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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.

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Thursday
May012014

The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther

The Brothers Reuther. From left to right, Roy, Walter, Victor. Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.It is fitting, on International Workers' Day, to pay tribute to Walter Reuther.

Reuther's biographer, Nelson Lichtenstein (The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor, Basic Books, 1995) could have been referring to Walter Reuther's civil rights, social justice, and anti-war work as much as to his efforts on behalf of working people. And given that Walter Reuther, and especially his brother Victor, were very active internationally, perhaps they were also the most dangerous men in the world?

Less well known are the Reuther brothers' work for the environment and against nuclear risks.

Walter Reuther's United Auto Workers (UAW) took one of the very first high profile stands against nuclear power in the early 1960s, when it -- alas unsuccessfully, unfortunately -- attempted to stop the construction and operation of the Fermi 1 experimental plutonium breeder reactor in Monroe County, MI, just 25 miles south of Detroit. Between the Detroit and Toledo areas, some 500,000 UAW members lived within 50 miles of the big nuclear experiment on the Great Lakes shoreline. Even though the UAW did not prevail in its lawsuit against the Atomic Energy Commission at the U.S. Supreme Court (by a 7 to 2 vote), Reuther and the UAW would be proven right just a few years later. On Oct. 5, 1966, "We Almost Lost Detroit" (the title of John G. Fuller's iconic book, as well as Gil Scott Heron's ballad) when the Fermi 1 reactor core partially melted down. But it came precariously close to turning out much worse than it did.

Sasha Reuther, the grandson of Walter's younger brother Victor, published a documentary film in 2012 entitled "Brothers on the Line." Towards the very end of the film, U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy is quoted as saying that Walter Reuther was green before it was even invented. More.

Wednesday
Apr302014

"NRC Fails to Document Claim...that 'Majority' of Nuclear Emergency Drills Include Natural Disaster Components"

The UN IAEA's official radioactivity hazard warning signNIRS has published a press release entitled "NRC Fails to Document Claim Made in Denial of NIRS' Emergency Planning Petition that 'Majority' of Nuclear Emergency Drills Include Natural Disaster Components."

NIRS submitted the petition to NRC on Feb. 15, 2012. NRC rejected the petition in its entirety on April 9, 2014.

Beyond Nuclear is one of 37 organizational co-petitioners.

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.]

Wednesday
Apr302014

"U.S. expects about 10 pct of nuclear capacity to shut by 2020"

The infamous 2007 age-related degradation cooling tower collapse at Vermont YankeeReuters reports:

"Lower natural gas prices and stagnant growth in electric demand will lead to the loss of 10,800 megawatts of U.S. nuclear generation, or around 10 percent of total capacity, by the end of the decade, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report issued on Monday.

About 6,000 MW of nuclear capacity will shut by 2020 in addition to six reactors totaling 4,800 MW that have already shut or plan to shut in that time period, the EIA said in its 2014 annual electric output study."

Those closures, or announced closures, include: Kewaunee, WI; Crystal River, FL; San Onofre 2 & 3, CA; and Vermont Yankee (photo, above left). In addition, Canada's Gentilly-2 atomic reactor in Quebec was permanently closed in Dec. 2012.