New York Just Proved Why Bailing Out Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea

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New York approved a $7.6-$10 billion subsidy to prop up uncompetitive nuclear power plants–twice as much money as it will take for the state to achieve a goal to generate 50% of its electricity with renewables by 2030.

Yesterday, New York became the first state to adopt a policy to subsidize aging, uncompetitive nuclear reactors. The state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates utility companies, passed a Clean Energy Standard that combines a 50% renewable energy standard by 2030 with massive subsidies to prop up uneconomical reactors. (You can download the whole PSC order here.)

Prepare yourself for loud celebrations from the nuclear industry, heaping praise on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and calling for other states to emulate the Empire State with lucrative incentives to insulate the nuclear industry from competition and to postpone closures of uneconomical reactors.

We hate to throw water on the parade, but the move actually proves what a bad idea it is to provide subsidies like this to prop up nuclear power. Let’s jump to the punch line, then we can fill in the blanks: New York just committed to spending twice as much money propping up old nuclear reactors than on new renewable energy, to get 2-3 times less energy from nuclear as renewables in the end.

Spend more, get less electricity, get more carbon emissions–and get a lot of radioactive waste.

Basically all of the $7.6 billion in nuclear subsidies will leave New Yorkers’ bank accounts and go to companies headquartered in Chicago and Paris: Exelon and Electricite de France, which jointly own the company that will own all of the bailed-out reactors. The money will produce not one more job for unemployed New Yorkers, put not one more solar panel on a roof, provide not one more dollar of economic development. And by soaking up so much of New Yorkers’ energy dollars, the subsidies could prevent them from investing in energy efficiency and renewables.

There is going to be a lot of pain—economic, human, and environmental—for no real gain, and possibly a lot of political blowback for Governor Cuomo in the next election. Power bill hikes will start in May 2017, as New Yorkers get hit with $480 million per year in surcharges for nuclear power.

Incentive proposals for existing reactors have been debated in Illinois and Ohio since 2014, and cropped up in Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania this year. However, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars a year into supporting aging reactors–most of which are supposed to be in competitive energy markets–has had difficulty gaining traction, resulting in Exelon’s announcement in June that it will close the Clinton and Quad Cities 1 and 2 reactors in Illinois.

Nuclear boosters will argue that New York is setting a precedent for other states to prop up the industry by “valuing” nuclear power’s role in combating climate change. But to those close paying attention, it proves just the opposite: bailing out aging, uneconomical reactors is a massive diversion of time and money needed to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other strategies for reducing emissions.

Here’s why.

Other states won’t all be able to replicate the unique circumstances that enabled New York to ram through such a massive bailout in just a few months. In most other states, nuclear subsidy proposals have been proposed legislatively or through adjudicated processes where there has been a full, transparent review. In Illinois, Exelon requires legislation to be enacted authorizing a nuclear subsidy program, and has been unable to convince legislators that the billion-dollar cost of the program is justified, even though it would be far less expensive than the subsidies proposed in New York ($300 million/year for eleven reactors, compared to $480 million/year for four reactors). In Ohio, a massive “black box” subsidy for FirstEnergy’s nuclear and coal plants has been challenged by extensive litigation, resulting in the company closing several coal units, and still may not survive a federal legal challenge.

In New York, Governor Cuomo ordered the PSC to create the nuclear subsidies through a fast-tracked proceeding, in which there was no transparency and the public had limited time to participate. The governor has a reputation for overstepping his authority to get the commission to do what he wants. Both the governor’s office and the PSC are under investigation by the US Attorney’s office and the New York Attorney General in similar cases, none of which involve anywhere close to the amount of money the nuclear subsidies would direct to a single corporation: Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (half-owned by Exelon).

The amount of support needed to reverse nuclear energy’s fortunes dwarfs what is needed to expand renewables, and actually requires states to prioritize nuclear over clean energy solutions. The New York Public Service Commission approved $7.6 billion subsidy to nuclear power plants as part of a Clean Energy Standard that also sets a goal of generating 50% of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030. The policy will lock in nuclear subsidies for 12 years (into 2029), for four reactors in one region of the state–Ginna, FitzPatrick, and Nine Mile Point 1 and 2–by declaring them a “public necessity.”

