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


Extremely Dangerous and Radioactive Nuclear Waste Shipments

CHICAGO – Thousands of nuclear waste shipments would cross through Illinois, if Congressional plans for the country’s first nuclear waste repository in Nevada move forward. Today, Nuclear Energy Information Service, along with dozens of environmental and clean energy groups nationwide, released maps of the likely routes radioactive shipments would use.  The groups want state residents to tell Congress: Yucca Mt. is not the right place; and premature transportation of high-level radioactive waste HLRW is dangerous and unnecessary.

According to the map (see attached), 7,821 shipments of highly radioactive waste fuel from scores of nuclear power plants east of the Mississippi River, including the 14 in Illinois,  would pass through the state on interstates, railways and even barges, including five if Illinois’ largest cities with a total population of 3.3 million people. This is the 5th largest amount of HLRW passing through any state.  Each shipment would contain several times more radioactive material than the Hiroshima bomb blast released, with 20 to 50 tons of irradiated fuel assemblies in each canister. Department of Energy studies completed in the 1990s confirmed that accidents in transporting the waste to Yucca Mountain would be a certainty, due to the large number of shipments that would be required. The shipments would also be vulnerable to attack or sabotage along the hundreds or thousands of miles that each cask would travel.

“Illinois is not ready for mass transportation of nuclear waste,” asserts David Kraft, director of the Chicago based Nuclear Energy Information Service, an Illinois nuclear power watchdog organization.  “Most first responders are part-time or volunteer; some are not even trained to handle a radioactive waste accident. We have all witnessed horrible oil train derailments and explosions in recent months. An accident involving tons of nuclear waste in Chicago or Aurora could force thousands of people to evacuate their homes, schools, and businesses; and radioactively contaminate dozens of square miles,” Kraft points out.

The Illinois Department of Nuclear Safety (under IEMA) has committed to escorting every shipment of HLRW into, through and exiting Illinois.  With the State’s current budget crisis, and layoffs and downsizing of State agencies and departments, that commitment must be seriously questioned at the present time.  This makes unleashing thousands of shipments of HLRW on to Illinois roads and rails a potentially more dangerous proposition.

Some in Congress – including a very vocal but ill-informed Rep. John Shimkus (R.15th) of Illinois — want to force a nuclear waste dump to open in Nevada, over President Obama’s and the state’s objections as well as that of  the Western Shoshone Nation. The president has defunded the proposed Yucca Mountain repository since 2010, effectively abandoning the controversial project, while Nevada has demonstrated the site is not suitable for storing nuclear waste and opposes the project. Nevada controls land and water rights the federal government would need to complete the project. To overcome that obstacle, Congress would need to enact a law overriding the state’s rights. Doing so would then open the door for the nuclear waste shipments to begin.

“Congress should support the people of Nevada and abandon Yucca Mountain,” said NEIS Board President Gail Snyder.  “It is unconscionable to risk the lives of Illinois residents transporting nuclear waste through our neighborhoods and communities, just to dump it at Yucca Mountain, where we and the Dept. of Energy know it will leak anyway. We need real solutions to the nuclear waste problem, and we are never going to get them until Congress abandons Yucca Mountain. Until then, the waste can be stored more securely where it is now, without putting it on our roads and railways, traveling through our communities,” concluded Snyder.

NEIS is calling on the Illinois delegation to Congress to oppose Yucca Mountain and ensure transportation of nuclear waste occurs only when there is a scientifically proven, environmentally sound, and socially responsible long-term management plan; and an operational HLRW permanent disposal facility in place. The nuclear waste problem can never truly be resolved until nuclear power plants are permanently shut down and stop generating radioactive material. New reactors would only exacerbate the problem: more dump sites would need to be created, and the transportation of lethal radioactive waste would have to continue indefinitely.

Large-scale nuclear waste transport would also occur if, as some in Congress advocate, a “centralized interim storage” (CIS)  site for HLRW were created. In that case, the waste would either have to move twice (once to the “interim” site, and then to a permanent site), thus doubling the risks; or the “interim” site would become a de facto permanent waste dump–without going through the necessary scientific characterization.

A 2012 report released from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory concluded,

“The one-site solution for stranded SNF based on minimizing the transportation distance matches the base case scenario with four and five storage sites for the most favorable ISFSI site in Illinois (47 and 44). The more cost-effective and flexible three-site ISFSI solution (Fig. 48) would move this site to northwest Illinois. Although the northwest Illinois location may not quite be optimized with respect to transportation distance for the case of stranded plant fuel, it may well fit into a national scheme for the current SNF storage issue. Therefore, establishing this general location as the initial consolidated ISFSI location would seem to have merit….

“This critical finding is encouraging considering the fact that Recommendation #3 of the Transportation and Storage Subcommittee of the BRC, as excerpted previously, gave priority to the SNF stored at the orphaned plants. ORNL’s conclusion is that, if the BRC’s said recommendation is to be implemented as the pilot project of a larger, longer-term national fuel disposition campaign, the northwestern Illinois location seems to have geographical attributes and transportation infrastructure advantages that would facilitate the entire planning, implementation and operation phases of the campaign.” (see attached file)

Siting a CIS facility in Illinois for the nation’s “orphaned” HLRW (from reactors that have already closed, such as Exelon’s Zion Station north of Chicago) would add an additional 9,000+ tons of HLRW to the 9,000+ tons that Exelon’s reactors in Illinois have already produced – all with no place to go for disposal.  Experts believe this HLRW would sit in Illinois until at least 2048 at the earliest, thus making Illinois a national de facto HLRW dumpsite.

“Rep. Shimkus’ zeal for moving HLRW around prematurely could inevitably lead to Illinois becoming the de facto HLRW dump for entire nation, “ Kraft points out.  “As Einstein once said, ‘Intellectuals solve problems.  Geniuses prevent them.’  We could use a few more geniuses on the HLRW issue in the Illinois delegation to Congress, and Rep. Shimkus does not seem to be one,” Kraft concluded.

