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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
Mar012016

Washington, D.C.'s mayor, attorney general, and Office of People's Counsel reject PSC conditions for Exelon takeover of Pepco!

Hold the presses! As reported by PowerDC, as well as NIRS and CCAN, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser, as well as D.C.'s Attorney General, Karl Racine, and the Office of People's Counsel, Sandra Mattavous-Frye, Esq., have all rejected the PSC's conditions for the Exelon takeover of Pepco to proceed. As reported by the Washington Post, this could well doom the corrupt deal. (Note that an earlier version of the Washington Post article stated, appropriately, that "The debate over the merger centered on the role of renewable energy sources like wind and solar against legacy technologies, such as nuclear power and natural gas. Many environmental groups opposed the deal because they believed it would hinder the migration toward renewable energies." (emphasis added) But, Orwellian "down the memory hold" style, the current version of the article has edited out this entirely appropriate language!) But eternal vigilance and redoubling of efforts is more called for than ever: PowerDC will hold a press conference at the JW Marriott near the mayor's office at the Wilson Building in downtown D.C. on Wed., March 2nd at noon, calling for an end to this bad deal, once and for all. You can take action too, by writing D.C. decision makers.

Friday
Feb262016

"A huge loss" for the public interest, ratepayers, and environment: Exelon Nuclear takeover of Pepco poised for approval

Sept. 17, 2015 PowerDC rally against Exelon takeover of Pepco, before marching to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's office to deliver the hand-signed bannerAs reported by Crain's Chicago Business, the Washington Post, and Bloomberg, Exelon Nuclear is now poised to take over Mid-Atlantic utility Pepco. Exelon won the war, despite a determined public interest, ratepayer, and environmental group coalition winning all the battles against the controversial merger over the course of the past two years.

The D.C. Public Service Commission issued a 270-page Opinion and Order, and a press release.

As explained in the DC PSC press release, "the Commission ruled by a vote of 2 to 1 that if all settling parties accept the proposed conditions within 14 days from the date of the Order, the Revised NSA [Nonunanimous Full Settlement Agreement and Stipulation] and the Exelon/Pepco Merger will be approved as in the public interest without further Commission action."

PSC Commissioners Joanne Doddy Fort and Willie L. Phillips voted in favor of the merger; PSC Chairman Betty Ann Kane dissented, holding -- as she has since August 2015 -- that the merger is not in the public interest.

As reported by the Washington City Paper:

Opposing the merger, PSC member Betty Ann Kane said there was no evidence Pepco couldn't keep running without the purchase from Chicago-based Exelon. A merger, Kane said, would leave the PSC "forever playing whack-a-mole" to enforce the terms of the deal on Exelon. 

As quoted in the Blooomberg article:

"This is a huge loss for consumers, a discouraging setback for the institutions to protect them and a sad commentary on how things are done in the District," said Allison Fisher, public outreach director for Public Citizen.

(See Allison Fisher's full statement here.)

As summarized by PowerDC:

THE PSC REJECTED EXELON'S PROPOSAL, BUT LEFT THE DOOR WIDE OPEN FOR THE MERGER TO GO THROUGH. CHAIR KANE, IN MINORITY ON DECISION TO OFFER NEW TERMS, STRESSED THAT MERGER IS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED AND NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.

PowerDC has issued the following action alert:

Today the D.C. Public Service Commission (PSC) proposed a settlement offer to Mayor Bowser and the Office of People’s Council (OPC) that removes rate protections for D.C. residents. If the mayor and OPC accept this bad deal it means Exelon will take over Pepco and your monthly electric bill will increase.

Tell Mayor Bowser and OPC not to sign off on this bad deal!

Per the PSC’s decision, the settling parties have 14 days to either accept or reject the agreement. This is our last chance to stop Exelon.

The initial settlement included $25 million dollars meant to protect residential customers from expected rate increases. This protection is not included in the PSC’s alternative settlement. The PSC’s terms would allow the money to be allocated in the next rate increase. This means that money could end up anywhere.

In Baltimore, BG&E has raised its rates four times since its takeover by Exelon. We can’t let that happen here.

We need to stop this bad deal and we need your help today!

