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.



RMI: "Nuclear Power's Competitive Landscape and Climate Opportunity Cost"

Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, RMITitiaan Palazzi, Special Aid, RMIAmory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, and Titiaan Palazzi, Special Aid (photos, left), of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, CO, presented "Nuclear Power's Competitive Landscape and Climate Opportunity Cost" at "Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Energy" held at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, on 28 March 2014.

Lovins and Palazzi report that, when compared to nuclear power: (1) Efficiency and renewables are far cheaper; (2) Renewables can deliver similar or better service and reliability; (3) Renewables can scale faster;  and (4) For climate protection, efficiency and renewables are far more effective solutions than new nuclear build, which indeed is counterproductive.

Lovins and Palazzi's economic critique extends not only to proposed new atomic reactors, but even to existing, age-degraded reactors. They state "Reactors are promoted as costly to build but cheap to run. Yet as Daniel Allegretti ably described, many existing, long-paid-for U.S. reactors are now starting to be shut down because just their operating cost can no longer compete with wholesale power prices, typically depressed by gas-fired plants or windpower."

Lovins and Palazzi conclude that "efficiency is clearly cheaper than average nuclear operating costs, which exceed 4¢/kWh [4 cents per kilowatt-hour] at the busbar and 8¢ delivered. Thus overall, for saving coal plants’ carbon emissions, efficiency is about 10–50x more cost-effective than new nuclear build—or about 2–12x more cost-effective than just operating the average U.S. nuclear plant."

Regarding nuclear power's retreat, Lovins and Palazzi report:

"Nuclear power also has to run ever faster to stay in the same place as its 1970s and 1980s growth turns into a bulge  of retirements. After the next few years, retirements will exceed all planned or conceivable global nuclear additions, even with all license extensions as shown here. Power reactors’ terminal decline will be over by about 2060—and in view of both competition and aging, this projection by Mycle Schneider [Mycle Schneider et al., World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013] is more likely to overstate its longevity than its brevity."
They conclude their presentation by stating "Existing nuclear plants, a future idea whose time has passed, will simply retire; the only choice is how quickly and at what cost to whom. End of story."

"Exelon Nuclear -- Holding Illinois Hostage Yet Again?"

Dave Kraft, Director, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of ILDavid Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of IL, has published an analysis, "Exelon Nuclear -- Holding Illinois Hostage Yet Again?".

The Chicago business press has recently reported that Exelon has threatened to permanently close as many as five of its atomic reactors, unless the State of IL provides bailouts to keep them afloat. Specifically, those reactors are: two at Byron, two at Quad Cities, and one at Clinton.

Quad Cities Units 1 & 2 are Fukushima Daiichi twins -- GE BWR Mark Is.

NRC rubberstamped their 20-year license extensions years ago. As Dave's analysis mentions, Byron 1 & 2 have now applied for 20-year extensions as well. Despite the license extensions, the future of these reactors' operations is now quite dubious.

Dominion's Kewaunee atomic reactor in WI permanently shutdown a year ago, despite having already received a 20-year license extension rubberstamp from NRC.


Nuclear utilities beg for bailouts to avert reactor shutdowns, Obama administration appears amenable

In a pair of articles, E&E's Hannah Northey reports that nuclear utility giants such as Exelon and Entergy are lobbying hard for changes to electricity marketplace rules that would enable them to keep uncompetitive atomic reactors operating. For its part, the Obama Dept. of Energy appears poised to do all it can to prop up its favorite dirty, dangerous, and expensive energy industry.

Northey quotes an Exelon spokesman as admitting not just Quad Cities (two reactors) and Clinton (one reactor) in IL are at risk of near-term shutdown, but a total of five reactors altogether, although he would not specify the other two.

Northey also quotes an Entergy official, who compares the risk of numerous additional near-term atomic reactor meltdowns to driving off a cliff.


Exelon considers closing two GE BWR Mark Is in IL

As reported by Crain's Chicago Business, Exelon -- the largest nuclear utility in the U.S. -- is considering shuttering its Quad Cities nuclear power plant, because it cannot compete on the wholesale electricity market. Quad Cities consists of two General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4.

At the same time, Exelon is considering permanently closing its single unit Clinton nuclear power plant -- a GE BWR Mark III. A decade ago, Exelon was riding high at Clinton -- recipient of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubber-stamp support for an "Early Site Permit" for a proposed new reactor at the site.

The Chicago Tribune has also reported on this story.


Westinghouse scraps Small “Marketless” Reactors

Westinghouse is scrapping a multi-million dollar and decade long investment in new Small Modular Reactors (SMR).  Company officials admit that there is no market for the foreseeable future for assembly line nukes.

Westinghouse had advertised its 225 MWe Small Modular Reactor (SMR) as simplified, passively safe and secure. Rather than typically build one behemoth power reactor, new individual reactor modules were to be added onto to the same control room and plugged into the turbo-generator-transmission system, shortening construction times and compartmentalizing the financial risk. Eventually, Westinghouse figured out that there are so few customers at the end of such an assembly line that it makes no economic sense to build the factory. Since the Department of Energy has snubbed Westinghouse twice now for federal taxpayer money, Westinghouse wasn’t willing to financially risk their own money.

The announcement comes as no surprise. Forbes reported nearly two years ago that the new mini-nuclear power plants were already priced out of the market. Additionally, with the nuclear industry still in the shadow of an unending Fukushima catastrophe, reactor safety design problems and regulatory failures make mini-nukes a challenge that Westinghouse admits it is not up to.