Showdown at San OnofreBy Harvey WassermanTwo stricken California reactors may soon redefine a global movement aimed at eradicating nuclear power.They sit in a seismic zone vulnerable to tsunamis. Faulty steam generators have forced them shut for nearly a year.A powerful “No Nukes” movement wants them to stay that way. If they win, the shutdown of America’s 104 licensed reactors will seriously accelerate.The story of San Onofre Units 2 & 3 is one of atomic idiocy. Perched on an ocean cliff between Los Angeles and San Diego, the reactors’ owners cut unconscionable corners in replacing their multi-million-dollar steam generators. According to Russell Hoffman, one of California’s leading experts on San Onofre, inferior metals and major design failures turned what was meant to be an upgrade into an utter fiasco.Installed by Mitsubishi, the generators simply did not work. When they were shut nearly a year ago, tubes were leaking, banging together and overall rendering further operations impossible.Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric have unofficially thrown in the towel on Unit 3. But they’re lobbying hard to get at least Unit 2 back up and running. Their technical problems are so serious that they’ve asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to let them run Unit 2 at 70% capacity. In essence, they want to “see what happens” without daring to take the reactor to full power.The NRC has expressed serious doubts. On December 26 it demanded answers to more than 30 questions about the plant’s technical realities. There have been assertions that unless San Onofre can be shown as operable at full power, its license should be negated.San Onofre’s owners are desperate to get at least Unit 2 back on line so they can gouge the ratepayers for their failed expenditures. If the California Public Utilities Commission refuses the request, there’s no way San Onofre can reopen.So nuclear opponents can now fight restart both at the federal level and with the state PUC. The state regulators have opened an in-depth investigation into what’s happened at San Onofre, and the picture is not expected to be pretty.Economic analyses show the reactors to be uneconomical anyway. “Experts” warned California would suffer blackouts and brownouts without them, but nothing of the sort has happened. The only real reason San Onofre’s owners want to get it back up is to charge the ratepayers for their failed repairs.The fiasco at San Onfre is being replayed at rust bucket reactors throughout the US. Progress Energy poked some major new holes into the containment at the Crystal River reactor it was allegedly fixing. Nebraska’s Ft. Calhoun has been flooded. An earthquake hit Virginia’s reactors with seismic forces that exceeded design specifications.In Wisconsin, Kewaunee’s owners will shut it for economic reasons. A new study shows Vermont Yankee, under intense attack from a grassroots citizens’ upheaval, has major economic benefits to gain from shutting down. Elsewhere around the US, technical and economic pressures have the industry on the brink.Meanwhile, the conversion to green power in Germany is booming. When 8 reactors were shut and the conversion to wind, solar and biomass became official policy, “experts” predicated energy shortages and soaring prices. But the opposite has happened as supply has boomed and prices have dropped.The same things will happen in California and elsewhere as these radioactive jalopies begin to shut. The effectiveness of citizen activism in California is now vastly multiplied as these two decrepit reactors become increasingly obsolete, inoperable and economically insupportable.As Kewaunee shuts, as Crystal River heads toward salvage, as No Nukes citizen action escalates, and as renewables and efficiency soar in performance and plummet in price, a green-powered era is dawning.But as Fukushima Unit 4‘s spent fuel pool teeters 100 feet in the air, we are reminded that the danger from the failed nuclear power experiment is far from over.The two reactors at San Onfre linger on atop major earthquake fault lines, just steps away from an ocean that could wash over them as sure as it did at Fukushima.The California No Nukes movement may indeed be on the brink of a major victory. But we had better get these reactors buried before disaster strikes yet again.———————————————-Harvey Wasserman is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and will speak Wednesday evening in Santa Monica (contact: email@example.com) for the shut-down of San Onofre.
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Nuke power’s collapse gets ever more dangerous
November 30, 2012
In the wake of this fall’s election, the disintegration of America’s decrepit atomic reactor fleet is fast approaching critical mass. Unless our No Nukes movement can get the worst of them shut soon, Barack Obama may be very lucky to get through his second term without a major reactor disaster.
All 104 licensed US reactors were designed before 1975—a third of a century ago. All but one went on line in the 1980s or earlier.
Plunging natural gas prices (due largely to ecologically disastrous fracking) are dumping even fully-amortized US reactors into deep red ink. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee will close next year because nobody wants to buy it. A reactor at Clinton, Illinois, may join it. Should gas prices stay low, the trickle of shut-downs will turn into a flood.
