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.



Ex-NRC Chair calls for phase out of aging US reactor fleet; suggests new “more distributed” mini-nuke replacements 

Gregory Jaczko, a former chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently grabbed news headlines when he called for the “phase out” of all 103 reactors with operating licenses in the United States. His candid remarks came prior and during a session on the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe at the April 8-9, 2013 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington, DC.  When asked why he had not considered such action while Commission Chairman, Jaczko offered “I didn’t come to it until recently.” He realized that all of the nuclear power plants in the US have a “fundamental design problem” even when the reactor cores are shut down a tremendous amount of residual heat must be cooled to prevent them from melting down and releasing catastrophic amounts of radioactivity.  Jaczko cited a short list of nuclear accidents including Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima where industry and regulators are “always chasing the previous problem” and an approach of “Band-Aid on Band-Aid” cannot eliminate this “fundamental design challenge.” Jaczko had earlier told one news source,   The next accident is going to be something no one predicted.

However, Jaczko says that perhaps “the solution” would be to design and build a replacement fleet of “more distributed” smaller modular reactors with “low energy density.” Such designs might be safer he argues if that residual heat generated following the shut down the nuclear reaction could not push the reactor core temperature to the melting point and an uncontrolled nuclear accident. 

Typically, as here, “solutions” are offered piecemeal without addressing the myriad of other routine and unresolved hazards that would still be emanating from your local mini-nuclear waste factory. 

More broadly and still unaddressed is the overarching issue of the industry’s “Nuclear Regulatory Capture" of the agency. All things considered, the nuclear industry forced Chairman Jaczko’s resignation in May 2012 for not sufficiently facilitating their financial and expansion agenda. To Jaczko’s credit, a number of his pursuits, decisions and actions as Chair were decidedly in the interest of the public health and safety at industry expense and image. His executive decision to advise the US State Department on the immediate evacuation of all US nationals in Japan within 50 miles of the Fukushima accident became an industry tipping point and fueled a witch hunt for his ouster.

You can support Mr. Jazcko's call to start closing dangerous nukes by signing the Beyond Nuclear petition to revoke the NRC operating licenses for Fukushima-style reactors here in the United States.



Former NRC Chairman Jaczko calls for all U.S. atomic reactors to be shut down

Gregory Jaczko, who served as U.S. NRC Chairman from 2009-2012As reported by the New York Times, former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko recently came to the realization that all U.S. atomic reactors have unfixable safety flaws, and should be shut down. He added, however, that "new and improved" so-called small modular reactors could take their place.

Jaczko thinks that perhaps none of the reactors that have received NRC rubber-stamps for 20-year license extensions will ever last that long, in reality, let alone an additional 20-year extension NRC is currently flirting with the idea of allowing (40 years of initial operation, plus two 20-year license extensions, adding up to 80 years of operations!).

Oyster Creek, NJ (a Mark I) is the oldest still-running reactor in the U.S., although it is already planned to close by 2019, ten years short of its 20-year extension. Dominion Nuclear has also announced the permanent shutdown of Kewaunee in WI next month, although it still have decades of permitted operations on its license.

Ironically, Jaczko himself approved many 20-year license extensions, including at Palisades in MI (opposed by NIRS and a state-wide environmental coalition) and Vermont Yankee (opposed by the vast majority of Green Mountain State residents and elected officials). Jaczko even voted to not hearing Beyond Nuclear's contentions at the Seabrook, NH and Davis-Besse, OH license extension proceedings regarding renewable alternatives, such as wind power, to the 20-year extensions at the dangerously degraded old reactors.

Jaczko reached out to Beyond Nuclear in May 2012 to set up a meeting between his entourage from NRC and concerned local residents and environmental group representatives near Palisades after he toured the problem-plagued reactor. During the closed-door meeting, concerned locals pressed Jaczko on why the 42-year-old, dangerously age-degraded reactor was allowed to operate. He responded, ironically enough, given his yes vote on Palisades' license extension in 2007, that once NRC grants an atomic reactor a license to operate, there is little that can then be done about it.

Jaczko did, however, earn the enmity of the nuclear power industry and his fellow NRC Commissioners, as by his past work against the proposed Yucca Mountain dumpsite, his invocation of emergency powers during the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, and his votes against proposed new reactors in GA and SC because Fukushima "lessons learned" had not yet been applied or required. Although Jaczko often voted the industry's way, as above, he didn't always (often the sole dissenting vote), making him "insufficiently pro-nuclear" for the nuclear establishment, as Beyond Nuclear board member and investigative journalist Karl Grossman put it.

Jaczko was first appointed to the NRC Commission in 2005. In 2009, President Obama appointed him the chair the agency, which he did till 2012. He had previously worked on Capitol Hill, as a staffer for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and as a science fellow for U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), working on the Yucca Mountain and other nuclear power and radioactive waste issues.


