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San Onofre at the No Nukes Brink

9:00 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

San Onofre at the No Nukes Brink

San Onofre Nuke Towers

An update on the continued troubles of San Onofre from Harvey Wasserman.

In January, it seemed the restart of San Onofre Unit 2 would be a corporate cake walk.

With its massive money and clout, Southern California Edison was ready to ram through a license exception for a reactor whose botched $770 million steam generator fix had kept it shut for a year.

But a funny thing has happened on the way to the restart:  a No Nukes groundswell has turned this routine rubber stamping into an epic battle the grassroots just might win.

Indeed, if ever there was a time when individual activism could have a magnified impact, this is it (see www.sanonofresafety.org and www.a4nr.org).

This comes as the nuclear industry is in nearly full retreat.  Two US reactors are already down this year.  Yet another proposed project has just been cancelled in North Carolina.  And powerful grassroots campaigns have pushed numerous operating reactors to the brink of extinction throughout the US, Europe and Japan, where all but two reactors remain shut since Fukushima.

In California, it’s San Onofre that’s perched at the brink.

By all accounts Southern California Edison should have the clout to restart it with ease.   The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been a notorious rubber stamp for decades.  The California Public Utilities Commission, which decides how much the utilities can gouge from the ratepayers, has long been in Edison’s pocket.  State water quality regulations could force Edison to build cooling towers, a very expensive proposition that would likely lead to a quick retirement.  But Gov. Jerry Brown has been deafeningly silent on the issue.

But San Onofre sits in an earthquake/tsunami zone halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.  At least 8 million people live within a 50 mile radius, many millions more within 100. The reactors are a stone’s throw from both a major interstate and the high tide line, with a 14-foot flood wall a bare fraction of the height of the tsunami that overwhelmed at Fukushima.

San Onofre Unit One was shut in 1992 by steam generator issues. Edison recently spent some three-quarters of a billion dollars upgrading the steam generators for Units 2 and 3. But the pipes have leaked and failed.  Units 2 and 3 have been shut since January 2012. Edison has now asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to run Unit 2 at 70% power for five months to see how the reactor might do. An NRC panel has termed the idea “experimental.”

Edison is desperate to get the reactor running before summer.  But in the wake of Fukushima, and in the midst of a major boom in solar energy, southern California is rising up to stop that from happening:

Read the rest of this entry →

Why Should Nuke Loan Guarantees Cost Less than Student or Home Loans?

11:57 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Harvey Wasserman

Why should nuke guarantees cost less than home or student loans?
July 2, 2012

The Department of Energy wants to give the Southern Company a nuclear power loan guarantee at better interest rates than you can get on a student loan. And unlike a home mortgage, there may be no down payment.

Why?

The terms DOE is offering the builders of the Vogtle atomic reactors have only become partially public through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

We still may not know all the details.

SACE has challenged the $8.33 billion loan guarantee package announced by President Obama in 2010.

The documents show the DOE has intended to charge the Southern a credit subsidy fee of one to 1.5%, far below the rates you would be required to pay for buying a house or financing an education.

On a package 15 times bigger than what the federal government gave the failed solar company Solyndra, Southern would be required to pay somewhere between $17 million and $52 million. Advocates argue the fee is so low that it fails to adequately take into account the financial risks of the project. Numerous financial experts have estimated the likely fail rate for new nuclear construction to be at 50% or greater.

Furthermore, since a primary lender would be the Federal Financing Bank, the taxpayer is directly on the hook. Guaranteed borrowings are not supposed to exceed 70% of the project’s projected costs, but it’s unclear what those costs will actually turn out to be, as the public has been given no firm price tag on the project.

There is apparently no cash down payment being required of Southern as it seems the loan is designed to be secured with the value of the reactors themselves, whatever that turns out to be. In the unlikely event they are finished, liability from any catastrophe will revert to the public once a small private fund is exhausted.

Southern wanted the terms of the DOE offer kept secret, and we still don’t know everything about it. But in March, a federal circuit court judge ordered that the public had a right to know at least some of the details.

Apparently no final documents have actually been signed between Southern and the DOE. The Office of Management & Budget has reportedly balked at offering the nuke builder such generous terms. Southern has reportedly balked at paying even a tiny credit fee.