But more disturbing are the structural problems, made ever-more dangerous by slashed maintenance budgets.
- San Onofre Units One and Two, near major earthquake faults on the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, have been shut for more than nine months by core breakdowns in their newly refurbished steam generators. A fix could exceed a half-billion dollars. A bitter public battle now rages over shutting them both.
- The containment dome at North Florida’s Crystal River was seriously damaged during “repair” efforts that could take $2 billion to correct. It will probably never reopen.
- NRC inspections of Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun, damaged during recent flooding, have unearthed a wide range of structural problems that could shut it forever, and that may have been illegally covered-up. According to William Boardman, NRC documents show nearly three dozen reactors to be at risk from dam breaks.
- Ohio’s Davis-Besse has structural containment cracks that should have forced it down years ago and others have been found at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer reactor pressure vessel.
- Intense public pressure at Vermont Yankee, at two reactors at New York’s Indian Point, and at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek (damaged in Hurricane Sandy) could bring them all down.
Projected completion of a second unit at Watts Bar, Tennessee, where construction began in the 1960s, has been pushed back to April, 2015. If finished at all, building this reactor may span a half-century.
Two new reactors under preliminary construction in South Carolina have been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Faulty components and concrete have marred two more under construction at Vogtle, Georgia, where builders may soon ask for a new delay on consideration of proposed federal loan guarantees.
This fall’s defeat of the very pro-nuclear Mitt Romney is an industry set-back. The return of Harry Reid (D-NV) as Senate Majority Leader means the failed Yucca Mountain waste dump will stay dead. A number of new Congressionals are notably pro-green, in line with Obama’s strong rhetorical support.
The move toward renewables has been boosted by Germany’s shut-down of eight reactors and huge investments in wind, solar and other renewables, which are exceeding financial and ecological expectations. Despite pro-nuke nay-sayers,Germany’s energy supply of energy has risen while prices have fallen.
The Department of Energy has confirmed that US solar power continues to drop in price. US employment in the solar industry has surged past 118,000, a rise of more than 13% over last year.
Despite a wide range of financial problems, including uncertainty over renewal of the Production Tax Credit, the green energy industry continues to expand. Along with marijuana, Colorado has now legalized industrial hemp, opening the door for a major bio-fuel that will have strong agricultural support.
At some near-term tipping point, the financial and political clout of the green energy industry will fly past that of atomic power.
But at Fukushima, a spent fuel pool crammed with some 1500 hugely radioactive rods still sits atop a deteriorating shell that could collapse with the inevitable upcoming earthquake. As the Earth hangs in the balance, the pool may or may not be emptied this coming year, depending on the dubious technical and financial capabilities of its owners, who are in a deep fiscal crater.Meanwhile, fish irradiated by the huge quantities of Fukushima emissions are being consumed here in the US.
Overall, the “nuclear renaissance” is in shambles. So is an industry increasingly comprised of rust-bucket fleet of decayed reactors in serious decline.
Solartopians everywhere can celebrate an election that seemed to show some progress toward saving our beleaguered planet.
But our survival still depends on shutting ALL these old reactors before the next Fukushima contaminates us with far more than just radioactive fish.
Our lives still hang by a Devil’s thread at Fukushima.
The molten cores at Units 1, 2 & 3 have threatened all life on Earth. The flood of liquid radiation has poisoned the Pacific. Fukushima’s cesium and other airborne emissions have already dwarfed Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and all nuclear explosions including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Children throughout Japan carry radioactive burdens in their thyroids and throughout their bodies. Hot spots in Tokyo demand evacuation. Radioactive tuna has been caught off San Diego. Fallout carried across the Pacific may have caused spikes in cancer and infant mortality rates here in the United States.
And yet, 16 months later, the worst may be yet to come. No matter where we are on this planet, our lives are still threatened every day by a Unit 4 fuel pool left hanging 100 feet in the air. At any moment, an earthquake we all know is coming could send that pool crashing to the ground.
If that happens—and it could as you read this—the radiation spewed into the atmosphere could impact every living being on Earth. And that certainly includes you.
Cecile Pineda lays it all out in her brilliant new Devil’s Tango: How I Learned The Fukushima Step By Step (Wings Press: San Antonio).
