PART 1: “IS IT REALLY THE JOBS, STUPID?”

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.]

 

TESLA REVOLUTIONARY NEW BATTERY SINKS EXELON’S BOGUS ARGUMENTS, FORCES LEGISLATURE TO CHOOSE THE FUTURE OVER THE PAST

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:  http://www.neis.org

 

SOURCES: 

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.”

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
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.

DSCN0326
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.

CHICAGO—Despite some notable flaws, a report assembled by 4 state agencies to study the effects of closing five uneconomic Exelon nuclear reactors in Illinois came to a reassuring conclusion:  Illinois will survive, and WITHOUT having to bail out Exelon’s reactors with $580 million.

The Report, “POTENTIAL NUCLEAR POWER PLANT CLOSINGS IN ILLINOIS: Impacts and Market-Based Solutions,” was 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.

Exelon's unprofitable Byron nuclear reactors, threatened with closure if the Illinois Legislature does not "appreciate" them more with a bailout.
Exelon’s unprofitable Byron nuclear reactors, threatened with closure if the Illinois Legislature does not “appreciate” them more with a bailout.

“This Report, flawed as it is, indicates that while there will be some serious, expected short term effects from Exelon closing its 5 uneconomic reactors, the Illinois economy will not be irreparably harmed, and the lights will stay on.  In short – there is NO crisis demanding quick action by the Legislature to grant Exelon a $580 million bailout of the 5 reactors,” concludes David Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service, a nuclear power watchdog organization based in Chicago.

The Report was presented as a compilation of analyses by the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Illinois Power Agency, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.  Each was given a specific task to analyze by the enabling Resolution, HR1146; and each conducted its own separate modeling and analysis.

The bottom-line, broad-brush stroke takeaways from the Report are:

There is no crisis.  Illinois WILL survive. Therefore, there is no need for the legislature to act rashly on the expected to be requested $580 million bailout, without detailed study, analysis and debate; and certainly not before Exelon provides much more information to the Legislature and the public.

  1. The conclusions of each individual agency virtually all support some version of FIXING THE RENEWABLE ENERGY PORTFOLIO STANDARD, and/or relying on energy efficiency and renewable energy (EE/RE) to both soften the economic hit, create new replacement jobs, and keep the electrons flowing, in some form or other.  Some Agency reports were more explicit about this than others (e.g., Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity).
  2. System reliability will NOT be impaired, and even under worst case scenarios, can be propped up sufficiently with appropriate use of demand-side management. (IL Power Agency)

“These are probably not the conclusions Exelon wanted the public or the Legislature to see,” notes Kraft.  “But, although incomplete, they are reassuring first analyses that demonstrate Illinois can make a transition to a renewable energy future less painful with proper planning and forethought.  More work is clearly needed.”

Indeed, the writers of the report themselves were cognizant of the “GIGO” nature of their work, cautioning that,

“…the Agencies believe that results from modeling and analyses cannot be fairly segregated from the assumptions, caveats, and explanations which accompany them. Guided by this logic, the Agencies’ have chosen not to provide an independent executive summary to this report, and strongly believe that impacts measured through modeling and analyses must be understood in the context of and with the caveats given in their presentation herein.”

“And some of those contexts and analyses seemed to be incomplete and inaccurate,” Kraft states.  “It’s good that the authors recognize this limitation, so that conclusions offered are not overly generalized.”

The authors also concluded that,

“There is an old adage: “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  Solutions adopted to prevent the premature closure of Illinois nuclear plants should be designed with the goal of raising the tide of the Illinois energy sector. When evaluating the solutions included in this report and any alternatives offered by stakeholders, holistic solutions aimed at solving fundamental market challenges are preferable. The right energy policy has the potential to minimize rate increases to families and businesses while positioning Illinois as a national leader in the development of clean energy.”

“It seems that the Agencies recognize that the situation is one greater than merely deciding whether Exelon reactors should be bailed out or not; but rather one of deciding on a future blueprint for Illinois energy that makes sense and is compatible with the 21st Century trends and technological advances,” Kraft observes.  “This is not an incremental decision about rate setting; it’s a transformation moment for deciding Illinois’ energy future.  The Legislature will be deciding if we move forward into the 21st Century of energy, or stay stuck in the 19th.”

