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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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Tuesday
Jun202017

Beyond Nuclear joins opposition to extending production tax credits for new reactors years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget

"Burning Money" image by Gene Case of Avenging Angels. It was featured on a 2003 Nation magazine cover, accompanying an article by Christian Parenti about the nuclear power relapse.Beyond Nuclear has joined in coalition with a dozen more organizations, sending a letter to U.S. House of Representatives leadership, Re: Opposition to H.R. 1551 – amending tax credit provisions for “advanced” nuclear power.

The groups are protesting efforts to reward nuclear utilities, and even reactor vendors and uranium mining companies, for the failures at such new reactor construction sites as Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA, and Summer 2 & 3 in SC.

These proposed new reactors are each billions of dollars over budget, and many years behind schedule. And yet, this legislation would extend production tax credits for new nuclear generation, because the half-built reactors are going to miss their deadline for taking advantage of the subsidy. The subsidy was first enacted in 2005 under the Energy Policy Act signed by George W. Bush. Many of these same environmental coalition groups opposed the production tax credits 12 years ago, and opposed numerous other nuclear power subsidies to boot!

Extending the production tax credit could cost U.S. taxpayers many billions of dollars, if the new reactors are ever actually completed, and generate electricity.

Monday
May082017

Beyond Nuclear media statement, re: MPSC public comment mtgs. about Entergy Palisades's closure

News from Beyond Nuclear

For Immediate Release, May 8, 2017

Contact: Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear & Don’t Waste Michigan (Kalamazoo chapter), (240) 462-3216, kevin@beyondnuclear.org 

Media Statement by Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear/Don’t Waste Michigan, re: Michigan Public Service Commission public comment meetings about Entergy Palisades atomic reactor’s closure

[The entirety of this media statement was also read into the official record as a public comment]

(MPSC public comment meetings will take place from 3-5pm, and 6-8pm, Monday, May 8, at the Van Buren Conference Center, 490 S. Paw Paw St., Lawrence, Michigan)

Lawrence, MI—“In spring 2006, Palisades’ previous owner, Consumers Energy, urged the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to approve its sale of the atomic reactor to Louisiana-based Entergy Nuclear. Consumers listed several ‘significant future capital expenditures [that were] required,’ including: ‘Reactor vessel head replacement; Steam generator replacement; Reactor vessel embrittlement concerns.’

Consumers executives explained to concerned local residents and environmental group representatives that Entergy Nuclear, a company with a large atomic fleet, experienced nuclear workforce, and economy of scale, could afford to make the repairs that Consumers could not. MPSC, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), swallowed the bait and switch, hook, line and sinker.

Entergy had no intention of undertaking these major, expensive safety repairs. Each abandoned fix represents a distinct pathway to reactor core meltdown, and potential catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity into the Great Lakes environment.

The lid (reactor vessel head) replacement is now ten years overdue, even though the 2002 cautionary tale of the Hole-in-the-Head fiasco at Davis-Besse, on Ohio’s Great Lakes shore, was the nearest-miss to a reactor disaster in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island Unit 2 meltdown of 1979.

The steam generators have badly needed replacement, despite previous replacements in 1991, after only 20 years of operations at Palisades – a uniquely bad performance in the U.S. nuclear power industry. Despite degraded steam generator related permanent shutdowns at San Onofre Units 2 and 3 in California, due to major associated safety risks, Entergy has refused to perform the vitally needed job, 11 years after Consumers told MPSC it was needed.

Most infamously, Palisades has the worst neutron radiation-embrittled reactor pressure vessel (RPV) in the U.S. The 46-year old RPV is very vulnerable to pressurized thermal shock (PTS), meaning it could simply fracture through-wall. There would then be no contingency to cool the core, and a meltdown would follow. If the containment then failed, like happened at three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, then large-scale radioactive liquid discharges would flow into groundwater and Lake Michigan, and radioactive gas clouds, and particulate fallout, would contaminate Van Buren, Allegan, Kalamazoo and other counties downwind, depending on which way the wind was blowing.

A coalition of dozens of Michigan environmental groups has warned about the RPV embrittlement risks not for years, but for decades. The concern served as the primary contention against the 2011 to 2031 license extension at Palisades; opponents also raised legal objections to regulatory rollbacks in 2014 to 2015. However, despite decades of documented danger, NRC ultimately rejected all challenges, enabling the dangerously embrittled Palisades reactor to continue operating.

In addition to all the serious safety risks listed above, as documented by Union of Concerned Scientists and others, Palisades also has had a uniquely bad plague of control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) seal failures, and even through-wall leaks of highly radioactive, primary coolant water. This epidemic of CRDM failures has continued from 1972, right up to the present.

