Statement About Zion Nuclear Waste Compensation

S.1903 – The Stranded Act Of 2017

NEIS would like to commend IL Sen. Tammy Duckworth and IL Rep. Brad Schneider for introduction of S.1903 and H.R. 3970 respectively – the “Stranded Act of 2017;” and acknowledge State Sen. Melinda Bush and Zion Mayor Al Hill for their tireless efforts to obtain much deserved community compensation for the storage of 1,000+ tons of high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the community of Zion. Reactor communities nationwide which have become de facto high-level radioactive waste storage sites deserve some measure of economic and enhanced safety compensation for the continued risks they accept for being compelled to store this hazardous substance indefinitely, and for the negative economic consequences this storage brings to the communities.

The provisions found in Sen. Duckworth’s S.1903 are an excellent first step towards rectifying this economic injustice brought about by previous Congress’ indifference towards and politicization of the Nation’s high-level radioactive waste disposal problem. S.1903 wisely recognizes that the creation of “orphaned” HLRW through inevitable and unpredictable reactor closures is a national problem, requiring a uniform national solution.

As a commendable first step, S.1903 also realistically addresses the fact that ultimate, environmentally responsible HLRW disposal will continue to take time – if done properly, and not out of political expedience; and that these communities deserve compensation for conditions they did not create, but are forced to endure.

While an admirable first step addressing economics, NEIS hopes and urges that equally necessary subsequent actions will come from the Congress to protect our communities from continued HLRW abuse and potential radiologic accidents. While S.1903 addresses the economic harm done by de facto HLRW storage in a community, these communities equally need much better environmental protection for as long as the HLRW remains. Congress should next mandate “hardened on-site storage” (HOSS) for these dangerous materials to safeguard the public and environmental health and safety of these communities. Both the nuclear industry and the federal NRC vigorously resist this enhanced but deserved safety measure on the excuse of “cost.” In the case of Zion, for example, one wonders what the “cost” of replacing Lake Michigan – the drinking water supply for 16 million people – would be should a serious accident occur at the spent-fuel dry-cask pad that will remain in the Zion community for well beyond the 7 year period for economic compensation found in S.1903.

The temptation to want all spent-fuel to be quickly but imprudently moved out of reactor communities should not justify establishing expensive and alleged temporary “centralized interim storage” (CIS) facilities to take these wastes. Nor should that desire become the political rationalization to revisit re-opening of the now closed and demonstrably flawed Yucca Mt. site in Nevada. Both of these so-called “solutions” are driven more by political expediency than by sound public policy, environmental protection or science.

This nation truly needs a permanent deep-geological disposal facility for its high-level radioactive wastes. Contaminating new communities to establish alleged “temporary” storage sites, and opening a deficient Yucca Mt. facility do not serve the best long-term interests of the nation, only the short-term needs of the nuclear industry and its allies in public office. A new site selection process is needed to provide the best scientific solution to the spent-fuel problem. Playing musical chairs with the wastes, or sending it to a politically expedient hole in the ground somewhere “away” fails to provide this solution, and will only serve to delay opening a truly best solution for HLRW disposal.

 

 

“Where Are the People” shows hit the airwaves

TWO NEIS TV SHOWS FROM CAN-TV CHICAGO

CAN-TV presents two shows sponsored by NEIS from the “Where Are the People: The Human Toll of the Nuclear Age, from Fermi to Fukushima” week, taped in Chicago as part of the observance of the 75th anniversary of the first human controlled nuclear chain reaction, Dec. 2, 2017.

1.)   “The Human Toll of the Nuclear Age: Fermi to Fukushima,“ a half-hour in-studio show featuring Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education Corp of Vermont, Dr. Norma Field, professor emeritus at University of Chicago Dept. of East Asian Studies, interviewed by NEIS director Dave Kraft.

Watch Now >

This show will also appear on the CAN-TV cable network channels on the following dates and times:

Sunday, December 17th, 8:00 PM, CAN TV27

Monday, December 18th, 11:00 AM, CAN TV27

2.)   “Where Are the People? A look at the human toll of the Nuclear Age, from Fermi to Fukushima,” a 2-12 hour presentation with powerpoints by Arnie Gundersen and Norma Field, hosted by Dr. Yuki Miyamoto of DePaul University, Dept. of Religious Studies, on Dec. 2, 2017.

