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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
Jul302015

Exelon threatens to close three reactors by early next year, absent $1.8 billion IL bailout

NRC file photo of two-reactor Quad Cities nuclear power plant in ILScott Stapf of the Hastings Group's tweet put it well: Nuclear blackmail: Exelon threatens to kill Quad Cities plant if IL lawmakers don't hand over loot.

As reported by Crain's Chicago Business, despite a windfall compliments of regional grid operator PJM (provided at ratepayer expense), Exelon Nuclear is nonetheless still threatening to close its two reactors at Quad Cities, unless the Illinois State Legislature provides it another massive bailout, to the tune of $1.8 billion.

Exelon has also said its downstate single reactor plant, Clinton, could be next to close, early next year, absent the state bailout. A dozen years ago, the Clinton site was a "Nuclear Renaissance" showcase, with a Nuclear Regulatory Commission rubber-stamped "Early Site Permit" for a second new reactor there, a proposal suspended many years ago now.

Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago has led the charge in opposition to the state nuclear bailout.

Earlier this week, E&E published an interview with John Rowe in which the former Exelon CEO said that shutting Illinois's uncompetitive atomic reactors is "the proper market-driven answer."

Thursday
Jun042015

Battles against nuclear utility mega-money grabs intensify

This "Burning Money" graphic by Gene Case and Avenging Angels appeared on the front cover of The Nation magazine featuring a nuclear power exposé by Christian ParentiExelon Nuclear (IL, and the Mid-Atlantic)

Exelon, the biggest nuclear power utility in the U.S., with around two dozen atomic reactors in its fleet, suffered a big defeat on May 31st at midnight: the State of Illinois Legislature recessed till autumn, without granting it the $1.6 billion bailout -- at ratepayer and taxpayer expense -- it seeks in order to prop up five dirty, dangerous, and uncompetitive atomic reactors across the state.

Crain's Chicago Business editorial cartoonist Roger Schillerstrom elegantly summed up the situation with "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf." It depicts Exelon CEO Christopher Crane urging his own nuclear lobbyists to fearmonger harder about the supposed negative economic impact of the five reactors' closures. The question remains -- will the state legislature cave-in to such political posturing and pressure?

Crain's Chicago Business's editorial board has long opposed such state subsidies going to Exelon Nuclear (as has the editorial board at the Chicago Sun-Times).

See Crain's coverage, "Exelon's nuke bailout DOE in Springfield--for now," by Steve Daniels.

The IL State Legislature will not cave, if Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) has any say in the matter. As documented at its website, NEIS has long led the grassroots resistance against this nuclear money grab. Beyond Nuclear attended NEIS's 34th annual meeting in Chicago last Sunday.

However, as reflected in a letter from 13 of IL's 15 U.S. Representatives to IL State decision makers, Exelon's lobbyists and campaign contributions wield tremendous political power. So, the fight in IL will only intensify in the weeks and months ahead...

In the Mid-Atlantic region, the District of Columbia Public Service Commission (DC PSC) will cast the deciding vote on whether or not Exelon Nuclear will be allowed to takeover the regional electric utility Pepco. PSCs in Maryland, as well as in Virginia and Delaware, have already signed off on the merger. Groups like Public Citizen, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and PowerDC have led the charge in opposition to the consolidation, and have pulled out all the stops to urge D.C.'s mayor and city council to not buckle under, and instead to weigh in with the PSC, before it's too late.

It's clear to Exelon watchdogs that if the nuclear utility takes over Pepco, not only will it attempt to "kill the competition" (efficiency and renewables), it will also gouge ratepayers, and funnel the money back to IL to prop up its failing nukes (as well as to bolster its underfunded nuclear decommissioning funds). Since taking over Constellation Energy/Baltimore Gas & Electric a few years ago, Exelon has successfully lobbied the MD PSC to increase electric rates several times.

FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company

FENOC owns and operates the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor just east of Toledo on northwest OH's Lake Erie shore. Beyond Nuclear and environmental allies like Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste MI, and the Green Party of OH have intervened against Davis-Besse's proposed 20-year license extension since Dec. 2010.

