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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
Aug012013

Cooper: Duke abandonment of Levy reactors fits into 2013 pattern of "rapid-fire downsizing" of nuclear power in U.S.

Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the EnvironmentEnergy economist Mark Cooper at Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment has issued a media statement in response to Duke/Progess's announced abandonment of its proposal to build two new atomic reactors at Levy County, Florida.

Cooper's statement begins:

"The announcement by Duke that it is abandoning the Levy reactor project in Florida is the second such announcement by that utility in the space of just a few weeks. The Duke decision to pull the plug on Levy follows by just one day the announcement that the French-subsidized nuclear giant EDF is pulling out of the U.S. nuclear power market due to the inability of nuclear power to compete with alternatives and the dramatic reduction in demand growth caused by increasing efficiency of electricity consuming devices. Exelon, with the largest U.S. nuclear fleet, recently purchased the nuclear assets of Constellation in an effort to achieve synergies (i.e. lower the operating costs) of its nuclear assets. Entergy, the second largest nuclear operator, has reorganized its nuclear assets and is slashing staffing..."

On July 17th, Cooper published a report, "Renaissance in Reverse," documenting the likelihood that up to 38 atomic reactors nationwide would "retire early," before the expiration of their operating licenses, including a dozen at risk of near-term permanent shutdown, due to an array of economic, operational, and safety factors.

Thursday
Aug012013

Another one bites the dust: Duke to cancel proposed new atomic reactors at Levy County, FL

MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times The crippled nuclear power plant in Crystal River [photo, above] will not be replaced with a new nuclear facility in Levy County, state Rep. Mike Fasano said Thursday.---Tampa Bay TimesAs reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Florida State Representative Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) has stated: "It's my understanding from a very good source that Duke Energy will announce after the close of the markets today that they will not be building the nuclear power plants in Levy County."

The article reports: 'Duke spokesman Sterling Ivey told the Tampa Bay Times the utility is issuing a press release about an announcement at 4:15 this afternoon.'

The proposed new nuclear power plant was supposed to have cost $4-6 billion, and to have been completed by 2016, when first proposed by Progress Energy in 2006. Recently, the price tag had risen to nearly $25 billion, and the estimated completion date had been delayed to 2024.

Florida's controversial "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP) law, also known as the "advance fee law," has allowed Progress, and then Duke (which took over Progress) to charge ratepayers on their electricity bills for the construction of Levy County nuclear power plant. After intially supporting nuclear CWIP, Fasano has become an outspoken national opponent of the scheme. Even the Florida Tea Party has joined the chorus, including AARP and municipalities, in opposing risky CWIP subsidies to the nuclear industry at the expense of ratepayers.

In addition to Levy County, Progress/Duke has been able to charge ratepayers for senseless repairs and supposed upgrades at its doomed old atomic reactor, Crystal River. The nuclear utility managed to fatally crack Crystal River's containment in 2009, during a botched steam generator replacement, and earlier this year announced its permanent shutdown.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida ratepayers could be on the hook for $3 billion in wasted expenditures at Levy County and Crystal River, collected via CWIP.

The article concludes:

'"Shame on Duke Energy, Progress Energy for taking the public on this ride knowing that they were never going to build the nuclear plants,'' Fasano said. "Shame on them."

Fasano called for the state Public Service Commission and the Legislature to conduct a full investigation into Duke's failed nuclear projects.'

Thursday
May092013

"Worst Week Since Fukushima: 4 Setbacks in 3 Days are Latest Stumbles for Nuclear Power Industry"

Despite more than a half century of massive public subsidization, the nuclear power industry is not reviving, but rather in headlong retreat!

Former NRC Commissioner Peter Bradford, and energy economist Mark Cooper, both of the Vermont Law School, as well as Dan Hirsch of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, held a telephone press conference yesterday on the subject of "WORST WEEK SINCE FUKUSHIMA: 4 MAJOR SETBACKS IN 3 DAYS ARE LATEST STUMBLES FOR U.S. NUCLEAR POWER INDUSTRY." An audio recording of the news conference has been posted online.

The four setbacks in three days include: 1) the cancellation of two proposed new reactors at South Texas Project, because they violate U.S. law against foreign ownership of nuclear power plants; 2) Southern California Edison's threat that if NRC does not allow it to restart operations at its crippled San Onofre nuclear power plant, it will permanently shutdown both reactors there; 3) Duke Energy's cancellation of two proposed new atomic reactors at its Shearon Harris nuclear power plant in North Carolina; and 4) Florida's amendment to its previously highly permissive "advance cost recovery" or "Construction Work in Progress" law, via which ratepayers have been gouged to pay for proposed new reactors, when there is no guarantee the proposed new reactors will ever actually get built or generate electricity.

Peter Bradford also added the May 7th shutdown of Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor in WI -- despite the 20 years of operating license still left to it -- as another example of the "worst week since Fukushima" for the U.S. nuclear power industry.

Bradford serves on the board of directors of Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). UCS has published a comprehensive report, "Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies," by Doug Koplow, on the massive subsidies enjoyed by the nuclear power industry, at taxpayer and ratepayer expense, over the past half century. The report, ironically enough, was published on March 11, 2011 -- the very day the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began.

Sunday
Mar032013

Nuclear Relapse? Canceled! Nuclear power? Game over!

Peter BradfordPeter Bradford explains in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists why, without massive ratepayer and/or taxpayer subisidies, the so-called "Nuclear Renaissance" is going nowhere fast.