Scandalously, the NRC has allowed all these high-risk problems to persist, for years and decades, despite the agency’s mandate to protect public health, safety, and the environment. In the case of RPV embrittlement, NRC simply weakened its safety regulations, in order to enable Palisades to keep operating for years and decades to come, despite the risks. Associated Press investigative reporter Jeff Donn cited PTS regulatory rollback as a top example of NRC collusion with industry, in a June 2011 four-part series.

The Japanese Parliament concluded, a year after the still ongoing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began, that the root cause was collusion between the regulatory agency, nuclear industry, and government officials. NRC, Entergy Palisades, and U.S. Representative Fred Upton (Republican-St. Joe, MI, and U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman for many years, until just recently, with direct oversight on nuclear power safety matters) have exhibited just such potentially catastrophic collusion right here in southwest Michigan, to all of our peril.

But the Michigan Public Service Commission has colluded with Consumers Energy and Entergy too, to keep the dangerously age-degraded Palisades atomic reactor operating.

MPSC not only allowed the sale from Consumers to Entergy to proceed, but also sweetened the deal, by approving a scandalous raid on the Palisades decommissioning (facility dismantlement and radioactive contamination cleanup) fund, to the tune of $316 million. A third went to Consumers, a third went to Entergy, and a third went back to ratepayers. But it has severely depleted the fund, likely irreparably.

In a 2005 document, Consumers reported that it would cost $868 million (expressed in year 2003 U.S. dollars) to decommission Palisades, although it was not clear if this referred to decommissioning costs after 40 years of operations (by 2011), or 60 years of operations (by 2031). In a 2006 report, Consumers declared that $597 million (expressed as 2006 dollars) had accumulated in the decommissioning fund. Given this admitted shortfall in the decommissioning fund of at least $271 million, it is shocking that the MPSC approved an additional $316 million raid, worsening the shortfall that much more.

The only recourse now is either to accept a woefully inadequate cleanup, leaving significant, hazardous radioactive contamination behind in the soil, groundwater, Lake Michigan sediments, and food chain, or else gouge ratepayers yet again, to make up for the many hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars of shortfall. After all, the 67 Megawatt-electric (MW-e) Big Rock Point reactor, Palisades’ sister nuclear plant in Charlevoix, Michigan, cost $366 million to decommission. So how can the 800 MW-e Palisades reactor be decommissioned for a mere $426 million (the figure reported by Entergy as the accumulated total in the decommissioning fund, by the end of February 2017)?

Remarkably, despite MPSC’s scandalous approval in 2007, of the highest Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) executive director Tim Judson had ever seen, Entergy Palisades has still managed to lose money, to not keep its head above water. NIRS’s Judson is a noted watch-dog on nuclear power economics, as well as outspoken opponent of old atomic reactor bailouts at ratepayer expense.

Thus, MPSC has given new meaning to ‘public service’ – serving the public up for dinner, to Consumers and Entergy Nuclear. To begin to correct such disservice to the public, MPSC should terminate the exorbitant Palisades PPA.

The gouging of ratepayers, and the high-risk to residents downwind and downstream, must end. Palisades must be closed, as announced, by October 2018 at the latest, 11 years later than it was supposed to in the first place (Palisades’ initial 40-year operational license extended from 1967 to 2007). Palisades must be shutdown, before it melts down.

A just transition for the workforce and local host communities is a top priority, as is safety, security, environmental and health protection, during post-shutdown decommissioning. So too is the management of the irradiated nuclear fuel (high-level radioactive waste) stored on-site, which is why we have long called for Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), as close as possible to the point of generation, as safely as possible.

Regarding replacing Palisades’ electrical output, the carbon-free, nuclear-free approach is the way to go. Energy efficiency is the lowest hanging fruit. Renewable power, such as wind power and solar power, is the way of the future, if we are to have a future. Efficiency and renewables are safe, secure, clean, and affordable, as opposed to dirty, dangerous, and expensive fossil fuels and nuclear power.”

--30—

Kevin Kamps serves as Radioactive Waste Watchdog at Beyond Nuclear. Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abolish both to safeguard our future. Kamps also serves as a board of directors member for Don’t Waste Michigan, representing the Kalamazoo chapter, and as an advisory board member for Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination.

Friday
Feb242017

Opinion: Stop Cuomo’s costly, $8-billion nuclear plant bailout

Thank you to Scott Stapf of the Hastings Group for his tweet pointing to an excellent op-ed:

Opinion: Stop Cuomo’s costly, $8-billion #nuclear plant bailout http://nydn.us/2lwFTvz  #NewYork #NewYorkCity

Fr. Bill Brisotti, pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish in Wyandanch, Long Island, New York, concisely lays out a number of powerful arguments, in his New York Daily News op-ed, against NY Gov. Cuomo's "nuclear tax."