With poetic fury, Cecile rages in satanic detail about how Fukushima was built despite volumes of whistleblower testimony underscoring its fatal flaws. But after agreeing with proof that the GE designs were patently insane, NRC Chair Joseph Hendrie approved them anyway because doing otherwise would have killed the nuclear industry.
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.
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.
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.
Hold that “hot” Fukushima sushi
June 7, 2012
We all knew it was coming.
Radioactive tuna has been caught off the coast of California. The fingerprint of cesium 137 is unmistakably from the exploded reactors at Fukushima.
But Fukushima’s hot hands are also on a very welcome debate still stalemating China’s plans to build more than 30 new reactors. Fierce No Nukes opposition continues to escalate in India. Reactor cancellations have spread throughout Europe.
And the $8.33 billion loan guarantee for Georgia’s Vogtle double-reactor project has still not been finalized. After just five months construction is $1 billion over budget and falling ever further behind schedule. There is no firm price tag. Substandard concrete and rebar steel that doesn’t meet official specifications are just the beginning of the nightmare.
You can help Georgia ratepayers and American taxpayers out of this misery by signing our petition at http://nukefree.org/please-do-sign-petition-stop-new-nuke-loan-guarantees.
You can also prepare for life without sushi. National Public Radio has assured us all that the radioactive tuna are perfectly safe to eat. This is the same network whose Scott Simon glibly told us that there were no injuries at Three Mile Island, “not even a sprained ankle.”
But as long-time radiation expert Robert Alavarez warns, “it’s not harmless.” Fukushima released far more cesium-137 than the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many decades ago lesser fallout from nuclear testing forced the confiscation of more than 4 million pounds of fish.
But as the really bad news from Fukushima continues to escalate, we must begin to adjust to far worse than giving up raw fish.
Massive quantities of Japanese trash have begun to wash up on the west coast of North America, from Alaska to California and beyond. The tragic residue of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and cost trillions has crossed the Pacific. The waves of debris include at least one “ghost ship,” many motor vehicles, thousands of barrels full of unknown substances and much more.
Much of it is radioactive. Government officials, the nuclear industry and corporate media will lowball the readings and scoff at the health implications. But American beaches are now contaminated, the fish you once ate is unsafe and the situation could get much worse.
Still hovering 100 feet in the air is the spent fuel pool at Fukushima #4. Stacked with thousands of tons of the most lethal substances ever created, the fuel rods could come crashing to the ground with the next big earthquake. Strewn at random, with no cooling water, exposed to the air, the radiation releases would far exceed Chernobyl, the nuclear bomb tests and any other polluting fallout humankind has yet created. That it would go global is a given.
Repeated calls for help from international teams of experts underline the core reality that nobody really knows what to do, except to pray for seismic stability…an impossible dream in Japan, but at this point the only port of last resort.
Thankfully, the doubts instilled by Fukushima and the growing power of the global No Nukes movement have had their impact. Reports from China indicatedeep divisions about further reactor construction.
Massive demonstrations and hunger strikes continue in opposition to India’s Koodankulam project. Cancellations have spread throughout Europe.
In the meantime we Americans can finally kill the prospect of federal loan guarantees for building new reactors here.
As Mary Olson of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service has pointed out, money for new nukes—which can’t get private financing—was set aside early in the George W. Bush Administration. But in large part as a result of the power of the grassroots No Nukes movement, not a single guarantee has yet been finalized.
Vogtle is the first project officially designated. But problems with design, planning and execution continue to escalate. So have the rate hikes imposed on Georgia consumers. With no firm price tag or completion date, and with the entire industry in chaos, the Office of Management and Budget has been unable to set reasonable terms that the reactor builders can meet.
It all adds up to an industry in accelerating collapse. Reactor construction at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer is also over budget, behind schedule and at the core of massive rate hike fights in both Carolinas.
Reactors proposed for Florida’s Levy County have soared over a minimum of $9.5 billion to as high as $12 billion each, and still climbing—far in excess of original estimates. Shutdowns continue at nearby Crystal River, California’s San Onofre, the flooded Calhoun in Nebraska and many others. Public pressure to forever close Vermont Yankee, New York’s Indian Point, Ohio’s Davis-Besse, South Texas and more continues to escalate.