“The nation needs a permanent, deep geologic HLRW disposal facility.  That’s a given, and we support that,” Kraft continues.  “Engaging in a dangerous high-level radioactive waste shell game that unleashes 70,000+ tons of HLRW onto the nation’s crumbling road and rail infrastructure and waterways, just so the nuclear industry can continue to make more even more HLRW is irresponsible and does not solve the problem of finding the permanent disposal facility location.  Neither does sending it to an inadequate hole in the ground, nor a ‘temporary’ CIS.  For those reasons we and scores of other safe-energy and anti-nuclear organizations nationwide are urging citizens and municipalities to TELL their Congressional representatives to reject the ‘Fukushima Freeway’ concept of radioactive waste management,” Kraft concluded.

SHARE WIDELY! Facebook, tweet, etc / your own page and posts!
Stop Fukishima Freeways Campaign

The State of Nevada has updated their nuclear waste transportation page.
State of Nevada Nuclear Waste Transportation Page


** NEIS was founded in 1981 to provide the public with credible information on the hazards of nuclear power, waste, and radiation; and information about the viable energy alternatives to nuclear power. 

Rejection a huge defeat for Exelon, and loss of a regulated market to abuse

CHICAGO—Exelon Corporation was handed a stunning defeat today when the Washington, D.C. Public Services Commission (PSC) rejected Exelon’s merger bid with East Coast utility PEPCO.

The rejection denies Exelon a sorely needed new market in a regulated environment to help prop up its failing and anachronistic business model.  Exelon’s nuclear fleet – the nation’s largest — has been failing in the deregulated markets it helped create in Illinois (in the late 1990s).  Exelon decided to “go retro” to bolster profitability by going back into regulated markets such as PEPCO’s, where profits would be guaranteed.

The D.C. PUC cited in its unanimous rejection that the proposed Exelon/PEPCO merger was “not being in the public interest:“

From the Commission press release:

“Chairman Kane stated, “The public policy of the District is that the local electric company should focus solely on providing safe, reliable and affordable distribution service to District residences, businesses and institutions. The evidence in the record is that sale and change in control proposed in the merger would move us in the opposite direction.”

Sources close to the proceeding indicate that the Commission also viewed Exelon’s business model, and specifically its behavior in other markets like Illinois as being decidedly anti-efficiency and renewable energy, something which is “in the opposite direction” from where the D.C. PSC felt customers would benefit.

“Exelon’s overt hostility to renewables and energy efficiency, both here in Illinois with its current legislation, and in its anti-renewable lobbying efforts in Congress, has come back to bite them big time,” notes David Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, an Illinois nuclear-watchdog organization and renewable energy advocacy group.

In early 2015 Exelon lobbyists helped introduce legislation in Springfield called the “Low Carbon Portfolio Standard,” (HB3293 & SB3328) which was not acted upon during the Spring 2015 session.  Critics view this legislation as clearly anti-renewable energy, more evidence of its failed and anachronistic “big box” business model, and a bailout for five money-losing Illinois nuclear reactors.  Some expect that Exelon will try to sneak this legislation through the Fall veto session, or else resurrect it during the Spring of 2016.

“For the better part of  two years, NEIS has been sounding the alarm with Illinois public officials and largely disinterested journalists that Exelon has been spearheading a nationwide “nuclear war” against renewable energy.  Finally, someone in a position of authority and responsibility has gotten the message, saw evidence that this was ‘not being in the public interest,’ and acted to protect their constituents,” Kraft continued.

“We can only hope that Illinois legislators and Governor Rauner take a lesson from the D.C. PSC, and reject Exelon’s Illinois plans to gut renewable energy and energy efficiency in Illinois,” Kraft concludes.


Chicago, IL.—The “Radiation Monitoring Project”, a national initiative to establish monitoring of radioactivity in communities contaminated by the nuclear fuel chain, received over half its $15,000 fundraising goal in a single anonymous donation earlier this week.

The Radiation Monitoring Project is a collaboration among three organizations: Diné No Nukes (DNN) of the Southwest region, Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) located in Chicago, Illinois and Sloths Against Nuclear State (SANS) based in Brooklyn, NY. These organizations represent communities across America affected by various stages of the nuclear fuel chain—such as uranium mining and milling, waste transport and storage, and nuclear reactors.

Fund Title“This gift was totally unexpected,” notes Dave Kraft, director of NEIS. “It makes it very likely that we will not only reach our initial targets, but may enable us to purchase even more radiation monitors for distribution than initially planned.  Whoever the donors are, we thank you, and so do the communities your gift will be protecting,” says a grateful Kraft.

Due to the lack of public monitoring of radioactivity and access to real-time data regarding radioactive contamination, the three organizations are working together to establish mechanisms to monitor radioactivity and the means to access the information online.

As long as the American public is not aware of the radioactive pollution in their area, the more they are susceptible to adverse health effects,” states Charmaine Whiteface from Defenders of the Black Hills, an organization dealing with radioactive contamination on Lakota and Cheyenne lands.

Nationally, many communities are in dire need of this type of monitoring to protect human populations, but lack the necessary resources or technology to do much about it. Through this project, these organizations are not only addressing the need for monitoring to protect the public health and safety, but they are also providing culturally appropriate education and support for communities to protect themselves.

This first stage of the project is to raise funds to secure at least 10 radiation detectors (also known as Geiger Counters) as well as to host multiple trainings in different regions to use said devices. The group is using the platform Go Fund Me and receiving tax-deductible donations via NEIS, which received the donation this week from an anonymous donor.

In response to Fukushima, the 2013 WIPP plutonium leak in New Mexico, and in the wake of the recent May 2015 radiation leak at Indian Point nuclear reactor (less than 60 miles north of New York City), residents in urban areas are becoming alarmed to the real dangers of nuclear energy production. Just like the disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, residents of these areas will be permanently impacted by the radioactivity, health effects, economic upheaval, relocation, and the many costs never paid for by the nuclear industry itself.

Unknowingly, a huge percentage of Americans in the Western United States live everyday near radioactive waste sites contaminated from past mining. Beginning in the 1870s, uranium was discovered in Colorado and mined during the 19th century in both Colorado and Texas. The most contaminated sites were created during the Manhattan-Project or Atomic Energy Commission mining-era, largely on indigenous lands and within sources of drinking water for many indigenous peoples. In places like Churchrock, New Mexico—site of the world’s largest uranium tailings spill in 1979—both ground and surface water were contaminated. Today, the majority of these past mining areas remain un-remediated. Residents in Churchrock are still living with contamination from past mining and the 1979 spill. Such rural locations are not in the news and, in the past, did not receive the media attention that was created around Three Mile Island or Fukushima,

Arnie Gundersen of Fairwinds Energy Education – an internationally recognized nuclear issues expert, especially on the Fukushima nuclear disaster — says in support of the project: “Radiation exposure to Native Americans is one of the great untold stories of the nuclear era. These detectors will help the truth to be told.” 

