Tag Archives: Indian Point

NYT’s bias is showing on Indian Point

Indian Point will remain a center of controversy as long as it operates. The question is: how long will that be?

Indian Point will remain a center of controversy as long as it operates. The question is: how long will that be?

Today, the New York Times ran an article by longtime nuclear power reporter Matthew Wald titled Hearings on Water Permits for Indian Point.

NIRS’ Executive Director Tim Judson found a lot to critique in this article, which bends over backwards to less-than subtly support Entergy’s position on Indian Point. The entire article, with Tim’s comments in brackets, italicized in green, is posted below. Further down, you’ll find a brief report on the substance of the issues raised at the hearing.

Matt, your bias is showing…  Continue reading

What does Entergy want? In its own words.

New York's Indian Point reactors. Entergy is desperately trying to save them--as long as it doesn't have to invest money in them to do so.

New York’s Indian Point reactors. Entergy is desperately trying to save them–as long as it doesn’t have to invest money in them to do so.

Exelon and Entergy are the nation’s two largest nuclear utilities. And both are scrambling to avoid shutdowns of some of their troubled reactors.

In Exelon’s case, its two-unit Quad Cities and Byron reactors, and single-unit Oyster Creek and Clinton reactors, are economically suspect, unable at this point to provide electricity at a competitive price in the current marketplace. Oyster Creek is in New Jersey, the others are in Illinois.

Entergy also has troubled reactors, specifically single-unit reactors Pilgrim (Massachusetts) and FitzPatrick and two-unit Indian Point (New York). In Entergy’s case, the economic problems of its reactors are compounded by strong and still-growing public and state/local governmental opposition to them.  Continue reading

Nuclear trifecta: Rising seas, earthquakes and economics mean end is in sight for many East Coast reactors

The Pilgrim reactor. Much of this site would be under water if sea levels rise as predicted. Photo by cryptome.org

The Pilgrim reactor. Much of this site would be under water if sea levels rise as predicted. Photo by cryptome.org

The question of the day is not whether more U.S. reactors will permanently close over the next few years, it’s how many–especially on the East Coast–still will be operating by the end of this decade.

Simple economics, driven by accelerating deployment of renewables and low natural gas prices, already threaten the operation of several East Coast reactors, most notably FitzPatrick in New York and Pilgrim in Massachusetts. If reactors are continually losing money, their utilities will close them, no matter what the utility bosses may say about how much they love nuclear power. That’s the entire reason the new industry group Nuclear Matters exists–to try to salvage what the industry can out of its uneconomic reactors and keep as many of them running as possible. Continue reading

Nuclear Newsreel, Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nuclear Power

New confirmation. New study: wind, solar power is cheaper than new nuclear. A new European study confirms what by now almost everyone except the U.S. Congress and White House seem to know: renewables are cheaper than new nuclear power–20% cheaper, even if construction of natural gas backup plants were to be required. Renewables alone, according to the study, are 50% cheaper than new reactors. “Wind and solar systems will dominate the power system in increasingly more countries,” Patrick Graichen, head of Agora Energiewende [which commissioned the study], said in an e-mailed statement. “The battle for the cheapest CO2-free power mix is decided.”

Osetr whole smokedThe Entergy Corporation’s ongoing problems, chronicled well in these pages by Tim Judson on Tuesday, may not be entirely of its own making; it’s certainly not the only utility challenged by renewables and gas in the merchant electricity market. But Entergy does have a way of making things worse for itself. The latest: their idea to monitor the fish intake at the Indian Point reactors–an issue currently before the courts–by tying frozen sturgeon to the intake screens.

-Continue reading>

Why are Entergy executives selling their stock?

Entergy's Palisades reactor has the most embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S., major maintenance and equipment issues, and a very uncertain future. Photo from Wikipedia.

Entergy’s Palisades reactor has the most embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S., major maintenance and equipment issues, and a very uncertain future. Photo from Wikipedia.

