Tag Archives: Electricite de France

On the ground at COP 21: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly … so far

The nuclear industry is well-represented inside the conference hall; anti-nuclear groups haven't been allowed to set up information booths.

The nuclear industry is well-represented inside the conference hall; anti-nuclear groups haven’t been allowed to set up information booths.

Last Saturday, December 5, two NIRS staff arrived in Paris and joined anti-nuclear colleagues from across Europe for the United Nations climate conference. Officially, this is the 21st Conference of Parties on climate, or COP 21 for short. All year, we have been working as part of the Don’t Nuke the Climate coalition, preparing to mobilize thousands to COP 21 under the nuclear-free, carbon-free banner we flew at the People’s Climate March in New York City last year. That march was, in fact, the first wave of grassroots mobilization to fight for a strong, legally binding climate treaty. Especially with the conference happening in the most nuclearized country in the world, we’ve expected a major push to turn climate action into a feeding trough for poison power. And our expectations have not been disappointed. Continue reading

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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

Nuclear Newsreel, Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas. WCS wants to triple the site's capacity and slash its liability at the same time.

The Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas. WCS wants to triple the site’s capacity and slash its liability at the same time.

It’s been a while since we caught up on the news, so let’s jump right in….

Nuclear Power

EPA chief Gina McCarthy has in essence admitted that our analysis of the EPA’s proposed carbon rules is correct: they are intended to boost the nuclear power industry, and are especially an effort to protect those uneconomic reactors–mostly owned by Exelon–that would close without more subsidies. However, McCarthy also demonstrated that she doesn’t know much about nuclear power or the reactors she’s trying to keep open: “There are a handful of nuclear facilities that because they are having trouble remaining competitive, they haven’t yet looked at re-licensing (to extend their operating lives). We were simply highlighting that fact,” McCarthy said at a round-table discussion with business leaders in Chicago. In fact, of the dozen or so reactors that have been publicly cited as in danger of closing because they’re losing money, only Exelon’s Clinton reactor has yet to receive a license extension. Perhaps that lack of knowledge at the top levels of the EPA is the reason the proposed rule is so inartfully worded.

In any case, McCarthy’s admission is just one more reason to make sure the largest possible response is provided to the EPA. The first step is signing and spreading the word about the NIRS/CREDOMobilize petition here. The next step is to begin organizing to attend, speak out and protest at the four public meetings EPA is setting up for public comment.  Continue reading

Nuclear Newsreel, Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nuclear Power

Another day, another poll–this one from Gallup–showing Americans support renewables & conservation, oppose more nukes. You’d think politicians, who are supposedly expert at reading polls, might have figured out which side of the issue to be on by now. But they haven’t.

Eight hour Alert over after smoke seen at Exelon’s Fukushima-clone Quad Cities nukes. Cause not yet known.

First inspectors re-enter New Mexico’s WIPP nuclear waste site after leak; however, no information has yet been revealed on what caused radiation releases on two occasions in the past two months.  Meanwhile, an expert witness in the original WIPP licensing hearing writes in the Santa Fe New Mexican that the problems at WIPP are greater than has been let on so far. Dr. Richard Hayes Phillips concludes:

Many years ago, at a public hearing in Albuquerque, WIPP proponents argued that if the WIPP site should fail, the site could be cleaned up by “overcoring” the barrels of radioactive waste, removing both the barrels and the contaminated salt, and “hauling it away.” Members of the audience responded, spontaneously, almost in unison, by asking: “Where is away?”

There is no “away.” There is no other repository ready to receive the waste from WIPP. This is why so many of us had urged the DOE to leave the waste above ground, in double containers, where it could be readily monitored for any leakage and be readily retrieved if necessary. The task now before us monumental. How to retrieve the waste at WIPP without further compromising the integrity of the site is a challenge of epic proportions.

What says “good for business” better than a high-level radwaste dump? Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be the first Governor ever who likes high-level radwaste so much he wants to open a new dump in Texas.

Excellent piece from excellent paper: There’s a lot of gall in Duke Energy’s latest move suing over unbuilt reactors.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) released a new study yesterday stating that it does not expect large numbers of people to contract cancer and other diseases from exposure to Fukushima radiation–certainly not enough to impact the country’s current cancer rate. But the committee did note a “theoretical possibility” of increased thyroid cancers among exposed children, who are more vulnerable to radiation expsoure.