This project ties together the entire nuclear fuel chain by addressing the similar needs of different communities working to protect themselves and future generations by identifying contaminated sites and preventing unnecessary exposures at these places.

The project and fundraiser commenced on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster this year, April 26, 2015. The organizations plan to reach the goal of $15,000 by July 16, 2015 which is the anniversary of the Churchrock Spill as well as the first nuclear test explosion in 1945 at the Trinity Site in southern New Mexico.








About the Project:

Go Fund Me:

About the Organizations:
Diné No Nukes
Nuclear Energy Information Services
Sloths Against Nuclear State



CHICAGO- [NOTE: With the Illinois Legislative session scheduled to end May 31st, and the Legislature soon to vote on the future direction of Illinois energy services, NEIS is initiating a series of releases over the next few weeks designed to address some of the myths, misconceptions, and ignored aspects of the debate.]

Nuclear Illinois — Exelon’s 14 reactors circle Chicago

In a recent exchange in the Illinois Senate Energy Committee on Wednesday, May 13, Sen. Chris Nybo  attempted to get Sen. Don Harmon, sponsor of the Illinois Clean Jobs Act, to describe nuclear power as clean and renewable.  Sen Harmon steadfastly resisted this attempt to linguistically detoxify nuclear power.

“Nuclear power is NOT ‘clean,’ it is NOT ‘green,’ and it is NOT ‘renewable,’” Dave Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service states emphatically.

“Labeling something does not make it so,” Kraft continued.  “You can dress a pig in silk, marry it, and call it your spouse all you want.  But one morning, you will wake up in bed to the reality of your delusion.”

Using nuclear power to generate electricity may result in less carbon entering the atmosphere.  But, in the same process large amounts of radioactive materials are unnaturally concentrated, manufactured, and ultimately released into the environment by nuclear power plants, the fuel chain required to provide and manufacture the fuel, and ultimately the radioactive wastes produced.

“Radioactive wastes are NOT clean.  An energy source that produces hazardous high-level radioactive wastes which must be kept out of the environment for 225,000 years at great societal cost can hardly claim to call itself ‘clean,’” Kraft asserts.  “Trading more plutonium for less carbon is simply dumb energy policy, and totally unnecessary given the viable alternatives that already exist,” he concludes.

Nuclear power plants are also responsible for other kinds of radioactive pollution and contamination:

  • Exelon’s Illinois nuclear reactors have already generated nearly 10,000 tons of long-lived “high-level” radioactive spent-fuel wastes, the most of any state in the U.S., adding ~300 tons more each year;
  • Exelon’s 11 Illinois nuclear reactors generate over 98% of the radioactivity found in all of the “low-level” radioactive wastes generated in Illinois in any particular year;
  • Reactors are permitted by regulation to routinely discharge quantities of radioactive materials into the air and waters, provided they are below regulatory standards;
  • Radionuclides are “accidentally” released into the environment due to management, equipment and personnel failures. The largest “accidental” release of radioactive tritium (a radioactive form of hydrogen) in the U.S. was released by Exelon’s newest Braidwood reactors in the late 1990s.  Over 6 million gallons were released, some of which found its way offsite, an incident which resulted in Exelon having to provide a new drinking water supply for the adjacent community of Godley;
  • Uranium mining has created over 10,000 active and abandoned mines; and resulted in the creation of over 150 million tons of radioactive mill tailings, largely piled in open-air heaps at 51 sites, mostly on Native lands. The largest release of radiation in North America occurred at Church Rock, NM, on Diné lands in 1979, when a tailings pond dam burst into the Rio Puerco River, sending radioactive contaminants 25 miles downstream and into the area’s only major source of drinking and grazing water.

“For decades nuclear proponents have been disingenuously using the phrases “clean”, “non-polluting,” and “renewable” to describe nuclear power,” Kraft points out.  “Most recently this has occurred in Illinois with Exelon’s HB 3293 ‘Low-Carbon Portfolio Standard‘—an attempt to pitch its failed and money-losing reactors as essential ‘low-carbon’ sources to help the state meet the upcoming U.S. EPA Carbon Rule standards.  This opportunistic use of the EPA Rule to justify a $1.6 BILLION bailout is the latest attempt of Exelon to re-write reality for corporate profit,” Kraft says.

Exelon claims its reactors are not being valued enough for their contribution of not releasing carbon into the atmosphere as fossil fuel power plants do.  This re-writes history, according to Kraft:

“First, no Exelon reactor ever built in Illinois was built (and paid for by ratepayers) with the express purpose of removing carbon or fighting global warming,” Kraft points out  “They were built to make money for then-ComEd and now Exelon shareholders.  That they are ‘lower-carbon’ is an accidental, not intentional benefit.  Other truly renewable energy sources produce NO carbon emissions, and have no fuel costs or wastes associated with their generation of electricity,” Kraft points out.

No definition of “renewable energy” used in government includes nuclear power as a “renewable” source:


“Renewable energy is generally defined as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.”


“Renewable Energy:  Energy derived from resources that are regenerative or for all practical purposes cannot be depleted. Types of renewable energy resources include moving water (hydro, tidal and wave power), thermal gradients in ocean water, biomass, geothermal energy, solar energy, and wind energy. Municipal solid waste (MSW) is also considered to be a renewable energy resource.”

“The Illinois Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard law also does not include nuclear power as a ‘renewable’ energy source,” Kraft points out, “and for good reason:  it’s not.”

For decades the nuclear industry and its promoters at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) have been trying to “prettify” nuclear energy as being “clean,” “non-polluting,” and “renewable.  In 1998 fifteen national environmental groups filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division in opposition to claims made by Nuclear Energy Institute ads stating at the time, “…nuclear energy generates electricity without polluting the air or water…” was “environmentally clean” and produces electricity “without polluting the environment.”

