Illinois has become “Nuclear America”
- Illinois has more nuclear power plants than any other state in the U.S. Exelon Nuclear owns 14 reactors, three of which closed prematurely and will never be reopened. Nationwide, the nuclear industry operates 99 reactors, with up to 30% of those scheduled to close in the next decade.
- Each year Illinois’ 14 nuclear reactors produce on average tens of thousands of cubic feet of “low-level” (not low-hazard) radioactive waste (LLRW), representing about 90% of the total volume and 99+% of the radioactivity of all LLRW produced in Illinois from all sources. Each reactor also produces about 30 to 50 tons of “high-level” radioactive wastes (HLRW) each year in the form of “spent” reactor fuel, which must remain at the reactor sites until a permanent disposal facility opens.
- Illinois currently stores over 10,000 of the nation’s ~80,000 tons of spent-fuel HLRW at reactor sites and facilities, more than any other state.
Nuclear Power is a Health, Safety, and Environmental Threat
- When the Nuclear Age was launched, nuclear advocates predicted that the probability of a severe core meltdown and major release of radiation among the World’s reactors would be 1 in 10,000 reactor years. (NOTE: a “reactor-year” is one reactor operating for one year). We have not accumulated 10,000 years-worth of reactor operation, yet have already experienced the catastrophic nuclear disasters at Chornobyl in 1986, and the three meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima, Japan in 2011. Several other less-severe meltdowns an radiation releases have occurred in Three Mile Island, PA in 1979, Fermi-1 in MI in 1966, and Windscale, England in 1956, among the most prominent of these.
- In February, 1997, a reactor operator error at ComEd’s Zion nuclear reactor prompted the Regional head of the NRC to state, “It doesn’t get any worse than this.” In March, in a test that NRC said “requires thinking,” 25 of 31 reactor operators at ComEd’s La Salle reactors flunked a test of their ability to handle “abnormal” reactor problems.
- By the year 2000, Exelon’s predecessor utility Commonwealth Edison, and the now-defunct Illinois Power Co. had amassed over 100 serious safety violations worth over $8 million in fines. Since then the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has done away with most of its older supervisory and safety-related lists, and has opted to not fine nuclear utilities for any but the most extreme violations. The NRC’s current 4-level evaluation system does not have any written criteria that would qualify a malfunctioning reactor for mandatory automatic shutdown.
- According to a 1982 study done by Sandia National Laboratories (the “CRAC-2 Study”), a severe (but not necessarily “worst-case”) nuclear power accident in Illinois would result in tens-of-thousands of deaths, casualties and latent cancers in the hundreds-of-thousands, and property loss in the tens-to hundreds-of-billions of dollars.
Nuclear Power is Uneconomical
- In the U.S., nuclear power contributes only 18-20% of our electricity, and only 8-10% of our total energy consumption. In Illinois these percentages are much greater due to Exelon’s over-reliance on nuclear power.
- Despite $55 billion in federal loan guarantees offered by the Bush and Obama administrations, only two reactors are currently under construction in the U.S., of the 34 which were initially planned. These two reactors in Georgia are years behind schedule, and will cost as much as $25 billion to complete– if they are ever completed.
- In some parts of the U.S., electricity from old nuclear reactors costs more than electricity from wind and solar energy.
- Older nuclear reactors are no longer able to compete on price with natural gas, wind and solar plants in a market system. Their owners have opted to petition state and federal governments for direct “bailouts” to keep the plants operating. Exelon Corporation is a major champion of the nuclear bailouts, and received one worth $2.3 billion over 10 years from the Illinois State Legislature in late 2016, and the New York Legislature in 2015. Exelon is seeking bailouts in Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Other nuclear utilities are petitioning for bailouts in Ohio and some New England states.
- According to a 2012 study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the nuclear industry receives over 30 direct and indirect subsidies from the federal government, such as deferred taxes, artificially low limits on liability in case of nuclear accidents, and fuel fabrication write-offs. No other industry has enjoyed such privilege.
- Many costs for nuclear power have been deliberately underestimated by government and industry such as the costs for the permanent disposal of nuclear wastes, the “decommissioning” (shutting-down and cleaning-up) of retired nuclear power plants, and nuclear accident consequences.
Nuclear Power is Not Necessary
- Nuclear power contributes only 18-20% of our electricity; yet studies have shown that in the U.S. we waste or inefficiently use between 25% – 44% of all electricity generated!
- Three separate studies done by government and private firms since 1982 have shown that the U.S. has the potential to conserve the electrical equivalent of between 145 to 210 nuclear power plants! Only 99 are currently in operation in the U.S.
- Numerous in-depth studies done since 2008 demonstrate that the U.S. can become “carbon-free/nuclear free” (i.e., no nuclear or fossil fuel plants) cost-effectively by the years 2035-2040.
- The nuclear industry claims that nuclear-generated electricity costs 11¢/kilowatt-hour (kwh); electricity from the newest nuclear plants costs 15-25¢/kwh or more. It takes from 7 to 12 years to build a nuclear power plant. Yet, conservation and efficiency programs cost between 0.5-4.0¢/kwh, and can be implemented in between 6 months to 2 years. Utility-scale windfarms can be built in 1-3 years, and are already cost competitive with nuclear without federal subsidies.
- A healthier, more common-sense attitude of using less energy, combined with state-of-the-art electrically efficient products (appliances, light-bulbs, motors) could make nuclear power totally irrelevant in our energy future.
- Using less energy does not mean “hardship;” it represents “wisdom,” and requires only prudent planning. The Japanese, Germans, and Swedes enjoy the same standard of living as we do in the United States — yet use 40% to 60% less energy than we use!
Nuclear Power Cannot Reduce Imports of Foreign Oil
- Improving the fleet mileage of U.S. cars from the present 26 miles per gallon will have a far greater and immediate effect on oil imports than can nuclear power.
- Ads promoting nuclear power claim that it will help reduce our dependency on foreign oil imports. This is not true. Only 2-3% of our electricity comes from burning oil — both domestic and foreign. Of this, half is used in “peak-load” (quick start-up) oil fired plants used on the hottest days of the year and in emergencies. Nuclear plants take too long to start up, and cannot be used as “peak-load” plants.
- Ironically, the first year these pro-nuclear ads ran, over 40% of the uranium fuel used in U.S. reactors had come from foreign sources! So much for reducing our energy dependence on foreign imports.
- Federal regulators at the NRC have repeatedly tried to eliminate the current prohibition on foreign countries owning majority stakes in U.S. nuclear power plants.
Nuclear Power Cannot Appreciably Help Reduce Global Warming
Since 1999, NEIS has conducted a program titled, “You Can’t ‘Nuke’ Global Warming,” which illustrates in great detail why nuclear power can’t have an appreciable effect on current climate disruption, but actually acts as a barrier to the implementation of better climate-related energy solutions, such as efficiency, wind and solar power. (see You Can’t Nuke Global Warming)