On Monday morning, November 2, 2015 Entergy Nuclear announced it would permanently shut down its age-degraded, uncompetitive FitzPatrick atomic reactor in Scriba, NY, six miles northeast of Oswego, on the Lake Ontario shore (photo, left) by late 2016 or early 2017.
As with Entergy's Pilgrim atomic reactor in Plymouth, MA (now planned to permanently close by mid-2019, if not two years earlier), as well as Entergy's Vermont Yankee reactor (permanently shut late last year), FitzPatrick is a Fukushima Daiichi twin design and vintage: an over 40-year old, General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactor.
As Beyond Nuclear's "Freeze Our Fukushimas" pamphlet shows, the closure of these three Entergy GE BWR Mark Is still leaves 20 Mark Is operating in the U.S., including Cooper in NE (owned by Nebraska Public Power District, but operated by Entergy), as well as Nine Mile Point Unit 1 (owned by Constellation -- Exelon & Electricite de France -- and located immediately adjacent to FitzPatrick in Scriba, NY).
Constellation's Nine Mile Point Unit 2, also co-located with FitzPatrick, is a very similarly designed GE BWR Mark II. As described in the "Freeze Our Fukushimas" pamphlet, seven additional Mark IIs still operate across the U.S.
As with Entergy's October 13th announcement of Pilgrim's planned closure, Beyond Nuclear welcomes this news about FitzPatrick, but must hasten to add that the next year or more of continued operations at FitzPatrick will now represent a period of significantly increased safety risk. After all, experienced workers with job prospects elsewhere will likely hastily move on. And Entergy can now be expected to neglect basic maintenance repairs even worse than before, and outright cancel any needed major repairs.
As Beyond Nuclear documented right after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began, and has warned about ever since, FitzPatrick can be regarded as the single most dangerous Mark I in the country: it is the only one that refused to install a hardened vent, to relieve pressure build up in its too small and too weak containment vessel. In this sense, FitzPatrick is even less prepared than Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 3 were for preventing catastrophic containment failures -- they did have hardened vents, although they failed, and those containments were either damaged or destroyed. FitzPatrick's plan since 1989, when it refused to install a hardened vent, even though all other Mark Is and IIs in the U.S. did do so, has simply been to allow the doors to be blown off its turbine building during an explosive hydrogen gas build up during a meltdown, as an ad hoc pressure release valve.
As with Oyster Creek in NJ, FitzPatrick also raises the specter that an announced shutdown will be used as an excuse to blow off U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) deadlines for "Fukushima lessons learned" safety upgrades, and perhaps -- incredibly enough -- with the agency's complicity. Oyster Creek, another Mark I (owned by Exelon, and the oldest operating reactor in the U.S.), has already announced its closure by December 31, 2019 at the latest. But NRC's order, that "new and improved" hardened vents (albeit ones lacking radiological filters) be installed, as a required post-Fukushima safety upgrade, should apply at Oyster Creek by mid-2016. Oyster Creek has applied to postpone that deadline till after it has permanently closed, in effect evading it. NRC appears open to that exemption.
Likewise, FitzPatrick should have to install a "new and improved" hardened vent (albeit lacking radiological filters), prior to its just announced shutdown. Such exemptions from post-Fukushima safety orders would make a mockery of rule of law and regulation, and are entirely unacceptable. If Oyster Creek and FitzPatrick are unwilling to invest in such safety upgrades, they should be forced to permanently shut down by those deadlines, at the latest, not granted exemptions by a complicit NRC.
It must be remembered that the Japanese Parliament, in its independent investigation published in 2012, concluded that the root cause of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe was collusion between regulator, industry, and elected officials.
Oddly, as reported by the Democrat & Chronicle, NY Governor Cuomo has vowed to fight FitzPatrick's closure:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state would fight the closure.
"The closing of the James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant will devastate the lives of the more than 600 employees and their families. Good corporate citizenship must appreciate that there are many factors that count as the 'bottom line,'" Cuomo said in a statement. "The state of New York will pursue every legal and regulatory avenue in an attempt to stop Entergy’s actions and its callous disregard for their skilled and loyal workforce.”
