Stealth Nukes: or, You Won't Find Any Extra Water in the Backroom

There's been a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power stations for many years, and for many damned good reasons. Those reasons range from safety to economics with many environmental concerns in between, and are (mostly) based on numerous in-depth and qualified studies that had/have our best interests at heart.

Advocates of nuclear power have devoted a great deal of time and money trying to pick apart these solid and scientific arguments, while refusing to address the issues that really matter. These efforts have been mostly in vain for the past few decades, but recent developments exposing the dangers of fossil fuels have given this industry a new, stronger argument and position than they could have dreamed possible.

But we can't allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency and fatalism by their siren-song, and we absolutely positively cannot allow them to operate in the shadows. From NCWARN:

Federal regulators abruptly halted a public meeting Thursday after problems arose with Progress Energy’s application for new nuclear plants, then continued private discussions with company officials. Watchdog group NC WARN said the move violates federal policy, and today asked Rep. David Price to help ensure that all future meetings are held in the Triangle area, near the Harris plant.

The charge against NRC comes amid widespread criticism that the review process for proposed new reactors is heavily slanted against open involvement by public interest groups, or local and state governments. Thursday’s session was the first scheduled discussion of the technical aspects of Progress’ February 19th application, which is thousands of pages long.

The nuke industry has shielded their missteps from the public for years, very often citing "security" issues. Frankly, we've allowed them to get away with this virtually unchallenged for years. Whether it's because we "just don't want to know" or because of some sinister conspiracy to keep us ignorant (or both), we have to put a stop to this.

In a letter sent today to NRC, attorney John Runkle explained, “You essentially went into ‘closed session’ after some tough questions from the NRC staff that lengthy discussions did not resolve. Representatives from Progress Energy were the ones to suggest that issues be resolved ‘after the meeting.’ Nothing being discussed was proprietary or safeguards-related, so all of the meeting should have been public.”

The problems discussed involved site geology and the availability of cooling water. In the letter, Runkle insisted that NRC send him a recording or staff notes of the private meeting with Progress.

That's right, water. We don't have nearly enough of it, and nukes need/use a hell of a lot of it. We can conserve like crazy at home and at work, but these 9 billion dollar monsters will suck up every drop of that and need more. Much more.

In closing, I give you Jim Warren, who is (once again) leading the fight to do what's right:

“This is an early warning sign for the so-called Nuclear Revival,” said NC WARN’s Jim Warren today. “For Progress Energy to already be dodging difficult issues – until the doors are closed doors – does not bode well for the chance of completing a new design reactor safely or on budget. He noted that cost estimates for new plants have tripled in the past two years, and that project delays or cancellations are likely. In the 1980s, Progress and other utilities cancelled 60 plants in midstream due to what Forbes magazine called “the worst managerial disaster in business history.”

In seeking Rep. Price’s help, NC WARN noted that just last month, he criticized the NRC following a report by the agency’s Inspector General showing that Harris and 14 other plants have been in violation of fire safety regulations for 15 years. In a February 15th letter to NRC Chairman Dale Klein, Price said “… it seems clear that the agency’s credibility in the eyes of the public has been severely damaged,” and he urged Klein to spare no effort to demonstrate “that its actions are fully transparent.”

“The process is already rigged against the public,” Jim Warren added today. “We can’t tolerate any more secrecy. The NRC needs to come have these discussions in the vicinity of Shearon Harris – in front of the impacted population and news media – not behind closed doors in Rockville, Maryland.”

Comments

the only reason costs have tripled...

...is because we insist on providing so much in the way of taxpayer subsidy to the industry.

had the industry been forced to consider the actual costs of disposal of used fuel, the real costs of liability protection, or the future cost of water the mere tripling of costs would quickly become a dream, not a nightmare.

for just one example, consider the billion dollar door.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

Beware the nuclear industry's nationwide push.

Pro-nuclear power advocates attempted a policy-change ambush at the National League of Cities meetings in Washington this week, asking the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources subcommittees to adopt aggressively pro-nuclear policies. (I call it an ambush because it wasn't on the agenda, and renewable energy advocates had no advance warning of the need to be there on this topic.) I argued against the requested change, and no action was taken at this meeting. They didn't get what they wanted immediately, but they haven't given up. The nuclear industry is clearly dispatching its troops to push for more subsidies and support for their economically failed approach in every forum.

Dan Besse
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor
www.danbesse2008.org

Dan Besse

for proponents of these new plants...

...the clock may be ticking...and next january might be too late if permits are not yet in hand.

better to push now than to take a chance on later.

"...i feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." --tom lehrer, january 1965

This is...going to require

more than just an occasional check to stay on top of. Legislation here and at the Federal level, NCUC applications/decisions, water use permits, astroturfing, etc.

There's something else to keep in mind, which many reading this may not care about, but: it's entirely possible that N.C. was chosen for specific (industry-friendly) reasons, and whatever happens here could be used by the industry as a "precedent", possibly clearing the way for more of these projects nationwide. You know, "North Carolina recognizes the need to expand nuclear power, blah blah blah."

Which means, we're not just fighting for us, we're fighting for them, too.

Exactly.

That is absolutely a part of their strategy.

As we all know, the business community in general, and right-wing Republicans in particular, are fond of citing France as our model to follow in all things. (Ok, irony alert there for the humor-challenged.) And yet, France with its heavy reliance on nuclear power has become the favorite example for the pro-nuclear forces to cite. Grasping for straws, on their part, to cite an economy that they do not normally wish to hold up as an example, for one of its more questionable approaches.

Dan Besse
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor
www.danbesse2008.org

Dan Besse

Dan, I got the irongy of r's and France

but don't know much about the French economy and why it wouldn't be held up, especially by r's. wouldja 'spain?

I do get the France nuclear example thrown at me and don't know how to counter. One friend in particular is a transplant from the Ukraine, (his mom lives in Mint Hill even)and he very red...ha...very red...get it...ahem

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

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Dan can explain (probably better),

but France's government has had (for many years) a strong socialist influence. This has translated to a substantial amount of government regulation of industry and commerce, numerous entitlement programs, labor-friendly laws, etc.

Basically it's the polar opposite of what free-market fundamentalists view as the "ideal", and they usually latch onto any piece of bad economic news out of France as proof positive that socialized government is anathema to economic growth and stability.

So there's your irony (and desperation), when they contradict so much of their previous grumblings by using France to back up their argument.

What he said...

A good summary.

When the pro-nuclear folks cite France, I point out that their example essentially underscores one of my points: Commercial nuclear fission is a total failure in the marketplace. It survives only where it receives massive public subsidies.

The current attempt at nuclear revival is made possible only by the last Republican Congress' energy bill, which included a huge public tax incentive (and other public guarantees) for the first new nukes to get underway.

Even then, it probably would not be happening in North Carolina but for the return of CWIP (construction work in progress) financing--approved by our own state legislature last summer over the strenuous objection of myself and most other environmental advocates. CWIP is a utility financing gimmick which permits utilities to bill us for the costs of plant construction even while the plant is still building and before it's put into use. It's another risk-transfer mechanism from utility stockholders to the public ratepayers. (If the plant costs overrun--a virtual guarantee--or even if it never cranks up, we never get our money back.)

The nuclear industry understands all these gimmicks and is gaming the system wildly in an attempt to return to artificial financial viability.

Dan Besse
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor
www.danbesse2008.org

Dan Besse

After, he also lived close by

but said wind was blowing in other direction that day. Is that possible?

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

Progressive Discussions