BEYOND NUCLEAR PUBLICATIONS

Search
JOIN OUR NETWORK

     

     

DonateNow

Nuclear Reactors

The nuclear industry is more than 50 years old. Its history is replete with a colossal financial disaster and a multitude of near-misses and catastrophic accidents like Three Mile Island and Chornobyl. Beyond Nuclear works to expose the risks and dangers posed by an aging and deteriorating reactor industry and the unproven designs being proposed for new construction.

.................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Thursday
Feb072013

"Exelon cuts dividend by 41%," as NRC investigates "deliberate" deception regarding decommissioning funds

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, "Exelon's stock has dropped by nearly two-thirds since its high in 2008." The company partly blames "higher nuclear fuel costs" for its "diminished earnings."

Ironically, the biggest nuclear utility in the U.S. is looking to expanding its renewables portfolio to expand its earnings:

'...It would also seek customers interested in contracting with Exelon for wind and solar power. Such power purchase agreements would guarantee steady and predictable returns.

..."When the balance sheet is tight like it is right now, you would want to make investments that have a short investment period," [Exelon CEO] Crane said. "Wind and other smaller assets really do fit that profile. Within a year, you're getting a return."'

Gouging its ratepayers at the earliest opportunity also seems to be in the Exelon business plan:

'...At Exelon, all eyes are looking forward to 2015 when approximately 19,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity plants will have retired. Coal plant retirements are expected to increase electricity prices Exelon's nuclear power plants take and help to counteract stubbornly low natural gas prices have been driving down the company's earnings.' (emphasis added)

The article also lists "significant headwinds" ahead, and "several legal and regulatory matters that could add to its woes," including "an investigation by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission," and "still unknown costs associated with NRC-mandated upgrades that came out of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan."

NRC appears to have just busted Exelon for "deliberate" deception -- the company appears to have intentionally low-balled the price tag for eventual nuclear power plant decommissioning, in order to mask the woeful inadequacy -- amounting to around a billion dollars -- of its dedicated decommissioning funds. Bloomberg reportedthat "[t]he shortfall totaled $1 billion in 2009." (emphasis added) Crain's Chicago Business has reported on this story.

U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), currently serving as Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee, has long shined a spotlight on the inadequacy of nuclear power plant decommissioning funds, as by requesting Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigations of NRC's oversight, or lack thereof.

The long term "deliberate" deception is reminiscent of Exelon's decade long cover up of massive tritium leaks into ground and surface waters at the Braidwood nuclear power plant. These were brought to light thanks to freedom of information act requests made by Cynthia Sauer, whose daughter Sarah contracted a rare form of childhood brain cancer at age 7. The family lived close to Exelon's Dresden nuclear power plant, not far from Braidwood.

The decommissioning of the twin reactor Zion nuclear power plant, 30 miles north of Chicago, is the biggest decommissioning project in U.S. history, with a projected price tag of around a billion dollars. EnergySolutions of Salt Lake City is in charge, itself embroiled in serious financial troubles.

British Nuclear Fuels, Ltd. (BNFL), absorbed into the EnergySolutions empire several years ago, carried out the decommissioning of the Big Rock Point atomic reactor in Charlevoix, Michigan, on the Lake Michigan shore, from 1997 to 2006. Despite being paid $366 million for the "clean-up," BNFL left radioactive contamination -- including plutonium -- in the soil and groundwater. It didn't even bother to check the contamination level in the sediments of Lake Michigan, not even in the canal into which Big Rock Point had "routinely" discharged radioactivity (with federal and state permission) for 35 years (1962-1997). Remarkably, NRC blessed the Big Rock Point decommissioning with a permit for "unrestricted re-use," meaning the contaminated land can be used for any purpose, ignoring the lingering radiation hazard.

Thursday
Feb072013

Markey letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on hydrogen explosions/vents

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources CommitteeThe Office of U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA, pictured left), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, has circulated the following statement:

"Today, Rep. Markey sent a letter to NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane urging NRC to follow the recommendations of its technical staff and require filtered vents on some nuclear reactors in order to facilitate the prevention of the sort of hydrogen explosions that occurred during the Fukushima meltdowns. The letter also conveyed Rep. Markey’s concerns about ongoing potentially misleading statements made by some NRC personnel concerning the ability of U.S. nuclear reactors to prevent a dangerous buildup of hydrogen gas in nuclear containment structures in the event of a nuclear accident."

