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Nuclear Costs

Estimates for new reactor construction costs continue to sky-rocket. Conservative estimates range between $6 and $12 billion per reactor but Standard & Poor's predicts a continued rise. The nuclear power industry is lobbying for heavy federal subsidization including unlimited loan guarantees but the Congressional Budget Office predicts the risk of default will be well over 50 percent, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Beyond Nuclear opposes taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for the nuclear energy industry.

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Saturday
Jan302010

Beyond Nuclear press statement on DOE call for nuclear loan guarantee expansion and announcement of radioactive waste panel

Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear's watchdog on radioactive waste and nuclear power subsidies, issued a press statement in response to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu's proposal to more than double the federal nuclear loan guarantee program from $20.5 billion to $54.5 billion, as well as his announcement on the membership of his long-awaited "blue ribbon commission" on high-level radioactive waste management. Barack Obama's Presidential Memorandum about the radioactive waste panel has a very telling title: "Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future". As reflected in the introductory language, it seems the Obama administration sees the unsolved, nearly 70-year-old (1942-2010) radioactive waste dilemma not as a mounting threat to public safety, health, and the environment, but more as a pesky public relations impediment impediment to the industry's coveted, will-o-the-wisp "nuclear renaissance." President Obama writes: "Expanding our Nation's capacity to generate clean nuclear energy is crucial to our ability to combat climate change, enhance energy security, and increase economic prosperity. My Administration is undertaking substantial steps to expand the safe, secure, and responsible use of nuclear energy. These efforts are critical to accomplishing many of my Administration's most significant goals." In terms of dirty, dangerous, and expensive nuclear power and radioactive waste, this is not change we can believe in. Regarding expanding nuclear loan guarantees, the National Taxpayers Union has blogged that this could easily turn into a ten billion dollar boondoggle. Consumer advocate and Green Party/independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, along with a coalition of national environmental groups including Beyond Nuclear, have written Energy Secretary Chu requesting a meeting to discuss energy policy in response to these developments of the past few days.

Thursday
Jan282010

Nuclear power and the bottomless bank

Roger Witherspoon, writing in E! Magazine, examines the exorbitant costs of new reactors and how new expansion could shift both the risks and the financial burden onto taxpayers. He concludes with this gem of a quote about the nuclear industry from Ellen Vancko of the Union of Concerned Scientists: " If they can eliminate the public and tie the hands of the regulators and get the taxpayers to pick up the bill, they should be able to move along quite nicely." 

Friday
Jan152010

Energy Secretary Chu vows to "accelerate" nuclear loan guarantees, while affirming Yucca dump's cancellation

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, at a briefing on the Department of Energy's priorities for 2010, admitted that finalizing the first round of $18.5 billion in taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantees for financing new atomic reactors has proven "more complicated" than he originally thought it would be. Chu assured that the first nuclear loan guarantees would be issued "soon," despite the fact that DOE's top pick candidates are plagued with problems: the partners behind the proposed South Texas Project "Advanced Boiling Water Reactors" are embroiled in a $32 billion internecine legal dispute; the AP1000s planned at Vogtle GA and Summer SC have a major safety related design flaw, as does the Areva "Evolutionary Power Reactor" targeted at Calvert Cliffs MD. On a brighter note, Chu affirmed that "Yucca Mountain is off the table," and added that his blue ribbon commission, established to study alternatives to Yucca, will not be charged with identifying a new centralized geologic repository to take its place. This raises the specter, however, that dirty, dangerous, and expensive reprocessing may be pushed as the latest "illusion of a solution" to the radioactive waste dilemma.

Thursday
Jan142010

FPL halts two new reactors targeted at Turkey Point!

In what appears to be a major victory for anti-nuclear efforts in Florida, the state's Public Utility Commission  (PUC) has rejected Florida Power and Light's (FPL) request for a massive electricity rate increase, which would have largely gone to pay for two new Toshiba-Westinghouse AP-1000 reactors at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant near Miami. This victory is all the more significant, in that the State of Florida had already empowered its PUC to approve "Construction Work in Progress," charging ratepayers on their bills in advance to build new reactors, many years before any electricity is actually delivered. However, the PUC has decided to refuse such charges.  FPL responded by halting its plans to pursue the two new reactors past the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing phase. Thus, continued anti-nuclear vigilance will be required, as FPL will undoubtedly try again to force its ratepayers to bear the financial burdens and risks of building new reactors, while offering little to none of the projected profits in return. David Kraft of Nuclear Energy Information Service in Chicago asserts that this decision could well set back the nuclear power relapse nation-wide.

Monday
Jan112010

ESBWR design may soon dwindle to a single proposed new reactor in U.S.

Detroit Edison may be the only nuclear utility in the U.S. to continue standing by the General Electric-Hitachi "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) design if Dominion Nuclear of Virginia abandons it. Dominion is reported to now be considering a new Areva EPR or Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000 reactor, instead of an ESBWR at its North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia. Beyond Nuclear has helped lead the environmental coalition effort to block a new ESBWR targeted at Detroit Edison's Fermi nuclear power plant in Monroe, Michigan -- most recently raising quality assurance contentions regarding the ESBWR design and the Fermi 3 new reactor license application. Dominion's cold shoulder would be an especially bad blow to the ESBWR design, given North Anna is the reference reactor for the design -- meaning it was supposed to set precedents for NRC licensing decisions for ESBWRs proposed across the U.S. However, about a year ago, Entergy and other nuclear utility coalition partners in NuStart decided to abandon the ESBWR proposed at River Bend, LA; Entergy also abandoned an ESBWR proposed at Grand Gulf, MS; and Exelon abandoned two ESBWRs targeted at Victoria County Station, TX. This begs the question -- what doesn't Detroit Edison get that these other nuclear utilities do about the problems with the ESBWR design? DOE also seems to understand the ESBWR's problems -- DOE has indicated it will not grant taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to ESBWR proposals at the present time.