The BBB/NAD sided with the environmental groups against these overly broad nuclear industry claims, urging the nuclear industry and NEI specifically to stop the potentially deceptive ads:

“…NAD recommends that water and air pollution claims be carefully qualified to avoid any potential for consumer confusion and that broad, unqualified claims that nuclear energy is “Environmentally Clean” or produces electricity “without polluting the environment” be discontinued.” (3)

“In spite of this very specific public rebuke by the BBB/NAD, Exelon ads under its “Nuclear Matters” campaign (4) that appeared in the New York Times from April through October of 2014 refer to nuclear power as ‘clean’ and ‘carbon-free’ and ‘emit zero air pollution’ – all claims which were criticized by BBB/NAD as “inaccurate,” “overly broad,” and “misleading,”  and further noting that, “It is a fundamental principle of advertising law that a claim that is technically truthful can still be misleading.” (3, p. 20)

“It would behoove our legislators to engage in decidedly more critical thinking when evaluating the ‘technically truthful’ assertions of Exelon Corporation found in its Low-Carbon Portfolio Standard legislation,” warns Kraft. “In fact, given Exelon’s and the nuclear industry’s long and documented history of misleading people while being technically truthful about how ‘clean, green and renewable’ nuclear power is, the only rational course of action seems to be to completely reject Exelon’s bailout in the absence of proof,” he concludes.

(1) Wikipedia – definition of “renewable energy”

(2) U.S. Dept. of Energy website:  definition of renewable energy

(3) Opinion rendered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc., National Advertising Division, Dec. 3, 1998,  22 pages.

(4)  “Nuclear Matters” ads placed in New York Times, 4/3/14 and 10/1/14



CHICAGO-–  [NOTE:  With 20 days left for the Illinois Legislature to decide the future direction of Illinois energy services, NEIS is initiating a series of releases over the next three weeks designed to address some of the myths, misconceptions, and ignored aspects of the debate.]

The NEIS "Bake Sale against Exelon Bailouts! team. (l. to r.): Dave Kraft, Gail Snyder, Carol Kurz, Linda Lewison, Dennis Nelson. Jan Boudart photographer.
The NEIS “Bake Sale against Exelon Bailouts! team. (l. to r.): Dave Kraft, Gail Snyder, Carol Kurz, Linda Lewison, Dennis Nelson. Jan Boudart photographer.

Three separate and distinct pieces of legislation (three in each legislative chamber for a total of six) have been submitted.  Two have been submitted by industry giants Exelon (HB 3293; SB1585) and ComEd (HB 3328 Amendment 00; SB1879), and essentially recommend Illinois meet its 21st Century electric service needs with the status quo.  The third (HB2607; SB1485) submitted by a loose coalition of business, environmental, institutional and community organizations and supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls for a major push to advance the implementation of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources.  The latter piece of legislation enjoys a substantial lead in legislative co-sponsor support.

The first of these issues needing more intense scrutiny deals with the notion that this is a “jobs’ issue.

“If this were really a jobs issue, this debate would have ended as soon as the Exelon bill appeared,” observes David Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service.  “Even for a math-challenged entity like the Illinois Legislature, which seems to display legendary incompetence in passing budgets and dealing with pension payments, the number 32,000 is still recognized as being larger than 2,300,” Kraft notes.

The Illinois Clean Jobs Act (HB2607) predicts the creation of up to 32,000 jobs annually in the energy efficiency and renewable energy (EE/RE) sectors.  The Exelon legislation threatens the loss of 2,300 jobs at the 5 reactors it claims are money-losers if Exelon does not get the $1.6 billion bailout passage of its legislation would give them through a mandatory rate hike.

“If jobs is really the issue, then it is clear which legislation is superior,” Kraft concludes.

Regarding the second issue Exelon and its supporters, and some in the media, have often used the figure of 8,000 total jobs lost in Illinois should they choose to close the 5 reactors, based on what they claim are the conclusions coming from a state agency report(1)  released in January.

“Not so fast here,” warns Kraft.  “While the HR1146 Report did use the number of 6,931 jobs potentially lost (p. 125), on the very same page (and at numerous other points in the 170-page document), the agencies concluded that as many as 9,600 NEW jobs would be created through 2019 in the energy sectors that would make up for the closure of the nuclear plants (also: p. 145),” Kraft corrects.  “DCEO in particular criticized Exelon for totally ignoring the economic benefits and job creation that would accrue to communities in the intermediate and longer term from the required decommissioning of the 5 reactors Exelon threatens to close (pp. 134, 150).  And it also said that the Exelon-supportive Nuclear Energy Institute overstated its negative impacts case by as much as 10% (pp.149-150),” Kraft points out.

The HR1146 Report was not without flaws and deserved criticism, either.  Mandated to provide a predetermined outcome, the State still has not evaluated the negative effects on the 21,000 direct and 97,000 total jobs in the Illinois EE/RE sectors(2) should Exelon get its $1.6 billion bailout, and some of the predictions about negative impacts on the Illinois EE/RE industries become realities.

“HR1146 was a ‘study to show,’ not a ‘study to know.’  The Legislature remains derelict in its duty by not also researching the negative impacts on the State economy and the EE/RE sectors specifically.  Therefore, any decision in favor of an Exelon bailout will be made in ignorance, and without regard to nine times as many jobs as Exelon threatens to terminate,” Kraft claims.

“In short Exelon – and its supporters in the press – have ‘cherry-picked’ the negative conclusions of the HR1146 Report to suit their own need to present the most dire conclusions, while totally ignoring copious amounts of material in the same Report that provides less dire conclusions and solutions to mitigating those economic impacts,” Kraft points out.

“Both legislators and even reporters close to this issue have been stunningly ignorant of these facts, and have failed to use and report them.  As a result a false and exaggerated mythology about job loss and economic chaos has been permitted to grow undeservedly,” Kraft states.

The final critical issue relating to jobs is being able to distinguish between what is a realistic potential outcome versus a disingenuous self-fulfilling prophecy.  Kraft points out:

“It is EXELON that is threatening to terminate 2,300 jobs if it does not get a bailout, not the State Legislature.  What has that company done proactively to minimize economic disruption to reactor communities which inevitably WILL face reactor closures? NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING!”