Thursday
Feb072013

"Retired Duke reactor may signal more U.S. nuclear shutdowns"

As Reuters reports, yesterday's announcement by Duke that it has decided to permanently shutdown its crippled Crystal River atomic reactor with a severely cracked containment in Florida, and Dominion's decision last October to permanently shutdown its Kewaunee reactor on the shore of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin (despite a 20-year license extension rubberstamp by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission), may be but the first dominoes to fall.

The article quotes UBS energy analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith, who concluded "It's getting tougher for nuclear to compete." The UBS short list for reactors on the brink of permanent shutdown includes "Entergy Corp's Vermont Yankee in Vermont and FitzPatrick in New York, Exelon Corp's Clinton in Illinois and Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC's Ginna in New York," according to the article.

The article ends by questioning if Southern California Edison's San Onofre 2 & 3 in San Clemente will ever restart, given their severe steam generator tube damage. Both units have now been shut down for over a year for safety reasons.

Wednesday
Feb062013

VDPS finds that Entergy has broken its promises to the State of Vermont, urges rejection of CPG

Echoing State of Vermont political leaders' accusation that New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear is "a rogue corporation," on Jan. 25, 2013, Geoffrey Commons, Director of Public Advocacy at the Vermont Department of Public Service (VDPS), speaking on behalf of Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin's administration, filed a strongly worded brief in the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) proceeding re: whether or not Entergy should be granted a renewed Certificate of Public Good (CPG), required to continue operating the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor during its Nuclear Regulatory Commission rubber-stamped 20-year license extension.

Commons highlighted that "Entergy Has Breached lts Promise Not to Operate the VY Station After March 12, 2012 Without Renewed CPG," stating:

"Reduced to its core, this issue demonstrates that Entergy, as a business, is prepared to promise whatever it takes to achieve its immediate business objectives, and, is prepared to violate such promises if honoring them would be inconsistent with subsequent business objectives."

You can contact the PSB, urging it to deny a Certificate of Public Good to Entergy, which would force the shutdown of Vermont Yankee under state law, which Entergy had previously agreed to obey. More.

Wednesday
Feb062013

Boxer and Markey urge NRC launch investigation re: San Onofre steam generator installation despite known flawswer

The Honorable U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)The Honorable Barbara Boxer (Democrat from California, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, photo at left) and Ed Markey (Democrat from Massachusetts, Ranking Member of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee) today sent a letter to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Allison Macfarlance, demanding an investigation into new revelations that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Southern California Edison knew that replacement steam generators were significantly flawed, before they were installed at the San Onofre Units 2 & 3 reactors in San Clemente, CA, at a cost to California ratepayers of $671 million. Additional costs approaching $1 billion have accrued over the past year, since San Onofre 2 & 3 were forced to shut down due to the replacement steam generator tube degradation.

Sen. Boxer and Rep. Markey's letter begins:

"We have become aware of new information contained in a 2012 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) document entitled "Root Cause Analysis Report for tube wear identified in the Unit 2 and Unit 3 Steam Generators of San Onofre Generating Station" (Report).

We strongly urge the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to promptly initiate an investigation concerning the troubling information contained in this Report.

The Report indicates that Southern California Edison (SCE) and MHI were aware of serious problems with the design of San Onofre nuclear power plant's replacement steam generators before they were installed. Further, the Report asserts that SCE and MHI rejected enhanced safety modifications and avoided triggering a more rigorous license amendment and safety review process..."

Friends of the Earth (FOE) has petitioned NRC for a license amendment proceeding to address the un-analyzed safety risks associated with the major -- and faulty -- design changes carried out by MHI and SCE. FOE recently launched a t.v. ad, "No Way Out," about the impossibility of evacuating the 8.5 million Californians living within 50 miles of San Onofre if a radiological disaster occurs.

While San Onofre Unit 3 appears destined for permanent shutdown, due to its severe steam generator tube damage, SCE is seeking permission from NRC to restart San Onofre Unit 2, and run it at 70% power, despite its own severe steam generator tube damage.