Flaws in the Report

From its inception NEIS had been critical of the mandated Report.  The enabling Resolution:

  • Provided no dedicated funding to conduct deeper more meaningful study that would have produced more valid results;
  • Provided a far too narrow mandate for investigation, one which began with a pre-determined conclusion – that the effects would (all) be negative, without allowing for analysis of potential benefits of closing the 5 reactors;
  • Provided absolutely no opportunity for public participation or input into the Report.

“This tight political control of the process last May strongly suggested a self-fulfilling prophecy was to be created, not a study to legitimately investigate a serious issue,” Kraft points out.  “To the extent that the Agencies were largely able to avoid this built-in pitfall is much to their credit.”

The Report also contained some direct criticism and contradiction of Exelon’s claims leading up to the creation of the Report.  For example:

the DCEO explicitly criticized Exelon and claims and data from the Nuclear Energy Institute report from last October on negative effects of reactor closures, stating Exelon overplayed the likely damage to expect, and ignored possible means of mitigating the effects of closure (pp. 149-150);

  1. despite not being part of the original mandate, several agencies stated that EE/RE would be used in varying capacities to add both jobs and electrons, softening the expected short-term disruptions of premature reactor closures, a point Exelon public statements assiduously ignore;
  2. DCEO further noted that if you close reactors, they eventually have to be decommissioned, adding benefits to the local and Illinois economy in the longer-term; they then quoted from the website of Exelon’s current sub-contractor at Zion — Zion Solutions — as to how much positive economic opportunity that would provide (p. 150);
  3. Some specific scenarios analyzed in the Report reject the need for an Exelon bailout at all. One such example scenario investigated by the ICC concluded, “Higher energy market prices would also reduce the capacity market offer caps of remaining units and thus capacity prices, holding everything else equal.  The fact that energy market prices would increase does not support providing subsidies to these plants in order to forestall retirement. Any decision to retire the plants would be based on the basic economics of the plants.”  (emphasis ours, pp. 62-63)
  4. The Illinois Power Agency states, “This analysis contained in this report demonstrates that there is a potential for impacts on reliability and capacity from the premature closure of the at-risk nuclear plants. However, in many of the cases analyzed, reliability impacts remain below industry standard thresholds, and impacts appear to be more significant in other states than in Illinois. Taken alone, there may not be sufficient concern regarding reliability and capacity to warrant the institution of new Illinois specific market-based solutions to prevent premature closure of nuclear plants.” (emphasis ours, p. 73)

“Even though Exelon did their best to convince everyone that the sky is falling here in Illinois, even a poorly mandated, non-funded, public discounting and disenfranchising, abstract-model-heavy analysis could not reach that conclusion,” says Kraft.

“Given the guardedly incomplete conclusions of this Report, and the uncertainty about FERC awarding an additional $560 million in profits to Exelon, there is no legitimate reason for the Legislature to take immediate action on Exelon’s requests for a bailout, by any mechanism.”

According to Kraft, “The situation and the conclusions from this Report call for a number of things to happen first, before such consideration should even begin:

  1.  Exelon needs to open it 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 Report suggests numerous times it could;
  3. No Legislative decision should be rendered prior to the FERC deciding on its potential $560 million award for Exelon. The Legislature should not set up an opportunity for 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 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 Report suggests should be done.

“The energy future of Illinois and its effects on the Illinois economy for decades to come are at stake with the Legislature’s decision,” Kraft warns.  “Their job is to get it done RIGHT, not  QUICK.”

UPDATE

CHICAGO– A more serious incident occurred at the Honeywell Uranium conversion facility in Metropolis, Illinois than was originally reported by the plant operators to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC Event Report states,

“DISCOVERY OF AFTER-THE-FACT EMERGENCY CONDITION – ALERT DECLARATION NOT MADE DURING EVENT INVOLVING URANIUM HEXAFLUORIDE LEAK After review of additional observations and other evidence not directly involved with the response, Honeywell has determined that the event should have been upgraded at 1942 [CDT] on 10/26/14, to an ‘Alert’ classification per our classification criteria.”

“Emergency response and public awareness to a hazardous release from Honeywell depends on the reliable, honest and timely reporting by Honeywell. No government agencies can detect in real time an ongoing release of radioactive Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) or toxic Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) at the facility”, stated Gail Snyder, Board President of Nuclear Energy Information Service.

