The Nuclear Retreat

We coined the term, "Nuclear Retreat" here at Beyond Nuclear to counter the nuclear industry's preposterous "nuclear renaissance" propaganda campaign. You've probably seen "Nuclear Retreat" picked up elsewhere and no wonder - the alleged nuclear revival so far looks more like a lot of running away. On this page we will keep tabs on every latest nuclear retreat as more and more proposed new nuclear programs are canceled.



Yet another long overdue atomic reactor permanent shutdown: Fort Calhoun, NE switched off for good today!

Floodwaters on the Missouri River in spring and summer of 2011 lapped against safety significant buildings at Fort Calhoun atomic reactor in Nebraska, upstream of the state's largest city, Omaha.As reported by Cole Epley in the Omaha World-Herald, the Omaha Public Power District's (OPPD) Fort Calhoun atomic reactor permanently shutdown today, four and a half months after the nuclear utility's management proposed it, and the utility's board of directors voted in agreement.

Although OPPD emphasized Fort Calhoun's inability to compete with less expensive sources of electricity (including Nebraska's abundant wind power) as the reason for its decision, Fort Calhoun has also suffered serious safety problems for the past several years.

This included a close call with catastrophe, during historic floods on the adjacent Missouri River in the spring and summer of 2011. (This earned the atomic reactor the nickname "Port" Calhoun, as flood waters lapped against safety related systems, structures, and components! See the photo, above left.) It also included a fire, that smoldered within the plant for days, remarkably without response, also in 2011. The consequent two and half year shutdown cost Nebraskans several hundred million dollars (Fort Calhoun is publicly owned).

As soon as the irradiated fuel is removed from the core, Fort Calhoun can no longer suffer a reactor meltdown, by definition. In addition, no more high-level radioactive waste will be generated. That is the good news. The bad news is that the irradiated nuclear fuel already generated there, since 1974 -- currently stored in the indoor "wet" storage pool, and outdoor dry casks -- must be isolated from the living environment for the next million years.


Old, nonworking nukes for sale

After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation's largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost, reports NBC News. 

The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more. 

Two cooling towers can be seen in the reflection of a pond outside of the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, in Hollywood, Alabama. Brynn Anderson / AP

Initial bids were due Monday, and at least one company has publicly expressed interest in the site with plans to use it for alternative energy production.  Read more.


Resources on just economic transitions when atomic reactors permanently shut down

Some resources (in backwards chronological order) on just economic transitions, for atomic reactor workers, municipalities dependent on their tax revenues, low-income households vis-a-vis electricity cost, etc., when atomic reactors permanently shut down:

Joint Proposal, between Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), environmental groups (Friends of the Earth (FOE), Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, Natural Resources Defense Council), and unions (including International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, IBEW), for the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant at the end of its 40-year operating license in 2024-2025, and its replacement with energy efficiency and renewable sources of electricity, June 21, 2016.

Beyond a Band-Aid: A Discussion Paper on Protecting Workers and Communities in the Great Energy Transition, Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), Takoma Park, MD, June 10, 2016.

[Note that this discussion paper is mostly focused on the phaseout of fossil fuel industries in Maryland. However, nuclear power is touched upon. Even though it is Maryland- and fossil fuels focused, the concepts can and should be applied to atomic reactor shutdowns nationwide.]

April 23, 2016. NIRS and AGREE submit extensive comments to New York PSC that show how NY can meet its 2030 carbon emissions goals without nuclear (and thus without nuclear subsidies).

October 22, 2015. NIRS/AGREE analysis finds FitzPatrick reactor can be replaced with clean & renewable energy at a lower cost. Press release; full analysis


In addition, there must be some great resources coming out of Germany. After all, the fourth largest economy in the world is phasing out both nuclear power (completely, by 2022), and is decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 85% (as compared to 2005 levels) by mid-century, through the expansion of renewables like wind and solar, as well as maximized energy efficiency. An Oct. 15, 2015 National Geographic article entitled "The Will to Change," in an issue entitled "Cool It" about the climate, appropriately gave much of the credit for the German energy transformation to the anti-nuclear movement.


