Exelon bill designed to bailout failing nuclear plants, transfer wealth, kill renewables, NEIS testifies

SPRINGFIELD, May 16, 2016— Nuclear Energy Information Service of Chicago testified today before the Illinois State Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee that the new Exelon legislation amounted to a “corporate welfare bailout” designed to kill renewable energy and “transfer wealth from Illinois ratepayers to Exelon shareholders.”

Photo courtesy of US NRC
Clinton nucear plant. Photo courtesy of US NRC

Speaking at a Subject Matter hearing, NEIS Director David Kraft urged legislators to reject the flawed Exelon legislation – Amendment 3 to SB.1585, the so-called “Next Generation Energy Plan” – and fix the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) as soon as possible, and before considering any Exelon reactor bailout schemes.

“Exelon’s obstructionism has done real harm to Illinois renewable energy,” Kraft notes.  “[Exelon] now suggests that it will continue to do that harm unless its failed and anachronistic business model is ‘rewarded’ – bailed out.  It is simply inappropriate and irresponsible – and dumb energy policy – to reward such self-fulfilling prophecy,” Kraft told the Committee.

The RPS program has been unable to access millions of dollars in collected money to build new renewable energy generating facilities in Illinois due to an unforeseen glitch in the original law.  Exelon lobbyists have helped stall that fix for the past 4 years, while at the same time creating pro-nuclear front groups to lobby the Illinois Legislators for a financial bailout of allegedly money-losing nuclear reactors in Illinois.

The original amount Exelon suggested was $1.6 billion over five years, an amount which has been scaled back in successive versions of their hardship story, in part due to positive gains in the local energy markets.  While not stated directly in the current Exelon bill, the bailout ask is now estimated to be anywhere from $100 to $150 million per year for the money losing Clinton-1 and Quad Cities 1&2 reactors.  While pleading financial hardship at these reactors, Exelon’s Christopher Crane pledged to shareholders in Exelon’s 4Q report earlier this year that they would receive an annual 2.5% increase in dividends over the next three years.

“Some hardship,” observes Kraft.  “These reactors are Exelon’s private assets.  There is no rational justification for ratepayers – the public – to subsidize these private assets, and certainly not without getting some kind of equity for use of their money,” Kraft asserts.  “If Exelon keeps the assets, let their shareholders pay for their operation,” he said.

Exelon claims that their legislation would “level the playing field for all clean energy sources to compete…” and “…recognize the zero-carbon benefits of nuclear power.”

“Why single out the low-carbon benefits for reward?” Kraft asks.  “Should not RE/EE be rewarded for the facts that they not only are lower-carbon emitters than nuclear, but they eliminate the costly and risky societal burdens of radioactive waste production and disposal, and nuclear proliferation of materials, expertise, technology and ultimately nuclear weapons and terrorism.  Should not these positive societal benefits be compensated for additional reward?” Kraft points out.

Kraft also criticized the Exelon threat of job and economic loss stemming from their proposed closure of Clinton and Quad Cities, noting that renewable energy and energy efficiency, sectors which the Exelon nuclear bailout could severely damage and Exelon’s obstruction of the RPS fix already has, account for 12 times the number of direct jobs statewide as would be lost at the two reactors, and as much as 25 times the total number if including indirect jobs.  “If legislators are concerned about jobs across the State, they should focus on fixing the RPS,” Kraft maintained.  He also recommended establishing “just transition funds” for all reactor communities which will inevitably face reactor closures when the reactor licenses expire.  This suggestion has received positive response from some legislators.


NRC regulators cited for “major misses,” lack of safety culture

CHICAGO—All but three of Exelon’s 11 operating reactors in Illinois are reported as having “near misses” events – events that qualify a precursors to potential meltdowns, according to both a Greenpeace Report released today, and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) documents on which the report is based.

Greenpeace Safety Study Reports US is "Nuclear Tightrope" Walking
Greenpeace Safety Study Reports US is “Nuclear Tightrope” Walking

“As legislators and the Governor move to decide Illinois energy future and whether to bailout three of Exelon’s aging and financially failing reactors, they should well consider the potential safety risks of staying with nuclear power, and whether or not the federal regulators are doing their job to adequately protect Illinois from enormous economic and environmental harm,” warns Dave Kraft, Director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a safe-energy advocacy and anti-nuclear environmental organization.

The Report, “Nuclear Near Misses: A Decade of Accident Precursors at U.S. Nuclear Plants,” published by Greenpeace USA  today, chronicles events reported to the NRC at U.S. reactors from 2004 through 2014 that would qualify as, “near misses or accident precursors at US nuclear power plants over the past decade that risk analysts have determined are precursors to a meltdown.”

These events cover events dealing with potential and actual flooding; loss of offsite power (a contributor to the explosions and meltdowns of the three GE Mark-I containment reactors at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011); and other human-error and natural event related conditions.

As disturbing as the list of 163 reported incidents during the decade studied is, the Report’s description of the utter failure of the NRC to regulate properly is cause for even more alarm.

“NEIS has long maintained that ‘NRC’ has stood for ‘not really concerned’ when it comes to safety regulation,” notes NEIS’ Kraft.  “Congressional staff and insiders – and even former NRC Commissioners — have long described NRC as an agency captive of the industry it’s supposed to be regulating.  This Report DOCUMENTS using NRC’s own reports just how true this assessment is,” Kraft continues.

“If Illinois officials choose to continue down the nuclear path by bailing out Exelon’s aging reactors, they are now advised that Illinois cannot expect much from the NRC in the way of regulatory protection,” Kraft asserts.

Of the 11 operation Exelon reactors in Illinois, only Braidwood-1 and – ironically – the aging and financially-failing Quad Cities 1&2 reactors are not listed in the report for that decade.

Download the Report

For more information about the details of the report, contact:
Jim Riccio, Greenpeace

Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace