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.



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.


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.


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.


"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.


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.