In a quick analysis of the report, Dr. Ian Fairlie, co-author of The TORCH report--what we believe is the most reliable study on Chernobyl effects–for the most part agrees with UNSCEAR’s estimate of the collective dose from Fukushima radiation, but calculates that means approximately 5,000 people will die as a result of exposure from the accident. Even if that’s not enough to increase the cancer rate, it’s still a lot of people.

One half of the new "Safe Confinement" at Chernobyl.

One half of the new “Safe Confinement” at Chernobyl.

Despite the continuing difficulties in Ukraine, work at the Chernobyl disaster site continues. That’s probably because the funding is coming from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and not the country’s looted coffers. The first half of the New Safe Confinement, which is designed to last 100 years and thus allow full decommissioning of the site, has been completed and soon will be rolled over the existing and hastily constructed sarcophagus.

Good-bye and Good Riddance! Electricite de France (EDF) and Exelon have reached a deal that enables EDF to leave the U.S. nuclear power business. EDF is half-owner of Constellation Energy’s five operating reactors, which Exelon obtained when it bought Constellation last year. EDF joined with Constellation in the mid-2000s to build new Areva EPR reactors in the U.S. at Calvert Cliffs, MD and Nine Mile Point, NY, two projects that ended poorly for the company. EDF was denied a license for Calvert Cliffs-3 and has officially withdrawn the license for Nine Mile Point-3.

Clean Energy

Writing for CleanTechnica, Chip Martin warns that utilities claim to love solar power so much that they’re planning to smother it to death. Actually, the utilities involved don’t really solar at all, they’re just constantly looking for new ways to prevent its widespread adoption and the accompanying threats to their profits and very existence.

Inside Washington

Yesterday we noted that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (R-OR) had introduced a new tax extenders bill without including production tax credits for renewables, and said that he was likely to introduce those as amendments to the bill. Well, this morning Wyden introduced a new version of the bill, and those tax credits are back in it, with a two-year extension. We’ve heard the credits have bipartisan support, and now expect them to pass the full Senate. But what happens to the legislation in the House is anyone’s guess at this point.

Michael Mariotte

April 3, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/04/03/nuclear-newsreel-thursday-april-3-2014/  

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Nuclear Newsreel, Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nuclear Power

*It’s probably a lost cause, and it’s certainly a dangerous, expensive and unnecessary program, but that isn’t stopping South Carolina from trying to keep those taxpayer pork dollars flowing to the Savannah River Site. Yesterday, the state filed suit against the Department of Energy for its recent announced plan–which it appears to be implementing–to put the MOX plutonium fuel factory under construction into a “cold standby” status in preparation for ending the project entirely. Though the factory is said to be 60% complete, the estimated cost of finishing and operating the plant is $25 Billion, which DOE and the Obama Administration don’t want to spend. With few, if any, real customers wanting to use plutonium fuel because it’s too expensive (and a lot of reactors can’t use it without expensive modification), the Administration has decided the project is just a boondoggle. South Carolina doesn’t really care–we’re not sure state officials even know–what the plant does and its economic realities. They just want your and my tax money heading to South Carolina whether MOX fuel makes any sense or not.

*The Department of Energy (DOE) isn’t doing itself any favors, nor adding to its credibility, with its handling of the February 2014 radiation leak at the WIPP transuranic radioactive site in New Mexico. Now the DOE belatedly reports there was another radiation release from WIPP on March 11 (ironically on the third anniversary of the beginning of the Fukushima disaster. DOE says the leak was small and probably caused by residual radioactive particles that were trapped in the ventilation system from the initial radiation leak.

*Electricite de France’s (EDF) quietly closed one of its two reactors at its Dungeness site in the UK for five full months last year to build a new flood wall as a result of the Fukushima disaster. But EDF initially played down the shutdown, telling the local media, “Unit 22 at Dungeness station was taken offline on 20 May for maintenance work which includes completing improvements to flood defenses for extreme events.” Then there was silence until last October when EDF announced that the reactor was being put back into service. Said Stephen Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich: “EDF should have made more of an announcement. If a plant closes for five months it is not just fiddling about, it is something serious and EDF can’t pretend it’s not.”

