the potentially catastrophic consequences of pool fires -- over 4 million people could be displaced, long-term, from their homes, as even NRC acknowledges.

Curran concluded: "We are appalled that after decades of avoiding and obfuscating this urgent safety issue, the NRC now proposes to rely on this biased and unscientific document to justify continued high-density
pool storage of spent fuel, both in its post-Fukushima safety review and in the Draft Waste Confidence Environmental Impact Statement. We join Dr. Thompson in urging you to withdraw the Draft Consequence Study and begin anew with a study of spent fuel pool fire risks that finally complies with basic principles of sound scientific inquiry."

Curran represented a coalition of environmental groups which, along with a coalition of state attorneys general, prevailed against NRC's Nuclear Waste Confidence at the second highest court in the land. The U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that NRC must complete an environmental impact statement on the risks of on-site storage of HLRW at reactors, including in pools. NRC did not appeal the ruling, and quickly acknowledged that the completion of the EIS would prevent finalization of proposed new reactor license approvals, as well as old reactor license extension approvals, for at least two years (NRC had previously admitted that a Nuclear Waste Confidence EIS would take seven years to complete!).

Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, has heralded Dr. Thompson's work as a "devastating critique." Alvarez adds, "Gordon's comments systematically reveal the kinds of scientific malpractice the NRC is resorting to at a time when one of the nation's largest and oldest high-hazard enterprises faces a deepening economic crisis."

Alvarez, formerly a senior advisor to the Energy Secretary during the Clintion administration, knows what he's talking about. Along with Dr. Thompson, now-NRC Chairwoman, Ph.D. geologist Allison Macfarlane, and five more experts, Alvarez published "Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States," in Jan., 2003. This groundbreaking warning about the potentially catastrophic risks of HLRW pool fires was largely affirmed by a congressionally-ordered National Academy of Science study in 2005; NRC unsuccessfully attempted to block the security-redacted public release of NAS's findings. Alvarez also published a May 2011 report on the hazards of high-density pool storage across the U.S., in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. And in June, in a report commissioned by Friends of the Earth, Alvarez focused on the risks of HLRW pool storage at the now permanently shutdown San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Thursday
Aug012013

SACE Statement on Duke Energy Florida’s Cancellation of Levy County Nuclear Reactor Project

Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, Director of Policy & Communications, 865.235.1448, jennifer@cleanenergy.org

St. Petersburg, Fla.///NEWS STATEMENT/// Duke Energy Florida (DEF) today filed a motion with the Florida Public Service Commission to approve a settlement agreement that will cancel its proposed Levy County nuclear reactor project.

The project’s estimated cost to build two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors had skyrocketed by 400% to $24 billion from initial estimated costs of approximately $5 billion per reactor and the original in-service dates were delayed by at least eight years. The motion was filed in the annual nuclear cost recovery clause docket – which is set to begin Monday - that considers approval of costs related to proposed new nuclear generation and determines the reasonableness of projected costs.
 

According to Florida Public Service Commission staff testimony in this year’s docket, “As of December 31, 2012, DEF has spent approximately $962 million on the Levy project including AFUDC” (Allowance for Funds Used During Construction). Duke has not yet recovered this entire amount from the Commission. Hearings on the 2013 docket for Duke and FPL, which is also pursuing two new nuclear reactors at their existing Turkey Point plant near Miami, are scheduled to begin next week.

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, issued this statement about today’s decision to cancel the proposed Levy County nuclear reactor project:
 

“We welcome Duke Energy’s announcement today that they are seeking approval to cancel the controversial Levy County nuclear reactor project.  Since the merger, Duke’s leadership has taken a fresh look at these unnecessary nuclear projects and has absolutely made the right decision for Florida consumers.

While important details are still being resolved, Florida consumers should rejoice in knowing that the fleecing associated with this nuclear project will end. The time has come to stop throwing good money after bad.

SACE has long opposed this project and the nuclear tax recovery mechanisms that have been associated with it. SACE supports the need for Duke and FPL to have exit plans for these unnecessary reactors, however, we must stay vigilant in protecting consumers as the projects wind down.

