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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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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.

Monday
Apr282014

"Three Mile Island and Nuclear Hopes and Fears"

The New York Times Retro Report has published a 13 minute video about the Three Mile Island disaster. Unfortunately, it repeats the myth that "no one died at TMI." Beyond Nuclear debunked that falsehood in its recent Thunderbird newsletter, Three Mile Island: The Truth, on the disaster's 35th anniversary. Beyond Nuclear also created a website devoted to TMI Truth.

The Retro Report also handed the microphone to Pandora's propagandist Michael Shollenberger of the Breakthrough Institute. Beyond Nuclear has also debunked the propaganda of Pandora's Promise.

It also presented the supposed potential of thorium power, another false promise Beyond Nuclear and its allies have challenged.

No discussion of "Retro" and nuclear power is complete without a link to NIRS's "Nuke Retro: Salesman from the '70s," created by cartoonist Mark Fiore during the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney push for a "nuclear renaissance" a decade ago.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Radioactive "Moral Hazard": DOE loans, and guarantees, $6.5 billion for two new reactors for a 0%, $0.00 credit subsidy fee!

Aerial image of Plant Vogtle Nuclear Generating Station - photo credit to High Flyer. The photo shows the operating Units 1 and 2, as well as the construction site for proposed new Units 3 and 4.Southern Alliance for Clean Energy reports in a press release entitled "New Documents Confirm Utility Giant Southern Company Gets Sweetheart Deal from Energy Department for Multi-Billion Nuclear Loan Guarantees for Vogtle Reactors":

"As revealed today in an Energy & Environment News story by Hannah Northey, the credit subsidy fee for utility giant Southern Company and its utility partner, Oglethorpe Power, for billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantees, is nothing, $0. This shocking information was disclosed two months after the Department of Energy (DOE) finalized terms of $6.5 billion worth of loan guarantees that were offered as part of an $8.3 billion package to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. A third partner in the project, MEAG, has yet to have their $1.8 billion loan guarantee finalized."

Please register your disapproval of this nuclear sweetheart deal, at taxpayer expense and risk, to President Obama, your two U.S. Senators, and your U.S. Representative! You can be patched through to your Members of Congress via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

More.

Wednesday
Apr092014

NRC Denies Modest Post-Fukushima Emergency Response Recommendations

The UN IAEA's official radioactivity hazard warning signDave Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) based in Chicago, wrote the following introduction as he forwarded the NIRS press release entitled "NRC Fails the American People: Denies Petition to Make Modest Improvements in Emergency Planning for Nuclear Reactor Accidents." Beyond Nuclear joined NEIS and three dozen other groups in supporting NIRS' petition.

"As a courtesy to our colleagues at NIRS in Washington, D.C., we forward a press release that reports the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s denial of a request to improve evacuation plans around U.S. nuclear reactors, based on the real-life information and evidence provided by the Fukushima and Chornobyl nuclear disasters.  With Illinois having 14 reactors – four of which are of Fukushima design and vintage -- and 9,000+ tons of high-level radioactive waste in the form of spent fuel in spent fuel pools and dry casks, this is no inconsequential matter.  (DISCLOSURE:  NEIS was a co-signatory of the petition to NRC)

Reality has never been a strong suit at the NRC, which consistently denies even the most common sense requests and recommendations emanating from members of the public they allegedly serve and protect.  The Commission’s interest in safety seems to be in direct proportion to the length of the leash held by Marvin S. Fertel, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry trade and lobbying group.  While NEI representatives are frequently invited by NRC to help write public policy on nuclear power issues, attend meetings and give briefings, public interest groups are routinely refused such opportunities.  This has been a consistent pattern of NRC behavior for decades.

It is for this reason that the public has come to understand that “NRC” actually stands for “not really concerned.”  NRC has yet to learn the lesson that betrayal is a rational justification for distrust."

Beyond Nuclear teamed up with NEIS on many occassions, including to co-sponsor the "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference in Chicago in Dec. 2012.