Subsidies for nuclear would be priced according to a measure the EPA uses to evaluate the social and environmental impacts of carbon emissions–the Social Cost of Carbon. The subsidies will increase over time, from 1.75 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2017 to 2.92 cents per kWh by 2027. The cost of subsidizing nuclear would go up from $480 million per year in the first two years to around $800 million per year in the final two years–assuming all of the reactors last that long, which is not a good bet given that no reactor in the world has run for more than 47 years and the PSC wants to push two of them all the way to 60.

It is not clear that EPA ever contemplated the Social Cost of Carbon being used this way. In effect, New Yorkers are being asked to pay for the full impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are NOT being produced, while fossil fuel generators that are releasing far more actual GHG emissions are not bearing the cost of actual environmental and social harms resulting from their business. The entire benefit of the ratepayer charges will derive to the owner/s of nuclear power plants, not toward mitigating the harms caused by greenhouse gas pollution.

By the end of the 12-year subsidy period, New York will end up spending twice as much money propping up old nuclear power plants as on developing renewable energy–for what will turn out to be half as much energy, at the most. In addition the nuclear subsidy program could expand to include the two reactors at Indian Point under the same “public necessity” designation within the next couple of years, increasing the total cost to more than $10 billion and reversing the state’s longstanding policy of closing those reactors.

The subsidies are intended to keep the four upstate reactors operating, since Ginna and FitzPatrick are now too expensive to operate without a lot of subsidies. Together, the four reactors can generate at most 27 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity per year (27 billion kWh, about 15% of the state’s total electricity consumption). To meet the 50% renewable energy goal, the PSC estimates it will develop at least enough new wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources to generate about 34 million MWh per year. That is 25% more renewable energy than nuclear, at half the cost of the nuclear subsidies.

And here’s the kicker: the state will still have to replace almost all of the nuclear with renewables and efficiency by 2030, anyway. The ostensible purpose for the nuclear subsidies is to ensure the state meets its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. The governor claims that closed nuclear plants would be replaced with natural gas plants, increasing CO2 emissions and making it impossible to meet the emissions goal.

But half of the nuclear reactors covered by the subsidies aren’t even licensed to operate until 2030 and will close down before then, regardless of how much money New York throws at them in the mean time. Nine Mile Point 1 and Ginna are two of the oldest reactors in the world, and their 60-year licenses expire in 2029. Their closures would reduce the amount of nuclear power online in 2030 to at most 17 million MWh, half as much as the new renewable energy sources would be generating.

FitzPatrick is already slated to close in January 2017, a decision the nuclear subsidies are intended to reverse (more below). There is no reason to believe that reactor would continue operating after the subsidies expire in March 2029, which would leave Nine Mile Point 2 as the only reactor licensed to operate past 2030, and generating at most 10 million MWh per year–less than one-third as much as the new renewables.

That’s $7.6 billion in subsidies, twice as much as for renewables, resulting in three times less energy. This is the kind of logic that prevails in overpriced New York neighborhoods, where people living off of trust funds or Wall Street gigs can afford to pay a fortune to live in a closet.

If the electricity generated by nuclear power really is needed to keep emissions down, then almost all of it will need to be replaced by 2030, anyway. And if 25% more renewables can be built for half the cost of the nuclear subsidies, then the state could reduce emissions even more by implementing lower cost renewable energy. In fact, just by following the examples of other states that are growing renewables and improving efficiency faster than New York, the state could easily exceed its targets for renewables and GHG emissions. A study commissioned by environmental groups found that just expanding energy efficiency in New York–which would not require subsidies and would actually save consumers money–could reduce electricity demand by as much as the bailed-out nuclear reactors can generate by 2030. So why even bother with a bailout?

Governor Cuomo and the PSC had to ignore all of these facts in order to justify subsidizing the nuclear industry. The PSC didn’t do any studies to see if the closure of reactors would actually affect the state’s emissions goals, and it considered no alternatives to propping up nuclear reactors—such as investing more in renewables and efficiency. The commission only considered different methods subsidizing reactors to prevent them from closing next year.

They also had to ignore the voices of New Yorkers, who resoundingly oppose the governor on this. Despite a full-court press by Exelon and the labor unions to drum up public support for nuclear, more than 80% of the public who spoke out at public hearings and filed comments in the case are against the nuclear subsidies, as are local elected officials, state legislators, and big businesses.

The policy the PSC adopted lacks any way out of the subsidies: no plan to phase reactors out, no back-up plans in case reactors close anyway. In fact, it’s actually an all-or-nothing policy. The whole 12-year commitment is tied to just one reactor: FitzPatrick. The current owner, Entergy, decided last year that it will close FitzPatrick in January 2017 and has been making the necessary preparations: notifying all of the relevant agencies, withdrawing applications for license amendments needed to continue operating, and canceling plans to refuel in September (next month). Entergy’s plan to run FitzPatrick until January was made to “burn up” more of the unused fuel in the reactor before the final shutdown.

Before announcing the final nuclear subsidy proposal less than a month ago, the governor brokered a negotiation for Entergy to sell FitzPatrick to Exelon. Entergy has stood firm in its plan to close FitzPatrick regardless of what subsidies the state provides, so the only possible option to keep the reactor operating is for another company to take it over, for which Exelon is the only candidate. The August 1 decision by the PSC actually requires Exelon to do it or else the 12-year subsidy commitment will be cancelled. So, in fact, it appears that the whole nuclear subsidy plan is really about preventing one reactor from closing–FitzPatrick, which will probably shut down before 2030, anyway, even with the subsidies.

One has to ask, if the money on the table is not enough to convince Entergy to keep operating FitzPatrick, then why on earth would Exelon agree to take it over and run it for 12 more years? One simple answer: it’s the price of a precedent. Exelon has become increasingly desperate to get someone, somewhere to provide the bailout necessary to restore its increasingly uncompetitive nuclear fleet to profitability, and the other watering holes in the desert have been drying up. Illinois has not come through for going on three years, and even potential compromise legislation is not likely to include the game-changing subsidies Exelon really wants. The massive subsidies approved by New York yesterday are large enough to do that, and the price for Exelon appears to be taking on the risk of owning and operating FitzPatrick.

Unfortunately for New Yorkers, a deal good enough to be worth Exelon’s while is going to be a terrible deal for the state. $7.6 billion in subsidies, all to be paid by electricity customers, is going to strain everyone, but especially low-income consumers, businesses, local governments and school districts. The burden on local communities is likely to be especially painful. Because the state imposed caps on local property tax increases a few years ago, higher costs are likely to force additional cuts in school programs and other vital services.

Observers believe Governor Cuomo’s real motivation for the nuclear subsidies is to avoid being held accountable for job losses in rural upstate counties, where he performed poorly in 2014. If that’s the case, then he may go down in history as Governor Ahab, who chased the nuclear white whale but lost his ship. The full impact of the electricity bill hikes will hit starting in May 2017–more than a year before the next gubernatorial election in 2018.  Every community and business in New York will be feeling the pain from the nuclear bailout long before then—and Governor Cuomo will be the only person to blame.

Breakdown of the NY PSC’s Clean Energy Standard Policy

Renewables

  • Sets an enforceable requirement that New York obtain 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030. The policy is actually less ambitious than it seems, because the definition of renewables includes old, large-scale hydropower facilities that generate about 15% of the state’s electricity. Other leading states on renewables, including California, Oregon, and Washington, do not include large hydro as renewable (which it is not). So New York’s RPS is only a 35% RPS, by comparison.
  • Includes two “tiers” of renewable energy subsidies, in the form of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) –– one for new renewable energy sources, and one for existing renewable energy sources, excluding the large hydro facilities, which are owned by the New York Power Authority (NYPA).
  • RECs will be priced by competitive auctions administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
  • Requires all “Load-Serving Entities” (LSEs) to purchase RECs. LSEs include all entities that sell electricity to end users: distribution utilities and third-party electricity supply companies (ESCOs).