Construction at the Vogtle site has already brought on delays focussed on the use of sub-standard concrete and rebar steel. The projected price tag—whatever it may be—has risen as much as $900 million in less than a year.

Southern and its Vogtle partners are in dispute with Westinghouse and the Shaw Company, two of the reactors’ primary contractors. Georgia ratepayers have already been stuck with $1.4 billion in advance payments being charged to their electric bills. Far more overruns are on their way.

The Vogtle project is running somewhat parallel with two reactors being built at V.C. Summer in South Carolina, where $1.4 billion was already spent by the end of 2011. Delays are mounting and cost overruns are also apparently in the hundreds of millions.

Southern and Summer’s builders both claim they can finance these projects without federal guarantees. But exactly how they would do that remains unclear.

Two older reactors now licensed at the Vogtle site were originally promised to cost $150 million each, but came in at $8.9 billion for the pair. The project’s environmental permits are being challenged in court over claims the Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to account for safety lessons from the Fukushima disaster.

The terms of the guarantees are now apparently being scrutinized by the Office of Management & Budget, which reports to a White House that may be gun-shy over new construction guarantees due to bad publicity from the Solyndra fiasco.

Numerous petitions are circulating in opposition to this package.

The Nuclear Information & Resource Service has already facilitated more than 10,500 e-mails sent directly to DOE Secretary Chu.

You might ask: why should the builders of nuclear power reactors get better terms than students struggling to pay for college or working families trying to buy a home?

At least the home buyers can get private liability insurance, which the nuke builders can’t.

If mounting grassroots opposition can stop this package, it’s possible no new reactors will ever be built in the US.

So send the OMB and DOE a copy of your mortgage or student loan statement.

Demand that before they finance any more nukes, they drop your own payment to 1%, just like they’re offering the reactor pushers. Also demand the right to buy a home without a down payment.

See how far you get, and then make sure Vogtle goes no farther.


Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! is at www.solartopia.org. He edits thenukefree.org website.

Where Occupy and No Nukes Merge and WIN!!

7:25 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Harvey Wasserman testifying

Harvey Wasserman testifying

COLUMNS
Harvey Wasserman

Where Occupy & No Nukes merge & win!!!
October 23, 2011

The global upheaval that is the Occupy Movement is hopefully in the process of changing—and saving—the world.

Through the astonishing power of creative non-violence, it has the magic and moxie to defeat the failing forces of corporate greed.

A long-term agenda seems to be emerging: social justice, racial and gender equality, ecological survival, true democracy, an end to war, and so much more. “When the power of love overcomes the love of power,” said Jimi Hendrix, “the world will know peace.”

Such a moment must come now in the nick of time, as the corporate ways of greed and violence pitch us to the precipice of self-extinction.

At that edge sits a sinister technology, a poisoned cancerous power that continues to harm us all even as 3 of its cores melt and spew at Fukushima.

Atomic energy, the so-called “Peaceful Atom”, has failed on all fronts. Read the rest of this entry →

Can We Stop the Next Fukushima Times 10,000?

7:55 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

"Composite Image of Daiichi Explosion" by Oldmaison on flickr

"Composite Image of Daiichi Explosion" by Oldmaison on flickr

The horrible news from Japan continues to be ignored by the western corporate media.

Fukushima’s radioactive fallout continues to spread throughout the archipelago, deep into the ocean and around the globe—including the US.  It will ultimately impact millions, including many here in North America.

The potentially thankful news is that Fukushima’s three melting cores may have not have melted deep into the earth, thus barely avoiding an unimaginably worse apocalyptic reality.

But it’s a horror that humankind has yet to fully comprehend.

As Fukushima’s owners now claim its three melted reactors approach cold shutdown ( http://nukefree.org/fukushima-reactors-approach-cold-shutdown-temperatures ), think of this:

X At numerous sites worldwide—including several in the US—three or more reactors could simultaneously melt, side-by-side.  At two sites in California—Diablo Canyon and San Onofre—two reactors each sit very close to major earthquake faults, in coastal tsunami zones.

X  Should one or more such cores melt through their reactor pressure vessels (as happened at Fukushima) and then through the bottoms of the containments (which, thankfully, may not have happened at Fukushima), thousands of tons of molten radioactive lava would burn into the Earth. Read the rest of this entry →