As reported by ScienceDaily in an article entitled "U.S. May Face Inevitable Nuclear Power Exit,"  the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) has concluded its three part "Nuclear Exit" series with a look at the United States. The previous two installments examined the nuclear power phase-out in Germany, and the nuclear power status quo in France.

The BAS U.S. coverage features former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioner, Union of Concerned Scientists board member, and Vermont Law School professor Peter Bradford's "How to close the U.S. nuclear industry: Do nothing," which concludes that, without massive taxpayer or ratepayer infusions, almost all proposed new reactors will not happen, and currently operating reactors will permanently shutdown by mid-century, unless the NRC rubber-stamps 80 years of operations (as opposed to the current, already risky 60).

In a section entitled "Picturing a U.S. phase-out," Bradford writes:

"The countries that have recently decided to phase out nuclear energy have done so by governmental fiat, complete with statutory deadlines both for individual reactors and for nuclear power in general. But no such sweeping action is really necessary in countries that have chosen to procure power generation through market mechanisms. The US experience demonstrates that absence of governmental intervention will create a glide path, determined in part by how long a country is prepared to allow its oldest reactors to operate, but in fact by the interplay between gas-driven electricity prices and the point in time at which older plants must make significant capital investments." (emphasis added)

Bradford points out that "By this standard, units at Crystal River and San Onofre--currently closed by major equipment failures--appear to be serious shutdown candidates, though they may survive, because they are located in Florida and California, respectively, states in which regulators can override market verdicts and impose their repair costs on customers."

In fact, Duke/Progress has thrown in the towel on Crystal River, announcing that it is now permanently shutdown. And Friends of the Earth, along with a groundswell of grassroots anti-nuclear activism in southern California, is doing all it can to keep San Onofre Units 2 and 3 shutdown for good, as well.

A spokesman for Dominion Nuclear admitted that the "purely economic reasons" which led to the utility's decison to close its Kewaunee atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Wisconsin -- the first atomic reactor shutdown announcement in 15 years in the U.S. -- was the inability to make needed, major safety repairs andturn a profit, given the competitive electricity market.

And Entergy Nuclear's brand new CEO, Leo Denault, admitted to Reuters that numerous of his "dirty dozen" atomic reactors -- especially the merchant plants (those in deregulated, competitive electricity markets) -- face tough economic challenges, due to costly upkeep (a.k.a., essential safety-significant repairs and component replacements).

Reuters reported: "[Denault] said some plants are in the more challenging economic situations for a variety of reasons, including 'the market for both energy and capacity, their size, their contracting positions and the investment required to maintain the safety and integrity of the plants.'" (emphasis added)

At its Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in southwest Michigan, Entergy has chosen to foregonumerous major, needed repairs (such as replacing the badly corroded reactor lid; replacing the deteriorated steam generators, for the second time in the plant's history; dealing with the worst embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S.; making needed fire protection upgrades, etc.) for six long years now, apparently in order to "balance the books" -- that is, to prioritize profits (and executive salaries, and shareholder returns) over public safety.

Thursday
Feb212013

Fermi 3 proposed new reactor price tag skyrockets to $20 billion

An artist's rendition of the $20 billion boondoggle ESBWR targeted to be built at Fermi 3 On Feb. 19, 2013, the environmental coalition intervening in opposition to the construction and operation of Detroit Edison's proposed new Fermi 3 atomic reactor filed new and amended contentions in response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Final Environmental Impact Statement about the proposal. The coalition issued a news release. As environmental coalition attorney Terry Lodge says in the press release, Fermi 3's price tag has skyrocketed to $20 billion.

This, despite the large subsidies the ESBWR design and the Fermi 3 project have enjoyed, at federal taxpayer expense. Detroit Edison's COLA (combined Construction and Operating License Application) licensing expenses are elibible for subsidized "reimbursement," via federal funding provided under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, part of $33.5 billion in nuclear power subsidies provided by that law ($22.5 billion in federal nuclear power loan guarantees, and another $13 billion in various other subsidies).

In addition, the ESBWR was chosen as one of only two reactor designs to win subsidies towards its engineering research and development from the U.S. Department of Energy, as part of the unfortunately named Nuclear Power 2010 program, given the deployment delays the troubled design, and Fermi 3 project, have suffered. Ed Lyman at Union of Concerned Scientists reported at a press conference in June 2010 that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had 6,000 Requests for Additional Information (RAIs) about the half-baked ESBWR design for reactor vendor General Electric-Hitachi. When testifying before congressional committees in the past several years about the progress of the Nuclear Power 2010 program, Obama administration Energy Secretary Steven Chu had little to nothing to say about the lackluster ESBWR design. In fact, several nuclear utility companies canceled their orders for ESBWRs in 2008-2009, leaving Fermi 3 as the last U.S. ESBWR proposal standing.

Documents related to environmental intervenors' filing of Feb. 19, 2013 in opposition to the General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (or ESBWR, see image, left) proposed to be constructed and operated at the Fermi nuclear power plant in Monroe County, Michigan, on the Lake Erie shoreline, as well as documents reveal the major schedule delays afflicting the project:

Intervenors' Feb. 19, 2013 "MOTION FOR RESUBMISSION OF CONTENTIONS 3 AND 13, FOR RESUBMISSION OF CONTENTION 23 OR ITS ADMISSION AS A NEW CONTENTION, AND FOR ADMISSION OF NEW CONTENTIONS 26 AND 27";

Current Fermi 3 COLA Review Schedule (Feb. 15, 2013), showing 2 years and 10 month of delay;

Original Fermi 3 Schedule (June 30, 2009).