, , ,

EDITORIAL: Time To End The Utility Bailout Nonsense

 

When he was 11, my stepson taught me one of the most valuable Life-lessons I’ve learned when he said, “You know Dave, man isn’t a “rational” animal.  He’s a “rationalizing” one!”

Truer words have never been spoken when examining the nonsense rationalizations being paraded around by execs of unprofitable electric utilities and their governmental handmaidens for bailing out unprofitable nuclear and coal plants that the market-based system utility lobbyists introduced years ago would otherwise see closed.

A “rationalization” is usually a specious excuse or explanation offered to cover up a serious flaw or failure.  In some cases – like state-mandated nuclear and coal plant bailouts — a legalized fig-leaf, if you will.

Virtually every bailout rationalization offered to date by the Exelons and Dynegys, Trumps and Perrys of the world fall flat on their face when analyzed in detail by the majority of professional agencies and staffs employed to make the crucial, day-to-day decisions that keep the electric grid functioning.  National security, grid resilience, onsite fuel reserves – all such claims have been handily debunked by the experts, historical evidence, or both.

Now Exelon informs the world that its Dresden and Byron reactors are now in “financial distress.”  How sad.  So are Illinois ratepayers after the last $2.4 billion bailout Governor Rauner and Speaker Michael Madigan awarded them in 2016.

Exelon claims “… the company will not at any point seek subsidies from Illinois ratepayers to keep Dresden and Byron open…”.  But that’s what Exelon management said in 2014 about the then five reactors they said were in “financial distress,” too.  This time, they instead are relying on the twisted illogic trying to pass as public policy they hope will come from a Trump Administration Soviet-style protectionist mandate; or twisty balloon-dog machinations they hope regional system operator PJM will invent to facilitate the next wealth transfer from ratepayers to shareholders.

In 2014 our organization brought two propositions to the bailout negotiations that went ignored, and are being ignored today:  1.) nowhere in the State Constitution is the Legislature obligated to guarantee the profitability of a private corporation; and 2.) it is the communities whose jobs and economies are threatened by reactor and coal plant closures that need the bailing out, not profitable private corporations.

We recommended institution of a “just transitions” negotiation among affected parties as an alternative to repeated nuclear hostage crises, to create an economic transition plan for closures before they become imminent crises.  We provided testimony to this effect to both the Senate and House energy committees; and spoke with over 40 state elected and appointed officials prior to the bailout.  We again proposed this concept in a State Journal Register op-ed published in December 2016 after Governor Rauner signed Exelon’s bailout into law.

It is long past time to institute this pro-active approach to protecting affected communities and ratepayers.  Economic blackmail is a poor way to conduct energy policy; and legalized extortion no valid substitute for real market-based solutions.

The utility bailout mania triggered by Exelon has swept the nation like some form of energy-HIV.  Empty, fig-leaf rationalizations created to provide some pretense of legality makes a mockery of the agencies and regulations already in place which seem to be doing the grid reliability job quite well, thank you.

Harsh economic realities will soon begin to force legislatures and Congress to embrace one obvious conclusion:  you cannot create an energy future by bailing out the past.

Sources:

 

“Nuclear Hotseat” Skewers U OF C’s “Nuclear Reaction” Bubble-Babble

A week after the “Nuclear Reaction” party ended at University of Chicago, and the dusty fallout from the artsy multi-colored mushroom cloud simulation settled to the Earth, producer Libbe HaLevy’s Nuclear Hotseat show took the University to task for its infomercial promoting nuclear power:

Listen to the Nuclear Hotseat Show

To observe the 75th anniversary of the Nuclear Age on Dec. 2, University of Chicago brought in such energy luminaries as former DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz and Exelon CEO Chris Crane ostensibly to acknowledge the great scientific achievement of the splitting of the atom.  What was presented sounded more like an advertisement for more nuclear, new nuclear, and forget about any of those dark consequences – like Chornobyl and Fukushima, the Rio Puerco uranium tailings spill, Mayak, and of course, Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Ciu’s “Marshmallow-Mushroom Cloud” — a kinder gentler nuclear holocost symbol

NEIS also made plans to observe this anniversary, and used it to proclaim, “The Nuclear Age is over.  We are now entering the Age of Decommissioning, where responsible adults recognize we now have to clean up the nuclear messes of the past 75 years,” according to NEIS’ director, Dave Kraft.  NEIS planned a week of events to provide a counterpoint to the over-congratulatory mood of the University of Chicago events.