 

This show will also appear on the CAN-TV cable network channels on the following dates and times:

Wednesday, December 13th, 6:00 PM, CAN TV27

Thursday, December 14th, 9:00 AM, CAN TV27

 

NUCLEAR HOT SEAT WEIGHS IN:

These events were also taped by Libbe HaLevy, host of the weekly internet show, “Nuclear Hot Seat,” who later interviewed both Arnie and Norma.  Here are links to the recent Nuclear Hot Seat shows from NEIS’ week of programs:

Dec. 8, 2017:  SPECIAL: U-Chicago Atomic Propaganda Orgy Decoded by Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen & NEIS – Errors, Omissions & Lies, Oh My! – NH #337

Dec. 13, 2017:  Nuclear Reactors/Climate Change Lies: Gundersen Busts Nuke Industry’s PR Ploy – NH #338

More shows based on interviews from this week of events will air on Nuclear Hot Seat in the future.

NEIS extends heartfelt thanks to Arnie Gundersen, Dr. Norma Field, Dr. Yuki Miyamoto, Libbe HaLevy, and our friends at CAN-TV Chicago, Chicago’s “jewel in the crown” of public media.

Please listen and enjoy these shows. We’re working for you, and proud of it!!

 

 

BGA Report, NEIS says “NRC=Nobody Really Cares”

CHICAGO–  Two Better Government Association (BGA) reports on nuclear safety a year in the making document the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) systematic pattern of disregard for assertive and responsible regulation, and co-optation by the industry it is charged to regulate, asserts Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a Chicago-based safe-energy, nuclear power watchdog organization.

“These BGA reports document and confirm contentions NEIS has made for decades to Illinois state and federal officials and elected representatives,” notes David A. Kraft, director of NEIS.  “In particular, NEIS raised these concerns with over 40 state officials and legislators we talked to during the past three years leading up to the Exelon nuclear bailout of 2016, only to be met with a thunderous round of indifference,” Kraft continued.

The two BGA reports are the second and third installments of a BGA series on nuclear power issues in Illinois.  The first appeared on November 17, 2017, and demonstrated NRC’s indifference to chronic radioactive leaks at nuclear power reactors in Illinois and nationally.  The current installments describe a chronic pattern of NRC indifference to regulation, capitulation to nuclear industry – in Illinois, read EXELON – demands, and agency intimidation of whistle-blowers.

“When the chief regulatory agency in the nation develops an allergy to regulation, the notion of ‘nuclear safety’ is reduced to a fiction existing only on paper,” asserts Kraft.  “In short, because of this abdication of regulatory responsibility, and compounded by the 2016 Exelon bailouts, Illinois is now left flying naked on nuclear safety for the next decade,” Kraft observes.

With “nuclear bailout mania” sweeping the country to prop up old, uneconomic nuclear reactors that would otherwise close, coupled with an indifferent or complicit NRC’s pre-emptive authority over the states on nuclear safety matters, the public is left totally undefended against nuclear power mishaps, accidents and catastrophes as long as these reactors continue to operate.

“NEIS is sending an open letter to the Illinois delegation to Congress, and to members of Illinois State Government – as well as candidates for Governor — demanding reform of this untenable situation,” Kraft states.  “In particular, states like Illinois with operating nuclear plants have an immediate and vested interest in forcing their delegations to Congress to enact massive reforms of the NRC at the very least; and granting states the binding authority to set safety standards higher than those of the NRC at best, “ Kraft urges.

While urging Congressional and Illinois state legislative action in its letter, NEIS also warns, “we feel that the potential for reducing Illinois to the status of “Belarus of the Midwest” via nuclear accident now calls for [immediate action].  We have politely asked for reform for three decades; the BGA reports (and last year’s Exelon nuclear giveaway) indicate that things have only gotten worse.

“Silence is tacit approval, if not complicity.  Given that all parties are now informed of the problem, and in a most public manner, backed up by credible witnesses, any future indulgence of NRC’s or any other agency’s lax enforcement of nuclear safety makes all now-informed parties complicit and personally responsible for any future harm resulting from nuclear incidents and accidents in Illinois.”

2018 is an election year.  Nuclear safety reform should be an important issue in the most nuclear-reliant state in the nation, NEIS contends.

“NEIS intends to hold such parties publicly accountable for Illinois nuclear safety moving forward by all legal means available,” the letter concludes.

Exelon operates 11 reactors in Illinois, and owns three that are permanently closed.  If it were a nation, it would be the 11th largest nuclear power in the world.  The four oldest reactors at Dresden and Quad Cities – mentioned often in the BGA reports — are the same design and older than the four reactors that melted down and exploded at Fukushima, Japan.

 

LINKS TO THE BGA REPORTS OF DEC. 20, 2017:

Story 1: Nuclear Regulator Downplays Safety Warnings

Story 2: 687 Cases, 0 Upheld. The Feds’ Record Overseeing Nuclear Whistleblowers

LINK TO THE NOVEMBER 17, 2017 BGA REPORT:

https://projects.bettergov.org/power-struggle/

 

NEIS Director Receives National Award

NEIS Director Dave Kraft (l.) receives award from Beyond Nuclear’s Kevin Kamps at ANA Days in Washington.

CHICAGO– Local nuclear expert David A. Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) headquartered in Chicago, received a national award from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) and Beyond Nuclear on May 23, 2017 on Capitol Hill. The ANA hosted a reception to honor leaders in the movement to stop unnecessary nuclear weapons research and production, clean up radioactive wastes and address the needs of those contaminated by nuclear facilities.

Kraft was awarded the Judith Johnsrud Unsung Hero Award “for nearly four decades of diligent dedication in the belly of the beast, and his good humored, visionary work for a nuclear-free world, demonstrating tireless determination despite daunting odds.”

Kraft co-founded Nuclear Energy Information Service in 1981, to provide the public with reliable information about nuclear power and radiation hazards, and energy alternatives to these risks. He has long served as director of Illinois’ nuclear power watchdog, in the state with more atomic reactors and commercial high-level radioactive waste, than any other.

The Unsung Hero award was named after Dr. Judith H. Johnsrud, a geographer who dedicated more than 50 years of her life to the opposition of nuclear power in all its phases and forms. Johnsrud, a founding board member of Beyond Nuclear, passed away in 2014.

Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear presented the Unsung Hero Award. “Dave’s sense of humor often shines through, as with Alms for Exelon street theater, complete with collection buckets,” said Kamps in his remarks. “NEIS worked long and hard to expose, and oppose, the largest U.S. nuclear utility, robbing its own ratepayers, gouging households and businesses for $2.35 billion on their electric bills, to keep several dangerously old, financially failing reactors operating another decade.

“Dave’s bridge building with the climate and environmental justice movements is an example to follow, as is his outreach to youth and diverse communities.”

The Unsung Hero Award highlights the vital role that Dave Kraft and NEIS continue to play in the arena of nuclear power and nuclear waste in the state, the region and the nation. NEIS is taking the lead on several keys issues facing Illinois and other states with nuclear power plants: proper decommissioning of aging power plants, fighting the bailouts of money-losing nuclear plants, just transitions for reactor communities that will be impacted by plant closures, and best practices for storage of spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive wastes that are being stored in reactor communities.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability is a network of three dozen groups working on issues of nuclear weapons production and radioactive waste cleanup. Scores of ANA activists traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in over 100 meetings with Trump Administration and Congressional leaders as part of the 29th annual “DC Days,” May 22 to 24, 2017.  Beyond Nuclear is a national nuclear industry watchdog group.

View the Award Presentation Video

 

Excel Closing TMI — Nuclear Age Ending

It’s not nearly as much ironic as it is emphatic that on the same day Exelon Corporation announced that it might close the economically unviable Three Mile Island 1 reactor in Pennsylvania, SCANA is reported to have suggested that it might only complete one of two “next-generation” reactors it had proposed for South Carolina.  Add to that the recent Westinghouse (and by extension, Toshiba) bankruptcy and the message is clear: nuclear of the past can’t compete in the present, and apparently has no future either.  In short – the Nuclear Age is over.

But old bad habits die hard, especially when they are funded by somebody else’s pocketbooks, like, say, powerless ratepayers who have no choice.  And Exelon is not about to give up on its nuclear jones when there are plenty of ratepayers left to fleece.

Exelon is playing the same ‘nuclear hostage crisis’ game of, “Give us a bailout, or we’ll kill your local economy!” in Pennsylvania that they played in Illinois – and which they ironically opposed in Ohio when utility bailouts competed against Exelon’s corporate interests.  This nuclear extortion – dare we say ‘terrorism’? – game was successfully used in New York as well, and threatens to spread like some form of radioactive ebola to other states and their legislatures.

The threat of job and tax base loss to the reactor communities inspires local political leaders dependent on that largesse to lobby like crazy in state legislatures for nuclear bailouts – especially in election years, as we learned in Illinois.  And while these are legitimate concerns needing to be addressed, nuclear bailouts are not the answer.  There are other, more practical and economic ways to soften the blow of losing a “company town” employer and preserving a tax base that can support essential public services like schools and police/fire departments until local economies can rebound from the loss of an Exelon-sized employer.

One way is to establish “just transitions” funds for reactor (and we would suggest, coal) communities PRIOR to closures, threatened or real.  These would be escrowed funds set up that would become available only upon termination of a reactor operating license, to be used to preserve essential public services, and mitigate economic impacts through job re-training and attracting and establishing replacement business and industry.  The funding mechanisms are negotiable, and numerous; and would involve the utility, the community, and possibly the state.

The point is – the utility would no longer be in a position to put the economic gun to the puppy’s head to force the state legislatures to grant an unwise bailout.

But if bailouts are the “answer” (and if they are, what on earth was the question?), then be sure to bailout the right party.  It is the affected communities that need the bailout, not for-profit private corporations.  No state constitution requires the legislature to insure the profitability of private corporations; that’s why corporations have boards of directors.  The legislatures supposedly are to represent the interests of the people – like the ~4 million ratepayers in Illinois who are now forced to pay Exelon Corporation $230 million per year, for the next ten years, and get nothing back in return for this coerced ‘investment.’

In Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said he supported the Exelon bailout because, “closing the plants would have “devastated the two communities.” If he really and truly believed that, then he should have worked to bail out the potentially devastated communities, not the hugely profitable Exelon corporation.

In Illinois NEIS made this suggestion public in our testimony before the legislative energy committees, suggesting that Gov. Rauner provide funding for the Clinton and Quad Cities communities affected by Exelon’s closure plans, not profitable Exelon.  Instead Governor Rauner decided to increase the Exelon bailout period from the original six years to ten!

If one were to amortize the $2.35 billion Illinois electric rate hike bailout over the 1,500 direct jobs Exelon claims would be lost if it had closed the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear stations, Governor Rauner and Exelon are now forcing Illinois ratepayers to pay $1.57 million per job “saved.”  We could have bought these workers out cheaper, closed the reactors, and prevented the production of ~900 tons of high-level radioactive wastes over the next 10 years those uneconomic reactors will operate.

It is time to end the Exelon ‘nuclear hostage crisis.’  There are now plenty of blueprints available illustrating the folly of nuclear bailouts, and ways to avoid them.  Given the End of the Nuclear Age, one can only hope that Pennsylvania legislators will realize by now that it’s stupid energy policy to mortgage your energy future by bailing out the past.

Alleged Zion-ISIS Terrorists a Nuclear Wake Up Call — We Hope

Today’s Chicagoland press accounts of the arrest of two alleged ISIS supporters — Yusuf Abdulhaqq and Schimento – aka Abdul Wali – show the pair holding the ISIS flag while standing in front of the “Welcome” sign for Illinois Beach State Park in Zion.

What is perhaps most disturbing is what is NOT being reported about this incident:  that those dramatic photos were taken a ten minute walk south of the 1000+ tons of high-level radioactive wastes (HLRW) being stored at Exelon’s Zion Nuclear Power Station, currently undergoing decommissioning.  [See:  Google Maps]

These wastes are the accumulation of the entire lifetime output from the now-closed reactors.  They are currently being stored in what are called “dry-cask” canisters, and are extremely hazardous should they be released into the environment by “accident”, or terrorist intent.

Because the federal government  long ago reneged on its pledge to permanently dispose of these high-level radioactive wastes  in a deep geological disposal facility back in 1998, currently all such HLRW from every reactor in the nation is being stored onsite at those reactor sites, with no place to safely go.  This transforms communities with closed reactors into de facto high-level radioactive waste storage dumps.

Since 2002 the safe-energy and environmental community has advocated that these “orphaned” wastes be stored in much safer configurations, employing what is known as “hardened onsite storage” (HOSS).  This method would utilize the currently used “dry-cask” canisters, but in a much more robust configuration to minimize conceivable hazards.  Both the nuclear industry and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have repeatedly rejected this proposal as “too expensive.”  Our organization suggested this method be utilized at the decommissioned Zion reactor site; but again, this was rejected by Exelon and its contractor

Given that these wastes sit only a few hundred yards from the drinking water supply for 16 million people known as Lake Michigan, one can rightly ask – how much is the Lake worth, by comparison?

