Exelon’s allegedly uneconomic Byron reactors. Photo from wikipedia.
After more than a year of laying the groundwork–well-documented in these pages–Exelon yesterday finally unveiled its plan to force ratepayers to bail out its allegedly uneconomic nuclear reactors at Quad Cities, Clinton and Byron.
It’s a legislative proposal that runs about 100 pages, but can be summarized this way: Exelon wants to set up a new “low-carbon” energy standard that would include nuclear power, “clean” coal and renewables. Ratepayers would have to pay a surcharge to accommodate this standard. And Exelon’s proposal would rig the rules so that its aging, expensive reactors would reap most–and probably all–of the benefit. After all, “clean” coal doesn’t exist and Exelon’s approach would actually prevent renewables from receiving much, if any, of the surcharge.
NIRS’ Executive Director Tim Judson is preparing a more complete analysis of Exelon’s proposal, which we’ll publish next week.
For the entire past year, Exelon has maintained that it doesn’t seek a bailout but rather a “market-based” solution to ensure that its failed reactors can become profitable again. Maybe it’s because I’ve had pneumonia the past two weeks (which is why GreenWorld has not published anything in past two weeks), but it’s a little difficult for my poor brain to discern the difference between a “bailout” and a mandatory “surcharge.”
As Dave Kraft of Chicago’s Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) put it, “If it looks like a bailout, walks like a bailout, and quacks like a bailout – it’s a BAILOUT.” NEIS also charged that Exelon’s proposal, combined with a presentation the company made to FERC last week, “add up to a declaration of war against renewables and energy efficiency.”
NEIS wasn’t the only Exelon opponent to speak out quickly against the proposal. So did AARP, and Illinois PIRG, and the Clean Jobs Coalition, which includes Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and has a different proposal to encourage clean energy in the state that it says would lead to the creation of 32,000 new jobs–without bailing out Exelon. The Citizens Utility Board also opposed Exelon’s proposal, as did two other major power providers in the state, Dynegy and NRG Energy. Said the latter in a written statement, “The proposed legislation, which appears to be written specifically to subsidize Exelon’s nuclear fleet, would reverse those benefits. Subsidizing nuclear plants, which produce nuclear waste, as sustainable sources of energy makes a mockery of what sustainability is all about.”
Of course, there is some self-interest in NRG’s statement. It owns four coal and three gas-fired plants in Illinois, although NRG is also making serious efforts to become a national leader in rooftop solar and other distributed generation.
Chicago’s Crain’s Business Review also questioned the notion that Exelon’s proposal represents a “market-based” approach and pointed out that its own analysis shows that Exelon’s nuclear fleet already is profitable and doesn’t need a bailout at all.
The stage is now set for a major confrontation in the Illinois legislature and it’s anyone’s guess as to which way the legislature will go. Exelon is probably the strongest political power in the state, both because of its size and its generous campaign contributions. But it has rarely had to face an opposition as large as the one that exists now. And because whatever the legislature does will certainly have ramifications nationally, the issue will be magnified.
Further, the issue will become ensnarled in larger statehouse budget politics. As Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center explained, “There are likely to be tremendous cutbacks of basic social services and the legislature is likely to have to raise taxes or fees to make the budget balance,” said Environmental Law and Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner. “Will legislators at the same time force consumers, through a non-bypassable charge, to pay hundreds of millions of dollars each year for the next six years to bail out Exelon nuclear plants?”
The Illinois legislative session runs until the end of May. Not much time. Stay tuned.
February 27, 2015
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Funded by a Lintilhac Foundation Grant, Fairewinds Energy Education has evaluated Entergy’s plan to use the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sanctioned SAFSTOR process to decommission Vermont Yankee. Developed by the NRC, SAFSTOR is a subsidy that benefits nuclear power plant owners like Entergy by providing them with a 60-year window to decommission nuclear plants.
Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant permanently ended operations December 29, 2014. Since its shutdown date, Vermont Yankee has continued to be newsworthy with the recent discovery of Strontium-90 leaks in at least four different test wells on the nuclear plant site. Stronitum-90 readily attaches itself to water, is extremely toxic, and has a direct link to leukemia and a host of other cancers.
The NRC met with Vermonters in Brattleboro on February 19 to discuss Entergy’s Post Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report with the public. Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen used the five minutes allotted to him by the NRC to distill 42-years of nuclear power expertise down to one main conclusion: the decommissioning and dismantlement of Vermont Yankee cannot wait. Letting SAFSTOR leave the carcass of Vermont Yankee on the banks of the Connecticut River for 60 years is not the answer for Vermonters. The money exists for Entergy to protect workers and to completely clean up its toxic mess by 2032. Remove VY carcass – veto SAFSTOR
FAIREWINDS ENERGY EDUCATION – NRC Meeting (transcribed 2-26-15)
AG: Hi, I’m Arnie Gundersen from Fairewinds. I’m here tonight – we have a Lintilhac Grant to analyze the decommissioning plan. So I put in about 200 hours on the decommissioning plan in addition to a 40-year career which included working on subcontractor with Dectel, decommissioning shipping port and was a member of the Radiation Safety Committee at a plant that decommissioned licensee facilities around the country. So I appreciate that you’re giving me five minutes to explain 40 years worth of experience here.