NEIS has pointed out to legislators that there are many ways to close a reactor (3); but, the important and operative principle is that reactors WILL close, because, unlike other large employers of company towns, they have finite operating licenses granted by federal regulators  that WILL expire someday, regardless of Exelon or legislative wishes.

“You don’t start planning to fight an economic crisis when your nose is being pushed up against the fan blades.  You plan in advance.  This is particularly true when you’ve had 40 years advance notice that the day of reckoning will inevitably come,” Kraft says, referring to

The Byron nuclear station
The Byron nuclear station

the period of the initial operating licenses of U.S. reactors.  Many have received 20 year extensions.  Oddly, Exelon has applied for such an extension at the Byron station at great cost, even while it threatens at the same time to close the reactors.

“Prudent, intelligent elected officials would have and now should be planning in advance for the eventual closure of ALL Illinois nuclear reactors, at some time, and for some reason, in the immediate future,” Kraft asserts.

NEIS has circulated ideas for the legislature to mandate a “just transition” program for all existing reactors (applicable to other large power plants, and other large employers), which would provide funds for job retraining, and tax base protection to prevent disruption of essential public services, as was caused by then-ComEd’s unilateral decision to close the Zion reactors in 1997.

“If you wait until the crisis is upon you to act, it’s too late, and you’re subject to manipulative pressures.  Like billion-dollar-plus rate hikes,” Kraft warns.

“In conclusion NEIS believes that Exelon has disingenuously used the very real and legitimate concerns over jobs loss to hold the Illinois Legislature and the affected reactor communities as ‘nuclear hostages,’ to legally extort its undeserved $1.6 billion bailout,” Kraft asserts.

“The Legislature should resist Exelon’s economic terrorism, and work for agreements that create more 21st Century jobs in the EE/RE sectors, while solving the built-in problems created by inevitable reactor closures,” he concludes.

(1) “POTENTIAL NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CLOSINGS IN ILLINOIS: Impacts and Market-Based Solutions,” mandated by HR1146 in May of 2014 to study the effects on the Illinois economy and electric power reliability should Exelon decide to close 5 unprofitable nuclear reactors it operates in Illinois.

(2) “CLEAN JOBS ILLINOIS™: An In-Depth Look at Clean Energy Employment in Illinois,” study commissioned by the Clean Energy Trust, March 2014; reported in Crain’s Chicago Business, March 20, 2014.

(3) Nuclear reactors can close for a variety of reasons.  Not all are within control of either Exelon, nor the local communities:

  • Unexpected major accident, resulting in immediate and presumably premature closure (think: Chornobyl, Fukushima)
  • NRC ordered shut down (for immanent health and safety concerns; or excessive safety violations)
  • Exelon’s unilateral decision to close a plant on economic or other grounds (as it did at Zion, resulting in an immediate loss of about 55% of Zion’s tax base, and as it is now doing with the five reactors in Illinois it threatens to close.  It IS their right to do this).
  • Devaluation through sale, as occurred at the Clinton reactor station, resulting in enormous loss of tax base
  • Eventual old-age, license expiration closure (the outcome most hoped for by the utility and community, but not guaranteed due to the above)

Additional facts worth considering:

  • In December 2014 the largest electric utility in Germany – E.ON Corporation – announced that it, “drop (spin off) fossil fuels and nuclear in order to focus on renewable energy, customer solutions, and distribution networks …will focus on renewables, distribution networks, and customer solutions and combine its conventional generation, global energy trading, and exploration and production businesses in a new, independent company.”  ON has 33 million customers (nearly 8 times the number Exelon has), and over 60,000 employees (more than 10 times the number employed at its Illinois nuclear facilities, yet, “The spinoff will not be accompanied by a job-cutting program.”

Perhaps Exelon should hire some Germans to see how to conduct an energy transition without job loss or threats to the central government of economic collapse.

  • Not all large utilities believe they are entitled to raid ratepayers wallets through Springfield when they experience losses:

“But Lee Davis (at right), president of NRG’s East region, which includes Illinois, says, “We don’t have an ‘ask.’ “

He says he understands the skepticism from many within the industry: “ ‘OK, they’re here, so they’re going to demand $500 million a year to prop up something they just bought.’ Well, we’re [NRG is] not going to do that.”

Mr. Davis says NRG will lobby against providing subsidies to competitors like Exelon, since it’s investing on its own in plants many thought would close in the face of low power prices and stricter environmental standards.  [SOURCE:  “The one utility not asking for help from Springfield,” Crain’s Chicago Business, Sept. 27, 2014.]



CHICAGO-–  One Thursday April 30, Elon Musk of the TESLA Corporation announced the development of home and utility scale batteries that will revolutionize energy storage – and could effectively put an end to the specious argument nuclear industry promoters use to justify their product: “what are we going to do when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow?”

The answer – nothing.  The energy WILL be stored safely and effectively.

Arnie Gundersen speaking to an audience at Illinois Sierra Club, April 30, 2015
Arnie Gundersen speaking to an audience at Illinois Sierra Club, April 30, 2015

The announcement could also effectively mark the beginning of the end of nuclear power itself, said nuclear critic Arnie Gundersen at a debate on the future of nuclear power hosted at Northwestern University.

“We all know that the wind doesn’t blow consistently and the sun doesn’t shine every day,” he said, “but the nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time human kind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight. To me that doesn’t make sense.”  Gundersen is principle at Fairewinds Energy Education based in Vermont.

The program, “The Future of Energy:  Is Nuclear Power the Solution?” was sponsored by  Fossil Free NU, and featured Gundersen and Dr. Jordi Roglans-Ribas, director of Nuclear Engineering Division at Argonne National Laboratory.

“This is a game-changer, both in the energy sector and politically,” states Dave Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service in Chicago.

“This TESLA breakthrough demolishes one of the scare tactics being used by Exelon Corporation in its attempt to panic peddle the Legislature into giving them a $1.5 billion bailout for five money-losing nuclear reactors in Illinois,” notes Kraft.

“Industry claims that ‘renewables aren’t ready,’ are ‘intermittent,’ or aren’t scalable’ just ended up on the trash heap of history.  The TESLA breakthrough means that renewables CAN power Illinois, even if Exelon decides to close those five reactors,” Kraft points out.

