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Subsidies

The nuclear industry has been heavily subsidized throughout its 50+-year history in the U.S. It continues to seek the lion's share of federal funding since it cannot otherwise afford to expand.

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Thursday
Apr162015

"FERC Rejects Ginna Rates, Orders Settlement Proceeding"

The Ginna atomic reactor, on the Lake Ontario shoreline in upstate New YorkAs reported by William Opalka in RTO Insider, "The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday rejected the rate schedule proposed for a struggling nuclear power plant needed for reliability in western New York and ordered hearing and settlement proceedings (ER15-1047)."

The R.E. Ginna atomic reactor, owned and operated by Exelon Nuclear of Chicago, is one of the very oldest still-operating in the U.S. It fired up in 1969. It is located in Ontario, New York, on the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Exelon's scheme for keeping Ginna operating -- despite losing tens of millions of dollars per year, for the past three years -- is to gouge ratepayers in Rochester, NY.

Wednesday
Apr012015

From Midwest to Mid-Atlantic, ratepayer resistance to nuclear bailouts intensifies!

Photo credit: Gail Snyder, NEIS.Exelon's extortion in Illinois

Exelon, the largest nuclear utility in the U.S., with around two dozen reactors in its fleet, is attempting to gouge its own customers in Illinois (and upstate New York).

Radiation suit-clad volunteers for Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of IL, "tongue planted firmly in cheek," conducted the second in a series of "street theater of the absurd" performances recently, in opposition to a $2.1 billion (yep, billion with a B!) attempted ratepayer robbery Exelon is currently in progress of committing. Exelon has threatened to permanently shut five age-degraded, uncompetitive atomic reactors, and eliminate 2,300 jobs, if it doesn't get its way (surprise surprise, there is no mention of how many jobs could be created by investing $2.1 billion in efficiency and renewables!). Accessories to the crime -- guilty of aiding and abetting Exleon in "making a killing, while getting away with murder" -- appear to have seized control of the IL State House.

NEIS began its press release "An organization conducting 'Alms for Exelon' street fun(d)raisers for the self-proclaimed impoverished nuclear utility Exelon Corporation conducted the second of a series of street events in Chicago today: 'Bake Sale against Bailouts.'"

Instead of Exelon's plans to gouge ratepayers, NEIS offered cupcakes to Exelon employees and execs at the company's Chicago HQ, in return for a suggested donation of $25,000 apiece. Apparently, the uranium yellowcake flavor was not a big hit, so NEIS will try chocolate next time.

The mock nuke waste cask, at the State Capitol of Missouri in 2001NEIS has dogged (as in watch-dogged) Exelon since it came into existence, with the merger of Commonwealth Edison of Chicago and Philadelphia Electric, in 2000. In August 2001, with 125 friends from across the U.S. and a dozen other countries, NEIS disrupted Exelon's global HQ ribbon-cutting ceremony with a non-violent direct action, as part of the third annual Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp. Then, in late 2001, NEIS -- with a Christmas-decorated, full-size mock nuke waste cask in tow (see photo, left) -- crashed the first known "Nuclear Renaissance" event, at the Palmer House in downtown Chicago.

(Like NEIS in IL, the Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) in Upstate New York is leading the charge for the "Phaseout/Not Bailout" of Exelon's Ginna atomic reactor on the Lake Ontario shore -- one of the most age-degraded and uncompetitive nuclear power plants in the country. A hard-hitting op-ed was just published opposing the bailout.)

 

Logo courtesy of Public Citizen Energy Program. Its Director, Tyson Slocum, will present at a forum at the University of the District of Columbia regarding Exelon's attempted takeover of Pepco on April 8th.Exelon menacing the Mid-Atlantic

But Exelon is also hoping to pick the pockets of ratepayers in the Mid-Atlantic, by taking over Pepco, the electricity provider which serves Maryland, the District of Columbia, and parts of Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey.