Gov. Cuomo's advocacy to keep FitzPatrick from closing contradicts his long-time advocacy (dating back many years, to his service as State of NY Attorney General) for closure of Entergy Nuclear's Indian Point reactors near New York City.
Cuomo said he wants Indian Point closed because it would be impossible to evacuate the New York City area in the event of a severe accident.
“Their best answer if there's a nuclear accident is, everybody should take an iodine pill,” he said. “You know? And they're supposed to have an evacuation plan for the surrounding area — when the surrounding area is New York City, you cannot evacuate New York City. You know, what's the plan, jump in the river and swim to Jersey? Right? So, I've had that problem with Indian Point for a long time.”
While taking a potassium iodide pill would protect the human thyroid gland during a nuclear emergency evacuation, Cuomo's observation -- that it would be impossible to evacuate the more than 20 million people who live or work within 50 miles of Indian Point during a radiological emergency -- is absolutely correct, and has long been established.
But it must be pointed out that, despite being much less densely populated than metro New York City, evacuating communities in upstate NY during a radiological emergency at FitzPatrick, and/or the adjacent Nine Mile Point reactors, and/or Exelon's Ginna nuclear power plant (the second oldest operating reactor in the U.S., just 50 miles or so to the southwest of FitzPatrick, and also located on the Lake Ontario shore in Ontario, NY), would also be very difficult. After all, the urban centers of Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo are very nearby; evacuation to the north is blocked by Lake Ontario; and evacuation to the west is significantly complicated -- or likely blocked, truth be told -- by the Canadian border.
Given their stated concern about job loss at FitzPatrick, Gov. Cuomo and Sen. Schumer should read the white paper published by Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) on October 22, 2015, "REPLACING FITZPATRICK: How the Closure of a Nuclear Reactor can Reduce Greenhouse Gasses and Radioactive Waste, while Creating Jobs and Supporting the Local Economy."
As summarized by the NIRS/AGREE press release, the $40-60 million per year public subsidy Entergy has been seeking could be invested in much more beneficial ways, such as completely replacing FitzPatrick's electricity supply with energy efficiency upgrades and wind power installations, with enough money left over to also replace hundreds more megawatts of dirty fossil fuel generation in upstate NY, and/or decrease ratepayers' electricity bills.
The NIRS/AGREE just transition plan would also secure half of FitzPatrick's current workforce, by utilizing the $738 million, state-controlled decommissioning fund to begin immediate dismantlement of the facilities and radiological site clean up, tapping the institutional knowledge and expertise embodied in Entergy's current employees at the site. At the same time, the efficieny upgrades and wind power expansion in the service area would provide twice as many jobs as FitzPatrick currently provides. All this could be accomplished, while still meeting NY's greenhouse gas reduction commitments, as well as helping local municipalities -- long overly dependent on FitzPatrick's tax revenues -- manage the transition into a more diversified and sustainable energy economy.
Tellingly, it has been reported that Entergy's stock price has rebounded somewhat, upon rumors of FitzPatrick's closure, after its stock price had decreased significantly over the past many months. Entergy is looking to save $275 million in revenue losses over the next five years, by closing FitzPatrick.
Basing his predictions on analyses by UBS and other investment firms, in July 2013, Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School identified Entergy's entire merchant fleet or reactors as at risk of near-term shutdown. Palisades in MI, and Indian Point Units 2 & 3 in NY, are the last remaining Entergy merchant fleet reactors.
Please see Beyond Nuclear's "Reactors Are Closing" website section for the big picture on the six reactor closures in North America just since December 2012, and the numerous announced closures to come in the next few years.
Jessica Azulay of AGREE and Tim Judson of NIRS have put out the following action alert below, in response to NY Gov. Cuomo and U.S. Sen. Schumer's vow to do everything in their power to not let FitzPatrick close. Please note, AGREE and NIRS are only looking for action to be taken by New York State residents -- but please do spread the word to anyone you know in NY.
Tell Schumer and Cuomo: Let FitzPatrick Close
November 4, 2015
As you may know by now, Entergy has announced that it will close its Fukushima-clone FitzPatrick reactor at the end of its current fuel cycle -- sometime late next year.