Over the last few months, there has been a bit of a selling spree of Entergy stock. But this sell-off isn’t coming from just anybody: these sales are by some of the corporation’s top executives. Between December and early April, five Entergy execs sold off large portions of stock they hold in their employer. On December 3, 2013, Entergy CEO Leo Denault sold more than half of his Entergy stock (55.7%, or 33,949 shares valued at $2,103,480). On February 20, the Chief Financial Officer, Andrew Marsh, sold 20.7% of his stock (2,808 shares valued at $181,902). On February 27, Senior Vice President for Federal Government, Regulatory, and Policy Affairs Kimberly Despeaux sold 20.8% of her stock (3,024 shares valued at $193,113). And most recently, on April 9, Chief Accounting Officer Alyson Mount sold 45.9% of her stock (4,929 shares valued at $347,495). Also, on December 16 and October 16, Senior VP of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer Donald Vinci twice sold more than 16% of his Entergy holdings.

There was nothing illegal about any of this, they are all above-board transactions properly reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission and covered in the investment press. But if the three people who know most about Entergy’s finances (the CEO, CFO and CAO) and the person in charge of the company’s government and regulatory affairs—which are central to the company’s economic future (see below)—don’t feel that Entergy stock is a better long-term investment, you have to wonder whether there’s some big news on the horizon.

Continue reading

Nuclear Newsreel, Monday, April 7, 2014

Nuclear Power

The New York Times reported over the weekend that dozens of U.S. reactors are more vulnerable to earthquakes than previously believed. The NRC has been requiring utilities to re-evaluate their ability to withstand possible earthquakes in their regions based on growing knowledge about plate tectonics and the nature of earthquakes–a process that began before, but was certainly underscored by, the Fukushima disaster. But even though this has been an NRC initiative, don’t expect a quick or strong NRC response. Instead, the agency’s basic pronouncement is: Don’t close them, just study the issue some more. Oh, and don’t worry, be happy. In the NRC’s official blog,  the agency lays out its plans for the issue, which includes at least three more years of study before any real action is taken (and one shouldn’t actually expect any real action from NRC then either–if there is to be action, it will have to be from governors and state legislatures, not the NRC). The studies don’t even include those reactors in the most seismically active areas on the west coast–they have another full year to complete even their initial studies. But New York’s Indian Point is included and found more vulnerable to feasible earthquakes than designed for; that’s likely to be further ammunition in a growing campaign to close those reactors.

New York's Indian Point reactors. Photo from wikipedia.

New York’s Indian Point reactors. Photo from wikipedia.

Meanwhile, what is expected to be a three-week hearing on Indian Point’s antique once-through cooling system, which causes severe damage to the marine ecosystem of the Hudson River, kicks off today in Albany. Riverkeeper and the State of New York want Entergy to be forced to build cooling towers for the reactors if they want to keep operating them (though both also oppose continued operation), at an estimated cost of about $1.6 billion–probably enough to make it uneconomical to continue operations. The State Department of Environmental Conservation calculated that such a system would reduce fish kills by 98%. For its part, Entergy denies even killing fish, and wants to put in a much cheaper, and much less effective, screen system to prevent fish and larva from being drawn into the plant along with cooling water and roasted.

A Department of Energy official told Congress that the U.S. would have to subsidize use of plutonium/MOX reactor fuel in commercial nuclear reactors if the MOX plant Obama wants to shutter is completed. The Obama Administration’s latest budget calls for putting the facility in cold standby and ending construction on a project whose projected lifetime cost has reached some $30 Billion–far more than originally projected. But that number doesn’t include subsidies just to get utilities to use the MOX fuel, which would be far more expensive to them than normal uranium fuel. Nonetheless, a small group of mostly South Carolina legislators, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), is working hard to keep the pork barrel money funneled to the state regardless of the merits of the project. Meanwhile, while the Obama Administration has not yet stopped work on the project, and some media accounts last week pointed out that work at the site is continuing and no one has been laid off, Anne Harrington, deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said a stop work order is on the way. 

Florida Power & Light (FPL) says an inspection of the steam generator tubes at its St. Lucie-2 reactors shows less degradation than it had predicted, but the utility refused to say how many tubes now show signs of degradation. It looks like FPL plans to wait six months, until a report is required to be filed with the NRC, to reveal that information. But the utility did admit that it had plugged 69 tubes at both units already this year. The NRC says, of course, that there is no safety issue here. Well, at least there won’t be until one of the degraded tubes ruptures a la San Onofre (and several other reactors over the years). But there may well be an economic issue ahead for FPL ratepayers. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen warns that “The bottom line is, it was the worst in the nation before the outage, and it’s even worse now. These numbers are astronomical. The steam generators just can’t get to the end of their useful life.”