Nuclear

  • Creates a third tier to subsidize nuclear power through Zero Emissions Credits (ZECs). The nuclear tier is separate from the renewable energy standard.
  • Nuclear reactors become eligible for ZECs when their “preservation” is designated a “public necessity” by the PSC. The PSC decision declares four reactors eligible for the program: James A. FitzPatrick, R.E. Ginna, and Nine Mile Point 1 and 2. The other two reactors, Indian Point 2 and 3, could become eligible after the first two years.
  • Characterizes nuclear power as a “bridge” to clean energy. Of course, the last time a dirty energy source (natural gas) was labeled a bridge to clean energy or “transition fuel,” we ended up with more of that than anything else, a widespread, toxic extraction industry (fracking), and a worsening global warming trend.
  • Subsidies are provided for twelve years, from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2029.
  • ZECs are priced based on the EPA’s social cost of carbon (SCC), with adjustments every two years. Subsidies start at $17.48/MWh for the first two years and escalate to $29.15/MWh in the last two years.
  • The 12-year subsidy commitment is void if the FitzPatrick reactor stops operating. The requirement is further conditioned on Exelon completing the purchase of FitzPatrick in September 2018.
  • ZEC cap: The total amount of ZECs is capped at 27.6 million MWh. That is equal to about 94% of the maximum amount of electricity the four reactors could generate in a single year.
  • ZEC floor: Reactors must generate at least 23.5 million MWh per year, or their owners face penalties.
  • Reactor Closures: The PSC is effectively mandating all reactors to operate for the entire 12 years. Whenever a reactor closes, the ZEC cap is reduced by one-third, or 9.2 million MWh. That is twice as much electricity as Ginna and Nine Mile Point 1 each generate (4.6-4.8 million MWh/year), and significantly more than FitzPatrick (6.6 million MWh). So the closure of any one of them would leave fewer subsidies available than the remaining ones would, ostensibly, need to continue operating.

— authored by Tim Judson

Tim is the Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

GreenWorld’s Future:

Dear GreenWorld readers,

As you have probably heard, GreenWorld’s founder, editor, and primary author, Michael Mariotte, passed away in May. That loss been difficult for all those who have known him, whether personally, professionally, or through his inimitable written voice. The blog has taken a needed and appropriate hiatus, as we adjust to life without Michael and think through the editorial plan for GreenWorld. We apologize for the gap in communication–Michael was as devoted to the readers of the blog as many of you have been to following it.

Michael founded GreenWorld out of his love for writing and reporting, which he had wanted to do more of for years. But he also had a mission: to fill an essential and long-standing gap in energy industry news coverage, by providing analysis of the clean energy transition, climate change, and related environmental issues from an informed perspective critical of nuclear power.

That gap still exists, and to an even greater degree without Michael to fill it. There have been major developments in just the last few months since Michael stopped writing, and we have missed sorely the insightful and incisive commentary he would have been able to provide.

So it is in that spirit that NIRS will continue GreenWorld. We will not be posting as frequently at first, and you will hear from a wider range of voices going forward. But we intend to keep up GreenWorld’s mission and uphold the same standards of accuracy and quality that the blog has become known and respected for with Michael at the editorial helm.

Our first post will go up later today, analyzing the Clean Energy Standard adopted in New York yesterday–an issue about which Michael would have been publishing frequently this year.

Please let us know what you think, in comments or by email at nirs@nirs.org.

For a Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free World,

Tim Judson

Executive Director

Nuclear Information and Resource Service

 

mariotteobit

Michael Mariotte: Counterweight to Nuclear Energy (1952 – 2016)

Let us be clear: without Michael Mariotte’s decision in the mid 1980’s to devote his talents to stopping the nuclear industry, many things would be very different today. Michael could not do what he did without Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and the many thousands of people who work with NIRS could not have produced the results they did without Michael at the helm. This is one telling of this story.