The TESLA Corporation announced the Powerwall battery system on Thursday evening.  Models are available for home installation; and can also be scaled up to meet utility-scale needs.  Remarkably, the home system at $3,500 comes in at a price three times lower that the nearest competitor on the market.  The systems are compact, and will be available for sale by year’s end.  A $5 billion production center is being built in Nevada to produce the systems.

“If the Legislators are worried about job loss from Exelon’s reactor closures, perhaps instead of giving Exelon a $1.6 billion bailout for nuclear reactors that currently can’t compete with wind power without battery storage, the legislature should give it to Elon Musk to build a Powerwall production facility in Illinois,” Kraft points out.  “At least Illinois ratepayers and the economy will get something of benefit back for the giveaway, unlike with the Exelon bailout.”

“This development is undoubtedly a game-changer for the debate in Springfield about the energy legislation,” Kraft asserts.

“For a year and a half NEIS has been alerting legislators to the notion that this is a transformational moment in energy, and that the business-as-usual mundane and myopic discussions and decision-making about jobs and compromises do not fit this moment.  The TESLA announcement proves we were right.”

“This announcement forces the Legislature to choose which century the Illinois economy and energy systems will end up in – the 19th with Exelon’s anachronistic “big-box utility” business model, or the 21st with TESLA and all the rest that goes with it..  Legislators can no longer hide behind the nuclear boogeymen arguments that they have to give Exelon ‘something,’ or we’ll all freeze in the dark when the wind doesn’t blow, and jobs will be lost.  There are plenty of good, high-paying jobs ahead – if the Legislature chooses the future over the past,” Kraft observes.

“And – the lights WILL MOST CERTAINLY stay on,” Kraft concludes.

NEIS was founded in 1981 to provide the public with credible information on nuclear power, waste, and radiation hazards; and information about the viable energy alternatives to nuclear power.  For more information visit the NEIS website at:



1.) “Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power?

2.)  “Experts debate the future of nuclear energy at Fossil Free NU event,”

3.)  POWERWALL TESLA Home Battery System

4.)  Elon Musk Debuts the Tesla PowerwallYouTube

5.)  Arnie Gundersen on Worldview, April 30, 2015



Part 2: ‘Bake Sale against Bailouts’ at Exelon HQ

CHICAGO-–  An organization conducting “Alms for Exelon” street fun(d)raisers for the self-proclaimed impoverished nuclear utility Exelon Corporation conducted the second of a series of street events in Chicago today: “Bake Sale against Bailouts.”

NEIS supporters Linda Lewison (l) and Dr. Lora Chamberlain outside Exelon HQ during “Bake Sale against Exelon Bailouts!”

The purpose of the event, held outside Exelon’s Chicago   headquarters, is to call attention to Exelon’s demands for a financial bailout of unprofitable nuclear reactors in Illinois.  Radiation suit-clad volunteers ‘encouraged’ members of the public to make $25,000 donations to Exelon to ‘help keep the cost of Exelon’s proposed $1.5 billion ratepayer bailout down’ — in exchange for cupcakes.  The volunteers also passed out  more than 300 informational brochures about the Exelon bailout.

“As we stated in January at the first event, Exelon’s audacious claims require audacious responses,” said Dave Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a safe-energy advocacy and nuclear power watchdog organization.

“To that end, again with tongue planted firmly in cheek, NEIS continues its ‘Alms for Exelon!’ campaign.  Our goal is to protect Illinois ratepayers from Exelon’s “Submit to our legislation for ‘enhanced financial appreciation’ (could Don Corleone have said this better?) or we’ll shoot this economy!”-type demands, by launching a campaign that casts light on the ‘financially struggling’ utility,” Kraft continued.

Exelon supporters in the Legislature introduced corporate welfare bailout legislation (HB 3293/ SB 1585) earlier in March.  If Exelon’s bill passes, it would:

  • cost ratepayers $300 million per year (or more) for five years, with no measurable added benefit provided;
  • provide no guarantee that Exelon would keep the 5 money-losing nuclear plants open, nor not fire the 2,300 employees working there;
  • attempt to re-define dangerous radioactive waste-producing nuclear power as a “clean, low-carbon” energy source;
  • effectively kill the future of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in Illinois.

In addition Exelon has recently appealed to FERC for an additional $560 million allocation in adjustments to capacity market payments, also to be charged to Illinois ratepayers, making the total Exelon bailout package worth over $2.1 billion.

“There are those who might call our ‘bake sale’ absurd and over the top.  But, compared to Exelon’s demands, compared to reality, we’re obviously amateurs!” Kraft notes.

NEIS literature pointed out that Exelon’s situation must truly be dire, since, in 2014:

  • their revenues were only $27,429,000,000.00 ($27.4 billion)
  • their operating income was only $3,096,000,000 ($3.1 billion)
  • net income was only $2,486,000,000 ($2.5 billion)
  • Exelon CEO Christopher Crane had a total benefits package worth only $17 million
NEIS Board President Gail Snyder leafleting at "Bake Sale against Exelon Bailouts!"
NEIS Board President Gail Snyder leafleting at “Bake Sale against Exelon Bailouts!”

At the Exelon 2014 Fourth Quarter Earnings broadcast, Exelon’s CEO Christopher Crane stated,

“Exelon had a strong year, both operationally and financially. We delivered earnings within our guidance range, and our generation fleet and utilities continued to perform at high levels….We made several investments to grow the company, including the proposed merger with Pepco Holdings, Inc. and the acquisition of Integrys Energy Services, and we continue to strengthen our balance sheet for long-term growth.”

“Seems like Exelon intends to ‘strengthen its balance sheet’ on the backs of Illinois ratepayers, possibly with the Legislature’s blessing,” observes Kraft.  “Where will Governor Rauner, the self-proclaimed ‘business man,” come down on this corporate welfare and enormous wealth transfer?” Kraft wondered.

“We hope by our actions to send a strong message to the Governor, the Legislature and public about how absurd and impertinent Exelon’s undeserved demands are,” states Gail Snyder, President of NEIS.

“This is a moment of energy transformation for Illinois — a ‘pension crisis’ type moment. The Legislature will either take us wisely and competitively into the 21st Century by rejecting Exelon’s outrageous demands, or, it will mire our economy and the environment in the failures of the 20th, while the rest of the World moves forward,” she warned.