This has been self-evident for years, but it’s clearly worth repeating. Ed Lyman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists told a group in Chicago last week that nuclear safety requires appointment of new NRC Commissioners. “It’s common knowledge in Washington that anyone nominated to be a commissioner to the NRC has to be pre-approved by the nuclear industry,” he said. “In order to get a more independent mindset, you’ve got to break that stranglehold.”

Anti-nuclear protestors in Helsinki, FInland.

Anti-nuclear protestors in Helsinki, FInland.

More fallout from the Russian takeover of Crimea and its continued efforts to destabilize Ukraine: Finns are having second thoughts over a proposed new Russian reactor project there. A new public opinion poll finds that nearly half now oppose the project, while only a third support it. Unlike most other European countries however, Finns in general are supportive of nuclear power, with more than half still supporting new nuclear construction–just not with Russian reactors.

Clean Energy

Billionaire Tom Steyer and NRG Energy CEO David Crane are two of the most vocal and active people shaping America’s energy future: Steyer through his efforts on climate change and particularly to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and Crane by attempting to build the utility of the future. The two of them appeared at the Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago Thursday and separately laid out their visions of our energy future. Crane in particular has been harshly critical of most electric utilities, and repeated his belief that distributed generation is going to upend the utility industry over the next decade. He also answered questions about nuclear power, saying, “Nuclear power is probably the biggest asset we have in the fight against climate change,” Crane said, noting his decision to pull the plug on a Texas project just weeks after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan. “But I’m a business guy and I’m a pragmatist, and there’s no future for nuclear in the United States. There’s certainly no future for new nuclear.”

A long and thoughful article from High Country News on the upcoming issue of rooftop solar and “grid defection. The piece wonders whether the greater ability of the better-off to install rooftop solar and, in the not-distant future leave the grid, will cause a new “electrical divide” between the more fortunate and those less well-off as well as inner-city and apartment residents without rooftop space.

A useful infographic from EnergyFactCheck.org on subsidies for nuclear power and fossil fuels versus those for renewables. A few (among many) nuggets:

*The oil and gas industries have received approximately $446.96 billion in subsidies from the United States, as opposed to just $5.93 billion for renewables, since 1918.

*Eliminating the 12 subsidies for fossil fuels in the U.S. would save $41.4 billion over 10 years without increasing fuel prices, reducing employment, or weakening U.S. energy security.

*The nuclear power industry has received four times more subsidies than the distributed solar industry and has had six times longer to mature.

Michael Mariotte

April 7, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/04/07/nuclear-newsreel-monday-april-7-2014/

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You know the nuclear industry is desperate when…

You know the nuclear power industry is getting desperate when it solicits its CEOs to start piling on ghost-written op-eds in publications chosen for their reach to key audiences. And you know the industry is really desperate when it brings out big guns like a couple of paid-for former U.S. Senators to support nuclear power in The Hill newspaper, which, as its name implies, is aimed at current legislators. And you know the industry is super desperate when it pulls out none other than Rudy Giuliani, who continues stuffing his wallet with nuclear-powered green.

And when it rolls out all three on the same day? That’s when you know that the nuclear industry knows what not enough clean energy activists have yet understood: the nuclear power industry is in real trouble; it’s sensing its near-imminent demise; and like the dinosaur snarling and wagging its tail on its way to extinction, it’s in a dire, and ultimately likely to be unsuccessful, scramble for its very existence.

Yesterday, March 31, the nuclear industry’s march to oblivion was on full display. Two of the op-eds it placed were remarkably similar, so much so that they probably came from the same pen. And their points are so easy to knock down that one wonders if the Nuclear Energy Institute’s public relations A-Team already has jumped ship. Seriously, if these are the best arguments the industry can offer, they’re in bigger trouble than even I thought.