The FL PSC has been negligent in its protection of Florida ratepayers and as these projects are cancelled, the Commission must stand strong in defense of consumers. But we also must ensure that the utilities do not continue to pursue high-risk, unnecessary projects as if there were no viable exit strategy.”

Join us for a media availability call tomorrow, Friday, August 2 at 11:00 a.m. EDT to speak with SACE experts on this case and today’s decision.

WHEN: Friday, August 2, 11:00 a.m. EDT

 

WHO:

Dr. Stephen Smith, Executive Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

George Cavros, Florida Energy Policy Attorney, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Sara Barczak, High Risk Energy Director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

 

WHERE: Conference Dial-in Number: (605) 475-4000; Participant Access Code: 663387#

# # #

Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org

Thursday
Aug012013

Environmental interveners respond to Duke's cancellation of proposed new reactors at Levy County, FL

Washington, D.C.-based attorney, Diane Curran, represented environmental interveners NIRS and Ecology Party of Florida against the now-cancelled proposed new reactors at Levy Co., FLThe Ecology Party of Florida and NIRS, environmental interveners against Duke/Progress Energy's proposed new reactors at Levy County, FL, have responded to the announced cancellation:

The Ecology Party of Florida could not be happier that the proposed nuclear plant scheduled for construction in Levy County, Florida (LNP), has been cancelled by Duke Energy, which acquired Progress Energy Florida (PEF), the LNP applicant.  The Ecology Party, along with Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) waged a five-year battle within the confines of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s  (NRC) rigged system, challenging the construction of the plant. The challenge was based primarily on the fact that the water modeling used was unsuited for the karst geology at the site and that in combination with other mining projects in the area, including the nearby proposed King Road Tarmac mine which would have supplied materials for the plant. Due to this failing, the proposed LNP  would have irreparably harmed the aquifer, source of drinking water for the area. Dewatering the area further than it already has been would have resulted in impacts far more serious and far-reaching than those alleged by Progress and the NRC Staff.  The two groups presented evidence that any predictions in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) were inadequate and that the destructive consequences of withdrawing millions of gallons of water from the aquifer each day, as well as drawing all fresh water from the abandoned Cross Florida Barge Canal and its estuary in the Gulf had been grossly underestimated.

The Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) had not yet issued the necessary permit for the destruction of wetlands at the site and the Ecology Party, its members, and Hydroecologist Dr. Sydney Bacchus, primary expert for the Ecology Party, have been extremely active in opposing the project in the Corps' process. We believe our opposition and the compelling evidence we've submitted has had a bearing on the decision.

In response to news of the abandoned LNP project, Dr. Bacchus's reaction was, "This is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when the public refuses to accept false and inaccurate information fed to agencies by consultants and instead fights to have the truth exposed. I hope this will serve as a role model for future grass-root battles."

Diane Curran [photo, above left], who represented the Ecology Party and NIRS said, “It is great news for the environment that PEF apparently thinks Levy would be an economic disaster.  It would have been an even bigger disaster for the fragile wetlands where PEF wanted to build the reactors.”

Cara Campbell, Chair of the Ecology Party, pointed out, “The cost of this debacle had risen from 4 Billion dollars to 25 Billion. How much were the ratepayers of Florida expected to take?”

"The people, animals, plants and waters of the Nature Coast are figuratively sighing with relief that an area of recreation and sanctuary, the Nature Coast, will be nuclear-free!" said Mary Olson of Nuclear Information and Resource Service who supported efforts by Florida activists to intervene in the proposed Levy County 1 & 2 nuclear license.

Michael Mariotte, Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), added:

"The nuclear renaissance is in shambles. Earlier this week, the world's largest nuclear company, Electricite De France, announced it is leaving the U.S. nuclear market having failed to build any of the reactors it was planning. Now Duke Energy is giving up on the most expensive nuclear project ever proposed--and the only "greenfields" site in the supposed nuclear revival. The basic truths about nuclear power outweigh the fantasies of nuclear boosters: it remains too dirty, dangerous and expensive to be a viable source of new electricity."