Dispassionate passion: The smartest one in almost any room… but never resting on his own analysis; always digging, asking the next question, checking the facts. Michael Mariotte was a journalist and an organizer and at bottom it was these talents that made his leadership of the civilian end of the US anti-nuclear community so deft. Michael’s dispassion was sometimes misunderstood as indifference, but he was standing back, watching as the pieces of a puzzle would come together. Michael’s ability to zero-in with the precision of a hawk on the pressure point that could lead to change, and then write the words that would mobilize thousands onto a path of action created much of the passion in our community that has resulted in so many victories over the last thirty years. (See Victories below.)

Michael’s dedication to evidence and documentation provided credible, reliable information and analysis from routine reporting to hardcore litigation. He fully supported and sometimes led nonviolent direct action.

Writing: Michael’s 31+ year tenure at NIRS is characterized by dedicated writing. He joined NIRS in February 1985 to write and edit Groundswell, NIRS publication for the Grassroots Anti-Nuclear Movement which provided in-depth reporting and analysis. In it Mariotte wrote articles so classic (including Nuclear Is Not the Solution the Greenhouse Problem) that many, if reprinted today, would hardly need update. NIRS had already established itself as the Go-To source for information on reactor operations and capacity factors, which were calculated weekly by staff and published twice a month in The Nuclear Monitor. Prior to the internet, this publication was the only readily available source of good facts on nuclear energy performance, and lack thereof, for the financial and policy worlds. He did not pursue a desire to go into the field of socially responsible investing rather stayed with NIRS to inform that realm of the financial and other dangers of nuclear power and its fuel chain. Michael kept The Nuclear Monitor alive and expanded it when publication of Groundswell ended (circa 1989). By 2000 with a staff of seven, he was far too busy with other aspects of NIRS work to write as he had before. Indeed hand-off of the publication of The Nuclear Monitor was a key element in NIRS’s affiliation with the World Information Service on Energy (WISE) that year. WISE continues regular production of the Nuclear Monitor in conjunction with NIRS.

Michael’s commitment to reporting shown through again on his daily log of events as the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns unfolded in 2011. The NIRS website often “broke” news that was only reported by others days and weeks later. Michael gave equal voice to the post-Chernobyl era when he visited Pripyat in 1996, organizing delegations of experts and activists. He visited Germany in 1997 and 1998 during the massive demonstrations and blockades against nuclear waste transport to a centralized nuclear waste site. In these travels Michael helped establish the NIRS / WISE network, a global chain of grassroots “relays” spanning the globe. The European portion of this network, with Michael and Tanya Murza (to later become his wife), hosted a major conference on Chernobyl in Kiev, 2006, the 20th anniversary of that nuclear horror.

GreenWorld, Michael’s blog is the “bookend” bringing Michael back to his first love: clear, insightful and often acerbic reporting on the state of the nuclear escapade. He started it in 2013 when he handed the NIRS Executive Director position to Timothy Judson, who had been a young activist at the Action Camps years before. As he moved into his role of NIRS President, GreenWorld became his primary platform for the last two-plus years. Michael’s last post May 2, 2016 was only two weeks before his death.

Legislative Action: Choose your battles. Do what you can to maximize your odds. Walk away when you can’t win, but be sure to reveal the tilt in the table as you go. Michael and NIRS lost some legislative battles in the 30 years that Michael led NIRS, but we won a lot more and a very key reason for that was that Michael knew how to “count votes.” Better than almost anyone. He retained a universe of small bits of information that he gathered in numerous dimensions that added up to a very keen sense of who we “had” on our side in Congress; who was hopeless; and how to swing the others. NIRS lost when Congress reversed what had been an enormous NIRS legal victory on reactor licensing, passing legislation allowing streamlined “one-step” licensing of new nuclear reactors… but the silver lining in the same energy bill, was NIRS’ equally historic reversal of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)’s policy called “Below Regulatory Concern” that would have deregulated about 1/4 of nuclear power’s so-called “low-level” radioactive waste and permitted it to be disposed into regular trash and commercial recycling streams. Michael was not a fundamentalist, he was a realist. At the same time he believed firmly that people have the real power.

