Tag Archives: Entergy

The Astronomical Cost of New Subsidies for Old Reactors: $280 Billion.

ny-bailout-protest_cropGreenWorld has covered the unfolding story of the American nuclear power industry’s clamor for new subsidies and bailouts since it started in 2014. Purely as a spectator sport, it might have been entertaining to watch the country’s largest utilities go from proclaiming a “Nuclear Renaissance” a decade ago to peddling the message that “Nuclear Matters.”

But there is just too much at stake to treat it like a game. The utility industry’s ramped-up efforts to block renewable energy and horde billions of our clean energy dollars to prop up old nukes risks both climate and nuclear disaster. Most of these proposals have been failing, thanks to the dogged persistence of grassroots activists and clean energy groups–and, it must be said, the outrageous sticker price of subsidies the industry needs. In fact, just this week, the two-year saga of FirstEnergy’s $8 billion nuclear-plus-coal bailout plan seems to have ended, with what amounts to a consolation gift to a couple FirstEnergy utility companies. Still an outrageous corporate giveaway, but no subsidies for nuclear or coal, even after it seemed like a done deal a few months ago.

But New York Governor Cuomo’s decision in August to award a 12-year, $7.6 billion subsidy package to four aging reactors–including reversing Entergy’s decision to close the FitzPatrick reactor this coming January–has put wind into the industry’s sails. Even that chapter isn’t over, with lawsuits already being filed and several more expected. And environmental groups this week launched a new campaign to get Governor Cuomo to smell the coffee and cancel what will not only be the largest corporate give-away in the state’s history, but relegate clean energy to second-class status behind old nukes.
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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. Continue reading

Revisiting the pawn/toast prognostication as more reactors close

Another one bites the dust: New York's Fitzpatrick reactor will close permanently next year.

Another one bites the dust: New York’s Fukushima-clone Fitzpatrick reactor will close permanently next year.

In mid-September, I wrote a piece delving into prognostication–always a dangerous endeavor–identifying (with tongue slightly in cheek) the nation’s most troubled nuclear reactors and dividing them into two piles: pawn or toast. Toast was those reactors most likely to shut down; pawn indicated that while on the precipice, the utilities would go to great lengths to avoid shutting them down.

Only six weeks or so later, enough has happened to revisit that list and see how we’ve done. Continue reading

Pilgrim’s closure, and what’s next for New England.

Entergy's Pilgrim reactor--the latest victim of nuclear power's increasingly wretched economics, not to mention sustained citizen activism.

Entergy’s Pilgrim reactor–the latest victim of nuclear power’s increasingly wretched economics, not to mention sustained citizen activism. Photo by Enformable.

A generation or so ago, New England was one of the most nuclear-dependent regions in the nation. If one defines New England as including New York, then that relatively small corner of the U.S. map was home to 15 commercial nuclear reactors 25 years ago–only the state of Illinois had a more concentrated nuclear presence; regionally, no other area is even close to that concentration on a square-mile basis.

Today, New England is leading the nation away from nuclear power, and toward the energy efficient, renewables-powered system of the 21st century. Today’s news from Entergy that it will close its Pilgrim reactor by mid-2019–and probably a whole lot sooner–is just the latest manifestation of that process, and it’s a process that is accelerating. Continue reading

Mainstreaming the nuclear exit

Exelon's Ginna reactor in New York, one of a growing number of economically troubled reactors. Photo from IAEA.

Exelon’s Ginna reactor in New York, one of a growing number of economically troubled reactors. Photo from IAEA.

It’s no great revelation to say that the mainstream media, fractured though it may be these days, holds great power. It’s not direct power; the media can’t make actual decisions. Rather, the media grabs a theme–a meme if you want–and holds on to it, and repeats it, and provides slight twists to it so it can be repeated again, until it becomes accepted wisdom. While the media, especially the mainstream media, is often behind the curve, behind reality, once it catches up and snares and spreads that meme, it doesn’t take long for it to establish itself. And once a concept becomes accepted wisdom, then the actual decisions tend to follow in unison. As a group, politicians rarely stray far from accepted wisdom. Continue reading

The great nuclear bailout list: who’s a pawn, who’s toast.

Washington DC residents rally outside the District Building September 17, 2015 against Exelon's proposed takeover of Pepco.

Washington DC residents rally outside the District Building September 17, 2015 against Exelon’s proposed takeover of Pepco. Photo by Tim Judson

When a nuclear power utility says one of its reactors is economically troubled and it may close early, should you believe it? For that matter, when a nuclear power utility says anything at all, should you believe it?

Since the answer to the second question is almost always no, the answer to the first is self-evident. Continue reading

Still more ratepayer bailouts needed, says Entergy exec

"I've made it clear FitzPatrick [pictured here, from NRC] has been a marginal unit for a while," he said. "We're really counting on some positive changes in market design to be able to continue to run it," says Entergy exec William Mohl.

“I’ve made it clear FitzPatrick [pictured here, from NRC] has been a marginal unit for a while,” he said. “We’re really counting on some positive changes in market design to be able to continue to run it,” says Entergy exec William Mohl.

The nuclear power industry increasingly reminds one of nothing so much as the spoiled brat (or, possibly, the greedy king Midas) who, upon receiving a gift, instantly wants “more!”

Thus, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) June 10 approved a plan put forth last December by the PJM grid–the largest of the three major grids in the U.S.–to reward high-performing power plants and penalize low-performing units, Entergy’s (the second largest nuclear utility) instant reaction was “more.” Continue reading