While it is tempting to urge for quickly moving such wastes out of Zion, the reality is that 1.) there is no place for the wastes to go; and 2.) placing 1,000 tons of high-level radioactive wastes on our crumbling roads and rails, and possibly our fresh waterways without first preparing and greatly improving that infrastructure would be more dangerous and irresponsible.  If these wastes represent a hazard sitting still at Zion, they represent an even greater hazard at 40-60 mph on our roads and rails, as the recent March 15th derailment of rail cars carrying molten sulfur in Lake Forest amply demonstrate.

NOTE: a March 9, 2017 report by The American Society of Civil Engineers gives Illinois  “D” and “D-“ rating for its roads and transit lines, respectively – and that’s higher than the national average!

Federal proposals to create “centralized interim storage” (CIS) sites around the country to take these orphaned wastes are equally problematic, since they would first require presently hazardous transportation of the wastes, and because they would create even more radioactively contaminated sites requiring clean-up at a future date when the federal government opens a final disposal facility.  At that point the wastes would have to be transported a second time to the disposal facility.  It is also not widely known that a June 2012 study from Oak Ridge National Lab indicates that Illinois would be the optimal location for the first of such CIS facilities.  The first such site would not likely be ready to accept wastes for the next 8 to 10 years; and given the demonstrated pace at which the federal government moves, might itself become a de facto permanent storage site indefinitely.

NOTE:  One estimate done for the Zion wastes alone at a CIS over a 40-year period shows it would cost between $153-$289 million.

So – what should be done now?  NEIS again recommends that,

1.) since the radioactive wastes represent a clear hazard, and

2.) there is no place to responsibly send the HLRW to, that

3.) local communities that have become de facto HLRW dumps are given maximum protection in the meantime by storing the HLRW in “hardened onsite storage” facilities onsite at the reactor sites, and

4.) that these communities receive compensation for the economic damage that being an unwilling de facto HLRW dump has done to their communities.  From there we can resurrect a responsible and science-based investigation to identify an appropriate final disposal facility.

Illinois Governor Signs Excelon Nuclear Bailout Bill

Insures continued nuclear risks and radioactive waste generation.

CHICAGO–  Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Exelon nuclear bailout bill into law today, insuring over the next 10 years a legislatively mandated  $2.35 billion rate hike, and the production of nearly 900 tons of additional high-level radioactive wastes and the other risks that nuclear power poses for Illinois.

“What a terrific Christmas gift for the children and future of Illinois,” quips David Kraft, director of Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service.

“The issues of radioactive waste and continued nuclear risk were all but absent in the discussions related to the Exelon nuclear bailout bill,” notes Kraft.  “Exelon was brilliant in distracting everyone with issues they knew would be flops, like the demand charge, so that the main goal – bailing out failed nuclear reactors — would be achieved, and serious issues like nuclear waste and reactor safety would be avoided,” Kraft observes.

Illinois has more operating reactors than any other state – eleven, with three permanently closed.

As a result it also stores the most high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) in the form of the “spent” reactor fuel – over 10,000 tons as of current inventory.  All HLRW ever created at these reactors is stored at the reactor sites, with no place to go for disposal at present.

Continued nuclear risk is also a concern.  The now bailed out Quad Cities reactors are among the oldest reactors in the country, and are the same design and older than the reactors that melted down and exploded at Fukushima in Japan in 2011.  Concerns have also been raised about the earthen dam that creates the vital cool pond for the downstate Clinton reactor, also now bailed out.

Continued reactor operation means more radioactive wastes will be created, with no place to go; more radioactive emissions  — yes, nuclear reactors are NOT emissions-free! – into the air and water, and continued vulnerability to nuclear accidents and potential disasters.  To paraphrase nuclear engineer David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “One ‘bad day at the office’ can ruin an entire economy for decades.”

“Governor Rauner has demonstrated either total ignorance or total disregard for these critical safety issues,” Kraft asserts.  “That’s no way for a chief executive to run the most nuclear-reliant state in the U.S.,” he concludes.

