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America’s 2 New Nukes Are On the Brink of Death

6:48 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

MyFDL Editor Notes: Title edited to remove all caps in accordance with MyFDL rules. Image link also removed as image was not from an approved source for MyFDL, also covered under MyFDL rules.

Harvey Wasserman

America’s 2 new nukes are on the brink of death
April 5, 2012

The only two US reactor projects now technically under construction are on the brink of death for financial reasons.

If they go under, there will almost certainly be no new reactors built here.

The much mythologized “nuclear renaissance” will be officially buried, and the US can take a definitive leap toward a green-powered future that will actually work and that won’t threaten the continent with radioactive contamination.

As this drama unfolds, the collapse of global nuclear power continues, as two reactors proposed for Bulgaria have been cancelled, and just one of Japan’s 54 licensed reactors is operating. That one may well close next month, leaving Japan without a single operating commercial nuke.

Georgia’s double-reactor Vogtle project has been sold on the basis of federal loan guarantees. Last year President Obama promised the Southern Company, parent to Georgia Power, $8.33 billion in financing from an $18.5 billion fund that had been established at the Department of Energy by George W. Bush.

Until last week most industry observers had assumed the guarantees were a done deal. But the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group, has publicly complained that the Office of Management and Budget may be requiring terms that are unacceptable to the builders.

Southern and its supporters remain ostensibly optimistic that the deal will be done. But the climate for loan guarantees has changed since this one was promised. The $535 million collapse of Solyndra prompted a rash of angry Congressional hearings and cast a long shadow over the whole range of loan guarantees for energy projects. Though the Vogtle deal comes from a separate fund, skepticism over stalled negotiations is rising.

So is resistance among Georgia ratepayers. To fund the new Vogtle reactors, Southern is forcing “construction work in progress” rate hikes that require consumers to pay for the new nukes as they’re being built. Southern is free of liability, even if the reactors are not completed. Thus it behooves the company to build them essentially forever, collecting payment whether they open or not.

All that would collapse should the loan guarantee package fail.

A similar fate may be awaiting the Summer Project. South Carolina Electric & Gas has pledged to build the two new reactors there without federal subsidies or guarantees. But it does require ratepayer funding up front. That includes an apparent need for substantial financial participation from Duke Power and/or Progress Energy customers in North Carolina who have been targeted to receive some of the electricity projected to come from Summer. [cont.] Read the rest of this entry →

Nuclear Power’s Green Mountain Grassroots Demise

4:42 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

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 →

Court to Vermont: “Drop Dead”

2:16 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Greenpeace Airship over Vermont Yankee (photo: greenpeaceusa09, flickr)

Greenpeace Airship over Vermont Yankee (photo: CJ Gunther, greenpeaceusa09, flickr)

A federal judge has told the people of Vermont that a solemn contract between them and the reactor owner Entergy need not be honored.

The fight will almost certainly now go to the US Supreme Court. At stake is not only the future of atomic power, but the legitimacy of all deals signed between corporations and the public.  Chief Justice John Roberts’ conservative court will soon decide whether a private corporation can sign what should be an enforceable contract with a public entity and then flat-out ignore it.

In 2003 Entergy made a deal with the state of Vermont. The Louisiana-based nuke speculator said that if it could buy and operate the decrepit Vermont Yankee reactor under certain terms and conditions, the company would then agree to shut it down if the state denied it a permit to continue. The drop dead date: March 21, 2012.

In the interim, VY has been found leaking radioactive tritium and much more into the ground and the nearby Connecticut River. Under oath, in public testimony, the company had denied that the pipes that leaked even existed.

One of Yankee’s cooling towers has also collapsed…just plain crumbled.

One of Yankee’s siblings—Fukushima One—has melted and exploded (VY is one of some two dozen Fukushima clones licensed in the US).

In the face of these events, the legislature, in partnership with Vermont’s governor, voted 26-4 to deny Entergy a permit to continue. But the company is determined to continue reaping huge profits on a 35-year-old reactor — long since amortized at public expense — with very cheap overhead based on slipshod operating techniques where safety always comes second. Along the way Entergy has also tried to stick Vermont Yankee into an underfunded corporate shell aimed at shielding it from all economic liabilities.

To allow VY to continue fissioning, Judge John Murtha latched onto Entergy’s argument that the state legislature committed the horrible sin of actually discussing safety issues. These, by federal law, are reserved for Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He chose to ignore the serious breach of contract issues involved. As Deb Katz of the Citizens Awareness Network puts it: “Entergy’s lawyers cherry-picked legislators’ questions about safety” from a previous debate relating to nuclear waste. “Judge Murtha supported the corporation over the will of the people.” Read the rest of this entry →