Whether these shut-down movements succeed before a Fukushima happens here, or that spent fuel pool collapses, or Vogtle again escalates in price, remains to be seen.
What’s certain is that you can help stop the Vogtle loan guarantee and kill the chance of any new reactors being built here—paving the path at last for a totally green-powered Solartopian Earth.
So next time you start to reach for some sushi, grab a pen or keyboard instead. Sign the petitions, call your Representative, run a bake sale—do whatever is needed to kill this loan guarantee and lessen the odds on being harmed by a Fukushima here at home.
Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! is at www.harveywasserman.com along with HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE US. His Green Power & Wellness Show airs at prn.fm. He is Senior Editor of freepress.org, where this was first published.
There are zero commercial reactors operating in Japan today. On March 10, 2011, there were 54 licensed to operate, well over 10% percent of the global fleet.
But for the first time in 42 years, a country at the core of global reactor electricity is producing none of its own.
Worldwide, there are fewer than 400 operating reactors for the first time since Chernobyl, a quarter-century ago.
And France has replaced a vehemently pro-nuclear premier with the Socialist Francois Hollande, who will almost certainly build no new reactors. For decades France has been the “poster child” of atomic power. But Hollande is likely to follow the major shift in French national opinion away from nuclear power and toward the kind of green-powered transition now redefining German energy supply.
In the United States, a national grassroots movement to stop federal loan guarantees could end new nuclear construction altogether. New official cost estimates of $9.5 to $12 billion per reactor put the technology off-scale for any meaningful competition with renewables and efficiency.
In India, more than 500 women have joined an on-going hunger strike against construction of reactors at Koodankulam. And in China, more than 30 reactors hang in the balance of a full assessment of the true toll of the Fukushima disaster.
But it seems to have no end. Three melted cores still smolder. New reports from US Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), confirm that at least one spent fuel pool suspended 100 feet in the air, bearing tons of hugely toxic rods, could crash to the ground with another strong earthquake—a virtual certainty by most calculations.
Atomic Rate Rape & the New China Syndrome
By Harvey Wasserman
Small wonder the death knell of new US nukes may be upon us.
Two reactors proposed for Florida will now, say its would-be builders, cost $24 billion or more…up from their original maximum guess of $4 billion each…far beyond comparable renewables and efficiency ( http://nukefree.org/florida-nukes-delayed-3-more-years-cost-now-19-24-billion ).
Two Georgia nukes still wanting tax-funded loan guarantees have been caught pouring faulty concrete and using non-design rebar steel
Currently licensed reactors from California to Vermont, from Texas to Ohio to Florida are leaking radiation, shut for faulty steam generator tubes, closed for failed repairs running over $1 billion and being fought tooth and nail by local downwinders who are tired of rate rape want them shut forever.
But the fate of the Earth may ultimately rest on which China emerges after Fukushima: the green one pushing solar, or the dictatorship pushing nukes that threaten us all.
What we Americans can do about it remains problematic.
But shutting down our own industry begins with killing proposed federal loan guarantees for two new nukes at Vogtle, Georgia
( http://nukefree.org/please-do-sign-petition-stop-new-nuke-loan-guarantees ), and stopping the rate rape being perpetrated to build two more at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer ( http://nukefree.org/ncwarn-duke-rigging-rates-pay-nukes ).
Throughout the US, wanna-be nuke builders are pushing regulators and legislatures to force ratepayers to foot the bill for new reactors while they’re being built. In Iowa, Missouri and Florida ( http://nukefree.org/editorsblog/obamas-atomic-solyndra-0 ) , an angry public is pushing back—hard.
Progress Energy’s staggering new cost estimate for Levy County is a game changer. The idea of paying $12 billion for reactors that can’t even begin construction for at least three years is beyond scale. Progress has blown at least $1 billion on its botched repair and expansion job at north Florida’s Crystal River, which may now never reopen ( http://nukefree.org/editorsblog/nuclear-powers-green-mountain-grassroots-demise ).
Failed steam generator tubes at California’s San Onofre may also keep two reactors there forever shut. In Vermont, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and virtually everywhere other home to geezer nukes, grassroots opposition has seriously escalated. movements are gaining increasing strength. Sooner or later, they will win. We must all pray that happens before yet another nukes blows. It will be a close call.