Thank you,

The PowerDC Coalition

David Kraft, Executive Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service in Chicago, a 35-year watchdog on Exelon/Commonwealth Edison, also issued a statement. 

For the past many long months, Beyond Nuclear has joined with public interest, environmental, and ratepayer allies in the PowerDC coalition to resist Exelon's takeover of Pepco at every twist and turn. This included the submission by Beyond Nuclear of extensive comments to the D.C. Public Service Commission, detailing the abuse Exelon has heaped on its own neighbors and workers (especially whistle-blowers) in Illinois, with a warning to not welcome such a rogue corporation to town. Given the permissive approval poised to take place, it is clear Beyond Nuclear's warnings fell on deaf ears, in terms of the 2-1 majority vote at the D.C. PSC. 

The approval deal comes despite a warning by financial analysts that the Exelon-Pepco merger is value destructive, and underlying weakness threatens total returns.

Tuesday
Feb092016

Former Rep. David Hobson: Not Cutting MOX Is My "Biggest Regret"

The MOX facility, still under construction, in October 2015 (Photo: © High Flyer, Special to SRS Watch)In a blog post at the website of Project on Government Oversight (POGO), David Hobson, former Republican U.S. Congressman from Ohio, and former Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee, has described the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at Savannah River Site in South Carolina as "the biggest, baddest earmark of all time," and his failure to nix it, despite grave concerns, as his "biggest regret."

(A Feb. 8th New York Times article quotes Hobson on MOX, and features the High Flyer/SRS Watch photo to the left.)

MOX was originally a Bill Clinton administration program -- a so-called "non-proliferation" initiative, in collaboration with Russia, for the U.S. to "dispose" of tens of tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium, by converting it into civilian nuclear power plant fuel.

Astoundingly, what was supposed to have cost $1.6 billion and taken three years to build, has now been under construction for 16 years, and cost $4.5 billion -- with no end in sight. (The New York Times article above gives the estimated completion date for the MOX plant as 2040 -- 37 years after the original due date.)

As Hobson reports:

[E]stimates for finishing the job range between $25 billion and a staggering $114 billion. Not only is the project more than one-thousand percent over cost and years behind schedule, the MOX facility lacks even a single U.S. utility customer for its commercial reactor fuel. (emphasis added)

That latter point is most ironic, in that DOE was offering the MOX fuel to nuclear power plants for no charge! But as Ed Lyman at UCS has long made clear, MOX is difficult and even risky to use in reactors designed to use uranium fuel -- and a meltdown involving MOX would be worse for health and environment downwind and downstream.

Hobson also states:

It should be acknowledged that the US can continue to uphold its agreement with Russia without the MOX facility. The Department of Energy has identified several alternative strategies to dispose of the plutonium that have been independently verified to be more cost effective, timely, and safer.

Critics of MOX, including NIRS, Don't Waste MI, and many others, argued two decades ago for such an "alternative strategy," rather than the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility. Their preferred non-proliferation alternative to nix MOX was to mix the weapons-grade plutoium back into the high-level radioactive waste from which it came in the first place, and then dispose of the mixture as the forever deadly radioactive waste as part of the national high-level radioactive waste disposal program. Plutonium never should have been considered a commercial commodity, given its inherent safety and security risks.

In addition to POGO and Taxpayers for Common Sense, as Hobson acknowledges in his blog post, groups like Don't Waste MI, and First Nations in Ontario and Quebec, opposed MOX from the start.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. court in Kalamazoo, MI before federal judge Richard Enslen, by Toledo attorney Terry Lodge, on behalf of Don't Waste MI -- Alice Hirt v. Bill Richardson -- sought to block the lead test assembly for the MOX program. Lodge won a 10-day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), due to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) failure to fulfill its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) duties to carry out an environmental assessment of the risks.

However, DOE was able to overcome the legal resistance and force the Los Alamos, NM to Chalk River, ON "safe, secure" truck shipment (usually reserved for nuclear weapons transports) through Michigan in Jan. 2000. 

But, a threatened "human chain" on First Nations territory in Ontario led U.S. and Canadian authorities to finish the final leg of the shipment by helicopter. This would have been illegal in U.S. airspace, under U.S. law. Instead, it took place just across the border, in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario.