Press Release Follow Up Report

 ‘Bake Sale against Bailouts’ at Exelon HQ Fails to Raise $1.5 Billion Needed – Bailout Immanent

CHICAGO-–  An organization conducting “Alms for Exelon” street fun(d)raisers for the self-proclaimed impoverished nuclear utility Exelon Corporation conducted the second of a series of street events in Chicago today: “Bake Sale against Bailouts.”

The NEIS "Bake Sale against Exelon Bailouts! team. (l. to r.): Dave Kraft, Gail Snyder, Carol Kurz, Linda Lewison, Dennis Nelson. Jan Boudart photographer.
The NEIS “Bake Sale against Exelon Bailouts! team. (l. to r.): Dave Kraft, Gail Snyder, Carol Kurz, Linda Lewison, Dennis Nelson. Jan Boudart photographer.

For the second straight time, no one elected to contribute money to help financially ailing Exelon, making it much more likely that Exelon will be forced to raid the pocketbooks of Illinois ratepayers for upwards of $1.5 billion to bailout five money-losing nuclear reactors in Illinois.

“We just don’t understand it,” lamented a perplexed Dave Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), a safe-energy advocacy and nuclear power watchdog organization.

“We had assumed that at least Exelon employees and people who like old, unprofitable nuclear reactors would want to help keep their company afloat and the reactors operating.  But not a single person elected to contribute today,” Kraft said.

The purpose of the event, held outside Exelon’s Chicago headquarters, was to call attention to Exelon’s demands for a financial bailout of unprofitable nuclear reactors in Illinois.  Radiation suit-clad volunteers ‘encouraged’ members of the public to make $25,000 donations to Exelon to ‘help keep the cost of Exelon’s proposed $1.5 billion ratepayer bailout down’ — in exchange for cupcakes.  The volunteers also passed out over 300 informational brochures about the Exelon bailout.

“Maybe we should have bought chocolate cupcakes instead,” Kraft speculated.

“There are those who might call our ‘bake sale’ absurd and over the top.  But, compared to Exelon’s demands, compared to reality, we’re obviously amateurs!” Kraft notes.

The Exelon corporate welfare bailout bill (SB 1585) passed out of the Senate Energy Committee on Thursday, March 26th, as did its rival legislation, the Illinois Clean Jobs Act (SB 1485) from the Senate Environment Committee.

Conspicuously absent from today’s fun(d)raiser were members of the media.

“Not to worry,” notes NEIS’ Kraft.  We understand how busy and understaffed newsrooms are these days, So, for next month’s event, we have decided to randomly select the offices of 3-4 media outlets, where we will begin the next fun(d)raiser – a radioactive waste auction to benefit Exelon – before arriving at Exelon’s headquarters.”

MultiKulti media center did some taping of people’s reactions to the event.  A URL will be available later from NEIS and on its website.


CHICAGO—The release of its long-awaited bailout legislation, coupled with presentations made before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week add up to a declaration of war against renewables and energy efficiency by Exelon Corporation, a Chicago nuclear watchdog organization asserts.

The Byron nuclear reactor station, threatened with closure according to Exelon.

“If it looks like a bailout, walks like a bailout, and quacks like a bailout – it’s a BAILOUT,” asserts David Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) of Chicago.

“While maintaining a seemingly benign verbal patina in their legislation (SB 1585; HB 3293), the practical and functional implementation of both Exelon’s proposed legislation and its intentions presented to FERC last week would relegate renewable energy and energy efficiency to being bit players in Illinois’ energy mix,” states Kraft.

Exelon released its 100-page legislative proposal today, a week after the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition released the bi-partisan “Illinois Clean Jobs Act.” (SB 1485; HB 2607)

“The goals and intents of the ‘Illinois Clean Jobs Act’ and the 32,000 jobs predicted to be created are clearly in jeopardy with the introduction of Exelon’s legislation,” Kraft says.

“To the extent that this fight will be about jobs, this should be a no brainer, with renewables and efficiency providing four times as many direct jobs statewide than ALL 11 nuclear reactors Exelon operates, not just the 2,300 they threaten to eliminate.  In particular, the Black and Latino Legislative Caucuses need to ask themselves: how many of our constituents work at these 5 threatened reactors? And how many of those 32,000 renewable/efficiency jobs would be LOCAL jobs, available for my communities?” Kraft argues.

“But, this is not merely a ‘jobs hostage crisis’ issue, as Exelon characterized it last year, or even a means to comply with EPA’s carbon rule, as they are attempting to characterize it in this legislation.  Exelon has been waging an unrelenting war against renewables and energy efficiency for over 2 years, and this legislation is the Illinois component of that war,” says Kraft.

Over the past two years, Exelon has:

  • Opposed the wind production tax credit in Washington, and gotten themselves thrown off the board of the America Wind Energy Association;
  • Formed the pro-nuclear front group called “Nuclear Matters,” which lobbies for subsidies for old, money-losing reactors around the country using retired politicians and bureaucrats as talking heads;
  • Threatened the Illinois economy with the loss of 2,300 jobs if it closes five allegedly money-losing reactors in Illinois, without opening its books to public scrutiny to verify its claims and threats;
  • Opportunistically “gamed” the EPA’s 2014 Carbon Rule mandate to assert without proof or detailed study that nuclear plants are “necessary” for Illinois to comply with the proposed limits;
  • Used the threat of reactor closure and job loss to prevent a previously agreed-upon fix to the Illinois Renewable Energy Portfolio law, while manipulating House Speaker Michael Madigan into ordering a severely flawed and incomplete “study” using State funds and resources that would conclude that closing nuclear reactors in Illinois would result in “dire consequences,” without examining the dire consequences bailing out unprofitable reactors would have on the renewables and energy efficiency sectors, or the economy.

“This is not a mere fight about ‘jobs’, or even carbon rule compliance.  It’s about retaining control of electricity markets on only Exelon’s terms.  The 21st  century energy future of Illinois is at stake in this decision.  Legislators who do not grasp the ‘bigger picture’ of what is going on here are going to be played like cheap violins by Exelon in this proposed legislation, and in the ensuing energy bill negotiations,” Kraft predicts.

“The end game for Exelon is for nuclear and fossil fuels to retain their ‘top-dog’ status as energy sources of choice, and continue the anachronistic centralized power business model they currently control.  This flies starkly in the face of where the future of energy generation and distribution is going in the 21st Century,” Kraft warns.