In part because fracking (another environmental disaster) has made natural gas so cheap ( http://nukefree.org/small-towns-begin-rising-fight-fracking ), and in part because the price of wind and solar continues to plummet, 2011 was the first year since deep in the W Administration that the Executive Branch did not ask for new reactor loan guarantees. If the money can be nixed for Vogtle, and the rate rape for Summer defeated, the whole “nuclear renaissance” could could definitively disappear.
Small modular nukes must still be fought ( http://nukefree.org/are-small-modular-reactors-future-nuke-power ). But the numbers on this imperfected technology do not work without massive taxpayer subsidies or public liability insurance.
Europe’s one-time “nuclear poster child” is about to lose its pro-nuke Sarkozy is poised to the Socialist Francois Hollande ( http://nukefree.org/french-frontrunner-cools-reactor-shut-downs ), who may or may not begin shutting the nation’s reactors. But French public has moved strongly toward renewables and probably won’t tolerate new ones.
Led by Germany, Europe’s nuclear future is past. Proposed reactors in Great Britain and elsewhere are stalled. Bulgaria has cancelled two.
Of Japan’s 54 licensed post-Fukushima units, just one now operates—and may soon shut. Tokyo wants to open more, but grassroots resistance is fierce. Ditto India, where massive demonstrations and hunger strikes have erupted against the Koodankulam project ( http://nukefree.org/10-000-india-hunger-strike-v-koodankulam-reactor ).
South Korea and Taiwan still want new reactors. Korea may sell at least one to the United Arab Emirates. The Saudis and Jordan may soon start construction.
But the global key now rests with China. Despite its campaign to corner the world market in wind and solar hardware, China has been poised to bring on line close to 100 reactors. It may claim the largest number of new proposals—more than 30.
But Fukushima prompted a suspension of new approvals ( http://www.technologyandpolicy.org/2012/03/05/chinas-nuclear-energy-industry-one-year-after-fukushima/ ) and a move toward a national energy plan. A final rejection could blow the floor out of any global nuclear future.
With a rising tide of grassroots environmentalism in China, any No Nukes movement there must be embraced worldwide. In its hands may lie the future of the Earth.
Reactor backers desperately hype potential orders from China and India, and from small nations like Turkey and Taiwan. But who will protect us —or even tell us—when they explode?
This weekend the Sierra Club while host a packed national gathering of grassroots No Nukers ( http://action.sierraclub.org/site/Calendar?view=Detail&id=159641 ) to plan the Us nuclear industry’s final demise. There’s much to celebrate. The campaign for a green-powered Earth has become one of her most successful non-violent social movements.
But the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima are far from over. The radiation they still spew threatens our survival.
Without a truly global Solartopian uprising, the ultimate China Syndrome may yet come in China…and spread worldwide.
In economy and ecology, we have no future without finally cleansing from every corner on Earth the lingering plague of the failed atom.
Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, is at www.solartopia.org , along with THE LAST ENERGY WAR. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm. In 1973 he helped coin the phrase No Nukes.
OBAMA’S ATOMIC SOLYNDRA?
by Harvey Wasserman
The future of nuclear power now hangs on a single decision by President Obama—and us.
His Office of Management and Budget could cave to the unsustainable demands of reactor builders who cannot handle the standard terms of a loan agreement.
Or he could defend basic financial procedures and stand up for the future of the American economy.
You can help make this decision, which will come soon.
It’s about a proposed $8.33 billion nuke power loan guarantee package for two reactors being built at Georgia’s Vogtle. Obama anointed it last year for the Southern Company, parent to Georgia Power. Two other reactors sporadically operate there. Southern just ravaged the new construction side of the site, stripping virtually all vegetation.
It’s also stripped Georgia ratepayers of ever-more millions of dollars, soon to become billions. This project is in the Peach State for its law forcing the public to pay for reactor construction in advance. When the project fails, or the reactors melt, the public still must pay. A taste of what’s coming has emerged in shocking defects in poured concrete at the site which will cost millions to correct and months of delay on a project whose construction has barely begun ( http://nukefree.org/nc-warn-vogtle-already-hit-major-design-flaw-delay ) .
Nonetheless, Southern runs virtually no financial risk. It actually has an interest in never finishing. Florida is now in turmoil, trying to rid itself of a similar Construction Work in Progress law ( http://nukefree.org/florida-legislators-sue-stop-nuke-bailouts-advance ).
