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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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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, "still under construction," 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.

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.

Tuesday
Mar172015

Exelon Nuclear announces sign off by Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, MD, on its merger with Pepco

Logo compliments of Public Citizen's Energy ProgramThe two counties comprising Pepco's residential customer base in Maryland -- Montgomery and Prince George's -- have just agreed to the merger of the electric utilities Exelon and Pepco, according to an Exelon press release.

UtilityDIVE has reported on this story.

Exelon is the largest nuclear utility in the U.S., with around two dozen dirty, dangerous, and expensive aging reactors in its nationwide fleet.

Despite the positive spin of Exelon's high-priced PR campaign, the simple truth is that the counties, and other organizations expressing support for the merger, have sold out cheap. Exelon's commitments to low income and other ratepayers in the Pepco service area are quite minimal. Exelon's commitments to energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy expansion are likewise small-scale, compared to what is possible and needed.

To the contrary, Exelon has declared "nuclear war" against renewables and efficiency, as unwanted competition to its nuclear and fracked natural gas generators.

And perhaps most significantly of all for hard-working Maryland ratepayers: Exelon's thinly veiled motivation for merging with Pepco in the first place is to secure a solid rate base of customers, which it can milk to help prop up uncompetitive, and ever more dirty (as due to tritium leaks), dangerous (as due to meltdown risks), and age-degraded atomic reactors in Illinois -- where Exelon is simultaneously seeking massive ratepayer bailouts.

Sunday
Mar082015

"Experts warned of nuke work overruns"

The Vogtle Unit 3 reactor pressure vessel, parked in front the Vogtle Unit 4 containment vessell bottom head, May 2013. Photo credit: Georgia Power.As reported by Matt Kempner in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the two new atomic reactors under construction at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Georgia are "more than three years behind schedule," and costs for just one partner, Georgia Power (a subsidiary of Southern Nuclear) "is at least $1.4 billion, or 23 percent, over original projections."

The Vogtle 3 & 4 construction project (see photo, left) is being financed through "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP), or "advanced cost recovery" -- that is, simply surcharging ratepayer electricity bills. This practice is illegal in most states, but has been made legal in Georgia, as well as South Carolina -- where two more new reactors at Summer nuclear power plant are also under construction (and also suffering schedule delays and massive cost overruns).

Highly controversial CWIP resulted in the loss to ratepayers of $3 billion, for a cancelled new nuclear power plant. Somehow that massive amount of money was spent, even though ground was not even broken on the failed project.

The Georgia Public Service Commission, the same agency that approved ratepayer CWIP surcharges in the first place, will now decide on whether or not ratepayers will eat the cost overruns at Vogtle 3 & 4.

In addition to gouging ratepayers, Georgia Power/Southern Nuclear is also gouging federal taxpayers, compliments of the Obama administration. In Feb. 2010, President Obama himself made the announcement that his U.S. Department of Energy was awarding $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees to the Vogtle 3 & 4 project. In addition to the loan guarantees, the actual loan is coming from U.S. taxpayers as well -- from the taxpayer-funded U.S. Finance Bank. In that regard, the federal nuclear loan guarantee is already a failure -- it was supposed to entice private investors to actually loan the money to the project.

Incredibly, the DOE didn't even charge a penny in credit subsidy fee. This means Southern Nuclear/Georgia Power has no skin in the game. If the loan repayment is defaulted upon, taxpayers will be left holding the bag, entirely.

Vogtle 3 & 4 have put at risk 15 times more money than was lost in the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default. And Vogtle 3 & 4's risk of default is actually significantly higher than Solyndra's risk ever was.

(Re: the RPV in the photo above, it actually was involved in a transport accident at the Port of Savannah in Jan. 2013, when its transport train carriage collapsed under its massive weight. It then limped back to the Port, where it was exposed to the elements for an extended period, covered only partially by run of the mill tarps.)