In a phone conversation with Roger Hanah of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) he conveyed that Honeywell’s Emergency Response Plan includes stationing a person in position to view and observe the incident and that the person was not originally stationed in a location that allowed him/her to see the release of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) from the building. An updated NRC Event Report states “the NRC inspection found that Honeywell did not recognize that the HF (Hydrogen Fluoride) released from the FMB (Facilities Management Building) warranted an emergency classification of ALERT. “ As a result Honeywell did not notify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at that time. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency which issues the site permit and regulates the process where the leak occurred was not notified of the incident until a few days after it happened.

Currently the production of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) is shutdown at the facility while an internal investigation and corrective actions are evaluated and discussed with the NRC. In a confirmatory action letter resulting from an NRC emergency inspection, Honeywell is required to “review and revise [their] emergency preparedness procedures, if necessary, and conduct appropriate training to provide assurance that events can be classified correctly, and appropriate emergency response actions can be implemented.” From this wording it does not indicate if Honeywell’s failure to accurately understand and convey the seriousness of the incident was a failure of their Emergency Response Plan or insufficiently trained or inexperienced workers.

On-strike union workers have claimed that replacement workers are not well trained and do not have the experience to operate the facility as safely as union workers would.

“The NRC has previously approved the Emergency Response Plan and allowed the facility to operate with replacement workers. So will the NRC undergo its own internal investigation to determine how the NRC allowed either plans, less qualified workers or some combination of those to operate the facility in a way that would allow for a plume of Uranium Hexafluoride or Hydrogen Fluoride to be released, not noticed, not accurately categorized and delayed in reporting?” asks Gail Snyder.

The Honeywell facility does not have a ten-mile Emergency Planning Zone around it like nuclear energy facilities do which require some preparedness information be provided to the public on what to do in the event of an emergency. Joe Miller from Massac County’s Emergency Management department said, “the sirens that are activated offsite during an emergency may not always be heard by people who are inside a residence or building,” where other sounds from televisions, radios etc…may not allow them to hear the sirens.  Emergency Management Director for the City of Metropolis, Keith Davis, who is also the director for the 911 service of the county, said that during an emergency Honeywell determines the severity and classification of an event as well as the action recommendations which are then directed to dispatch. Prompt public notification of an emergency can come in the form of sirens and reverse 911 calls or through the emergency alert system.  The original reporting from Honeywell or its revised status of an “alert” would not have initiated public notifications.  If the status was raised to a “Site Area Emergency” that would indicate the possible offsite release of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) and/or Hydrogen Fluoride (HF) which would initiate public notifications.

On October 26, 2014 Honeywell reported a leak of Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) claiming the leak was contained within the building, later admitting that the leak was not contained in the building and was released into the environment while still claiming it did not go offsite of the facility. A union worker on strike outside the facility filmed the plume coming out of the top of the building and drifting across the property before water suppression systems were activated.  Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) states that their department’s radiation monitoring equipment stationed outside the facility’s fence boundary did not monitor anything unusual. The other dangerously toxic chemical, Hydrogen Fluoride Gas (HF), which could be a significant risk to the neighboring community is not monitored by IEMA.

The first NRC “updated” Preliminary report, dated October 31st, maintains the “Not Applicable” classification rather than the “Alert” classification. It also states “initial indications are that no detectable offsite release of material (UF6 or HF) was present,” and that “monitoring fence HF detectors from the control room indicated no detectable HF at the fence.” The Honeywell facility has Hydrogen Fluoride detectors on site but according to an article posted by the United Steel Workers, who are in a labor dispute with Honeywell and have been locked out of the facility for over three months, HF monitors are not stationed on the West side of the property’s fence line, the direction the plume was going. A Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff member confirmed that it was likely that HF monitors were not stationed along the fence line in areas where people did not live. The west side of the Honeywell facility is bordered by a forested area. A coal facility is just beyond the forested area. The only agency that might monitor for Hydrogen Fluoride is the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).  Attempts to contact the IEPA to confirm that they do not monitor for Hydrogen Fluoride at the facility could not be obtained by the time of this press release.

