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.



Four "new" reactor projects cancelled in Texas and North Carolina

Industry plans for four new reactor projects in Texas and North Carolina have collapsed.

Reports the Dallas News: "Plans to build two new reactors at the South Texas Project nuclear facility outside Bay City hit a road block Tuesday. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled that a partnership between NRG and Toshiba Corp. through the holding company Nuclear Innovation North America violated a U.S law prohibiting foreign control of nuclear power plants." The holding company will appeal. The case appears similar if not identical to the situation at Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland. There, Électricité de France was left as sole owner of a proposed third reactor after U.S. partner, Constellation Energy pulled out, leaving the French utility flying solo in the umbrella corporation they had created, UniStar. Foreign ownership and domination of a US reactor is prohibited under federal law via the Atomic Energy Act. Meanwhile, back at NRC Headquarters, federal officials are making a "fresh assessment" of the foreign ownership prohibition and how it might be modified for a voting paper to be handed over to the Nuclear "Railroad" Commissioners.

In North Carolina, the nuclear retreat continues apace. Duke Energy suspended its application for two new reactor units at its Shearon Harris site in North Carolina. The company said it saw no resource need for two new reactors based on the likely electricity needs of its customers for at least the next 15 years.  Although Duke continues to pursue plans for new reactors at Levy, FL and Gaffney, SC it has no firm commitment to either plant.


LA City Council tells NRC to put the brakes on San Onofre restart

A unanimous Los Angeles City Council has demanded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) conduct extended investigations before any restart at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Writes Harvey Wasserman: "On April 23, Los Angeles’ 11 city council members approved a resolution directing the NRC to “make no decision about restarting either San Onofre unit” until it conducts a “prudent, transparent and precautionary” investigation. The city wants “ample opportunity” for public comment and confirmation that “mandated repairs, replacements or other actions” have been completed to guarantee the public safety." There is intense opposition to the re-start of the San Onofre reactors after faulty steam generators were installed at the plant and tubes began to spring leaks. San Onofre 2 and 3 have been shuttered since January 2012. San Onofre 1 is permanently closed.


No nuclear "renaissance;" just resuscitation

The US Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook, 2013 takes a look at the future of nuclear energy in the US, with graphs showing that a continued role in the US electricity market is dependent on extending current 40-year operation licenses out to 60 years. The practice of propping up old reactors well into their geriatric years - where safety becomes ever more compromised - has been routinely adopted by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But new construction, even if projects at Vogtle,  Summer and Watts Bar reach completion, will make only a small contribution, just 5.5 GW of new capacity. Renewable energy is expected to add 104 GW of new capacity by 2040.

The report also notes that "Key drivers include changes in the price of natural gas as well as the possible future operation of existing nuclear power plants beyond the 60-year period for which most units are currently licensed." With nuclear construction costs high and natural gas prices low, new nuclear construction is unattractive. More.


Japan should pull the plug on reprocessing: editorial

Now that the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) - Japan's equivalent to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission - has put a hold on starting up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant (pictured), the Asahi Shimbun, a leading Japan daily newspaper, has called in an editorial for a cancellation of the project. The NRA will not allow pre-operational tests at the plant until new safety standards are in place. The Asahi Shimbun wisely opines: "We need to face the fact that the government’s program to establish a nuclear fuel recycling system is as good as dead. If the plant starts operating, the plutonium it churns out will pile up with no definite plan to use it. The situation could spark concerns within the international community that Japan’s nuclear power generation might contribute to nuclear proliferation."

An additional reason to abandon the reprocessing plan is that "the project to develop fast breeder reactors, which are supposed to play a central role in the recycling system, has been stalled for years due to a series of problems at the Monju fast breeder prototype reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture. There is little prospect for commercialization of the technology."

Groups like Green Action have been fighting for years to prevent the start-up of Rokkasho. Victory now looks a step closer.


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.