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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.

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Thursday
Apr302015

Both Chicago dailies editorialize against Exelon Nuclear bailout 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.

And, despite their disadvantage over the course of decades, in terms of public subsidies secured by politically powerful nuclear lobbyists, renewables like wind and solar have nonetheless remained competitive. In fact, they are outcompeting the nuclear power industry. Efficiency is even more competitive and cost-effective.

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.

Tuesday
Mar102015

Areva requests NRC to suspend US EPR design certification review

The French-owned AREVA nuclear corporation has requested that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission suspend indefinitely its design certification review of the US Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR). The February 25, 2015 letter to the NRC was followed by news of AREVA posting a $5.4 billion loss in 2014 due in large part to extensive delays, enormous cost overruns in its EPR construction projects in France and Finland. AREVA further acknowledged the move is prompted by the weakening global business climate for nuclear power. Standard & Poor’s has downgraded AREVA's credit rating to non-investment grade junk.

AREVA originally submitted its EPR design to the NRC for generic approval in 2007. Several US nuclear utilities have submitted applications for combined construction and operation licensing to the federal agency.

Constellation Energy and Electricite de France (EdF) had formed the UniStar Nuclear Energy Corporation to build and operate Calvert Cliffs 3 in Lusby, MD as the lead US pilot project and the Nine Mile Point 3 project in upstate New York. The Calvert Cliffs 3 project was to be a "reference reactor" application for several more EPRs to follow in a significantly streamlined generic licensing process.

Despite receiving roughly $8 billion in federal loan guarantees from the US Department of Energy, Constellation bailed out of the financially dubious project in 2012 leaving EdF, France's state-run nuclear corporation as the sole entity in UniStar and in clear violation of the US Atomic Energy Act which prohibits foreign ownership, control and domination of US nuclear projects. Not one US utility stepped in to fill the vacant partnership with EdF. Instead, the NRC and US nuclear industry have gone into discussions to take a "fresh look" at the foreign ownership prohibition.  

UniStar, in the meantime has withdrawn its application to build the Nine Mile Point-3 EPR in upstate New York. Ameren has suspended its NRC application to build an EPR in Missouri. PPL has likewise suspended its NRC application to build an EPR at Bell Bend, Pennsylvania.

The AREVA announcement suspending the NRC design review process sows more doubt for French reactors in the US ever being constructed, given that a license cannot be issued without the agency approving design safety.

AREVA's EPR project at Olkiluoto-3 in Finland is 9 years behind schedule and construction cost overruns skyrocketing from Euros 3.2 billion to Euros 8 billion. AREVA's EPR project in Flamanville, France is similarly delayed with a significant cost overrun.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Nucler power's “managerial disaster” still true 30-years later  

Forbes magazine’s February 11, 1985 cover story headlined “Nuclear Follies.” The business investment journal wrote “The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale… only the blind or the biased can now think that the money has been well spent.” 

Fast forward thirty years, we see the nuclear industry still imploding.  The “blind or biased” now include industry front groups like “Nuclear Matters” arguing that American taxpayers and ratepayers should still be bailing out the teetering industry at any cost.  Ex-Environmental Protection Agency head Carol Browner and former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg were recently stumping in Northern Ohio on behalf of industry to keep the deteriorating nuclear power plant there from closing.  However, their effort to spin the continued demise of dirty, dangerous and expensive nuclear power as a critical missed opportunity completely ignores the historic context that Forbes benchmarked decades ago for the business investment community. Nuclear power is fundamentally uneconomical. It has failed in the U.S. market economy and continues to fail worldwide.

Browner and Gregg’s snapshot of the remaining 99 U.S. reactors being down from 104 units needs to be put into an accurate historical context. In fact, the remaining 99 reactors are down from the 133 units originally licensed to commercially operate, which are down from 227 units that applied for construction permits and down again from 253 units ordered by the U.S. industry. This steady retreat is actually down from the 1,000 reactors that President Nixon’s “Project Independence” said would be operational by the year 2000.  

In fact, what Browner, Gregg and their cohorts are suggesting is that the American people invest even more to prop up what Forbes then cautioned investors “is a defeat for the U.S. consumer and the competitiveness of U.S. industry, for the utilities that undertook the program and for the private enterprise system that made it possible.”

The nuclear industry is being priced out of the energy service market and at the same time becoming increasingly dangerous as a result of financial shortcuts and regulatory capture. The good news is that nuclear power is being replaced by rapidly growing solar and wind energy industries, energy efficiency and conservation. No surprise that Nuclear Matters, which is funded by the nuclear giant Exelon Corporation, would have the American consumers put the brakes on a 21st Century of  affordable and renewable energy competition and instead stay the course with a rerun of Forbes’ 1985 warning.

Friday
Feb062015

Exelon's Ginna atomic reactor in upstate NY also at risk of near-term shutdown

NRC file photo of Exelon's Ginna atomic reactor on the Lake Ontario shore of upstate NY near RochesterAs reported by the Democrat and Chronicle, Exelon Nuclear's Ginna atomic reactor -- one of the oldest in the U.S. -- is at risk of near-term shutdown. Dr. Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School, in his July 2013 report Renaissance in Reverse, identified Ginna as one of a dozen atomic reactors across the U.S. most at risk of near-term, permanent shutdown, for a variety of safety, financial, and societal reasons.

The 45-year-old Ginna reactor is located in Ontario, NY, near Rochester, on the shoreline of Lake Ontario (photo, left).

It joins five of Exelon's atomic reactors in the utility's home state of IL at risk of permanent closure due to economic uncompetitiveness. Just yesterday, Public Citizen, Maryland PIRG, and others protested at Exelon's Baltimore HQ against the utility's attempt to plunder Mid-Atlantic ratepayers to prop up its failing reactors across the country.

Exelon is also trying to stick it to IL ratepayers, but is not alone in the attempted gouging of its own customers: FirstEnergy has sought permission to overcharge Ohio ratepayers to the tune of billions, to prop up its problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, as well as a dirty coal plant on the Ohio River. See Beyond Nuclear's "Nuclear Costs" website section for more news on these and related issues.

Wednesday
Jan282015

Beyond Nuclear on Forthright Radio

Host Joy LaClaire interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on "Forthright Radio" on KZYX.

Their discussion ranged over a variety of subject matter, from the grassroots victory of Vermont Yankee's permanent shutdown and the decommissioning challenges ahead, to the collusion between the nuclear power industry and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (and what people can do about it), and beyond.

(Note: there is a sound quality problem at the very beginning of the program, but it clears up after a minute or two.)