Arnie Gundersen and Libbe HaLevy at the DePaul “Where are the People?” event, Dec. 2. engineer and former nuclear power vice-president Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education

To balance the University’s anticipated nuclear-kumbaya messaging NEIS conducted programs throughout the week with nuclear engineer and former nuclear power vice-president Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education of Vermont;  Dr. Norma Field, professor emeritus at University of Chicago Dept. of East Asian Studies; and Dr. Yuki Miyamoto, professor of ethics at DePaul University Dept. of Religious Studies, and second-generation Hiroshima survivor.  And to make sure the events and messages were not lost, NEIS brought in Libbe HaLevy, producer of Nuclear Hotseat, and a Three Mile Island survivor.

The main speaking event took place at DePaul University on Dec. 2, the actual 75th anniversary day.  Throughout the week Gundersen and Dr. Field were taped at the studios of CAN-TV, Chicago’s cable access TV station, on the topic of “Where are the People? – A look at the human toll of the Nuclear Age from Fermi to Fukushima.”  Both were also interviewed by Jerome McDonnell of WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s “WorldView” show, speaking on “The End of the Nuclear Age:  Where are the People?”  Gundersen did a final presentation on why NOT nuclear power in a climate disrupted world on Sunday, Dec. 3rd at the 3rd Unitarian Church of Chicago, which was taped by four radio outlets.

The University’s first Nuclear Reaction panel of the day: “The Role of Nuclear Energy in a Climate Constrained World,” included Exelon CEO Chris Crain and University economics professor Michael Greenstone, and was moderated by former WBEZ Odyssey show host Gretchen Helfrich.  Regrettably, the moderator never had the participants describe what a “climate constrained world” was and what it would look like, let alone question whether nuclear power could function in it, before allowing the panelists to assert their pre-determined conclusion without sufficient evidence that nuclear power was essential in some form moving forward.  While both conceded new nuclear power was too exorbitantly expensive to be a significant player in any kind of future world, let alone a climate disrupted one, both argued for the continuation of present nuclear plants even if running at financial loss.

These and other assertions were challenged during the brief question and answer period by NEIS/Sierra Club member Steven Sondheim, and NEIS Board President Gail Snyder.  Snyder’s question was perhaps the blockbuster that addressed the nuclear Emperor’s most significant wardrobe problem:

“Mr. Crain you had mentioned merging economic and environmental policy, and Mr. Greenstone, you had mentioned the challenge of how to compensate people, and for some people to ‘take the hit’ for technology. I haven’t heard either of you address nuclear accidents.  I haven’t heard Fukushima being brought up, or Chernobyl, or the impacts of uranium mining on American Indian communities.  So, I’d like to know where the negative impact of nuclear power fits into the calculus of how energy should be chosen?…It really is being excluded from this argument of carbon, and one can’t talk about energy being clean, and base it only on carbon without talking about these extremely negative impacts when nuclear goes wrong.”

The day’s second panel, “The Role of Nuclear Weapons in the Modern World,” left Drs. Norma Field and Yuki Miyamoto aghast.  Coupled with the gayly colored mushroom cloud unleashed over the University the next day on Saturday, Dec 2 – the actual 75th

Dr. Norma Field (l.) and Dr. Yuki Miyamoto at WBEZ studios “Worldview” show.

anniversary day – Dr. Field commented in frustration, “I’m stricken with the thought that we educators have failed in getting out the word that it is truly inadequate to keep looking at these clouds from the side–what happened underneath?!”