In 1995, in the face of industry and government efforts to make the technically, morally, legally flawed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada on Western Shoshone land the nuclear power high-level waste dump, Michael designed the Stop Mobile Chernobyl Campaign. This national effort successfully stopped industry efforts to revise the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to allow shipment of the intensely radioactive nuclear fuel to the Yucca Mountain Site prior to approval of that site as a permanent repository. Enlisting the populations along the nuclear transport routes expanded our community greatly and the Stop Mobile Chernobyl campaign became a signature for building NIRS’s base at the very time that email and on-line organizing was being invented.

In the Bush-Cheney years, and on into the Obama administration, Michael and NIRS had a coordinating role in a large coalition of national groups opposing taxpayer funded nuclear “loan guarantees” that would underwrite new reactor development, and other subsidies to the nuclear industry. The coalition stopped expansion of this program time after time and created much more scrutiny for the loan-guarantee program overall. Michael did the grassroots outreach and action alerts that resulted in hundreds of thousands of electronic “hits” to congress over that period.

Electronic Organizing: NIRS had a computerized database of its supporters in the early 1990s thanks to Michael. As soon as “dial-up” existed, he created the very first electronic bulletin board that anti-nuclear people could post to… back before WINDOWS or “Websites.” When the NIRS website was set up, Michael became its librarian, personally posting thousands of relevant documents in a public space where people can download any of them (www.nirs.org). Michael created email distribution lists as soon as there was email, long before the advent of on-line email list services like “Democracy in Action.” When these major on-line list utilities became available, Michael helped NIRS supporters to swell into the tens of thousands.

Legal Action: Michael supported a great many grassroots actions to challenge nuclear licenses. This included research, recruiting experts, referrals to attorneys, bird dogging any Congressional and NRC actions on the cases and providing coverage in NIRS publications. He himself stepped into the ring (pro se) in 2008 as part of the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition, filing a challenge to the proposed 3rd nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay near Washington, D.C. The Coalition won, stopping the new reactor because of “foreign ownership,” thanks largely to Michael’s unwavering prosecution of the US utility Constellation and its French Partner, Electricité de France. NRC’s denial of a license for the construction of Calvert Cliffs Unit 3 was the first time the public had defeated a reactor operating license application, and is one of the crowning accomplishments of Michael’s long work to stop nuclear energy. This had the effect of also preventing the 9-Mile Point 3 nuclear reactor proposed in New York State on Lake Ontario by the same foreign ownership partnership.

NIRS, with local New Jersey organizations, challenged the license extension of the Oyster Creek nuclear reactor, the first time a full hearing was held and a contention accepted by the Atomic Safety Licensing Board. The historic contention was against continued operation of this Fukushima-Mark 1-style reactor with a severely corroded dry-well containment, pitted to half the thickness of the wall in many places at the bottom.

Michael pursued and publicized tips NIRS received that the fire barriers in many nuclear reactors were actually made out of combustible, flammable material (Thermolag). This resulted in major legal actions within the industry against the fraudulent company.

He supported NIRS staff, along with Union of Concerned Scientists, expert watch-dogging of the Davis-Besse reactor pressure vessel corrosion (“hole in the head”) and demand for investigation into NRC’s mishandling of the near disaster. This might have saved the world from a nuclear tragedy near Toledo in 2002, time-wise mid-way between Chernobyl and Fukushima.

NIRS was part of the successful court challenge to inadequate radiological standards for proposed high level radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

In 1999 Michael backed a creative scheme to ask the NRC to require renewable energy back-up power on all reactor sites in time for the 1999 “Y2K” computer roll-over.