*New testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that World War II-era radioactive waste is migrating from the West Lake landfill near the St. Louis airport to the adjacent Bridgeton landfill, where an underground fire has been raging for years. The West Lake landfill is a Superfund site being overseen by the EPA. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said that if the radioactive migration is confirmed and has reached the Bridgeton landfill, the EPA must take over that landfill as well. The waste there is left over from the World War II effort to build an atomic bomb, and the site is the nation’s oldest radioactive waste dump, although it was never designed to store radioactive waste. 70 years later, and there is still no safe home for the first radioactive waste ever generated–nor for any of the waste generated since.

The Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear site from a cemetery across the street. Photo by Michael Mariotte.

The Czech Republic’s Temelin nuclear site from a cemetery across the street. Photo by Michael Mariotte.

*The prospect of construction of two new reactors at the Temelin site in the Czech Republic is a poster child for the poor economics of new nuclear power, writes Michael Kanellos for Forbes. New reactors are just too expensive for companies to build without government support, and in the Czech Republic that support doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. The utility, CEZ, is straightforward about its need for tax dollars: We won’t build without state guarantees,” Pavel Cyrani, chief of strategy at CEZ told Bloomberg in an interview. “It’s simply impossible.”

The article asks, “How high would those guarantees have to be? A pair of studies from Candole Partners predicts that the price would have to be 115 Euros a megawatt hour, or $157 per megawatt hour, in 2013 dollars for the full lifetime operation of the Temelin reactors for it to break even.”

The article goes on: “The subsidies required to make power from the plant competitive with today’s prices would cost taxpayers around a billion Euros a year, wrote Georgi Vukov at Candole.” Unlike the UK, where the government wants to subsidize construction of new Areva reactors at a cost twice that of current wholesale electricity prices, the Czech government doesn’t appear inclined to spend that kind of money.

*Chernobyl 28 years later: workers are still limited to 15 minute/day shifts inside the reactor A photoessay from deep inside Chernobyl and the nearby area from Slate. Worth a look.

Clean Energy

Last year, the extreme-right ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) failed in every one of its efforts in state legislatures to roll back renewable energy standards. And while ALEC is changing its strategy this year to attack net metering laws that encourage solar power development, it doesn’t look too promising for them again. Two articles on ALEC’s (and by extension the nuclear and fossil fuel industries) failure so far this year in Washington and Utah, with some other states close behind.

*People living near wind farms, worry no more. You have a better chance of being hit by a meteor than being hurt by a wind turbine accident. Some anti-wind power groups–and there are more of them than you might think–like to spread spurious claims that wind power is somehow harmful to people and that turbines must be set up far away from any households. This article should set the record straight.

Inside Washington

NRC Commissioner William Magwood

NRC Commissioner William Magwood

Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner William Magwood has announced that he will be leaving the NRC a year or so early to become head of the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency. He is expected to move on by September although his NRC term lasts until June 2015. To all or our European friends, what can we say but: we’re sorry! But we can’t say we’ll miss him. This will likely leave two vacancies, both democratic seats, for President Obama to fill this year. NRC Commissioner George Apostolakis’ term expires this June, and it is believed he will not seek re-appointment.

Michael Mariotte

March 19, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/03/19/nuclear-newsreel-wednesday-march-19-2014/

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Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, February 14, 2014

Nuclear Power

The mindset over at the Tennessee Valley Authority is just impossible to fathom. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that TVA will spend $160 million for replacement steam generators at Watts Bar-2–before the reactor is even built! Construction at Watts bar-2 began more than a generation ago–back in the 1970s–and the reactor still isn’t finished. But the original steam generators have flaws that have caused leaks at other reactors and have aged while waiting for construction to be completed. TVA decided it would be too expensive to replace them now, before starting up the reactor. So it’s planning to get the reactor running with faulty steam generators, and then planning to replace those generators in just a few years. If, of course, the existing faulty generators don’t rupture by then. Citizens of Tennessee have to hope for the best….

