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.



Exelon threatens to close three reactors by early next year, absent $1.8 billion IL bailout

NRC file photo of two-reactor Quad Cities nuclear power plant in ILScott Stapf of the Hastings Group's tweet put it well: Nuclear blackmail: Exelon threatens to kill Quad Cities plant if IL lawmakers don't hand over loot.

As reported by Crain's Chicago Business, despite a windfall compliments of regional grid operator PJM (provided at ratepayer expense), Exelon Nuclear is nonetheless still threatening to close its two reactors at Quad Cities, unless the Illinois State Legislature provides it another massive bailout, to the tune of $1.8 billion.

Exelon has also said its downstate single reactor plant, Clinton, could be next to close, early next year, absent the state bailout. A dozen years ago, the Clinton site was a "Nuclear Renaissance" showcase, with a Nuclear Regulatory Commission rubber-stamped "Early Site Permit" for a second new reactor there, a proposal suspended many years ago now.

Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago has led the charge in opposition to the state nuclear bailout.

Earlier this week, E&E published an interview with John Rowe in which the former Exelon CEO said that shutting Illinois's uncompetitive atomic reactors is "the proper market-driven answer."


Austria sues to stop “artifically resuscitated” Hinkley C reactor project

The Austrian government is suing in the European Court of Justice to reverse the European Commission’s decision to approve a financing plan for the estimated $26.5 billion construction of two European Pressurized Reactors (EPR) in Somerset, England.  The approval clears the way for Britain to subsidize Electricité de France's (EdF) colosall project by guaranteeing the price of electricity to the troubled French government-owned nuclear giant at more than double the market rate for the next 35 years. Austria has charged that the subsidy to EdF is a violation of European Union law on state aid and a gross distortion of the region’s energy market.

Austria’s lawsuit accompanies a legal challenge from a Greenpeace-led energy coalition of nine German and Austrian renewable energy utilities, and more coming.

Andrae Rupprechter, the Austrian environment minister said that nuclear power cannot “survive economically” and should “not be artificially resuscitated through state subsidies".  “Instead of funding unsafe and costly energy forms that are outdated, we have to support Europe’s energy turnaround with the expansion of renewable energies,” he said.

France’s nuke construction projects, domestic and export, are already in tatters and proven to be financially toxic.

The EPR under construction on the Normandy coast at Flamanville, France is described as “industrial chaos and huge environment concerns.” Originally estimated to cost $3.7 billion, the EPR project has surpassed more than $10 billion in sunk cost and still falling further behind completion originally scheduled for 2012.  In April 2015, Flamanville’s critical reactor pressure vessel was discovered to have “fabrication defects” from the forging process resulting in a serious mechanical toughness defect.  

France’s export of nuclear power to Finland is similarly in a financial meltdown. The cost of the EPR unit under construction at Olkiluoto has skyrocketed from $3.6 billion to $9.5 billion and now 8 years behind schedule.  The Finnish electric utility has recently cancelled its plans for another EPR.

Without the precedent setting subsidies, the Hinkley C EPR project may well prove to be nuclear power’s last stand in Europe.


Both Chicago dailies editorialize against Exelon Nuclear bailout at ratepayer expense

Both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times editorial boards have come out against Exelon Nuclear's attempt to gouge Illinois ratepayers to the tune of hundreds of millions per year, to prop up allegedly failing atomic reactors. "Allegedly," because, as both papers point out, Exelon refuses to open its books to the public.

Both editorial boards come at the problem from the perspective of free market capitalism. Which is fine -- no other energy industry has enjoyed more public subsidization than the nuclear power industry, which makes Exelon's latest bailout demand all the more objectionable.

And, despite their disadvantage over the course of decades, in terms of public subsidies secured by politically powerful nuclear lobbyists, renewables like wind and solar have nonetheless remained competitive. In fact, they are outcompeting the nuclear power industry. Efficiency is even more competitive and cost-effective.

As the Sun-Times so wisely understands, "Renewable energy is the future, and the state should be making that a priority, not nuclear plants."

After all, while Germany's Conservative parties may have belatedly, and reluctantly, agreed to the nuclear phase out for political survival post-Fukushima, they do not see the domestic expansion and export of renewable energy as a charitable undertaking. They see it as a huge money making opportunity on the international marketplace.

It's high time for the U.S., and states like Illinois, to either wake up and smell the coffee, or get left in the dust.


