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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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Wednesday
Feb062013

Entergy Watch: UBS predicts "real retirement risk for units such as Vermont Yankee and FitzPatrick in '13"

Dominion's Kewaunee reactor in WI, and Duke/Progress's Crystal River reactor in FL, may be but the first "nuclear dominoes" to fall, reports UBSIn a report for shareholders, dated Feb. 4th by UBS Securities LLC, UBS "reiterate[s] expectations for nuclear retirements" in the Entergy Nuclear merchant fleet, due to low to negative free cash flow. UBS highlights that "We see Vermont Yankee as the most tenuously positioned," but adds "Fitzpatrick (sic) in upstate NY increasingly appears at risk as well," and "Pilgrim could be at risk too, depending on market development in New England." The report is based on a Feb. 2nd meeting between UBS analysts and Entergy Nuclear's new CEO, Leo Denault, and the rest of the Entergy management team. 

A large part of the UBS report then goes on to discuss the critical importance of decommissioning costs to Entergy shareholders, if/when Vermont Yankee (VY), FitzPatrick, and/or Pilgrim (near Boston) permanently shutdown.

UBS fails to mention that VY, FitzPatrick, and Pilgrim are General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4. VY (nearly 41 years old), FitzPatrick (almost 39), and Pilgrim (around 41) are also age-degraded reactors, deep into their break-down phase, the same vintage as Fukushima Daiichi.

UBS did mention, however, in its "Statement of Risk," that "As a nuclear operator, Entergy is also subject to headline risk. We believe a nuclear accident (even in a non-Entergy nuclear plant) or a change in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission/Environment (sic) Protection Agency regulations could have a negative impact on our estimates."

NRC post-Fukushima "lessons learned" safety upgrades, such as the requirement for "hardened vents" at U.S. Mark Is like VY, FitzPatrick, and Pilgrim, could easily cost Entergy tens of millions of dollars per reactor to implement.

UBS does also mention the fact that VY (at 605 Megawatts-electric), FitzPatrick (838 MW-e), and Pilgrim (688 MW-e) are relatively small-sized, single reactor nuclear power plants, which several analysts have pointed out makes them most vulnerable to "early retirement." But this is a misnomer, given the fact that their initial 40-year operating licenses have already expired, and they are now operating thanks only to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) 20-year license extension rubberstamps. Dominion's 556 MW-e Kewaunee atomic reactor in WI serves as the "canary in the coal mine," showing the vulnerability of small, single reactor nuclear power plants to permanent shutdown due to "economic reasons" (such as the inability to make a profit while making hugely expensive, major safety repairs, for example). Dominion Nuclear announced last October that Kewaunee would permanently close in mid-2013.

The UBS report also discusses the future, or lack thereof, for Entergy's Indian Point (IP) Unit 2 (nearly 40 years old) & 3 (almost 38 years old) reactors near New York City. UBS highlights that "Building the case for IP remains centered on economic case," but concludes "we perceive limited ability to do so currently with NY gov't officials." New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, has long called for IP's closure. UBS also highlights that "Relicensing remains bottom line on IP future," specifically the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board 20-year license extension proceeding, and the New York Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) water permit. The former is being contested not only by NY AG Eric Schneiderman's office, but also by such environmental groups as Riverkeeper and Clearwater (a member group of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC)). The latter could result in Entergy being required to build cooling towers, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, to prevent large-scale, ecologically destructive thermal pollution of the Hudson River (a full two-thirds of the 6,432 Megawatts-thermal heat generated at the Indian Point nuclear power plant has, for decades, simply been dumped into the Hudson River).

UBS also concludes that Entergy's underlying nuclear business is "fundamentally un-financeable on a stand alone basis." UBS highlights that despite it being "the second largest nuclear power generator in the United States," Entergy's "[n]uclear business is sub-scale," and that "eventual spin-merge or JV [joint venture]" is "certainly a possibility." UBS reports "CEO Denault, in his first day on the job, suggested that in 5 years time the EWC [Entergy Wholesale Commodities] business would belong [as] part of a bigger portfolio -- either under Entergy ownership or otherwise." UBS summarizes that Entergy's "[g]oal is to gain greater scale in [nuclear] generation," and "ETR [Entergy] will either acquire or divest the [nuclear] generation subsidiary over Denault's tenure." UBS does not speculate as to which other atomic reactors Entergy might acquire, nor which other nuclear utilities might acquire Entergy in the next several years.

Hopefully, Entergy's VY, FitzPatrick, Pilgrim, and Indian Point atomic reactors will permanently shutdown long before then, along with the rest of its dirty dozen atomic reactors across the U.S.

