The utility Southern California Edison has announced that by year's end it would eliminate 730 jobs at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, or about a third of its workforce. The two operating reactors have been shut since radiation leaks were detected earlier this year. Under California utility rules, the costs of a plant that is disabled for more than nine months can be taken out of the formula that builds utility rates. That would mean SoCal Edison, its majority owner, can't pass plant costs on to ratepayers.
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.
The Doel 3 reactor in Belgium remains shut down after potentially thousands of cracks were found in the reactor vessel. The cracks could date back 40 years to the reactor's original construction and were found three years before the reactor came on line but were not fixed. Recent ultrasonic tests found hairline cracks in the steel vessel housing the reactor. The fuel has been removed from the plant. Belgium's nuclear regulator said in a statement that, "We are considering these flaw indications very seriously."
NTPC has put its plans to set up nuclear power projects, jointly with Nuclear Power Corporation of India, on the backburner. The company has also begun to relocate employees assigned for the projects due to uncertainty in the nuclear power arena. Nuclear projects country-wide have been facing massive opposition, including prolonged disruption of work at the Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu and at the Jaitapur site south of Mumbai. More.
Reports Reuters: "BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) has shelved its planned $20 billion Olympic Dam expansion in Australia and put all other approvals on hold as the world's largest miner battles escalating development costs, slumping prices and an uncertain outlook . . . Expanding Olympic Dam, the world's fourth-largest known copper deposit and largest uranium source, was one of three major projects that were due to go to the BHP board for final approval by December 2012 in an $80 billion pipeline of projects that BHP had flagged were likely to be slowed." Olympic Dam has the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world, though uranium represents only a minority of the mine's total revenue. Activists in Australia have long been fighting to block the expansion. More.
The nuclear industry’s “lingering death” was further accelerated this summer, and exacerbated in the past week by new and on-going shutdowns. Worldwide, nuclear energy represents just 13% of electricity. In 2010, overall installed capacity of four categories of renewables - wind, solar, small hydro and biomass - exceeded nuclear. The trend continues and, in the US, just this past week, was demonstrably in effect.
At Calvert Cliffs, MD, on the Chesapeake Bay, a control rod fell into the reactor core. The accident prompted a shutdown of Unit 1, one of two reactors at the site where plans for a third reactor have stalled indefinitely.
At the troubled Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert, MI, the reactor was shut down on August 12 after a leak from a control rod drive mechanism inside the containment building. An earlier leak had kept the plant shut down for a month in the summer. In fact, the plant was leaking during a visit by then Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman, Gregory Jaczko, who was kept in the dark about the safety problem. Now, the NRC inspector general is investigating NRC Commissioner, William Ostendorff, who has tried to block an investigation into why Jaczko was not informed of the leak.
At the Millstone nuclear plant on the Long Island Sound in Connecticut, Unit 2 was shut down as water temperatures in the Sound soared above 75 degrees. Sound water was too hot to be efficiently used as coolant for the plant and hotter discharges could have harmed biota in the Sound. With the hottest July on record, this a trend that is likely to continue due to climate change, which is why nuclear and coal plants should be scrapped quickly in favor of renewable energy generation that does not require huge quantities of water.
Meanwhile, the Crystal River nuclear station in Florida, has been closed for three years and may never reopen. The broken containment structure could cost between $1 billion and $2.5 billion to fix according to estimates. Costs could be borne by Duke Shareholders after the company merged with Crystal River owner, Progress Energy this summer, or by ratepayers under the state’s Construction Work In Progress law, according to differing reports. As the Tampa Bay Times wrote in an editorial: “Paying for all of that would be hard to stomach if the nuclear plant were working, but it is absurd for ratepayers to be forced to pay those bills to upgrade a plant that may never be fixed.”
Meanwhile, the Progress Energy-Duke merger could spell the end of the combined companies‘ nuclear expansion plans. As The Energy Collective stated: “It appears the nuclear renaissance is evaporating in the new utility's service area like a chunk of dry ice on a hot summer day.” Prior to the merger, Progress had delayed the start to 2025 of two proposed new Florida reactors in Levy County. Duke has also put off new reactor plans at the Harris site in North Carolina.
The two San Onofre reactor units remain shut near San Diego, due to steam generator flaws and malfunctions. A high-ranking official at the California Public Utilities Commission has called for the reactors to be taken off the customer rate base since the plant is not contributing electricity.
And the Ft. Calhoun, NE reactor (pictured) has never been reopened since flooding devastated the site when the Missouri River crested and surrounded the plant in the summer of 2011, turning it into an atomic island. Miles of electrical cable that should never get wet were inundated during the flood, prompting serious safety questions, particularly for plant workers. Ft. Calhoun owners received a “red warning”, ostensibly because workers ignored the smell of smoke for days even though an electrical fire had broken out. Deficiencies in flood planning had been known about - but left uncorrected - a year before last summer’s inundation. The plant was shut down for refueling when the flooding occurred but federal regulators are not confirming any re-start date after these numerous additional flaws were uncovered.