Grassroots: All of the work NIRS has done has been possible because of the engagement with local people in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and other countries. Whether shining a spotlight on a bad federal regulation, pushing on Congress to do the right thing, or raising funds to pay expert witnesses, it is only possible with the hundreds and often thousands of NIRS supporters and allies taking action. Michael believed in this: we, together, have the power. He several times worked to mobilize people in a bigger way. He was part of the MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) at Madison Square Garden and outside the Capitol in DC (1979) and its revival in 2011 in Mountain View in the wake of Fukushima meltdowns. Michael instigated six Action Camps to train grassroots activists from 1998-2001 and supported two “climate convergences” in 2007 and 2008, all to teach nuclear issues and non-violent direct action. Michael also knew that NIRS and our community must lead on climate. He mobilized our community to be a key hub of the People’s Climate March in 2014 and the Paris Climate Summit activism in 2015. Michael knew how to move a movement. Michael also had absolutely no interest in the kind of drama that haunts some long-term leadership roles. This was a tremendous asset: NIRS staff were cut lose to WORK, to research, educate, organize, coordinate with the safe energy advocates across the country and around the world.

VICTORIES: None of these belong to Michael any more than the grassroots leaders, funders, and hundreds to tens of thousands of people who take action… but Michael put his War Horse stamina and courage of conviction into all of these and more…:

Nuclear Reactors Shutdown:

Since Michael took the helm at NIRS these operating reactors shutdown:
Big Rock Point
Crystal River 3
Connecticut Yankee
Kewaunee
Yankee Rowe
Maine Yankee
Millstone 1
San Onofre 1, 2, 3
Shoreham
Trojan
Zion 1, 2
Rancho Seco
Fort St. Vrain
Vermont Yankee

Reactor License Challenge:

Every single new US Construction / Operating License (COL) was challenged by NIRS or the grassroots network which NIRS supports.

Fuel Chain Front-End:

Michael’s support for, strategy and advocacy on behalf of an impoverished African American community in Homer, Louisiana were instrumental in stopping a uranium enrichment facility proposed a by major US European consortium. The NRC decision denying the license was an early environmental justice victory which is cited in law school text books. After Tennesseans kicked it out of their state, NIRS legally challenged it again in New Mexico.

Energy Economics:

Michael helped to ensure that the budding socially-responsible investment community was fully informed about the tremendous financial debacle of the first-build of reactors, which included 99 cancelations, many after significant investments by teacher’s retirement funds and others. He worked with international allies to prevent investments in reactors and nuclear fuel chain facilities.

So-Called “Low-Level” Waste:

The 1985 Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act triggered scores of industry and government attempts to site new dumps. NIRS, with Michael’s strong support, assisted challenges in 20 states against new unlined, soil trench burial of so-called “low-level” waste (some hotter than nuclear weapons high level waste), weakening regulations and shifting liability for commercial nuclear power waste to states. NIRS continues to fight to keep radioactive waste from being deregulated or cleared from radioactive controls. Michael was instrumental in the big victory overturning the NRC “Below Regulatory Control” or BRC Policies in 1992 but repeated that fight eleven more times against NRC and other federal and state agencies and international entities.

High-Level Waste / Mobile Chernobyl:

Consolidated storage sites stopped during Michael’s tenure:
Tennessee
West Virginia
Mescalero Apache Reservation (NM)
Skull Valley Goshute Reservation (UT)
Yucca Mountain, Western Shoshone land (NV)
The Nuclear Waste Negotiator was defunded and 25 tribes sent “bribe” money back to DOE
The Stop Mobile Chernobyl Campaign educated the nation on nuclear waste transport and supported President Clinton’s veto of revisions to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
The DOE’s license application for a repository at Yucca Mountain was withdrawn and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stopped reviewing it (until reversed by court order).

MOX / Plutonium:

Every step of the MOX (mixed oxide) plutonium fuel program was challenged and every license step had an intervention

Climate Change:

In 2006, Michael helped mobilize an international alliance of anti-nuclear groups for United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen, which prevented nuclear power from being adopted as a solution to global warming. In 2014, he orchestrated a mobilization of thousands of anti-nuclear activists for the People’s Climate March under the banner of a Nuclear-Free, Carbon-Free contingent.