The most recent NRC “updated” Preliminary report, dated November 6th, states that “The NRC has concluded no detectable radioactive material was released,” and that “Honeywell has determined that if any HF, which is not radioactive but is chemically hazardous, travelled beyond their property it would have been of such a low concentration as to pose no public safety hazard.” From October 31st to November 6th Honeywell changed its statement from “initial indications…no detectable offsite release” to “if any HF travelled beyond property.”  Currently there is no confirmation that HF absolutely did not leave the site because there are not monitors around the entire site, and we have found no other governmental agency that monitors HF at the site. Other than direct monitoring of HF, determination of whether HF went beyond the property is done through computer modeling. The Honeywell Company and the NRC have both run modeling programs to determine the quantity of material released. The results of the modeling may be available in the report issued by the NRC from the emergency inspection of the facility which will be finalized and available in a few weeks.

The NRC’s Event reporting form has five “License Emergency Classifications.”  Uranium Processing facilities have two allowed classifications of emergencies, “Alert” and “Site Area Emergency,” according to Roger Hanah of the NRC. The original Preliminary Event report form had the “Not Applicable” box selected. Honeywell originally referred to the emergency as a “plant emergency” which does not alert the heads of emergency response agencies to the potential for offsite releases or that they he should be prepared to potentially have to call staff in if Honeywell requires outside assistance. An “Alert” level would have raised the awareness and preparedness of the various emergency response agencies. No outside response was requested.

Honeywell submitted an additional event report on or around November 3rd, after the original incident and during the shutdown of the production of Uranium Hexafluoride Honeywell that reported the “UNPLANNED MEDICAL TREATMENT OF A CONTAMINATED INDIVIDUAL.” The employee slipped and fell in a gravel area: “A whole body radiological survey of the employee and plant clothing was performed,” contamination was present with the most occurring on the upper back of the employee’s plant issued coveralls. Upon the completion of first aid activities, the employee routinely exit monitored from the facility and reported to an off-site medical facility for further evaluation. No additional contamination found on the employee.” It could not be determined from the report or questions to the NRC if the employee was injured or contaminated in relation to repair or clean-up work from the event on October 26th. The inspection report related to the Oct. 26th event or other regular inspection reports in the future may convey more information about the contaminated employee.

“The staggering number of mistakes, inaccuracies, changed stories, and inadequate responses on the part of both Honeywell and the NRC beg for an independent investigation into Honeywell’s ability to run so sensitive a facility, and NRC’s ability to adequately regulate it,” asserts Dave Kraft, Director of NEIS.  “NRC’s existing regulatory scheme does not seem capable of protecting the public health and safety in a timely and responsible manner.  Illinois’ Congressional Delegation needs to look into this matter,” Kraft states.

Sources

Nuclear Regulatory Event Report #50594
DISCOVERY OF AFTER-THE-FACT EMERGENCY CONDITION – ALERT DECLARATION NOT MADE DURING EVENT INVOLVING URANIUM HEXAFLUORIDE LEAK
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2014/20141106en.html
Scroll to Event #50594

Nuclear Regulatory Event Report #50591
UNPLANNED MEDICAL TREATMENT OF A CONTAMINATED INDIVIDUAL http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/2014/20141104en.html

Original Preliminary Event Report October 27th
http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1430/ML14300A675.pdf

1st Updated Preliminary Event Report October 31st
http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1430/ML14304A326.pdf

2nd Updated Prelimary Event Report “Alert” November 6th
http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1431/ML14310A139.pdf

Confirmatory Action Letter from NRC to Honeywell is not available on their website yet.
Dated November 7, 2014 from Honeywell Attn: Dave Pritchett from NRC: Victor M. McCreee

United Steel Workers
HONEYWELL ADMITS TO MISCLASSIFYING EMERGENCY
http://usw7-669.com/story/honeywell-admits-misclassifying-emergency

 

CHICAGO—  A study released Thursday (Oct. 2, 2014) by the nuclear power trade group alleging dire economic consequences for Illinois should  currently unprofitable nuclear reactors be closed by Exelon Corporation leaves safe-energy advocacy groups wondering – was this report designed to deliberately mislead the Illinois Legislature?

Exelon's unprofitable Byron nuclear reactors, threatened with closure if the Illinois Legislature does not "appreciate" them more with a bailout.
Exelon’s unprofitable Byron nuclear reactors, threatened with closure if the Illinois Legislature does not “appreciate” them more with a bailout.