It was later learned that a die-in protest had actually taken place during this art event, and that the University had somehow repressed it.  Students lay motionless on the ground in front of the world famous Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang as his colored mushroom cloud was detonated above the crowd.  Said India Weston, a transmedia performance artist and protest organizer:  “A lot of the [University’s] events have been contradictory to one another and primarily frame things in more of a positive light than not,…and yet, there’s no sort of threshold of acceptable nuclear energy exposure.”

She continued, “The University website claims that the cloud would dissipate harmlessly after about a minute, but that’s just not how radiation works,” Weston added. “It’s a geo-trauma that affects us all and will for generations and generations. So I was hoping to make more visible the all-too-invisible effects of radiation on the human body.”

The following day on Saturday, Dec. 2nd, NEIS co-sponsored an event with Dr. Yuki Miyamoto and the Department of Religious Study at DePaul University titled, “Where are the People? – A look at the human toll of the Nuclear Age from Fermi to Fukushima.”  Guest speakers Arnie Gundersen and Dr. Field spoke and answered questions for over 2-1/2 hours on the regularly absent question of the negative effects of the Nuclear Age on people across the globe.

[NOTE:  This program at DePaul, and a second in-studio TV interview with Gundersen and Dr. Field were both taped by Chicago’s premiere community public television station, CAN-TV.  Both will be posted online within the next week.  The URLs will be posted on the NEIS website.  We thank CAN-TV for its exceptional dedication to true community access television service. – NEIS].

Gundersen explains why nuclear power won’t help alleviate climate disruption at 3rd Unitarian Church.

In wrapping up her coverage of the week’s events, Libbe HaLevy asked NEIS director Dave Kraft for his impression of the University of Chicago’s Nuclear Reaction events (which she later described as a “bubble-babble”):

“It’s probably one of the most intellectually dishonest symposiums I’ve ever seen at an institution of higher learning.  It was nothing but a propaganda statement for the nuclear industry, which is desperately trying to stay alive, and is marshaling all its allies in academia, government and the military to put across this false notion that, somehow, nuclear power is going to make our grid more reliable, where the evidence points to the contrary.”

And so, as the Nuclear Age ends as it began – in secrecy, selective truth and memory, and unrealistic expectations —  the Age of Decommissioning is born.

Nuclear Experts Ask: “Where Are the People?” as Nuclear Age Ends

NEIS’ “The End of the Nuclear Age: Where are the People?” week continued Thursday,  Nov. 30th,  featuring nuclear expert, engineer, and former nuclear utility vice-president Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education Corp, and Dr. Norma Field, professor emeritus, Dept. of East Asian Studies, University of Chicago, as guests with Jerome McDonnell on WBEZ’s Worldview show.

WBEZ’s Worldview Show

 

Arnie Gundersen

Sandwiched in between these two amazing guests was former DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz by telephone. He will be keynoting the University of Chicago’s events on Friday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m.  All of Friday’s events will happen at the Reynolds Club/Mandel Hall located at 5706 S. University Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637. BIG thanks go to Jerome McDonnell and the WorldView Team at WBEZ for understanding the significance of this message and giving it air time.

Dr. Norma Field

Come hear both Arnie Gundersen and Dr. Field this Saturday, Dec. 2, 1:00 p.m. at DePaul University, Lincoln Park campus, where they will continue the discussion of “Where are the People?” most affected by the Nuclear Age.

NEIS is sponsoring these and others events to observe the 75th anniversary of the first chain reaction, done by Enrico Fermi on Dec. 2, 1942, at the University of Chicago, as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II.  The world hasn’t been quite the same ever since.