New York's Indian Point reactors

New York’s Indian Point reactors

First up is Mike Renchek, the CEO of Areva, who is trying to convince Providence Journal readers that “nuclear energy is crucial to New England.” The crux of his argument seems to be that nuclear reactors kept providing power during the “polar vortex” this winter. Well, so did solar and wind plants, and energy efficiency worked pretty well too we hear. What didn’t work so well was natural gas, which went up in price and down in supply. But gas, although it is typically much cheaper than nuclear and in New England especially has been undercutting the region’s reactors in price, isn’t exactly an ideal provider of electricity, especially in the nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system we’re working to build. Gas is, at this exact moment in time, a genuine competitor to nuclear, but nuclear’s real future problem isn’t gas, it’s renewables and efficiency. And Renchek’s reactors can’t compete with those anymore either and will be even less able to do so as this decade rolls on.

Former Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire are the figureheads of a new industry-sponsored group called Nuclear Matters, which was created to try to prevent the shutdown of more existing reactors. Creation of such a group is itself a sign of the industry’s desperation–who knew a technology that is so self-evidently advantageous (at least in the minds of the industry itself, if for no one else) would need a new organization not to promote industry growth but to try to postpone its inevitable stumble into oblivion?

Also citing the winter’s extreme cold (even focusing on the same date at Renchek, January 7), Bayh and Gregg write (hah! sure they wrote it…) “Existing nuclear energy plants are the backbone of our nation’s energy portfolio, powering tens of millions of homes and businesses across the country. Nuclear energy is mission-critical in providing a diverse energy mix, which ensures that the lights stay on without an over-reliance on any one fuel source.”

Actually, at less than 20% of our electricity supply and falling, nuclear reactors are hardly the “backbone” of our energy supply. And “Nuclear energy is mission-critical…”; what the hell does that even mean? Maybe that kind of meaningless jargon plays on Capitol Hill, we doubt it does anywhere else.

Their piece also argues: “Another overlooked fact is that production costs for nuclear energy are among the lowest of all “round-the-clock” generating sources, at 2.4 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2012, according to Ventyx Velocity Suite. By comparison, coal production cost was 3.27 cents per kilowatt-hour, and natural gas was 3.4 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2012. The low and stable cost of nuclear energy helps reduce the price of electricity for consumers.”

If nuclear actually reduced the cost of electricity to consumers, existing reactors wouldn’t be closing. In fact, it’s the very inability of even paid-for reactors to provide competitive power that is at the heart of the industry’s problems. That’s why they want to rig the system to ensure that ratepayers will have to pay more for electricity just because it comes from nuclear power–that’s the entire point of both this and Renchek’s op-eds. And note which electricity sources aren’t included in the comparison, presumably because Bayh and Gregg don’t understand the nature of renewables and the ability of grids to switch back and forth from solar to wind and vice versa depending on which is more effectively generating power at any given time (hint: solar works best during the day, wind usually works best at night). Rapidly-occurring advances in electricity storage, leading to lower and lower costs, mean that even renewables’ inherent intermittency will become less and less of an issue.

But do take a look at these op-eds one after the other: their similarity is astonishing. If these were both handed in for the same college essay requirement, they’d be accused of cheating.

 

Rudy Giuliani can see Indian Point from here...

Rudy Giuliani can see Indian Point from here…

Finally, Rudy Giuliani jumps in arguing that–wait for it–the cold weather this year proves the need for nuclear power and especially the reactors he is paid to lobby on behalf of, Indian Point. Wow, clearly an original thinker. Like the others, he writes about the need for a “diverse, balanced” energy portfolio–words all three op-eds emphasize. And, just like the others, he talks about the safety of existing reactors. Somehow, all three manage to tout nuclear safety without ever mentioning Chernobyl or Fukushima. In their fantasy world, apparently real nuclear disasters never happened and never will, just as in their world, it makes perfect sense to try to force ratepayers to pay more for electricity because in their world nuclear is just so gosh-darned self-evidently perfect that why wouldn’t everyone want to pay more for it?

The nuclear industry’s sense of desperation is palpable. Activists need to understand what the industry obviously knows: it’s in serious trouble. This is our time to really join together, ramp  up our efforts, and kick more of these reactors over the edge; they’re already teetering. They’re dangerous, they can’t provide cost-effective electricity, they don’t have a solution to their radioactive waste and they exist now only because they were built decades ago and the utilities want to milk them for everything they can before they surrender to the inevitable and have to begin spending huge sums of money again–but this time it won’t be to build new reactors, it will be to decommission their dinosaurs.

Michael Mariotte

April 1, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/04/01/you-know-the-nuclear-industry-is-desperate-when/

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