First off, my third grade teacher is rolling over in her grave. It’s Safstore – rhymes with “sap” – not Safestore – there’s no “e” there. Second, there’s no bases in physics for 60 years. It’s a subsidy to the nuclear industry. Here in Vermont, we have – a windmill has to have a fully funded decommissioning study fund before it starts, and we gave Entergy 60 years to clean up. It’s really about the money. It’s not about trying to minimize worker exposure. The example is that a 60-year Safstor will use about 300 REM in radiation, but when Entergy needed to start Palisades up in three weeks, they dished out 115 REM in 3 weeks. So when the goal is to get a plan up and running, dose be damned. Please don’t hide behind dose. Safstor has no bases in physics. (applause) Second is the emergency plan. We should have an emergency plan in place as good as what it was until the fuel is removed. And you have also allowed the tech specs to be changed so the fuel pool ventilation is no longer covered under the technical specifications. That’s an indication that you just don’t believe that an accident can happen. And frankly, we’ve had an accident here. I may be the only one in the room that remembers, but in 2008, the crane brakes broke as they were lifting the canister with spent fuel in it. So accidents can happen and in fact have happened, and I think that needs to be reflected in the emergency plan. I agree with Deb that if you’re going to be moving those canisters, we know the brakes have failed in the past and that’s an indication that they might fail in the future – do it in the summer when the school is out. This is not rocket science and it’s not a lot of money. Move the fuel when the kids aren’t there. (applause) All of this, by the way, will be in a much longer report that Fairewinds will be doing. And also, we will be putting an hour-long presentation that I gave up on the web next week with more details and I urge you to write to these guys in the next month.
The next thing is the AOG building. I said five years ago, in 2010, when I was on the Governor’s Oversight Committee, that you were going to find Cesium and you were going to find Strontium under the AOG building. Guess what? You did. Now you’ve got Strontium at the well. I’m telling you, I know where it’s coming from. It’s under the AOG building. We can remove the AOG building now and save money in the decommissioning fund. (applause) We’re paying by the cubic foot. Most of the horses are still in the barn. Most of the horses are still under the AOG building. We can move the AOG building and reduce the ultimate cost of the decommissioning. Now Entergy has already told us in 60 years they’re going to say – they tell us, sue us, we’re out of here, so that if that Strontium’s run, it’s going to be our liability. We have a chance to nip it in the bud. We can close the barn doors, decommission the AOG building right now. That’s for safety; the others are economic. The LLC issue – this is – you guys, we’re establishing a precedent here. The plants you have up there are all utilities. This is an LLC and there’s a big difference, as Deb already said. Mr. Watson from the NRC said three weeks ago that Entergy is ultimately responsible. But in front of the Joint Fiscal Committee just last week, Entergy said we’re out of here in 60 years – sue us. So to me, there’s a big difference here between what the NRC thinks the regulations speak to and what Entergy thinks the regulations speak to.
Next is 10(c) (?5:16) of our 5075 is a failure. The model that you use for calculating the money that should be available is simplistic and has no basis in science. Now Fairewinds has developed under the Lintilhac grant a spreadsheet that does this. We spent about 10 days – two people working 10 days to develop a spreadsheet. We’re going to make it available to the State of Vermont and to the country. So you can do a spreadsheet to track how the money develops in the fund and when it’s withdrawn. When I do those numbers, I show we can start decommissioning in 2026 and be done in 2032 if the ISFSI Fund – that’s the Independent Spent Fuel Storage – is not included. You’re allowing Entergy to raid the cookie jar by taking money out of the ISFSI Fund and not returning it when they get it back from Department of Energy. Something’s wrong with your model. I’m going to recommend to the State that they oppose the exemption that Entergy will ask for when they want to raid the ISFSI Fund. And Vermonters are stakeholders. We have a piece of this pie. At the end of this project, if there’s any left over, it’s half ours and half Entergy’s. That’s part of the agreement. So we have a seat at the table. I’m a stakeholder.
