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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
Feb072013

"Retired Duke reactor may signal more U.S. nuclear shutdowns"

As Reuters reports, yesterday's announcement by Duke that it has decided to permanently shutdown its crippled Crystal River atomic reactor with a severely cracked containment in Florida, and Dominion's decision last October to permanently shutdown its Kewaunee reactor on the shore of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin (despite a 20-year license extension rubberstamp by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission), may be but the first dominoes to fall.

The article quotes UBS energy analyst Julien Dumoulin-Smith, who concluded "It's getting tougher for nuclear to compete." The UBS short list for reactors on the brink of permanent shutdown includes "Entergy Corp's Vermont Yankee in Vermont and FitzPatrick in New York, Exelon Corp's Clinton in Illinois and Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC's Ginna in New York," according to the article.

The article ends by questioning if Southern California Edison's San Onofre 2 & 3 in San Clemente will ever restart, given their severe steam generator tube damage. Both units have now been shut down for over a year for safety reasons.

Wednesday
Feb062013

After three year outage and $1.3 billion, Duke Energy pulls plug on Florida’s cracked Crystal River 3

It started in October 2009 with the previous owner’s “do-it-yourself” steam generator replacement at Florida’s Gulf Coast Crystal River nuclear power plant, aka “CR3”.  The job was intended to save Progress Energy $16 million. But while cutting the 25 ft. by 27 ft. hole through the thick concrete containment shield wall, the high-pressure water cutting operation sprang the embedded pre-tensioned steel rebar super-structure like a rat trap, sending cracks throughout the reactor’s ultimate “protective barrier”. Progress Energy had busted the 190 ft. high and 130 ft. wide impervious containment building---for good. Exactly how is not publicly known given the Florida Public Service Commission helped negotiate a settlement agreement in 2012 that let Progress Energy refund $288 million to ratepayers in exchange for ending a public investigation. Duke Energy was faced with an estimated $3 billion+ concrete patch job with a dubious outcome. So, after sticking ratepayers with $1.3 billion for the botched power upgrade that broke the nuke and a three year outage in replacement power costs, the new owner, Duke called it quits February 5, 2013. After insurance, Duke gets to pocket about $100 million.

CR3 is now a very expensive and large heap of radioactive junk. Duke has announced that they will put the permanently shuttered nuke into SAFESTOR, that is, defuel the reactor vessel of nuclear waste into wet and dry storage, “decontaminate” the interior reactor building and “mothball” the entire structure for up to 60 years into the future.  This option effectively postpones the notoriously unreliable to estimate but costly “decommissioning” of the atomic reactor that can run up to as much as $1 billion. Duke is quoted to currently have $600 million in an external decommissioning fund. Ultimately, it’s another super-sized price tag for the radioactive “trans-contamination” of the environment; the radioactive hulk dismantled, razed, contaminated soil dug up and all hauled off and dumped on some other community deemed “nowhere” of concern. Moreover, there remain the hundreds of tons of CR3’s high-level nuclear waste, the irradiated nuclear fuel, which will be stored onsite for the time being with actually nowhere to go.

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.