Thursday
Jan052017

How Georgia officials pantsed ratepayers over the holidays

Mr. Burns, Nuclear Scrooge of Simpsons infamy, wasn't stingy when it came to handing out "Atomic Fireballs" as a stand in for the radioactive waste the nuclear industry would like the public to "consent" to "swallowing," during a protest outside NRC's "Nuke Waste Con Game" public comment mtg. in Perrysburg, OH, 2013. While Radioactive Man is on the take, re: the Atomic Fireballs, it is Planet Earth, and all future generations of all living things, on the receiving end of the subsidized high-level radioactive waste generation, as at Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA.As reported by Matt Kempner in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial:

...The Georgia Public Service Commission — a body of five officials that most voters don’t even realize existsyanked Georgia consumers’ pants down to their ankles. One thing they exposed in the process: a big gap in the state’s system for regulating a powerful business monopoly.

It took PSC commissioners less than six minutes, without debate, to unanimously slap customers of Georgia Power with responsibility to pay for billions of dollars in cost overruns tied to the for-profit company’s expansion of nuclear Plant Vogtle. The PSC allowed only the barest of reductions in Georgia Power’s profit margins. Even that is a temporary measure compared to decades the company is likely to be pulling in fully caffeinated profits in this arrangement.

But ignore that, because the PSC also ordered that a note be inserted in Georgia Power bills to declare, essentially, what a deal you’re getting.

They decided to include this message because, well, if you just look at your Georgia Power bill you won’t actually notice anything that looks like savings.

In reality, the PSC’s Dec. 20 vote didn’t give Georgia Power and its parent the Southern Company the entire moon, just most of it.

That’s not the way PSC commissioner Stan Wise saw it.

“It’s an extraordinary balance of interests of all the parties,” Wise said during the hearing.

Some others, like consumer advocacy and environmental group leaders, disagreed. But the most troubling issue is how weak of an effort the state put forth to actually do its job... [emphasis added]

Similarly, it took the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners less than a minute to rubber-stamp a 20-year license extension at Fermi 2 in Michigan, on Dec. 23, 2015. The NRC Commissioners "Affirmation Session" took place in an NRC HQ building largely devoid of human beings -- everyone had already taken off for the holiday break. Nevermind that Fermi 2 is a Fukushima Daiichi twin desighed General Electric Mark I boiling water reactor. We've all seen what THOSE are capable of!

And the radioactive Grinches who stole Christmas, at the Vogtle 3 & 4 new reactors construction site in Waynesboro, GA, and at Fermi 2, laughed all the way to the bank.

Friday
Nov182016

Headlines from today's Midwest Energy News

UTILITIES: Ohio-based FirstEnergy continues to seek ratepayer support in order to boost its credit rating. (Midwest Energy News)

REGULATION: Researchers say Ohio businesses, residents and industries saved $15 billion on electricity between 2011 and 2015 due to the state’s de-regulated market. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

COAL: An Ohio utility is considering closing two coal-fired plants in the southern portion of the state, citing “market-driven financial challenges.” (Dayton Daily News)

GRID: Consumer advocates say grid-reliability upgrades by AEP are not justified by the costs imposed on ratepayers. (Columbus Dispatch)

OIL AND GAS: The Sierra Club files an antitrust complaint with federal regulators against a proposed natural gas pipeline through Ohio and southeast Michigan, alleging it will raise prices above competitive rates. (Detroit News)

[Beyond Nuclear has helped lead an environmental coalition for six years, seeking to block FirstEnergy Nuclear's license extension from 2017 to 2037 at its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor on the Great Lakes shore. FirstEnergy has long sought massive bailouts -- at ratepayer expense -- from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. But the money grab has largely failed, thanks to ongoing resistance by groups like Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and public interest and ratepayer advocacy organizations (such as AARP). FirstEnergy has secured subsidies for transmission upgrades. But its nuclear and coal lobbyists continue to try to re-regulate the electricity market in OH -- even though they demanded de-regulation in the first place, a decade or more ago -- and were rewarded massive "stranded cost" bailouts at that time, again at public expense. All this nuclear lobbying, simply because Davis-Besse can't compete with cheaper sources of electricity, including wind power.

The same coalition of which Beyond Nuclear is a part have also challenged the Fermi nuclear power plant in southeast MI for many years. It is owned by Detroit Edison (DTE). DTE owns/operates Fermi 2 -- a troubled Fukushima Daiichi twin design -- and proposes a new reactor, Fermi 3. DTE is also behind the NEXUS fracked gas pipeline.

Fermi and Davis-Besse are visible with the naked eye, one from the other, across the waters of Lake Erie's very shallow (average 23-24 feet deep) western basin.]

]