Exelon to close three Illinois nukes in 2017 and 2018: Quad Cities 1 &2 and Clinton

The Chicago-based nuclear giant formally notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it will permanently close its Quad Cities Units 1 & 2 and Clinton nuclear generating stations in Illinois.  The two Fukushima-style reactors at Quad Cities, both GE Mark I boiling water reactors will close in 2018 and Clinton, a GE Mark III boiling water reactor will permanently close in 2017.

The Exelon formal filing to the NRC is just the latest in a trend of reactor closure announcements across the country at Fort Calhoun in Nebraska by the end of 2016, Diablo Canyon Units 1 & 2 by 2025 in California. This latest trend of closure announcements follows on the 2013 shutdowns at Crystal River 3 (Florida), San Onofre 2 & 3 (California), and Kewanee (Wisconsin). Vermont Yankee (Vermont) permanently closed in 2014. Additional closure announces have been submitted to the NRC for Fitzpatrick (NY) in 2017 and the Pilgrim (Massachusetts) and Oyster Creek (New Jersey) nuclear power stations in 2019.  More reactor units, like Pennsylvania’s infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power station, are still pending formal announcements to the NRC.

Nuclear power is rapidly becoming redundant where conventional utility-scale renewable energy generation and efficiency cost less. Nuclear power’s full-on-all-the-time operating mode is recognized as inflexible to these increasing competitive electricity markets. Operating costs and major repairs for an aging and inherently dangerous nuclear technology have simply become unaffordable at many reactors. The added cost of even more safety-related nuclear accident retrofits is one more straw on the industry’s bowed economic back. Add to the steadily rising cost of nuclear power, energy efficiency is not only its cheapest competitor it is the quickest to deploy to customers at residential, commercial and industrial levels. As a result, electricity demand in the United States has continued to drop in five of the past eight years due to advances in energy efficiency technology. 



Diablo Canyon to close rather than extend operating license, sooner is necessarily better 

In a historic agreement announced June 21, 2016 between environmental groups led by Friends of the Earth, labor unions and the California electric utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE), the Diablo Canyon nuclear generating station in San Luis Obispo will permanently shutdown in 2025 rather than seek a twenty-year license extension. By the same agreement, the power from the nuclear generator will be replaced with safe, clean, renewable energy generation, advanced electricity storage systems, energy efficiency and conservation.  Diablo Canyon is the latest in a series of reactor closure announcements where the tanking economics of atomic-generated power simply don’t add up. Nuclear corporations are finding it more profitable to shutter reactors than operate them and replace them with increasingly more affordable solar and wind power.  As California's last remaining operating reactor, Diablo Canyon's closure will mean that the seventh largest economy in the world will be nuclear free.  At the same time, the loss of the profit motive coupled with utility reticence to invest in mounting safety and environmental issues make nuclear power even more dangerous. This prompts the call to accelerate the shutdown schedule.

The Diablo Canyon reactors were designed in the 1960s, built in the 1970s and originally only looked at the earthquake siting risks coming from the distant San Andreas fault line 45-miles away and one other “insignificant” fault line. Since then, much greater earthquake risks that threaten the reactors’ safe shutdown have emerged around the two-units location from the nearby Hosgri, San Luis Bay, Los Oso and the Shoreline fault lines that run as close as one mile away.  Just such unanalyzed and unacceptable risks versus the enormity of potentially devastating consequences are being recognized in post-Fukushima Japan as reason enough to shutdown nuclear power stations and legally deny their restart as in the case for the Takahama nuclear power station.  The continued operation of Diablo Canyon amid a minefield of earthquake faults until 2025 places the California region and beyond in the same peril as the earthquake-induced nuclear catastrophe proved at Fukushima, Japan.

The environmental consequences of continued operation of Diablo Canyon add more reason to move up the date for a more prompt closure. The Diablo Canyon’s antiquated once-through reactor cooling system that draws in 2.5 billion gallons of water each day and discharges it super-heated into Diablo Cove is responsible for 80% of the marine environment damage from electric power stations along the California coast.  

For many more reasons, including capping the production of unmanaged high-level nuclear waste that is accumulating onsite and onto future generations, the fight must go on to shutdown Diablo Canyon sooner rather than later.