Link to Facebook Event Information

IL Delegation: No to Yucca & CIS

The following letter and a supplemental packet of supportive information (see NEIS Literature page for some of these) was submitted by U.S. mail and e-mail to the entire Illinois Delegation to Congress today, urging them to oppose the re-start of the Yucca Mt. site, and “centralized interim storage” (CIS) of reactor spent fuel. NEIS urged instead that Congress support the use of “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) of reactor spent fuel, and get on with a legitimately scientific investigation for a permanent deep-geologic disposal facility for the wastes.

Legislation (H.R.3053) supporting Yucca and CIS is expected to be voted on in the House in early October. (See Action Alert of 9/21/17 below).

The Letter:

23 September, 2017

TO: Illinois Congressional Delegation

RE: proposed legislation on Yucca Mt. and “Centralized Interim Storage” (CIS) of High-Level Radioactive Waste (HLRW)

Greetings,

We hope that this letter finds you well.

By all recent news accounts and objective measures, the Nuclear Age as we knew it is coming to an end. In its place we are entering the “Age of Decommissioning.” This is the period where reactors close and are torn down, and both they and the wastes they have produced and accumulated for decades must be dealt with and kept sequestered from the environment for as much as thousands of years.

For a variety of reasons – mostly political, and many pre-dating the years of Harry Reid and Barack Obama – society has prepared poorly for The Age of Decommissioning. Utilities try to dodge the inevitable closure of reactors by seeking government bailouts to prop up failing reactors. Agencies charged with protecting the public and the environment enact faulty or inadequate regulations, or fail to enforce the good ones. And, the short term needs of Congressional election cycles long past have left the enormous nuclear structure with literally no “bathroom.” And now, the debt collector is at the Nation’s door.

With the Nation’s nose very close to the fan blades, Congress now scrambles to “take swift action” on complex, serious problems that have been left to fester for decades. But, speed of action is not what is needed. This is not a movie set, where you get multiple takes to “get it right.” We will only have one opportunity to get right the choices we must make on reactor decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal that will properly protect the public and the environment.

Because of this reality, we urge you to reject the flawed, facile responses to the Nation’s radioactive waste problem found in H.R.3053 – the ‘‘Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017’’.

Specifically, we urge you to 1.) reject the re-start of the flawed Yucca Mt. site in Nevada; and 2.) reject the implementation of “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities for spent-fuel from reactors.

We instead ask you to advocate for 1.) the use of “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) of reactor spent-fuel in enhanced enclosures at reactor sites, while 2.) the initiation and completion of a genuinely science-based search for a permanent deep geologic HLRW repository, one where the science comes first and is thorough, before Congress and the President make the final selection, and where the historic petty politics of the last 35 years will stand down and permit that kind of search to proceed.

We provide you with short background pieces that illustrate the many flaws and undesirability of engaging in CIS or a Yucca Mt. re-start; and the positive attributes of the viable alternative HOSS proposal for handling HLRW.

We are available to discuss these issues in greater detail with you and your staff; and can provide you with contact information for experts of national and international renown in the fields of radioactive waste storage, transport and disposal.

NEIS has followed this issue since 1982, when the Nuclear Waste Policy Act first passed. We recognize that Illinois, with its 11 operating and 3 closed reactors, and the Nation’s only HLRW storage facility, is the 10th largest nuclear power in the world (just behind the UK and Ukraine). We recognize that the 10,000+ tons of HLRW generated by Exelon Corporation’s reactors is the largest inventory in the U.S. The easy choice would be for us to become NIMBY’s and clamor to have this headache removed ASAP, to somebody else’s backyard.

However, this is not about “easy” choices – it’s about making the right choice the first time. We cannot support inadequate plans made more out of political expedience than sound science and environmental responsibility.

For these reasons we encourage you to reject the irresponsible provisions found in H.R.3053. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. Stay well.

NEIS to IL Delegation: NO to Yucca and CIS

The following letter and a supplemental packet of supportive information (see NEIS Literature page for some of these) was submitted by U.S. mail and e-mail to the entire Illinois Delegation to Congress today, urging them to oppose the re-start of the Yucca Mt. site, and “centralized interim storage” (CIS) of reactor spent fuel. NEIS urged instead that Congress support the use of “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) of reactor spent fuel, and get on with a legitimately scientific investigation for a permanent deep-geologic disposal facility for the wastes.