After a brave struggle against pancreatic cancer for three years, Michael died peacefully at home and his family on May 16, 2016 at 63 years of age. He is survived by his wife Tanya, their young daughters Zoryana and Kateryna, his friend and ex-wife Lynn, and their children Nicole and Richard, as well as his sister Julie, brother Jeff, and sister-in-law Marsheila. And of course he leaves a seasoned, experienced and growing anti-nuclear movement with many more victories to win. He asked friends and colleagues to do something fun in his memory. That was his way, to honor life by living and enjoying it to the fullest.

* * *

Washington Post Obituary

Washington City Paper Obituary

New York Times Obituary

Exelon seems to think the rules are for others

Cover sheet of NRC letter to Exelon raising questions about the company's efforts to reclassify public documents on emergency planning.

Cover sheet of NRC letter to Exelon raising questions about the company’s efforts to reclassify public documents on emergency planning.

It might seem that we’re guilty of dumping on Exelon in these pages, which is possibly true, especially since there is an apparently endless supply of Exelon-initiated issues worthy of bringing to public attention. After all, Exelon is the nation’s largest electric utility, the largest nuclear utility, and while we haven’t developed a test for this yet, quite likely the nation’s greediest electric utility. Continue reading

How to take on the nuclear shills: here’s one approach.

Exelon's aging, unprofitable Quad Cities reactors.

Exelon’s aging, unprofitable Quad Cities reactors.

Earlier this month, we reported that climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and the pro-nuclear Breakthrough Institute’s Michael Shellenberger had leaped–apparently on their own–into the battle over the future of some of Exelon’s unprofitable nuclear reactors in Illinois.

In a nutshell, Exelon wants a taxpayer and/or ratepayer (it doesn’t really care where the money comes from) bailout to ensure that Exelon will receive a profit, whether the reactors themselves are profitable or not. They aren’t, and a Clinton reactor official (the most endangered of Exelon’s fleet) said this week that even with a bailout Clinton wouldn’t be profitable for “five to seven years.” Continue reading

New radwaste plan is another “con” from DOE

Likely transport routes and amounts of radwaste that would be sent to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, if that proposal should be resurrected.

Likely transport routes and amounts of radwaste that would be sent to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, if that proposal should be resurrected.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has a new generation of leadership; “larger than life” John Kotek is promoting nuclear energy via selling a “durable solution” to the problem of deadly radioactive waste that is the direct result of generating electric power from the heat of fission. Without a perceived solution to handling this existential problem, promotion of more nuclear energy usually falls on deaf ears. After all, wastes that will be a hazard to all life on Earth over the next million years, even when contained, do pose a threat. And the DOE’s track record on radioactive waste, exemplified by the failed Yucca Mountain project, hardly inspires confidence. Continue reading

How low can they go? Hansen, Shellenberger now shilling for Exelon

Exelon's Clinton reactor nearly bankrupted the small utility and rural co-ops that originally built it. Despite being bought for a few cents on the dollar by Exelon, it still isn't economic and Exelon is "threatening" to close it. Photo by cryptome.org.

Exelon’s Clinton reactor nearly bankrupted the small utility and rural co-ops that originally built it. Despite being bought for a few cents on the dollar by Exelon, it still isn’t economic and Exelon is “threatening” to close it. Photo by cryptome.org.

While some potential legal challenges remain, the approval of the Exelon-Pepco merger by the Washington, D.C. Public Service Commission means that Exelon is now not only the largest nuclear powered utility in the U.S., it is the largest electric utility period. And with that steady stream of regulated, and non-nuclear, Pepco money filling its coffers, you’d think that Exelon’s continuing “threats” to close up to three of its Illinois reactor sites unless it obtains more bailouts from beleaguered Illinois taxpayers and ratepayers would fall on deaf ears. Or maybe Exelon is now trying to achieve “too big to fail” status? Continue reading