Worldwide estimated reactor costs have jumped from $3-5 billion each a few short years ago to $10 billion or more, and rising.
Uranium prices are set to soar as the supply of Russian weapons-based fuel is about done. And renewables have long since outstripped atomic energy as being cheaper, faster to build, cleaner, safer, more reliable and open to community ownership.
There are virtually no private investors willing to back new reactor construction. There are no private insurers willing to take the risk on operating reactors. There is no place to store the radioactive wastes they generate.
Operating reactors in Vermont ( http://nukefree.org/vermonters-tell-vermont-yankee-get-out ), New York, California ( http://nukefree.org/nrc-chair-jazcko-says-san-onofre-be-shut-indefinitely )and elsewhere now face ferocious public uprisings to get them shut.
They are being joined by Governors, US Senators and entire legislatures. Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont, has appeared at a major public rally to shut Yankee. The legislature long ago voted (26-4) the same way. Shumlin was joined by US Senator Bernie Sanders, who has issued a stunning denunciation of the loan guarantees ( http://nukefree.org/sen-bernie-sanders-ryan-alexander-stop-nuclear-subsidies ) . US Senator Ron Wyden of Orgeon has published a serious warning about the on-going dangers of Fukushima, which he recently visited ( http://nukefree.org/sen-wyden-warns-situation-fukushima-worse-believed ).
Once the public kills one of these elderly reactors, a tsunami of shutdowns among the 104 currently licensed in the US will follow.
Germany and much of the rest of Europe have abandoned the technology ( http://nukefree.org/europes-war-over-nuclear-financing ). Bulgaria has just scrapped plans for two proposed generators. Major banking institutions have warned potential investors in Britain’s planned reactors that if they proceed, they will lose their financial standing. Mexico has also said it won’t build new nukes.
In Asia, only one of Japan’s 54 licensed reactors now operates, and it may soon shut. Huge demonstrations and hunger strikes are raging against a proposed project at Koodankulam, India. The Philippines says it won’t build any reactors at all ( http://nukefree.org/philippines-says-no-new-nukes ). China, the last bastion of any apparent large-scale interest in multiple nukes, seems to be wavering, in part because of the rise of a No Nukes movement there.
Here, two reactors barely beginning construction in South Carolina are also in deep trouble. Their builders need massive rate hikes in North Carolina to proceed, and the opposition there is fierce ( http://nukefree.org/ncwarn-north-carolina-can-kill-south-carolina-nuke-project ).
But the lynchpin is Vogtle. The construction loan guarantee program got $18.5 billion from George W. Bush in 2005. With the industry in deepening chaos, it took until last year for a president to designate less than half that money. For the first time in years, there is no Executive or Congressional request to put more money into the fund.
The French National Utility EDF did step forward to get funding for Maryland’s proposed Calvert Cliffs project. But haggling over terms contributed to its demise.
Now Southern faces the same abyss. It refuses what the mortgage community would consider a normal 20% downpayment on its taxpayer-funded loan. Southern wants to put virtually none of its own money into the project, leaving the radioactive gamble totally to the public.
But the Office of Management and Budget is apparently demanding something more reasonable ( http://nukefree.org/vogtle-loan-guarantee-not-yet-done-deal ). Because the OMB is a White House agency, Obama holds the key. It’s our job to make him turn it in a green direction.
A short while ago, this package was considered a done deal. But the GOP uproar over the failed $535 million loan to the solar company Solyndra changed to context. Initiated by Bush, Republicans have made Solyndra the poster child for bad federal loans.
Vogtle involves some 15 times Solyndra’s liability. And it’s all Obama’s. At least three petitions are circulating against the package.( http://nukefree.org/please-do-sign-petition-stop-new-nuke-loan-guarantees ).
There are many ways to finally shut down what has been the most expensive technological failure in human history. Fukushima and the killing power of radiation, the unsolved problem of radioactive waste, the campaigns against failing reactors such as Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, San Onofre and Davis-Besse—all are key. This weekend, a conference convened by the Sierra Club in Washington, DC ( http://action.sierraclub.org/site/DocServer/no_Nukes_Flyer2.pdf?docID=9701 ) , will weigh the various strategies.
But killing this loan guarantee package could finally kill the prospect of new reactors in the US. The astonishing rise of Solartopian green technologies has far outstripped atomic energy in the marketplace. Every delay deeply diminishes the possibility of building more of these profoundly uneconomic anachronisms.
