By Michael Mariotte


Oops. Exelon’s nuclear cat was inadvertently let out of its radioactive bag by the Baltimore Sun today.

The Sun was supposed to run an ad last Thursday in support of the proposed takeover of mid-Atlantic utility Pepco by Exelon. The ad was supposed to show that some sort of local coalition of community groups support the merger.

But the Sun ran the wrong ad.

So today, the Sun ran the right ad. And it ran a correction, which appears above.

Which is all people who get the print edition of the Sun saw.

But online, the correction offered some additional information Exelon probably didn’t want the public to see: who paid for the ad.

It wasn’t Exelon. And it wasn’t Pepco. It was Exelon’s pro-nuclear astroturf front group, Nuclear Matters. Which, of course, does not appear in the ad at all.

That provides the most revealing information to date about why Exelon really wants to take over Pepco.

Non-profits for nuclear power. The Nuclear Matters ad that was supposed to run.

But why would Exelon have its non-profit front group, which was formed last year with the specific mission of doing everything possible to keep aging, uneconomic nuclear reactors (especially those owned by Exelon) operating, place and pay for an ad about the Exelon-Pepco merger?

Having placed ads in the Baltimore Sun ourselves in the past, we can speculate: non-profit groups obtain much lower advertising rates from the Sun than do for-profit companies like Exelon and Pepco. So to save itself a few thousand bucks, which Exelon should be able to afford (if it can’t afford that, then its money-losing nuclear fleet is in even greater trouble than we had imagined), Exelon has brought new attention to the real reason it is pursuing Pepco.

It’s doing so because it needs Pepco, or, more specifically, the money from current Pepco ratepayers, to ride to the rescue of its failing nuclear reactors.

Sure, Exelon has been talking a good game to the Maryland and Washington, DC Public Service Commissions (PSCs), stressing that its nuclear generation business is separate from its electricity distribution business and ne’er the twain shall meet.

But when you get a quasi-organization like Nuclear Matters to pay for ads in favor of Exelon taking over a new electricity distribution business, it’s pretty hard to get over the idea that the supposed separation isn’t really there.

Again, Nuclear Matters has a specific mission: to support existing, operating reactors by influencing policies at the federal, state and local levels that will encourage continued operation of those reactors. That might not be exactly in their own words, but that’s a very fair, unbiased effort at explaining their mission.

If we put it in our words, it would be something like this: Nuclear Matters’ mission is to force ratepayers to bail out dangerous, aging and uneconomic nuclear reactors and keep them bailed out until they either melt down or Exelon deigns to stop forcing ratepayers to bail them out.

Either way, Nuclear Matters’ mission would seem to have nothing to do with the proposed Exelon-Pepco merger, which is being sold by both utilities to the PSCs as something that would benefit ratepayers and improve reliability in the Pepco service area.

But with Nuclear Matters in the picture, the truth emerges. This proposed merger isn’t about reliability or improving ratepayer satisfaction. It is part of Exelon’s overall effort to bail out its nuclear fleet. If the merger is approved, then we can be sure the money from ratepayers in Baltimore, Washington, DC, suburban Maryland and across the region will be going to prop up those failed reactors that litter the Illinois landscape.

Is that really in the best interests of Maryland and DC ratepayers?

And will the PSCs in Maryland and DC take the recommendations of their own watchdogs, who in both jurisdictions have recommended the merger be rejected, or will they sit back and allow Exelon to force us to bail out a half-dozen or more nuclear reactors now that provide our region no power and no benefit, and pay for their decommissioning and radioactive waste costs later?

By the way, similar ads in support of the merger have been running in the Washington Post. We wonder who paid for those?

Michael Mariotte

March 23, 2015


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Filed under: Nuclear Economics, nuclear industry Tagged: Exelon, Exelon-Pepco takeover, Maryland PSC, Nuclear Matters, Pepco, Washington DC PSC

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