“If one were to amortize the $2.35 billion electric rate hike bailout over the 1,500 direct jobs Exelon claims would be lost if it had closed the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear stations, Governor Rauner and Exelon are forcing Illinois ratepayers to pay $1.57 million per job “saved.”  We could buy these workers out cheaper, close the reactors, and stop the production of 900 tons of high-level radioactive wastes over the next 10 years,” Kraft points out.

NEIS will be pressing for future action on radioactive waste management and decommissioning; and on creating a “just transitions” program to prevent future economic crises from reactor closures.

 

 

NEIS CONTENDS “NO RATIONAL BASIS FOR EXELON NUCLEAR BAILOUT”

35-year old environmental, safe-energy group sends strongly worded letter to legislators advising rejection of corporate “wealth transfer”

 CHICAGO–  In a strongly worded letter to state officials warning of “no rational basis for the Exelon nuclear bailout,” a 35-year old Illinois environmental organization today urged legislators to reject the proposed bailout.

Calling it “a ‘wealth transfer’ of billions of dollars from [Illinois] ratepayers to Exelon’s shareholders,” Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) stated that, “this nuclear bailout is not defensible from an environmental, jobs, business or any other rational standard,” referencing testimony and supportive documents it provided the Illinois House Energy Committee last week at a hearing on November 16th.

Recent developments in negotiations among representatives of the environmental community, Exelon and ComEd have resulted in a radically altered legislative proposal which has jettisoned some of the more controversial “deal breaker” elements of the proposal, including ComEd’s proposed “demand charge” basis for setting rates, radically changing solar net metering, and a bailout for financially distressed coal plants (many of which were slated for closure).  However, the core elements that started the whole process over 2 years ago remain:  the proposed Exelon bailout of money-losing nuclear reactors, and the fixing of the Illinois renewable energy portfolio standard.

“We believe that not only is Exelon not deserving of a bailout for its own business failures, but the Legislature itself has failed to do its ‘due diligence’ in the matter before taking the easy way out and letting Exelon undeservedly pick ratepayers’ pockets,” maintains NEIS director David A. Kraft.

Kraft points out that, while the legislature in 2014 approved a seven month, four-agency ‘study’ of the POTENTIAL negative effects of reactor closure on Illinois (HR1146), it failed to examine the other negative implications of approving a nuclear bailout.  “When is the legislature going to approve an equally thorough examination of the detrimental effects on the renewable energy and energy efficiency community in Illinois – which currently supports ~5 times more jobs in Illinois than ALL of the Exelon reactors combined – of a multi-billion dollar nuclear bailout, a 10-year legislatively imposed rate hike?” Kraft asks.  “Those 114,000 Illinois workers would like to have that question answered, too.”

Additionally, the NEIS correspondence notes six other alternatives to a nuclear bailout and major ratepayer rate hike that the legislature, and presumably Exelon, have ignored.  “We infer that for legislators and Exelon, it’s simply easier to bilk ratepayers than to get Exelon to do the hard but essential business work to find ways to improve its own profitability,” the NEIS letter asserts.

The letter to state officials also corrects an often repeated fallacy that reactors once closed cannot re-open.  This falsehood has often been used by Exelon representatives and state and local officials to urge quick, if imprudent, actions to bailout the nuclear plants.

“Our correspondence with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) confirms that there is no legal obstacle preventing a nuclear utility from petitioning the NRC to re-open a reactor whose operating license has been terminated,” Kraft points out.  “This information may come as a startling revelation to the local and state officials who have been told otherwise,” Kraft notes.

The text of the letter, NEIS’ testimony before the Illinois House Energy Committee and supportive documents it references will be available on the NEIS website by 4 p.m. Central time, Nov. 23, 2016.  Copies can be request in advance by e-mail.

NEIS concluded its remarks to state officials by stating, “if you really want renewable energy and energy efficiency to be a part of Illinois’ energy future, have the courage to vote on these issues separately from the issue of the Exelon bailout.  To act otherwise is simply to capitulate to economic extortion – both bad energy policy and bad business practice.”

 

EXELON BILL IS CORPORATE WELFARE BAILOUT, NEIS CONTENDS

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.

 

REPORT INDICATES MOST EXELON IL REACTORS ON LIST OF “NEAR MISSES”

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
jim.riccio@greenpeace.org

Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace
301-675-8766
perry.wheeler@greenpeace.org