In the long run, Vogtle, Summer and any other new nukes that seem to slip through in the short term will almost certainly be stopped by what has become one of the most powerful non-violent social movements in human history.
But right now, it’s up to Obama—and us. Does he really want an atomic Solyndra on his hands? Will we really let this happen?
Let’s relieve the President of this radioactive burden. Let’s kill these reactors before they kill us, and take the most significant leap of all toward a green-powered Earth.
Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth is at www.harveywasserman.ning.com, along with HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE US. He edits www.nukefree.org, and his Green Power & Wellness Show airs at www.progressiveradionetwork.com
In the wake of Fukushima, grassroots citizen action is shutting the worldwide nuclear power industry.
A Solartopian tipping point is upon us in the US, Europe and Japan which will re-define how the human race gets its energy.
States rights and local democracy are at the core of the battle. The definitive breaking point looms in Vermont. By mid-March a state board is likely to deny the Yankee reactor licenses to operate or to create radioactive waste.
If that happens, a Vermont shutdown could mark a critical moment in establishing state power over an atomic reactor. A critical domino would fall—as it has in Japan and Europe—and we will begin taking down old reactors all across the US. Four new reactors barely under construction will go down with them, making inevitable the end America’s age of atomic power.
In Vermont, the New Orleans-based Entergy bought the Yankee reactor in 2002. Entergy agreed to shut it if the state’s Public Service Board denied it a Certificate of Public Good to continue to operate and generate radioactive waste. That decision is due by March 21, the forty-year anniversary of the reactor’s 1972 opening.
Entergy has horrified many of its staunchest Green Mountain supporters. One of its cooling towers has simply collapsed from ancient rot and basic negligence. It has leaked tritium and other radioactive isotopes from pipes the company has said—under oath—do not exist. Entergy sued Vermont after the legislature voted (26 to 4) to shut the reactor. When its lawyers won in federal court, Entergy demanded the public pay it $4 million in legal fees.
But the company miscalculated. It welcomed federal Judge Garvin Murtha’s ruling that the legislature could not shut Yankee (the state is appealing). But Murtha also upheld the right of the Public Service Board to deny Entergy those operating and waste production permits. Read the rest of this entry →
We may yet lose Tokyo….not to mention Alaska…and now Georgia, too
February 10, 2012
As the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves a construction/operating license for two new reactors in Georgia, alarming reports from Japan indicate the Fukushima catastrophe is far from over.
Thousands of tons of intensely radioactive spent fuel are still in serious jeopardy. Radioactive trash and water are spewing into the environment. And nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen reports that during the string of disasters following March 11, 2011′s earthquake and tsunami, Fukushima 1′s containment cap may actually have lifted off its base, releasing dangerously radioactive gasses and opening a gap for an ensuing hydrogen explosion.
There are some two dozen of these Mark I-style containments currently in place in the US.
Newly released secret email from the NRC also shows its Commissioners were in the dark about much of what was happening during the early hours of the Fukushima disaster. They worried that Tokyo might have to be evacuated, and that airb orne radiation spewing across the Pacific could seriously contaminate Alaska.
Reactor pushers have welcomed the NRC’s approval of the new Westinghouse AP-1000 design for Georgia’s Vogtle. Two reactors operate there now, and the two newly approved ones are being funded with $8.3 billion in federally guaranteed loans and state-based rate hikes levied in advance of the reactors’ being completed.
NRC Chair Gregory Jazcko made the sole no vote on the Vogtle license, warning that the proposed time frame would not allow lessons from Fukushima to be incorporated into the reactors’ design.
The four Commissioners voting to approve have attacked Jazcko in front of Congress for his “management style,” but this vote indicates the problem is certainly more rooted in attitudes toward reactor safety.
The approval is the first for a new construction project since 1978. The debate leading up to it stretched out for years. Among other things, the Commission raised questions about whether the AP1000 can withstand earthquakes and other natural disasters. Even now the final plans are not entirely complete. Only two other US reactors—in neighboring South Carolina—are even in the pre-construction phase. As in Georgia, South Carolina consumers are being forced to pay for the reactors as they are being built. Should they not be completed, or suffer disaster once they are, the state’s ratepayers will be on the hook. Read the rest of this entry →