In recent months major utilities and investment houses have publicly announced their movement away from the “traditional” business model of being mere “electron retailers,” and towards becoming electric services providers using renewables and efficiency as the future basis for their production:

  • In August, 2014, UBS bank ($1.4 trillion in assets) “argues that large-scale, centralised power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation…it expects a paradigm shift away from large-scale conventional power plants…[and] urge their financial clients to “join the [green power] revolution.” (Source: The Guardian, 8/27/14)
  • In December, E.ON, the largest energy company in Germany, with 33 million customers (13 times as many as ComEd) and 60,000 employees (11 times as many as Exelon), announces its decision to drop (spin off) fossil fuels and nuclear in order to focus on renewable energy, customer solutions, and distribution networks. (Source:  CleanTechnica, 12/3/14)
  • In Illinois in April, NRG’s CEO David Crane criticized Exelon for its hypocrisy, and stated that his company was “in transition” away from coal and nuclear, and towards renewables, efficiency and energy services. He also pointed out that NRG would NOT be seeking State legislative assistance to implement its plans.  (Source:  Crain’s Chicago Business, 4/3/14)

“On the same day that Exelon introduces its legislation in Springfield, regulators in Ohio REJECTED a similar proposal by utility AEP to bailout a coal plant.  Hypocritically, Exelon urged Ohio  regulators to reject AEP’s request for a bailout.  Yet, they come with hands out to the Illinois Legislature asking for up to $580 million from Illinois ratepayers.” (Source: Midwest Energy News, 2/26/15)

In addition Exelon may benefit from an additional $560 million from a PJM capacity market adjustment, to be decided by FERC in the coming months.  This means that Exelon is angling for upwards of $1.1 billion in nuclear bailouts from Illinois ratepayers.  “Would Don Corleone have been this subtle?” Kraft wonders.

NEIS has urged legislators to take NO legislative action on the Exelon proposed bailout legislation, pending completion of 4 reasonable and prudent prior conditions:

  1. Exelon needs to open its books to the State and the public, on a plant by plant basis, to conclusively prove its need;
  2. The Legislature FIRST needs to fix the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to guarantee that EE/RE WILL be available to soften any economic or reliability damage the closure of the 5 money-losing reactors would cause, as the state mandated State Agencies Report from HR1146 suggests numerous times it could;
  3. No Legislative decision should be rendered prior to the FERC deciding on its potential $560 million capacity market award for Exelon. The Legislature should not set up an opportunity for what would become a billion-dollar Exelon “double-dip.”
  4. Alternatives to the Exelon proposals, and to Exelon as an energy provider, should be investigated by the Legislature. Perhaps some of Exelon’s competitors like NRG would be willing to step up and fill some of the energy vacuum Exelon would create by closing the 5 reactors, and do so in a more economic, forward thinking manner —  as the State Agencies Report from HR1146 suggests should be done.

Kraft concludes:

“More than ‘jobs’ is riding on this energy legislation.  It is about the energy future of Illinois.  The Legislature should not condemn the Illinois economy and environment to operating with a 19th Century business model, propped up with private business bailouts.

“It will be a real test to see if the newly elected Governor Rauner is truly a “business man” as he claimed as a candidate, or a “business-as-usual” crony capitalist.

“It will test the real mettle of legislators to stand up for Illinois ratepayers and constituents – perhaps in opposition to leadership – or join the cheap-violin orchestra.”

CHICAGO—Nuclear proponents like Exelon Corporation are quick to claim that nuclear power was “reliable energy” during last year’s “polar vortex” days  compared to its fossil fuel rivals.

It seems that crowing may have been premature.

Pilgrim Station Unit 1 at Plymouth, Mass.

The Pilgrim-1 nuclear reactor near Plymouth, MA, was closed today by the heavy snow storm buffeting the Northeast.

The reactor had already been reduced to 20% output as a “precaution” prior to the storm’s arrival when transmission lines connecting the reactor to the power grid failed.  This caused the reactor automatically shut down to protect itself.  Pilgrim’s safety systems are now running on emergency diesel generators, which, industry-wide have a spotty reliability record.  The reactor is not likely to be back on line for several days, according to plant personnel.

“We already knew that nuclear reactors were particularly vulnerable to drought and extreme hot weather events,” notes David Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, a safe-energy advocacy and nuclear power watchdog organization. (NOTE:  see, “It’s the Water, Stupid!” on the NEIS website)  “Pilgrim’s failure to be available during the snow emergency in New England proves nuclear power’s vulnerability during extreme winter weather as well.”

Pilgrim-1 is a 43 year-old 711 MWe GE boiling water reactor.  It has a Mark-I containment, the same as the containments at Fukushima I-IV which melted down and blew up in 2011.  Illinois has 4 such reactors:  Quad Cities 1 & 2 near Cordova, IL, on the Mississippi River, and Dresden 2 and 3, 50 miles SW of Chicago near Morris, IL.

“The fact that they had already reduced output by 80% as a precaution shows that even the nuclear operators see how vulnerable nuclear reactors can be in a winter storm emergency.  The fact that it will take several days to bring the reactor back on line shows that they won’t be available when needed.  How ‘reliable’ is that?“ Kraft asks.

Exelon Corporation is seeking a $580 million bailout from Illinois ratepayers via legislative action to make up for a profit shortfall at five of its unprofitable Illinois reactors.  In public statements and a report done by the Nuclear Energy Institute in October 2014, they pointed to the “reliability” of their nuclear reactors during last year’s polar vortex as alleged justification for the need to keep even unprofitable reactors operating, at ratepayer expense.

“Reality has a peculiar way of contradicting Exelon’s assertions with frightful regularity,” Kraft says.  “Their reactors are vulnerable to power interruptions in extreme hot weather, and as Pilgrim-1 demonstrated today, in extreme cold weather.  It’s a crap shoot filled with weather variables – not a healthy gamble to hitch an economy too for decades into the future – especially at ratepayer expense,” Kraft asserts.

“The Governor and the Legislature should not be conned into thinking they should open ratepayers wallets for $580 million simply on Exelon’s claims to reliability.  With nuclear, what can go wrong eventually does, it seems,” Kraft points out.