(November 18, 2005) The Cheney/Bush energy bill, fostered in secret energy task force meetings to benefit its industry supporters and passed this year by the United States Congress with more than US$12 billion for new reactor development, reveals that the so-called "renaissance" of atomic power is in need of more than just subsidies but rather a permanent umbilical attachment to the U.S. Treasury and the American taxpayer.
(638.5730) NIRS - With the federal government now proposing to finance, build, insure and purchase power with tax credits from the first new reactors to jump start the moribund industry, new activity is stirring within corporate boardrooms to jockey into starting gate positions. - In early spring of this year the State Secretary for the Environment hired two consultants to initiate talks, behind closed doors, with the main stakeholders to identify possibilities for making a dirty deal; if the environmental movement would accept the postponement of closure to 2033 then the 'saved' money (from not compensating the utility) would then be spent on renewable energy projects and investments.
A DEEPENING CRISIS OF PRIORITIES
The energy crisis deepens with the fate of the earth in the balance should this money be appropriated by Congress for a relapse of a failed energy policy of the 1950's. The reinvestment in nuclear power robs vital resources from the very real and timely solutions for abating climate change, stabilizing world peace through the reduction of nuclear weapons materials and averting the next nuclear catastrophe by an accident or terrorist attack.
As Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has pointed out, every ten cents of investment purchases 1 kilowatt hour of electricity from nuclear power, 1.2 to 1.7 kilowatt hours from wind power or 10 kilowatt hours through energy efficiency.
In terms of climate change, a nuclear expansion buys less climate change abatement per US dollar. Moreover, given the long time frames for new reactor construction, it is an investment spent later rather than sooner, a critical factor in current global climate change. As United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Nils Diaz recently told a gathering of industry Chief Executive Officers, it will take at the very minimum eight years to bring the first of new nuclear reactors on line. That is more likely a decade or more of additional delay that could otherwise be spent instituting an aggressive policy of energy efficiency and conservation coupled with renewable energy generation. Given the immediate availability of vast amounts of untapped energy efficiency and wind power potential, the time wasted and money squandered on a nuclear expansion is expected to both reduce and retard the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Society is clearly at an energy crossroad where we can build more nuclear power stations or work together to implement an energy policy that slows climate change, but we cannot do both.
U.S. Nuclear Industry Maneuvering Into Position
The number of nuclear consortia assembling around this government funding trough continues to grow with it members still shifting alliances and forming new alliances.
The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), in preparation for the congressional windfall for future new power reactor construction and licensing, has developed the early site permit (ESP) and combined operating license (COL) application processes for the nuclear industry. The COL authorizes construction and conditional operation of a specified nuclear reactor design. According to NRC, the ESP was established for the regulatory approval of the physical sites for one or more nuclear power facilities. It constitutes a partial construction permit for everything but the reactor building and is good for 10 to 20 years and can be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years. The ESP has been set up to "environmentally qualify" independent of a review of any specific nuclear plant design that has been substituted with very broad and vague design boundaries.
To date, no licensees have filed any applications with NRC. The nuclear power industry has only announced its "intent" to file applications for combined construction and operation licenses of new reactors. Without the promise of government financing even this intent would be non-existent. But the gathering of corporate intentions provides a much needed morale boost to the still lingering after taste of the "largest managerial disaster in business history" as Forbes magazine cover story headlined in 1985.
To date, the following companies and consortia have announced intent to apply for new reactor licensing:
Progress Energy has informed the NRC of its intention to submit a COL to build a new reactor at the currently operational single unit Shearon Harris reactor site near Raleigh, NC within the next two years. Intent to submit a second COL is anticipated. (1)
Duke Energy has announced its intention to apply for a COL to build a new nuclear reactor somewhere in its service area and has been investing in its previously approved but abandoned Perkins site near Greensboro, NC. The Charlotte, N.C.-based utility is considering 14 possible sites in North Carolina and South Carolina and announcing a location in 2005. (2)
SCANA and Santee Cooper have announced their intention in a joint venture to seek a new reactor site at an undisclosed site in South Carolina. SCANA's principal subsidiary is South Carolina Electric and Gas Co (SCE&G) while Santee Cooper is South Carolina's state-owned utility. SCE&G already works with Santee Cooper on nuclear generation at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville, SC. (3)
The NUSTART consortium that includes numerous U.S. nuclear power companies and reactor vendors along with the federally operated Tennessee Valley Authority announced two potential sites intended for COL submittals at the abandoned Bellefonte nuclear power plant construction site near Scottsboro, Alabama and the expansion of the operational single unit Grand Gulf nuclear site near Vicksburg, Mississippi. NUSART has been studying the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons production site in South Carolina for one or more new power reactors - supporting local nuclear booster's hopes for an "energy park" at the site. (4)
Georgia's Southern Company announced its intention to expand the Vogtle reactor site in Waynesboro, GA in the summer of 2006 with either an application for an early site permit (ESP) or pre-combined operating license (COL) information that ultimately would become a part of a complete COL application. (5)
UniStar Nuclear, a partnership between the Baltimore, MD-based Constellation Energy and French-owned Areva Inc. has announced its intent to build and operate a new reactor at the operational two-unit Calvert Cliffs nuclear power station in Calvert County, Maryland on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, southeast of Washington, D.C. and a behemoth 1600 megawatt design in Scriba, NY that would expand the currently operational Nine Mile Point 1 & 2 and Fitzpatrick nuclear power station complex. (6)
Entergy Nuclear, headquartered in New Orleans, LA, announced its intent to prepare and file a COL application for a new site adjacent to its currently operational single unit River Bend nuclear power station near St. Francisville, LA. (7)
Early site permit applications currently under review by the NRC to environmentally qualify construction sites without a utility commitment to construct a specific reactor design include:
Dominion based in Richmond, VA has applied for an "Early Site Permit" at the current two-unit North Anna nuclear reactor site on Lake Anna in Mineral, Virginia to environmentally qualify up to 2 additional new reactors. (8)
Exelon Nuclear based in Chicago, IL has applied for the site expansion of the single unit Clinton nuclear power station in Clinton, Illinois. (9)
System Energy Resource Inc. (SERI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Entergy Nuclear based in New Orleans, LA has submitted an application to environmentally qualify the site expansion of the Grand Gulf nuclear power station in Port Gibson, Mississippi for new reactor construction. (10)
Sources: (1) http://www.progress-energy.com/aboutus/news/article.asp?id=13122; (2) http://www.duke-energy.com/news/releases/2005/oct/2005102601.asp; (3) http://www.eere.energy.gov/news/archive.cfm/pubDate=%7Bd%20'2005-10-12'%7D#energy; (4) http://www.nei.org/documents/NuStart_COL_News_Release_9-22-05.pdf; (5) http://www.nei.org/doc.asp?docid=1434; (6) http://www.unistarnuclear.com/news.html; (7) http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=3&catid=695; (8) http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-licensing/esp/north-anna.html; (9) http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr1815/; (10) http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-licensing/esp/grand-gulf.html
Contact: Paul Gunter at NIRS, email@example.com