NEWS: On Fukushima Day, another door slams on U.S nuclear expansion


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Monday, March 11, 2013

CONTACT: Paul Gunter, Beyond Nuclear, 301-523-0201 (mobile); 301.270.2209 (o)

On Fukushima Day, another door slams shut on US nuclear expansion plans

Beyond Nuclear lauds decision not to green light third Maryland reactor


Takoma Park, MD — On a day when thousands around the world are protesting nuclear power to mark two years since the deadly Fukushima nuclear accident began in Japan, another door has slammed shut on nuclear expansion plans in the US.


Beyond Nuclear hailed Monday’s decision by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to deny an appeal by UniStar, wholly owned by French utility, Électricité de France (EdF), for a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant site on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.


Électricité de France sank into the financial quicksand that is new reactor construction,”  said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear, an environmental advocacy group based in Takoma Park, MD. “US nuclear corporations are clearly unwilling to join EdF in nuclear energy’s economic quagmire, a pattern that has been only too evident at EdF’s other reactor projects in Europe.”


EdF had hoped to build an Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR), a French Areva design originally targeted for six US nuclear sites. But the EPR, a new, untested design, already has a lamentable history in Europe. 


The EPR reactors under construction in Flamanville, France and Olkiluoto, Finland, are years behind schedule and enormously over-budget and the design has been challenged by safety authorities in France, Finland and Britain. Olkiluoto may now not be operational until 2016 — four years later than the original target date — and its price has more than doubled, soaring to $10 billion. Flamanville’s original budget has tripled. EdF’s UK reactor plans have been marked by the departure of a series of business partners.


“This decision could not be more timely, coming on the second anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident and on the heels of the recent decision of the Maryland State Legislature to adopt and invest in the development of offshore wind energy,” Gunter added. 


The NRC Order denied the EdF appeal on two grounds: on the agency’s policy  regarding foreign ownership, which is based on longstanding language in the Atomic Energy Act (AEA), which prohibits foreign ownership and control of US nuclear reactors; and that the applicants “continue to look for a U.S. partner, and have not amended their application.”


The applicant for a third Calvert Cliffs reactor was in trouble as soon as EdF’s US partner, Constellation Energy, withdrew. On August 30 2012, the NRC had given UniStar 60 more days to comply with the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) in order to be granted a license for a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs. 


After the 60 days expired, the NRC put the application on indefinite review. But when no US company stepped up to partner with EdF on the project, the NRC opted on Monday to deny the appeal. EdF could continue to search for a US partner but would need to start a new application for the Calvert Cliffs site.


“The nuclear retreat continues unabated,” Gunter pointed out. “Everywhere you look, new nuclear projects are either being canceled, or are encountering cost over-runs, and aging reactors are failing and permanently closing.” Gunter noted Duke Energy’s permanent closure of Florida’s Crystal River nuclear station and the Dominion Energy announcement of the permanent closure of Wisconsin’s Kewaunee nuclear station later this year.


In November 2008, three national safe energy groups — Beyond Nuclear, Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and Public Citizen — and the local citizens group Southern Maryland Citizen Alliance for Renewable Energy Solutions formally petitioned the NRC licensing board for a hearing opposing the Calvert Cliffs 3 application. The joint petition included the contention that EdF, as the dominant owner of the third proposed reactor, was in violation of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended and NRC licensing regulations, which prohibit controlling foreign ownership of a US nuclear plant. 


To read the full NRC Order, see:


To view a compilation of the Nuclear Retreat, see:


EDF's UK plans teetering on brink of collapse

EDF, the French nuclear utility hoping to build two new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, UK, may pull out of the project if it can't get the sweetheart deal it wants from the British government. Despite its pro-nulcear stance, the British government has not agreed to reverse its policy against public subsidies for new nuclear plants. However, it has been in negotiation with EDF to work out an agreement that is in effect a thinly-veiled subsidy for EDF. The agreement would give investors a long-term guaranteed price for the electricity the EDF reactors would generate. When the market price for power is lower, the generators will receive a top-up subsidy, paid for through hikes on consumer bills. EDF is asking for a close to 100 pounds sterling (about $155) per megawatt hour.


Areva dropped from Finnish reactor project. Another blow for EPR

French nuclear group Areva's exclusion from a Finnish nuclear tender is another blow to the reputation of its EPR reactor and raises questions about France's ambitious nuclear export plans.

Finnish nuclear consortium Fennovoima said on Monday it had selected Toshiba as sole candidate to build a large nuclear reactor, dropping Areva. Areva has not sold a reactor anywhere in the world since 2007. The EPR is stalling globally. Just weeks ago British utility Centrica pulled out of plans to build EPRs in Britain with French utility EDF , and in December Italy's Enel pulled out from the construction of an EPR in Flamanville, northern France. Areva CEO Luc Oursel says he still aims to sell 10 EPRs by the end of 2016, but doubts are growing.