That's terrific news. It's a great victory we and our allies across New York (that means YOU!) have been fighting for over the past two decades. Here's our take on FitzPatrick (and other uneconomic reactors) from yesterday's GreenWorld.
Just last week, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) jointly published a new report on FitzPatrick, calling for its permanent shutdown and outlining a responsible transition plan. We called for both the clean energy development FitzPatrick's closure opens up and a worker/community transition plan to protect the region and plant employees from the job and tax losses that are the side-effect of shutdown. You can read this report here.
The fight to close FitzPatrick isn’t quite over and we still need your help. New York Senator Schumer and Governor Cuomo have vowed to prevent FitzPatrick's shutdown. Tell them here: New York wants FitzPatrick to close; support a responsible transition instead!
Here are just some of the benefits identified in the NIRS/AGREE report:
* FitzPatrick can be replaced with energy efficiency and wind at a savings of $50 million per year
*In addition to FitzPatrick, clean energy could replace the equivalent of a 264 MW coal plant (or a 332 MW natural gas plant), for the same cost as FitzPatrick
*Clean energy could create 1,400 new jobs, 2.3 times as many as FitzPatrick now employs
*The state could fund a just transition plan to protect the community and the workers at a net cost savings of $20 million
*Clean energy replacement and just transition would cost at least $60 million less than subsidizing FitzPatrick
In short, FitzPatrick's shutdown will leave New Yorkers safer, and, with implementation of such a plan, will make the region economically stronger. It's a classic win-win situation.
Enter Senator Charles Schumer, who immediately went to the TV cameras to declare his anger over the shutdown and vowing, "I will do everything I can at the federal, state and local level to prevent this closure."
The Senator, potentially the next Senate Majority Leader, should know better. His constituents (again, that's you!) want FitzPatrick closed. Rather than posture about job losses to the cameras, Schumer should be leading the charge for the adoption of a responsible transition plan. And, as a national political figure, he should recognize that the same kind of benefits will accrue with the shutdown of other reactors in the U.S. That's the kind of voice we need in the U.S. Senate: one that will articulate the positive changes that a safe, clean and affordable nuclear-free and carbon-free future will bring to our nation.
Meanwhile, while he reiterated his support for closing Indian Point, Governor Cuomo also said he wants to see FitzPatrick stay open and said his administration would also fight the shutdown. Cuomo thankfully refused to cut an initial back-door deal with Entergy to avoid the closure announcement, but he could now try to keep the plant open using the New York State Public Service Commission to force ratepayers to subsidize the plant to the tune of more than $60 million a year. We don’t think such an attempt would succeed on legal grounds, but we need your help to guard against it.
Tell Sen. Schumer and Gov. Cuomo here: New York wants FitzPatrick to close; support a responsible transition instead!
It's vital that politicians stop behaving reflexively about plant shutdowns and instead grasp the opportunities such shutdowns pose. New York can take a leadership role by supporting the shutdown and using it as an opportunity to further build a dynamic and cost-effective clean energy system. New York can be a model by creating a just transition for FitzPatrick workers and the local community. This will help not only in New York (especially with a potential Indian Point shutdown), but also across the nation, where more uneconomic, obsolete and dangerous nuclear reactors are hanging on the precipice. In short, your action now matters.
Thanks for your activism.
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Alliance for a Green Economy
P.S. There is a lot more information about FitzPatrick and the work to close it on the Beyond FitzPatrick website and the Alliance for a Green Economy website.
As reported by WRVO, Entergy has re-affirmed FitzPatrick's permanent closure in about a year from now. This, despite NY Governor Cuomo, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and local state legislators striving to keep FitzPatrick operating, or even to persuade another operator to step in, such as Exelon, which runs the nearby Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant.
That idea is most ironic, as Exelon has been busy for many months, begging the State of Illinois legislature for a $1.8 billion bailout, to keep five uncompetitive reactors in its home state afloat. Exelon is even attempting to take over Mid-Atlantic utility Pepco, in order to funnel its ratepayers' money -- from D.C., Maryland, and other jurisdictions -- back to its failing IL reactor fleet.