Tuesday
Feb052013

Another nuclear retreat: Crystal River reactor shut for good!

It's a goner - Crystal River reactor will never re-open! Duke Energy announced early Tuesday it will permanently close the Crystal River nuclear plant that has been shut down since late 2009. That was the year that workers attempting to replace the steam generator, cracked the reactor's 42-inch thick concrete containment building. They repaired the wall only to discover their efforts had cracked the wall again. The 36-year-old plant has been idle since. More.

Friday
Feb012013

Victory! Virginia keeps the ban on uranium mining!

A proposal to end Virginia’s 31-year ban on uranium mining suffered a major defeat on January 31 before a state Senate panel. Lacking the votes to win, Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, withdrew his bill in the Agriculture Committee. That killed the measure for the 2013 session. Mining opponents claimed victory, saying any effort to lift the mining ban is probably dead this year — and maybe well beyond. The Keep the Ban movement brought together environmental organizations, the Virginia Farm Bureau, the Virginia chapter of the NAACP and, most recently, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. Virginia has a 30-year ban on uranium mining. The uranium industry made making a well-financed push to repeal the ban in order to mine and process uranium, starting in Southside Virginia. Drinking water, human health, farmland, property values, wildlife and tourism across Virginia were at risk. Virginia Uranium, the company that planned to mine the Coles Hill site, will not likely go quietly, but the proposal is once again stymied for the time being.

Thursday
Jan312013

Utah uranium mining operations suspended

Reports Uranium Watch: It has taken only 5 years for the most recent uranium mining boom in Utah to hit bottom.  In 2012, Energy Fuels Inc. acquired the Denison Mines Corporation’s United States uranium interests through a buyout/merger process.  These interest include the White Mesa Mill, the operating La Sal Mines Complex and Daneros Mine in San Juan County and other mines and mining claims in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona.  Subsequently, Energy Fuels announced they would place their operating Utah mines on standby and would concentrate on operating their mines on the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon.  Energy Fuels’ US subsidiary, Energy Fuels Resources Inc. (EFR), has suspended operations at the La Sal/Beaver Shaft and Daneros Mine.  Originally EFR announced that they would reclaim the Pandora Mine, but later stated they would also temporarily suspend the Pandora Mine operations. 
The Moab office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is still reviewing the Plan of Operations Amendment (POA) for the La Sal Mines Complex and completing the Environmental Assessment.  The POA includes the updated provisions for the reclamation of the La Sal, Snowball, Beaver Shaft, and Pandora Mines.  These must be approved by the BLM.
Energy Fuels will now have 9 uranium mines in Utah that are permitted but not operating: Beaver Shaft/La Sal/Snowball, Daneros, Energy Queen, Pandora, Pine Ridge, Redd Block No. 4, Rim, Sage, and Tony M Mines.  The BLM and the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining have specific regulations that apply to the long-term suspension of mining operations.  The regulations are inadequate and have not been fully implemented and enforced.
The decisions to suspend mining operations in Utah are decisions based on the economic viability of the Energy Fuels.  It is not know when, or if, these mines will resume operation.  Some of these mines have been kept on standby for over 10 years without the required approval of the Oil, Gas, and Mining Board.
Uranium Watch is following the recent suspension uranium mine operations and the status of other mines that are non-operational but have not been remediated.

 

Wednesday
Jan302013

VICTORY! No radioactive waste dump in Cumbria, UK

The land of Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and friends has thankfully been reprieved. From the BBC: Plans to look for a site for a £12bn ($19 billion) underground nuclear waste store in Cumbria have been rejected. Cumbria County Council vetoed an advanced "stage four" search for a site for the radioactive waste facility. The stage included detailed geological investigations and discussions over the social and economic implications. The Department for Energy and Climate Change said it was "disappointed" but the no vote would not "undermine" the long-term disposal of nuclear waste.
There were huge cheers from environmental campaigners outside the council chamber in Carlisle when the decision was announced. 

The land of Peter Rabbit, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and friends has thankfully been reprieved. From the BBC: Plans to look for a site for a £12bn ($19 billion) underground nuclear waste store in Cumbria have been rejected. Cumbria County Council vetoed an advanced "stage four" search for a site for the radioactive waste facility. The stage included detailed geological investigations and discussions over the social and economic implications. The Department for Energy and Climate Change said it was "disappointed" but the no vote would not "undermine" the long-term disposal of nuclear waste.There were huge cheers from environmental campaigners outside the council chamber in Carlisle when the decision was announced.