Last year, FENOC applied to the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) for over $3 billion in ratepayer subsidies, to prop up not only its failing Davis-Besse reactor, but also its age-degraded and polluting Sammis coal burner in southern OH, on the Ohio River.

Ironically enough, $3 billion is roughly what it would take to replace Davis-Besse's severely cracked Shield Building, an essential component of the radiological containment structure. But there are no plans to replace it, only to continue operating the age-degraded reactor, lacking a sound containment, till 2037!

The concrete Shield Building began cracking before reactor operations began in 1977. The cracking began to  grow much worse in 1978. And to this day, cracking has grown by a half-inch, every single time it freezes along the Lake Erie shore -- numerous times each year, in autumn, winter, and spring -- due to "ice-wedging crack propagation."

As with Exelon's five reactors in IL, FENOC's lobbyists' deadline for "do or die" ratepayer subsidies has come and gone at Davis-Besse. The PUCO hearings on the matter won't even begin till June 15th.

Sierra Club (which joined with Beyond Nuclear and other environmental allies in an unsuccessful attempt to block FENOC's risky, experimental steam generator replacements in 2013) has officially intervened against the nuclear and coal bailout, and has called for a rally at PUCO's front entrance the day the hearings begin. Beyond Nuclear will be there, and plans to be a part of a coalition teach-in, tenatively being organized in Columbus, OH for the day before the hearings begin.

See Beyond Nuclear's "Nuclear Costs" website section for additional information.

Tuesday
May122015

Beyond Nuclear stands in solidarity with DC ANCs & City Council members against Exelon takeover of Pepco

Logo courtesy of Public Citizen's Energy ProgramBeyond Nuclear stood in solidarity with Advisory Neighborhood Council representatives from almost all the wards in the city, as well as three City Council members, who spoke out at a press conference on the steps of city hall against Exelon Nuclear's takeover of the local utility Pepco. The press conference was supported by PowerDC, a coalition opposing the merger, due to the DC ratepayer robbery that would ensure, to prop up Exelon's failing atomic reactors in Illinois, as well as bolster their underfunded decommissioning. Speakers also pointed to Exelon's dismal record of declaring war against renewables (it was kicked out of the American Wind Energy Association for lobbying against the federal Wind Production Tax Credit -- while simultaneously, and hypocritically, taking advantage of the subsidy in its own wind division!); D.C., for its part, has visionary, progressive energy efficiency and renewable energy policies on its books, which would very likely be attacked if Exelon takes over Pepco.  Public Citizen took photos at the event.

The speakers, and PowerDC, are calling on DC residents and businesses to take action, to contact DC's Mayor, Muriel Bowser, as well as the city council, to speak out against Exelon's ill-advised takeover of Pepco. As reported by Greenpeace's Connor Gibson at an excellent article on the issue at HuffPost, public comments are needed by May 26th. Maryland's Public Service Commission, meanwhile, is to announce its ruling on the Exelon-Pepco merger this Friday, May 15th. If any Pepco jurisdiction rejects the takeover, the deal is blocked.

Thursday
Apr302015

Both Chicago dailies editorialize against Exelon Nuclear money grab at ratepayer expense

Both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times editorial boards have come out against Exelon Nuclear's attempt to gouge Illinois ratepayers to the tune of hundreds of millions per year, to prop up allegedly failing atomic reactors. "Allegedly," because, as both papers point out, Exelon refuses to open its books to the public.

Both editorial boards come at the problem from the perspective of free market capitalism. Which is fine -- no other energy industry has enjoyed more public subsidization than the nuclear power industry, which makes Exelon's latest bailout demand all the more objectionable.

As the Sun-Times so wisely understands, "Renewable energy is the future, and the state should be making that a priority, not nuclear plants."

After all, while Germany's Conservative parties may have belatedly, and reluctantly, agreed to the nuclear phase out for political survival post-Fukushima, they do not see the domestic expansion and export of renewable energy as a charitable undertaking. They see it as a huge money making opportunity on the international marketplace.

It's high time for the U.S., and states like Illinois, to either wake up and smell the coffee, or get left in the dust.

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.