Of course, TVA won’t include the replacement steam generators in its initial construction costs, making them look lower than they otherwise would. “Nuclear power is always sold as the cheapest power until it isn’t,” said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an anti-nuclear group based in Knoxville. “It’s not cost competitive when you have these billion-dollar cost overruns that we’ve already experienced at Watts Bar 2 and now we’re having a look at what will probably be a half billion dollar replacement project in the not too distant future.”

Arnie Gundersen and the remnants of Fukushima Unit-3

Arnie Gundersen and the remnants of Fukushima Unit-3

Tepco has finally admitted what Fairewind and NIRS have been saying for nearly three years now: the Fukushima Unit-3 fuel pool is in much worse shape than the Unit-4 pool which caused so much concern late last year. In this new video from Fairewinds, Arnie Gundersen explains the problems that will face Tepco–and the world–when clean-up of this mess begins. 50 tons of rubble fell on top of and into the pool.

Sometimes state legislatures do stupid things, Part 1. Washington state legislature approves creation of task force to examine feasibility of new nuclear power in the state. Most of Washington’s electricity comes from hydropower, just three percent from the one reactor in the state–the remnant of the legendary WHOOPS collapse of the early 1980s. That happened when the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) tried to build five reactors at once and couldn’t do it; only one was completed. The other four were abandoned at various levels of construction and WPPSS defaulted on billions of dollars of bonds–in fact, still the largest such bond default in U.S. history. Renewables other than hydro account for relatively little of Washington’s supply–there should be more. As Tom Buchanan of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) says here: “There are other options. We think that carbon free and nuclear free go hand in hand.” He said renewable energy sources including wind and solar, along with continuing energy conservation are the way forward. We agree.

Sometimes state legislatures do stupid things, Part 2. The Texas legislature will examine the feasibility of offering up some part of the state to be an “interim” high-level radioactive waste site. A potential permanent site, at Deaf Smith County, was dropped in the 1987 “Screw Nevada” radioactive waste bill and isn’t likely to be revived. But there’s a lot of wide-open space in west Texas, so some legislators think a “temporary” radioactive waste dump could bring in a few extra bucks. Better watch out Texas: those “interim” sites aren’t exactly fail-safe and could quickly become permanent when it’s clear that no one else will take the lethal waste. Or as Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen puts it here: “It’s idiotic to even consider disposing of high-level radioactive waste in Texas. Other states have rejected having high-level radioactive waste dumped on them. It’s all risk and very little reward for Texans.”

Electricite de France (EDF) is overwhelmed by nuclear reactor upkeep operations, reports Bloomberg. Adding to the financial pressures on the world’s largest nuclear utility (yesterday, we posted that EDF is trying to raise its wholesale nuclear power rates), EDF is finding that maintaining and attempting to upgrade its 58-reactor fleet is costing twice as much and taking 50% more time than projected. Add to that the utility’s woes in attempting to build the way-over-budget and way-behind-schedule Flamanville EPR reactor and the European Commission’s initial finding of illegal subsidies that may scuttle EDF’s proposed Hinkley Point complex in the UK, and you get the picture of a utility, that despite posting record profits last year, is scrambling for its life to get out of a self-imposed nuclear collapse.

Clean Energy

The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration says that coal plants will be retired much more quickly, at least through 2016, than previously projected. That’s the good news. Oddly, EIA projects coal retirements will slow rapidly after that.

Distributed resources, including combined heat and power systems and solar PV, could make up a full third of the U.S. power grid by the end of this decade. And while rooftop solar isn’t a huge part of that this decade, its rapid growth suggests that the percentage of power provided by distributed generation will continue to increase rapidly every decade.

Inside Washington

This one isn’t exactly energy-related but it’s a must-read anyway. The two best people writing on economic issues these days are Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. In this piece, The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks’ Most Devious Scam Yet, Taibbi reports on a little-known piece of some 1999 legislation that is fundamentally transforming the American economy–and not for the better. The subtitle gives some indication of the issue: “Banks are no longer just financing heavy industry. They are actually buying it up and inventing bigger, bolder and scarier scams than ever.” And, indeed, the article notes that the mega-investment bank Goldman Sachs is now in the uranium business. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael Mariotte

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/02/06/nuclear-newsreel-friday-february-14-2014/

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