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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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Wednesday
Aug192015

"FirstEnergy backs away from free market, wants you to buy its more expensive power"

Davis-Besse is located on the Lake Erie shore in Oak Harbor, OH. The concrete Shield Building, located to the right of the cooling tower, is severely cracked. The cracking grows worse with every freeze.As reported by John Funk at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the half-baked request by FirstEnergy -- to overcharge ratepayers more than $3 billion on electricity bills, over the next 15 years, just to prop up the dirty, dangerous, expensive and old Davis-Besse atomic reactor and the Sammis coal burner -- is going to hearing on Aug. 31st. This, despite the fact that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio staff have repeatedly missed deadlines to publish their analysis and recommendations regarding the huge money grab.

Beyond Nuclear and environmental allies have officially intervened against the 20-year license extension at Davis-Besse since Dec. 27, 2010. Very recently, the environmental coalition's attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, as well as attorneys Diane Curran of Washington, D.C. and Mindy Goldstein of Atlanta, filed an appeal in the Davis-Besse Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) proceeding at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the land. The appeal, dubbed New York v. NRC II, challenges NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy. In its ruling on New York v. NRC I in June 2012, the court ordered NRC to carry out an Environmental Impact Statement on radioactive waste generation at atomic reactors like Davis-Besse, as well as to address: the risks of storage pool leaks of radioactivity into soil, groundwater, and surface waters; the risks of fires in storage pools; and the risk of a repository never being opened, meaning the irradiated nuclear fuel could remain on-site at places such as Davis-Besse indefinitely into the future. Beyond Nuclear et al. allege NRC flagrantly flouted the court orders. A favorable ruling for Beyond Nuclear in New York v. NRC II could mean a significant delay in the Davis-Besse license extension. Davis-Besse's initial 40-year license expires on Earth Day (April 22), 2017.

Tuesday
Aug042015

"Duke Energy spending on Lee nuclear plant remains slow"

As reported by John Downey in Charlotte Business Journal, Duke Nuclear's spending on "pre-construction" activities at its proposed new Lee nuclear power plant in Gaffney, SC, has been relatively low in the past couple years -- if $3-4 million per month can be regarded as "low." After all, significant energy efficiency, and even renewable energy projects, such as wind power and solar photo-voltaics, could be built for that kind of money!

Duke Nuclear had originally proposed firing up Lee Unit 1 in 2017. But now initial start up has been postponed till 2024 at the earliest.

Duke proposes to build two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, just as is happening at Vogtle 3 & 4 in GA, and at Summer 2 & 3 in SC. Both the Vogtle and the Summer new reactor construction projects are billions of dollars over-budget, and years behind schedule.

Duke has not yet charged its $450 million in "pre-construction" activities to its SC rate-base, but it could under SC's generous "Construction Work in Progress" (CWIP) law.

Already, South Carolina Electric & Gas and SCANA have charged their SC ratepayers more than half a dozen rate increases, entirely devoted to CWIP costs on building Summer 2 & 3, with the SC public service commission's blessing. SCE&G and SCANA have not applied for federal nuclear loan guarantees, however.

Vogtle 3 & 4 has slogged ahead, thanks not only to CWIP surcharges on GA ratepayer electricity bills, but also compliments of an $8.3 billion federal taxpayer-backed loan guarantee, and loan. President Obama and Energy Secretary Moniz have provided that massive loan guarantee, and loan, without charging Southern Nuclear and its partners a single penny of credit subsidy fee, to protect federal taxpayers at least to some small extent, should Southern default on its loan repayment.

$8.3 billion is 15 times more federal taxpayer funding than was lost to the U.S. Treasury at Solyndra, when that solar loan guarantee repayment defaulted. But Vogtle 3 & 4 are at a significantly higher risk of defaulting, than was Solyndra when the solar loan guarantee was awarded.

More than $10 billion in nuclear loan guarantee funding remains available, for projects like Lee 1 & 2, or Fermi 3 in MI, to apply for. Lee 1 & 2 still needs COLA (combined Construction and Operating License Application) approval by NRC, something that Fermi 3 already won on May 1, 2015. However, Beyond Nuclear and allies continue to challenge the Fermi 3 license, now by appealing to the federal courts. One of the appeals by the environmental coalition is a challenge to NRC's Orwellian permission to grant the go ahead for "pre-construction" activities at new reactor construction sites, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

Thursday
Jul302015

Uncompetitive IL nukes to recieve $600 million annual subsidy under PJM plan

"Burning money" image by Gene Case, Avenging AngelsAs reported by Scott DiSavino in Reuters, a new "capacity factor" subsidy, at ratepayer expense, is being offered by the Pennsylvania New Jersey Maryland (PJM) grid operator to Exelon Nuclear, to help prop up several uncompetitive atomic reactors in Illinois.

"Capacity factor" refers to nuclear power's 24/7 "baseload" avaiability, but ignores the fact that nuclear power plants can experience years-long safety-related shutdowns.

The article concludes that "extra revenues from the capacity auction could keep the money losing reactors operating for a few more years until possible new carbon standards are available," as Exelon lobbies "federal, state and regional policy makers [to] find ways to compensate generators for the environmental and reliability benefits that non-carbon emitting nuclear plants provide."

Of course, nuclear power is not zero carbon. And, as David Kraft, Director of NEIS, has pointed out, other sources of electricity have inherent upsides, deserving of societal support. Wind power and solar photo-voltaics, for example, as well as energy efficiency, release even less greenhouse gases than nuclear power, and also do not generate forever deadly radioactive waste.

Nor do efficiency and renewables risk catastrophic reactor meltdowns, as Exelon's age-degrading reactors in IL are at ever greater risk of experiencing. Yet, these renewable and efficiency electricity sources are not being awarded benefits, at ratepayer expense, for such society-friendly aspects.

One of those federal policies that could unduly further benefit the nuclear power industry is the Obama industry's Clean Power Plan, to be announced on August 3rd.

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.