The transfer from truck to helicopter was carried out under armed guard by U.S. Marine Reservists on Canadian soil, in Sault Saint Marie, ON -- much to the chagrin of certain Canadian Members of Parliament. The helicopter shipment took place, even though the container holding the weapons-grade MOX lead test assembly was not certified for air transport -- raising the specter that, had the air shipment crashed, the container would have released its ultra-hazardous contents into the environment.

The person at DOE in charge of the MOX program during President Clinton's administration, and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's tenure, was Laura Holgate. Holgate is now a high ranking member of President Obama's National Security Council, assigned very sensitive non-proliferation duties at the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

As Hobson's blog post mentions, the George W. Bush administration, and its DOE, fully embraced MOX as well -- defending its continuance as essential to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's re-election bid. (Sanford lost the governorship due to an extra-marital affair scandal, but later won election to the U.S. House.) Instead, the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility has become an astronomically expensive "make work" jobs program in South Carolina, at federal taxpayer expense.

Nukewatch South/NIRS/Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and their expert witness, Dr. Ed Lyman from Union of Concerned Scientists, have officially intervened and watchdogged the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility's safety and security risks for well over a decade. Their contention focuses on Material Control & Accounting. The intervention still goes on.

The biggest irony of the MOX mega-boondoggle is that immobilization would likely have been completed by now, for a fraction of the taxpayer money already wasted. (DOE managed to accomplish vitrification at the West Valley, NY reprocessing facility, for example, although vitrification at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State has gone very badly, thus far.) Thus, MOX has been entirely counter-productive as a non-proliferation policy, as critics warned two decades ago.

Monday
Dec142015

Don't make consumers pay more for Davis-Besse

Monday
Dec072015

"Dynegy, Talen: We’ll Sue" to stop FirstEnergy bailout

As reported by Ted Caddell in RTO Insider's article "Merchant Generators Lead Opposition to FirstEnergy-Ohio Settlement," when it comes to "picking winners and losers," Beyond Nuclear has some diverse allies in opposing a risky 20-year license extension at the problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor, when it comes compliments of an outrageous, multi-billion dollar ratepayer bailout:

Talen joined Dynegy in promising to contest the deal in court if it is approved by the commission.

“As you are aware [PPL, one of Talen’s predecessors] led successful legal challenges in the federal courts against generation subsidy initiatives in New Jersey and Maryland,” Talen spokesman Todd Martin said Thursday. Before PPL’s generation assets were spun off to form Talen, the company won court rulings voiding PPAs obtained by Competitive Power Ventures for two merchant plants. (See CPV Md. Plant Goes Forward Despite FERC Ruling.)

“We believe states with competitive electricity markets must let those markets operate without interference or subsidies, and should not in effect be picking winners and losers,” Martin said.

P3 President Glen Thomas said PUCO staff’s “about face” represents “corporate welfare at its worst.”

“Forcing customers to buy overpriced electricity from uncompetitive plants to deliver windfall profits to FirstEnergy is a holiday offering that only the Grinch could support,” said Trey Addison of AARP Ohio.

“This bailout would leave Ohio locked into outdated and costly coal and nuclear plants, when we should instead be working to transition to a cleaner and more competitive energy system,” said Shannon Fisk, managing attorney with Earthjustice. Fisk was involved in settlement negotiations on behalf of the Sierra Club but withdrew in protest just before Thanksgiving.

Also weighing in was anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear, which blasted any deal that would result in the continued operations of FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant. “The ratepayers of Ohio would be gouged additional billions of dollars on their electricity bills to prop up the uncompetitive Davis-Besse atomic reactor, effectively being forced to fund 20 more years of radioactive Russian roulette at the problem-plagued atomic reactor,” Beyond Nuclear spokesman Kevin Kamps.

As revealed on a radio interview hosted by Harvey Wasserman of Solartopia fame, Shannon Fisk of Earthjustice indicated that Sierra Club will continue to challenge the PUCO staff-FirstEnergy sweetheart deal, as by urging the PUCO Commissioners to not approve it. As with Dynegy and Talen, further legal action is also under consideration.