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) of Washington, D.C. released a 29-page report titled, The Impact of Exelon’s  Nuclear Fleet on the Illinois Economy,  The report alleges that, “the consequences for the state’s economy and environment would be dire,” should Exelon make good its threat to close as many as 5 reactors in Illinois.

“Rarely have we seen so short a report by the nuclear industry filled with so many errors of omission and commission, inconsistencies, and faulty analysis,” observes David Kraft, director of the Chicago-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, a nuclear watch-dog organization.  “On its own that would not be such a bad or unexpected thing.  But this report is designed to manipulate legislators into prying an initial $580 million out of Illinois ratepayers’ pocketbooks,” Kraft continues.

“This report is largely a collection of ‘water is wet’ findings that there would be negative consequences for local communities and the state if Exelon decides to close nuclear reactors,” notes Kraft.  “The report uses inflated figures, figures inconsistent with what the Legislature was previously given, and completely leaves out critical and substantial information that would seriously contradict their findings, “Kraft points out.

Among the larger flaws of the study are:

  • A co-mingled presentation of the positive economic effects of operation and negative effects of closure between in some instances all 11 operating reactors, versus the 5 reactors Exelon has stated it might close, with the effect of muddling the true economic picture.
  • Enormous inconsistencies between the numbers presumably provided by Exelon to the Legislature in passing HR1146, – a resolution  passed in May in support of continued nuclear reactor operation —  and the numbers presented in the NEI report (as well as the Exelon Corporate website, see attached Table), suggesting…
  • Questionable and seemingly padded assumptions about numbers and multiplier effects used to reach their conclusions.
  • A failure to acknowledge let alone analyze the positive effects on the economy after such plant closures from job creation from reactor decommissioning and in the energy sectors like renewable energy, efficiency and presumably natural gas that would occur to provide replacement power for the closed reactors.
  • A failure to use the readily available history of ComEd’s closure of the two Zion reactors in 1998, and the devaluation of the Clinton reactor when it was sold as examples of how communities – and apparently Illinois — managed to survive when a nuclear utility like Exelon unilaterally pulled the plug on them.

An excellent and more detailed critique of the NEI study titled, “NEI’s Exelon Numbers Don’t Add Up,” has been done by Michael Mariotte, President of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) of Takomoa Park, MD.

“The NEI report is released during an election year and written with a tone designed to create a sense of fear and dire emergency in legislators who will be voting in the Spring on whether to subsidize Exelon’s five unprofitable nuclear reactors to the tune of at least $580 million, with more subsidies possible in the future.  With intelligent analysis and design, these predictable negative effects can be minimized and dealt with,” Kraft asserts.

The NEI is the trade association for the U.S. nuclear power industry.  While there is nothing unusual for the NEI to defend nuclear power, it should be noted that Exelon Corporation – the beneficiary of this report – contributes over $7.2 million per year to the operation of the NEI (FY 2012 numbers); and Exelon CEO Philip Crane is also NEI’s current Chairman.  These facts cast legitimate skepticism on the report’s accuracy.

[NOTE: The NEI was previously taken to task in 1998 by the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division over NEI ads making unqualified claims about the benefits of nuclear power that BBB ruled were unjustified, noting that in advertising law, “a claim that is technically truthful can still be misleading….”.]

On a parallel track, and as a result of the passage of HR1146, four State agencies are currently preparing reports on topics similar to those addressed in the NEI report.  These State reports are due out in November, after the election.

“NEIS is concerned that these State reports will be equally misleading,” Kraft warns, “in that the agencies were not given the staff or financial resources to conduct research beyond the narrow prescripts mandated in HR1146, and no public process or means of input was created.  Despite the best efforts of the staffs involved, these reports may end up being nothing more that expensive ‘studies to show,’ and not provide the Legislators with the complete set of balanced, pro-and-con information they will need to make a competent decision,” Kraft states.

“The State is hereby put on notice – we will not quietly accept biased industry studies and self-fulfilling prophecies from state agencies as ‘justification’ to pick the ratepayers’ pockets to the tune of $580 million or more,” Kraft asserts.  “A ’Nuclear war’ on renewables can get quite messy, and fast,” Kraft notes.