As described by Tim Judson, the Executive Director of NIRS, in "Killing the Competition," Exelon's track record makes clear that recent, dramatic energy efficiency, renewable energy, and distributed energy advances in D.C. and Maryland will be jeopardized if Exelon merges with Pepco. The takeover bid is a thinly veiled attempt by Exelon to secure a reliable ratepayer base, to help prop up the five dirty, dangerous, and uncompetitive atomic reactors in IL slated for closure without massive bailouts.

(Judson presented an update to that report, entitled "Nuclear Power's War on Renewable Energy," on March 11th to the Climate Reality Check coalition. He was joined by Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, who presented "The Nuclear War Against Building a 21st Century Electricity Section").

But resistance is growing. The D.C. Office of People's Counsel (to be featured at an April 8th University of the District of Columbia symposium on the proposed Exelon power grab), as well as the D.C. government, the Office and Apartment Building Association, and solar PV advocates, are officially intervening before the D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) in opposition to Exelon's takeover.

Judson of NIRS has also testified before the DC PSC against the Exelon annexation of Pepco, on multiple occasions (see his additional testimony here). A coalition of groups, incuding NIRS and Beyond Nuclear, called PowerDC, has led the grassroots resistance in the nation's capital to Exelon's unwelcome money grab. PowerDC has a Take Action web form, where you can communicate to the DC PSC and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (and cc DC city council members) your displeasure about Exelon's attempted acquisition of Pepco. Even if you don't live or work in DC, you still have a stake, if you ever plan to visit. Exelon's takeover will almost certainly gut renewables and efficiency in this tourism Mecca, not to mention jack electric rates, which will lead to price increases across all sectors -- thus impacting tourists. DC decision-makers need to hear about this!

Exelon is also facing serious resistance in Maryland. The Attorney General, speaking on behalf of the State in general, and the Maryland Energy Administration in particular, has submitted strongly worded testimony to the MD PSC, opposing the merger. Nuclear power watchdogs, including Judson of NIRS, as well as Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, have testified against Exelon's takeover.

"Burning money" graphic art by Gene Case and Avenging Angels was featured on the cover of the Nation Magazine, accompanying an article about the nuclear power relapse by Christian Parenti.FirstEnergy's outrageous overreach in Ohio

Not to be outdone by Exelon, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) has applied to the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) for $3 billion (yep-billion with a B!), or more, over the next 15 years in ratepayer bailouts for its age-degraded Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo, and its Sammis coal plant on the Ohio River.

For five years, Beyond Nuclear and environmental allies have resisted Davis-Besse's 2017-2037 license extension. This has included calling for permanent shutdown due to the Shield Building's severe cracking, first revealed in late 2011. In July 2014, FENOC quietly admitted the cracking grows by a half-inch or more every time it freezes!

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) has ruled agaist every single cracking contention the environmental coalition -- represented by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge -- has filed. In its latest rejection, however, the ASLB concluded by stating that the concerns raised by intervenors are serious, and should be addressed by FENOC and NRC. But the ASLB has itself undermined any such accountability, by consistently rejecting the contentions and denying a hearing on the merits! 

On March 6th, FENOC filed a motion with the ASLB to end the intervention proceeding. Four short days later -- without so much as providing the environmental coalition a rebuttal opportunity -- the ASLB complied with FENOC's wishes. However, the coalition continues to press its case -- including preparing legal appeals, as on Nuclear Waste Confidence.

Ironically, the $3 billion of ratepayer money FENOC seeks to shore up its crumbling finances would be about what is required to replace its crumbling concrete containment! Of course, that $3 billion could also go towards replacing Davis-Besse itself, with efficiency, renewables like wind and solar PV, and energy storage (FENOC owns the Norton Compressed Air Energy Storage facility near its HQ in Akron).

Harvey Wasserman, a long-time anti-nuclear activist and author based in Columbus, OH, has invited Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps to present at the Columbus Free Press House on Sat., April 12th, and at a teach-in opposing the Davis-Besse bailout on Sun., April 13th at Columbus State Community College.