Legislation (H.R.3053) supporting Yucca and CIS is expected to be voted on in the House in early October. (See Action Alert of 9/21/17 below).

The Letter:

23 September, 2017

TO: Illinois Congressional Delegation

RE: proposed legislation on Yucca Mt. and “Centralized Interim Storage” (CIS) of High-Level Radioactive Waste (HLRW)

Greetings,

We hope that this letter finds you well.

By all recent news accounts and objective measures, the Nuclear Age as we knew it is coming to an end. In its place we are entering the “Age of Decommissioning.” This is the period where reactors close and are torn down, and both they and the wastes they have produced and accumulated for decades must be dealt with and kept sequestered from the environment for as much as thousands of years.

For a variety of reasons – mostly political, and many pre-dating the years of Harry Reid and Barack Obama – society has prepared poorly for The Age of Decommissioning. Utilities try to dodge the inevitable closure of reactors by seeking government bailouts to prop up failing reactors. Agencies charged with protecting the public and the environment enact faulty or inadequate regulations, or fail to enforce the good ones. And, the short term needs of Congressional election cycles long past have left the enormous nuclear structure with literally no “bathroom.” And now, the debt collector is at the Nation’s door.

With the Nation’s nose very close to the fan blades, Congress now scrambles to “take swift action” on complex, serious problems that have been left to fester for decades. But, speed of action is not what is needed. This is not a movie set, where you get multiple takes to “get it right.” We will only have one opportunity to get right the choices we must make on reactor decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal that will properly protect the public and the environment.

Because of this reality, we urge you to reject the flawed, facile responses to the Nation’s radioactive waste problem found in H.R.3053 – the ‘‘Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017’’.

Specifically, we urge you to 1.) reject the re-start of the flawed Yucca Mt. site in Nevada; and 2.) reject the implementation of “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities for spent-fuel from reactors.

We instead ask you to advocate for 1.) the use of “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) of reactor spent-fuel in enhanced enclosures at reactor sites, while 2.) the initiation and completion of a genuinely science-based search for a permanent deep geologic HLRW repository, one where the science comes first and is thorough, before Congress and the President make the final selection, and where the historic petty politics of the last 35 years will stand down and permit that kind of search to proceed.

We provide you with short background pieces that illustrate the many flaws and undesirability of engaging in CIS or a Yucca Mt. re-start; and the positive attributes of the viable alternative HOSS proposal for handling HLRW.

We are available to discuss these issues in greater detail with you and your staff; and can provide you with contact information for experts of national and international renown in the fields of radioactive waste storage, transport and disposal.

NEIS has followed this issue since 1982, when the Nuclear Waste Policy Act first passed. We recognize that Illinois, with its 11 operating and 3 closed reactors, and the Nation’s only HLRW storage facility, is the 10th largest nuclear power in the world (just behind the UK and Ukraine). We recognize that the 10,000+ tons of HLRW generated by Exelon Corporation’s reactors is the largest inventory in the U.S. The easy choice would be for us to become NIMBY’s and clamor to have this headache removed ASAP, to somebody else’s backyard.

However, this is not about “easy” choices – it’s about making the right choice the first time. We cannot support inadequate plans made more out of political expedience than sound science and environmental responsibility.

For these reasons we encourage you to reject the irresponsible provisions found in H.R.3053. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. Stay well.

NEIS Marches with Veterans for Peace

NEIS was honored to march with the national Veterans for Peace as part of their national conference in Chicago, Aug. 13th. The VFP theme was: “Education! NOT Militarization!” as VFP decried in insidious infiltration of all grade levels of U.S. schools by military recruiters and ROTC programs, while funding for basic education goes unmet.

