Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, June 6, 2014

SCANA has applied for its seventh rate increase for construction of its two new Summer reactors. As you can see from this photo taken May 22, 2014, they're a long way from being finished.

SCANA has applied for its seventh rate increase for construction of its two new Summer reactors. As you can see from this photo taken May 22, 2014, they’re a long way from being finished.

The EPA’s proposed new carbon rules have dominated the news this week, but there has been more happening–especially on the clean energy front. So let’s get right into this week’s Nuclear Newsreel…

Except that the proposed rules’ effect on nuclear power continues to be an issue and two new articles discuss how these rules, if finalized as they are currently written, would benefit the nuclear industry. 

Here’s the International Business Times take: Obama carbon plan could boost troubled U.S. nuclear industry. This article dovetails with our own writing on the issue, and focuses on the proposed rules’ impact on existing reactors.

But Platt’s reveals that Standard & Poor’s also sees a potential benefit for possible new reactors.  That may turn out to be the case, although our guess is that the EPA’s proposal offers too little to overcome the enormous cost of new reactors, especially in deregulated markets.

In any case, it’s essential to oppose the EPA proposals on nuclear power; you can take the first step in doing so by adding your name to our petition to President Obama here. We’ll be delivering that petition to the White House in a few weeks–so there is plenty of time for you to encourage your friends and colleagues to sign too.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman once again nails it on the head on the climate rules generally in this piece that begins: “Maybe it’s me, but the predictable right-wing cries of outrage over the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules on carbon seem oddly muted and unfocused. I mean, these are the people who managed to create national outrage over nonexistent death panels. Now the Obama administration is doing something that really will impose at least some pain on some people. Where are the eye-catching fake horror stories?”

Maybe that’s why this year, electric utilities, which are usually careful to play both sides and tend to divide their campaign contributions fairly equally among the two major political parties have taken a sharp right turn. In fact, they are backing Republicans big time in this year’s Senate elections.  Another reason may be because Republicans, as indicated by this post in the very Republican-leaning National Review, are mouthing every one of Exelon’s talking points on nuclear power. Really, it makes one wonder whether Exelon wrote this piece itself and then found someone to put their name on it….

And here’s a reminder of just how much new reactors cost ratepayers in regulated states. SCANA has applied for its seventh rate increase to cover construction costs for the two new reactors it is building at its Summer site. As you can see from the photo at the top of the page, they’re not exactly close to being finished either, so ratepayers there can expect many more increases in coming years. As the Columbia State reports, “Under the plan, they would be paying $236 more per year in 2014 than they were in 2008–a 37 percent increase. Consumers likely face five more years of increases to pay for two new nuclear plants under construction in Fairfield County, just north of Columbia.”

Over at the NRC, staffers are decidely not happy. Global Security Newswire reports “Seventy-five percent of Nuclear Regulatory Commission employees who participated in an internal survey said they received poor performance reviews after registering formal objections to agency decisions, a report made public Wednesday says.”

Not all the news from Ukraine is bad these days. A major European-wide victory was won yesterday when a multi-governmental organization ruled, in a matter brought by Ukrainian environmental groups include Ecoclub in Rivne (NIRS/WISE network member) and the National Ecological Center of Ukraine based in Kyiv, that “all aging nuclear power stations in Europe will have to be submitted to an environmental impact assessment before a licence renewal or the approval of a 10-year-periodic safety review.” Jan Haverkamp from Greenpeace explains the issue and victory here.

Clean Energy

The U.S. media doesn’t seem to have noticed, but the Financial Times in London certainly did in a strongly-worded editorial that begins “Sometimes it seems as though the different branches of the Obama administration are not on speaking terms. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency launched a plan to make US states limit their carbon dioxide emissions. On Tuesday, the Commerce Department said it would raise the cost for them to comply.” The editorial reports that the Commerce Department plans to impose tariffs of up to 35.2% on solar panels imported from China. As the Times notes, “The plunging cost of solarpanels, largely a result of overcapacity among Chinese producers, is one of the great success stories of renewable energy. In some parts of the US, helped by tax breaks, solar can now compete head-to-head with fossil fuels. The tariffs would put that success at risk.” The Times says the Obama Administration should be embarrassed by this move–as indeed it should. And it should reverse the decision as soon as possible.

installed-solar-capacity-and-cost-usThe plunging cost of solar power obviously is what is causing its rapid growth in the U.S. and worldwide–and that’s a great thing. This article from CleanTechnica reports on a new history of solar economics written by John Farrell at the Institute for Self-Reliant States. It documents how those costs have been falling and projects continued cost declines (and continued rapid solar deployment) through at least 2030. Let’s hope the Obama Administration doesn’t blow this happy trend.

That trend has helped lead to this remarkable fact: renewable energy now accounts for more than 20% of global energy production. While that figure includes some unsustainable biomass and large hydropower, those are declining in their percentage of production while clean renewable sources are increasing.

Still, here’s a reminder that the solar revolution is not inevitable: policies do matter and Ohio has just taken a giant step backwards into the 20th century. It’s a fun read, which you can tell from the title: Is Ohio too stupid for solar power? But the point is serious. The nuclear and fossil fuel industries are not taking their upcoming demise lying down; they’re fighting back by attempting to block new renewables; attempting to recast nuclear power as a “clean” energy source and thus seeking new “clean energy standards” to supplant the Renewable Energy Standards that exist in 29 states; and, as we’ve reported on frequently and economist Mark Cooper argues in his GreenWorld post today, attempting to rig the marketplace to favor nuclear power over renewables.

A sea of anti-nuclear flags and banners at renewable energy rally in Berlin in May. Can we see a similar scene in NYC in September?

A sea of anti-nuclear flags and banners at renewable energy rally in Berlin in May. Can we see a similar scene in NYC in September?

Finally, a reminder of our current poll on the September 20 climate march and rally in New York City. Please let us know if you are interested in coming, and/or interested in helping organize the largest possible anti-nuclear contingent to this event (and if the latter, please send us an e-mail so we can follow up with you!). Your responses will play a major role in determining how much resources we can allocate for this. We’re ready and willing to work to make this the largest and most visible anti-nuclear showing in decades–but only if you support that effort. So let us know.

Michael Mariotte

June 6, 2014


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One thought on “Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, June 6, 2014

  1. Peter Sipp

    There won’t be many large consumers of electricity moving to So. Carolina. Large users like Aluminum refiners or steel mills. There is one steel mill in S.C., called of all names ” Nucor”. They make re-bar. I can see them closing their doors. What with a huge power bill to pay (thanks of course to the unfinished new “nukie”) Oh well… Or, they’d probably move to an area where renewable energy is the dominant energy provider. The cost to melt the metal would be much cheaper there. We shall see.


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