Aging reactors: a failure to plan that will haunt nuclear utilities

Exelon's aging GE Mark I reactors at Peach Bottom. Photo by

Exelon’s aging GE Mark I reactors at Peach Bottom. Photo by

One reason that giant nuclear utilities like Exelon, Entergy, Duke and others are so aggressively taking extraordinary steps to force ratepayers to keep their obsolete, aging reactors operating at any cost is that these utilities have failed to adequately plan for the reality that reactors have a limited operational life and at some point will have to be retired.

The issue is global, it isn’t confined to the U.S., but the ramifications of this failure to plan, or perhaps to accept the reality that no machinery lasts forever–especially not the kind exposed to the tremendous heat and radiation levels that nuclear reactors are–will have its greatest impact in the deregulated states of the U.S.  Continue reading

The return of Yucca Mountain?

yucca102The tortured history of the Yucca Mountain radioactive waste project took another twist Thursday as the NRC released a key portion of its Safety Evaluation Report (SER) for the project.

Judging from the reaction of the nuclear industry and its backers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the release of Volume 3 (of five volumes, three of which are not yet completed) meant that the radwaste trains would begin rolling into the mountain this morning.  Continue reading

Why Nuclear Matters doesn’t matter

Nuclear Matters doesn't matter because its fundamental argument doesn't make sense. Not to these marchers, not to the general public, not even to politicians.

Nuclear Matters doesn’t matter because its fundamental argument doesn’t make sense. Not to these marchers, not to the general public, not even to politicians.

Regular readers of GreenWorld know that we have dropped a lot of digital ink writing about Nuclear Matters, the astroturf group launched by Exelon early this year to try to make the case to save the utility’s aging and uneconomic nuclear fleet.

Exelon and the PR firm Sloane and Company that runs the public end of Nuclear Matters have assembled a seemingly potent team of paid-for spokespeople to make the utility’s case: former Senators like Evan Bayh and Judd Gregg; former DOE secretary James Abraham; and the big catch, former EPA Administrator, Obama climate czar, and current League of Conservation Voters board chair Carol Browner.  Continue reading

Will NRC allow more foreign ownership of U.S. reactors?

Section 103(d) of the Atomic Energy Act (42 U.S.C. § 2133) states in plain language: “No license may be issued to an alien or any corporation or other entity if the Commission knows or has reason to believe it is owned, controlled, or dominated by an alien, a foreign corporation, or a foreign government.”

Those words are the law of the land, and for decades they stood unchallenged and uncontroversial.

And then along came Electricite de France (EDF), a utility mostly owned by the French government, with major expansionist dreams.  Continue reading

NEI’s Exelon numbers don’t add up

There are two GE Mark I reactors at Exelon's uneconomic Quad Cities site.

There are two old and particularly dangerous GE Mark I reactors at Exelon’s uneconomic Quad Cities site.

On May 29, 2014, the Illinois House, under pressure from the state’s largest utility Exelon, which is also the nation’s most nuclear-dependent utility, passed a resolution (HR 1146)  that urged state agencies to prepare reports that would show just how super Exelon’s reactors are and urged FERC and the EPA to take steps to ensure that Exelon’s uneconomic reactors will stay open anyway because they are just so super.

The resolution is full of silly statements, half-truths, and Exelon-serving verbiage (for example, the resolution even cites the controversial and thoroughly disputed November 2013 letter from four pro-nuclear climate scientists which urged environmentalists to support nuclear power–but not the old reactors now in use, those scientists want development of “safer” reactor designs), but the House made its point, and the state agencies are busy working on those reports.  Continue reading

Nuclear heartburn: even IEA says solar could become world’s dominant energy source

IEA projections for solar PV by region.

IEA projections for solar PV by region.

Sending chills down the spine of nuclear and coal utility executives across the world, the International Energy Agency (IEA) yesterday released two reports that assert solar power could become the dominant source of global electricity production by mid-century.

This is the same IEA that has consistently and dramatically underestimated the potential contribution of renewables over more than a decade. As we pointed out on July 17, 2014,  since at least 2000, Greenpeace has been far more accurate when projecting renewable energy use than the IEA. As RenewEconomy, based in Australia, put it, “The forecasts from the IEA are not the most dramatic that can be found, but they are significant because the IEA is essentially a conservative organisation that was created in the 1970s to defend developed countries’ access to fossil fuels.”  Continue reading

Still no confidence in NRC radwaste policy

There are 43 dry casks--neither hardened nor secure--sitting outside at the shuttered Connecticut Yankee reactor.

There are 43 dry casks–neither hardened nor secure–sitting outside at the shuttered Connecticut Yankee reactor.

On June 8, 2012, a federal court threw out the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “waste confidence” policy, setting into motion a chain of events that still hasn’t stopped rattling the commission and the entire nuclear power industry.

The court ruled that with the shutdown of the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada, radioactive waste repository and no new repository on the horizon, the NRC had no basis to say that it had confidence that radioactive waste would always be managed safely.

Since the Atomic Energy Act requires that the NRC have such confidence in order to issue reactor licenses (and license renewals), the NRC was forced to institute a moratorium on issuance of all reactor licenses. Continue reading