NEIS Director Dave Kraft was asked to address the VFP crowd at the site of Chicago Vietnam Memorial.  He spoke on the connections between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, both historic and present, and called for the end of the Nuclear Age, a call which was enthusiastically received by the VFP marchers.  In a parting shot to the pro-nuclear Trump Administration (Trump Tower Chicago is right across the Chicago River from the Vietnam Memorial), Kraft energized the crowd by invoking the legendary fictional TV announcer Howard Beale, getting the crowd to its feet and shout towards Trump Tower, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not gonna take this anymore!”

 

Chicago Hiroshima Observance

NEIS Board President Speaks at Chicago Hiroshima Observance

On Sunday August 6, over 60 people gathered at the Henry Moore Sculpture to Atomic Energy on the Hyde Park campus of the University of Chicago – the place where the first human controlled chain reaction experiment occurred on Dec. 2, 1942 – to observe the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

Estimates vary, but over 200,000 people were killed by the two bombs dropped on these cities, ushering in the age of nuclear warfare.

Many speakers gave moving speeches including one second generation atom bombing survivor.  Overall, the messages were messages of peace, and of resistance to the continued threat of nuclear weapons.

And, nuclear power.  NEIS President Gail Snyder and Secretary Linda Lewison gave moving presentations to conclude the event

The Annual event was put together by long-time peace activist Brad Lyttle, Zen teacher Taigan Dan Leighton, and moderated by peace activist and NEIS supporter Roberta Siegel.

NEIS at Bonnie Raitt event in Chicago

The legendary entertainer, musician, and just great human being Bonnie Raitt once again invited NEIS (and 5 other cause groups she supports) to table at her concert held at Wrigley Field in Chicago on July 17th. Sharing the bill with James Taylor, Raitt performed impeccably before a noticeably loyal fan base crowd. The tabling was hosted as part of the “Green Highway” team that accompanies her on tour, inviting groups she supports to table and give info to concert-goers.

Raitt also made time to invite the NEIS Team back stage after her set for a short chat about fighting nukes, pipelines and other environmental injustices. Board members Stephanie Bilenko, Kathleen Rude and Linda Lewison, and NEIS Director Dave Kraft got to spend some time catching up with Bonnie, who is a long-time regular supporter of NEIS and other anti-nuclear groups.

 

NEIS speaks at Greenpeace NVDA training – 7/2/17

In preparation for taking on the reactionary Trump environmental agenda, Greenpeace hosted a two day training on non-violent direct action (NVDA) in Chicago, Saturday and Sunday, July 1-2 – just in time for Independence Day. Many REAL patriots attended this event, including NEIS Board members Stephanie Bilenko and Kathleen Rude.

NEIS will engage in whatever activity it takes to create a carbon-free, nuclear-free world in opposition to the destructive and planet-threatening energy agenda of the Trump Administration.

To quote Julia Ward Howe: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies.” You better believe that!

Pictured: NEIS Board member Kathleen Rude briefing attendees of Greenpeace NVDA training in Chicago, July 2.

People’s Climate March – Chicago

“Carbon-Free/Nuclear-Free by 2040!” – or, we’re toast.

NEIS was honored to march with the national Veterans for Peace as part of their national conference in Chicago, Aug. 13th. The VFP theme was: “Education! NOT Militarization!” as VFP decried in insidious infiltration of all grade levels of U.S. schools by military recruiters and ROTC programs, while funding for basic education goes unmet.

NEIS Director Dave Kraft was asked to address the VFP crowd at the site of Chicago Vietnam Memorial.  He spoke on the connections between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, both historic and present, and called for the end of the Nuclear Age, a call which was enthusiastically received by the VFP marchers.  In a parting shot to the pro-nuclear Trump Administration (Trump Tower Chicago is right across the Chicago River from the Vietnam Memorial), Kraft energized the crowd by invoking the legendary fictional TV announcer Howard Beale, getting the crowd to its feet and shout towards Trump Tower, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not gonna take this anymore!”