Harvey just wrote an article, "How Ohio's Energy Economy Became a Radioactive 19th Century Relic." It discusses the multi-billion dollar bailout FENOC seeks. And it includes a section about "the murder of Ohio's green energy program," by Ohio Gov. Kasich and the State Legislature, at the behest of FirstEnergy's nuclear and coal lobbyists, as well as the Koch Brothers, who don't want the competition from efficiency, wind and solar PV!

Harvey's correct. The electric utilities have gouged ratepayers since the 19th Century -- only with a radioactive twist, for the past half-century, as documented in Sheldon Novick's 1976 The Electric War: The Fight Over Nuclear Power (Random House).

Op-eds also just ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, bashing the bailout. They were written by nuclear watchdog Connie Kline, as well as a joint op-ed by elected officials at the city, county, and state levels.

Groups like the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, as well as the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, have intervened in the PUCO proceeding against the bailout.

See more updates about attempted nuclear utility money grabs, in Beyond Nuclear's "Nuclear Costs" website section.

Monday
Mar302015

Op-eds urge PUCO to reject FirstEnergy's requested $3 billion bailout for Davis-Besse & coal plant

Two op-eds published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer advocate that FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC) should not be allowed to saddle Ohio ratepayers with a $3 billion surcharge over the next 15 years. FENOC seeks the subsidy to keep two dirty, dangerous, and uncompetitive power plants on life support (the Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo, and the Sammis coal plant on the Ohio River).

The first op-ed was written by Connie Kline, a long-time nuclear power watchdog in northeast Ohio. She focused on safety risks at FENOC's problem-plagued Davis-Besse reactor.

A second op-ed opposing the bailout was co-written by three Cuyahoga County elected officials (a state senator, a Cuyahoga County council member, and a Cleveland city council member). It described burdening hard-working Ohio ratepayers with this subsidy for FirstEnergy as "unconscionable and unacceptable," and urged the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to reject the plan.

Readers are encouraged to join in the debate by submitting comments in the section under the op-eds.

Friday
Mar272015

"Maryland PSC delays decision on Pepco-Exelon merger"

Logo courtesy of Public Citizen Energy ProgramAs reported by UtilityDIVE and Argus Media, the Maryland Public Service Commission (MD PSC) has given itself till May 8th to decide whether or not to approve the proposed $6.8 billion merger between Exelon Nuclear and the Mid-Atlantic electric utility Pepco. There have been multiple postponements by the MD PSC over the decision, amidst opposition and concerns, including from the State of Maryland Energy Administration.

The MD PSC was originally scheduled to reach a decision in February. Exelon hopes to complete the merger by September.

Friday
Mar272015

Is the Exelon Nuclear Takeover of Pepco in the Public Interest?

Tim Judson, Executive Director of NIRS. Photo courtesy of NIRS.As just announced by the University of the District of Columbia's (UDC) David A. Clarke School of Law, two panels of experts will examine the question of whether or not the proposed purchase of PEPCO by Exelon Nuclear is in the public interest for District of Columbia ratepayers.

UDC School of Law has a web post on the event, and asks that those planning to attend RSVP in advance.

The event will be held on Wed., April 8, 2015 from 7 to 10 PM in the UDC School of Law's Moot Court Room, 5th Floor, at 4340 Connecticut Ave., NW in Washington, D.C.

The first panel will include Tim Judson, Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and author of the report "Killing the Competition: The Nuclear Power Agenda to Block Climate Action, Stop Renewable Energy, and Subsidize Old Reactors" (photo, left). Judson has testified against the Exelon-Pepco merger, as to the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Also on the first panel will be DC Councilmember Mary Cheh; Marc Battle of PEPCO (invited); and Tyson Slocum, Energy Director of Public Citizen.

The second panel will include: Attorney and Georgetown Law Professor Scott Hempling; D.C. People's Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye (UDC Law '83); Maryland People's Counsel Paula Carmody (UDC Law '80); and U. of Delaware Prof. Jeremy Firestone, Esq., Ph.D., and Delaware Intervener.