And finally, the expenditures that are being incurred are being incurred by a company that has no oversight. You guys aren’t giving them financial oversight and the State of Vermont – they’re not a public utility. Who is overseeing the cookie jar? (applause) Your analysis is on health and safety and in fact, TLG is a wholly owned subsidiary of Entergy. So when Entergy couldn’t make money when the plant was running, you can be damn sure they’re going to make money on the decommissioning. As Bill Sorrell said, who’s watching the cookie jar. And I think because this is an LLC, you’ve allowed the horse to be out of the barn there, and the door needs to be closed. Thanks. (applause)
Read more here:: http://www.fairewinds.org/remove-vy-carcass-veto-safstor/
By David CHICAGO—The release of its long-awaited bailout legislation, coupled with presentations made before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week add up to a declaration of war against renewables and energy efficiency by Exelon Corporation, a Chicago nuclear watchdog organization asserts. “If it looks like a bailout, walks like a bailout, and quacks like a […]
By Broc West via channelnewsasia.com / February 25, 2015 / The operator of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant said on Tuesday it had found a pool of highly contaminated water on the roof of a plant building and that it had probably leaked into the sea through a gutter when it rained. The finding comes four years after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc’s Fukushima … Continue reading →
review by Caroline Phillips, Fairewinds Energy Education Administrator
“Loneliness doesn’t quite capture it,” says Matsumura Naoto, the Fukushima farmer who will not leave his animals or his home and is the sole resident of his once bustling town. The post-apocalyptic, evacuated ghost towns of Tomioka and Iitate that are located within a 25mi radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor are featured in a 20-minute video ‘Alone in the Zone’ produced by VICE Intl.
As a US citizen, watching this video brings to mind the havoc of Hurricane Katrina and its forced dislocation of so many people living in and around New Orleans. Destruction caused by Fukushima’s nuclear meltdown appears as visceral as the hurricane, but the greatest difference between the two is what no one can see. The highly toxic radiation released by Fukushima Daiichi lingers indefinitely and radioactivity will continue to contaminate once beautiful farmland for hundreds of years. Now, four years after the nuclear triple meltdown, slow decommissioning of everything in the reactor’s shadow continues without an end date in sight.
Naoto is a Tomioka farmer who has returned to his cattle farm where ostriches run free since the meltdown. With his arms hanging comfortably around one of these wild, long necked birds, Naoto recounts evacuating his family, living as a refugee, and being refused lodging from his sister-in-law who feared that they were contaminated and would bring radiation into the house. Two years after Fukushima Daiichi’s meltdown, Naoto returned to his farm despite the high cesium levels. Naoto says he opposes the killing of animals in radiation-controlled zones. While he believes that slaughter for consumption is reasonable, he says that slaughter because of contamination is senseless- “Would they kill people just as indiscreetly?” he asks.
You might think that Naoto is a simple farmer obsessed with his livestock however, in the words of Hasegawa Kenji another farmer from the area, “Everyone views cattle as all the same. But that’s not true. At all.” Kenji and his family of eight once lived in a stately home on land that supported his life’s work of farming. Now he resides with other refugees from the Fukushima Prefecture in temporary housing that looks like a chain of doublewide trailers. Kenji recalls scientists telling the mayor of Iitate, Kenji’s village, that they were in danger of radiation but the government continued to reassure residents that they were safe. Once it was clear that the scientists had been right about the significant radiation exposure and not the town officials, Kenji and his wife did all they could to care for their exposed and contaminated cows by milking them everyday and pouring out the toxic milk. Sadly, they were eventually forced to systematically slaughter all of their beloved animals.
Radiation Testing Clinic Director, Nihei Masahiko explains that the amount of exposure is irrelevant because if cesium enters the body, there will be damage. Radioactive substances leaked by the Fukushima Daiichi owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company, have contaminated the soil of the Fukushima prefecture rendering the land unusable. Yet, according to Nuclear Physics Professor Koide Hiroaki, TEPCO still refuses to accept responsibility for its radioactive fallout because the land is ‘bona vacant’, an ownerless object.
Not being able to eat or drink without exposing oneself to contamination in a radiation-controlled zone makes Matsumura Naoto’s return to his farm unimaginable for most of us, but I would venture taking that risk is not so unfathomable for Hasegawa Kenji or anyone else who has been indefinitely displaced from their home. Remembering a time before the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Kenji recalls his grandchildren visiting him every day after school to say hi to their grandpa and the cows. That life is over now. All that remains are memories of happier times that Kenji says, “I almost wish I could forget.”
Read more here:: http://www.fairewinds.org/alone-in-the-zone/
Last week on WDEV radio, Fairewinds Energy Education’s Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen had an interview with Mark Johnson on The Mark Johnson Show. The nine-am interview covered the recent discovery of a Strontium-90 leak at the Vermont Yankee nuclear site and what the discovery of this new contaminant means for the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee. Arnie answered questions from concerned Vermont listeners who called into the live show.
Read more here:: http://www.fairewinds.org/interview-with-mark-johnson/
By Broc West via japantimes.co.jp / February 18, 2014 / Aichi Prefectural Police arrested a construction firm executive on Wednesday for sending a 15-year-old boy to help clean up radioactive waste outside the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant. The police said the boy, who is from Kitanagoya, Aichi Prefecture, was sent to Fukushima to cut contaminated leaves and scrape up dirt in the disaster zone last July. Japan’s labor law prohibits people under 18 … Continue reading →