Areva requests NRC to suspend US EPR design certification review

The French-owned AREVA nuclear corporation has requested that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission suspend indefinitely its design certification review of the US Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR). The February 25, 2015 letter to the NRC was followed by news of AREVA posting a $5.4 billion loss in 2014 due in large part to extensive delays, enormous cost overruns in its EPR construction projects in France and Finland. AREVA further acknowledged the move is prompted by the weakening global business climate for nuclear power. Standard & Poor’s has downgraded AREVA's credit rating to non-investment grade junk.

AREVA originally submitted its EPR design to the NRC for generic approval in 2007. Several US nuclear utilities have submitted applications for combined construction and operation licensing to the federal agency.

Constellation Energy and Electricite de France (EdF) had formed the UniStar Nuclear Energy Corporation to build and operate Calvert Cliffs 3 in Lusby, MD as the lead US pilot project and the Nine Mile Point 3 project in upstate New York. The Calvert Cliffs 3 project was to be a "reference reactor" application for several more EPRs to follow in a significantly streamlined generic licensing process.

Despite receiving roughly $8 billion in federal loan guarantees from the US Department of Energy, Constellation bailed out of the financially dubious project in 2012 leaving EdF, France's state-run nuclear corporation as the sole entity in UniStar and in clear violation of the US Atomic Energy Act which prohibits foreign ownership, control and domination of US nuclear projects. Not one US utility stepped in to fill the vacant partnership with EdF. Instead, the NRC and US nuclear industry have gone into discussions to take a "fresh look" at the foreign ownership prohibition.  

UniStar, in the meantime has withdrawn its application to build the Nine Mile Point-3 EPR in upstate New York. Ameren has suspended its NRC application to build an EPR in Missouri. PPL has likewise suspended its NRC application to build an EPR at Bell Bend, Pennsylvania.

The AREVA announcement suspending the NRC design review process sows more doubt for French reactors in the US ever being constructed, given that a license cannot be issued without the agency approving design safety.

AREVA's EPR project at Olkiluoto-3 in Finland is 9 years behind schedule and construction cost overruns skyrocketing from Euros 3.2 billion to Euros 8 billion. AREVA's EPR project in Flamanville, France is similarly delayed with a significant cost overrun.


Nucler power's “managerial disaster” still true 30-years later  

Forbes magazine’s February 11, 1985 cover story headlined “Nuclear Follies.” The business investment journal wrote “The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale… only the blind or the biased can now think that the money has been well spent.” 

Fast forward thirty years, we see the nuclear industry still imploding.  The “blind or biased” now include industry front groups like “Nuclear Matters” arguing that American taxpayers and ratepayers should still be bailing out the teetering industry at any cost.  Ex-Environmental Protection Agency head Carol Browner and former New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg were recently stumping in Northern Ohio on behalf of industry to keep the deteriorating nuclear power plant there from closing.  However, their effort to spin the continued demise of dirty, dangerous and expensive nuclear power as a critical missed opportunity completely ignores the historic context that Forbes benchmarked decades ago for the business investment community. Nuclear power is fundamentally uneconomical. It has failed in the U.S. market economy and continues to fail worldwide.

Browner and Gregg’s snapshot of the remaining 99 U.S. reactors being down from 104 units needs to be put into an accurate historical context. In fact, the remaining 99 reactors are down from the 133 units originally licensed to commercially operate, which are down from 227 units that applied for construction permits and down again from 253 units ordered by the U.S. industry. This steady retreat is actually down from the 1,000 reactors that President Nixon’s “Project Independence” said would be operational by the year 2000.  

In fact, what Browner, Gregg and their cohorts are suggesting is that the American people invest even more to prop up what Forbes then cautioned investors “is a defeat for the U.S. consumer and the competitiveness of U.S. industry, for the utilities that undertook the program and for the private enterprise system that made it possible.”

The nuclear industry is being priced out of the energy service market and at the same time becoming increasingly dangerous as a result of financial shortcuts and regulatory capture. The good news is that nuclear power is being replaced by rapidly growing solar and wind energy industries, energy efficiency and conservation. No surprise that Nuclear Matters, which is funded by the nuclear giant Exelon Corporation, would have the American consumers put the brakes on a 21st Century of  affordable and renewable energy competition and instead stay the course with a rerun of Forbes’ 1985 warning.