Cooling towers required for Oyster Creek nuclear plant may force its closure

From NJ.com:

New Jersey environmental officials are requiring the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Ocean County -- the nation’s oldest nuclear plant -- to install cooling towers. The design change is considered environmentally-friendly, yet costly, and one the plant operators say will force them to shut down.

The state Department of Environmental Protection is requiring the installation of a "closed-cycle cooling system," which involves mostly air-cooling the plant using one or two towers.

The plant currently cools its system by pumping in about 662 million gallons of water from the Barnegat Bay each day, and pumping in another 748 million additional gallons per day to dilute that heated water before it all is discharged back into the bay, according to Nancy Whittenberg, assistant commissioner for environmental regulation,

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Vermont Yankee groundwater well tests positive for radioactive isotope for the first time

From the Los Angeles Times:

A small amount of radioactive material was found in a test of groundwater wells at the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility, the plant confirmed Thursday.

The problem at the 38-year-old reactor is similar to those cropping up at nuclear plants around the country, with the discovery of a radioactive isotope called tritium in a monitoring well.

Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams said Thursday the plant confirmed a report provided a day earlier by an independent testing laboratory hired to check samples from 32 groundwater monitoring wells on the site.

Williams said it was the first time a groundwater sample at the plant had tested positive for tritium.

Both Williams and William Irwin, radiological health chief for the Vermont Department of Health, said there was no threat to the public health and safety from the level of tritium reported. They said the 17,000 picocuries of radioactivity per liter of water measured at Vermont Yankee was 3,000 less than the 20,000 picocurie safety limit set for drinking water by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry engineer who has consulted with the Legislature on issues related to Vermont Yankee, on Thursday called the discovery of tritium on the plant site "a big deal."

"It's a sign that there's a pipe or a tank leaking somewhere" at the plant, Gundersen said. "It's highly unlikely that the highest concentration in the ground would happen to be at the monitoring well," he added.

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Entergy issues $40M guarantee for decom fund

From the Brattleboro Reformer:

Entergy, which owns and operates Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it has executed a parent company guarantee of $40 million to ensure the site’s clean-up fund meets NRC requirements.

The guarantee was offered on Dec. 31, 2009, said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC.

"We are still awaiting written documentation on this," said Sheehan. "We will conduct independent verification to ensure it was properly carried out and meets our requirements."

Entergy will be working with the NRC to make sure its expectations concerning the decommissioning fund are met, said Rob Williams, spokesman for Yankee.

"The goal of the guarantee we have implemented is to be responsive to NRC’s request for further financial assurance to ensure the adequacy of the decommissioning fund," he said.

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Nuclear Power and the Bottomless Bank

From E Magazine:

Congress and the Obama administration are on a course to provide the nation’s nuclear industry an unprecedented financial package—one that could dwarf the combined expenditures of last year’s bailout programs. And the legislative package comes with restrictions that would block the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from completely examining untried nuclear power systems.

The extensive support for the development of nuclear power is incorporated in the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act moving separately through the Environment and Public Works and the Energy and Natural Resources committees. The House version of the bill passed in June.

If enacted, the legislation would create a special “bank” affiliated with the Department of Energy (DOE) called the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA), which could potentially provide underwriting for 187 new nuclear power projects—at an estimated cost of $10 to $14 billion each—and assume responsibility for cost overruns and delays.

If the Senate version is approved, there would be unlimited funding for nuclear power projects throughout the country, instead of just in the three states (Florida, Georgia and South Carolina) that allow utilities to bill consumers in advance for the cost of constructing nuclear power plants. Federal investment in nuclear energy would replace that from the Wall Street investment community, which has been loathe to invest in these expensive capital projects.

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Follow up: Radiation releases during TMI event on November 21 2009

Eric,
 
We do not share copies of Condition Reports or issue reports with the public.  On occasion, the NRC reviews these reports at the plants but we do not typically submit them to the agency.  However, the answers to your other questions are provided in blue after each question.
            
We have some follow up questions based on your press release of December 18, 2009.
 
If the TMI containment was open for the steam generator replacement, we are trying to determine if cobalt was released and detected by Exelon’s monitors off the Island to the southeast. We know Cobalt 60 is an activation product - not a fission product - so it does not indicate a fuel failure. Nevertheless, the release(s) did come from
inside the reactor.
 
1) Was cobalt released during the event November 21, 2009?
Yes, Cobalt was identified in the samples.
 
2) If so, did Exelon or the NRC attempt to correlate the C0-60 to  where the wind was blowing on the day of the release?
Yes, the wind was blowing in the Southeast direction that afternoon/evening.
 
3) Is Exelon or the NRC looking for other depositions or the centerline of the plume? If so, Cobalt-60 has a hard gamma and
is easy to find.
Exelon has analyzed samples in adjacent sectors. All but the ones identified in the press release indicated less than detectable levels of activity.
 
There is an assumption in the press release that Exelon measured the worst case scenario which may be wrong since this was a ground level release, and building wake effects would keep the plume on the ground and near the plant.
 
4) Did Exelon check for beta emitters at the sample locations?
Yes, the analysis performed at the off-site lab checks for Beta emitters per our program requirements.
 
5) Also, a Condition Report has been written up on this event.  That is disclosable under FOIA. Can you share a copy?
The sample results were entered into our Corrective Action Program and will be included in our normal Report.
 
Thank you for your patience throughout the holidays.  I hope the information is helpful.  I read your recent postings on your website and I am looking forward to discussing the changes to your monitoring system.  Please let me know if you need clarification or would like to get together soon.
 
Happy New Year,
 
Alisa Harris-Daniels

Sustainable Energy Fund Launches New Program to Acquire $20 million in Environmental Attributes

For Immediate Release:

Sustainable Energy Fund Introduces New Program To Spur Small Scale Renewable Energy Generation Development.

ALLENTOWN, PA. -Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) today announced its planned acquisition of more than $20 million in environmental attributes to support the development of small scale renewable energy generation resources such as solar, wind or biomass.

“SEF has been monitoring Pennsylvania’s renewable energy credit market and is growing concerned that small generation resources are at a disadvantage in favor of large utility scale projects,” stated Jennifer Hopkins, President, SEF.    “PECO recently issued an RFP for purchase of solar RECs that required a minimum of 300 RECs be produce from a single system. The average residential system produces 4 RECs annually.”    She continued “The economics and motivation are simple. Large utilities like PPL do not generate transmission and distribution revenues from the average homeowner or small business that generated their own electricity behind the meter.”

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission recently issued a press release seeking comment on addressing barriers to new solar development in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Renewable Energy Credits are one type of Environmental Attribute often used by Pennsylvania’s electric generation suppliers and electric distribution companies to comply with Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard that requires an annually increasing percentage of electricity generation to come from renewable resources such as wind or solar. SEF’s new program seeks to acquire the rights to these credits as well as other attributes such as carbon credits.

“This new program is very exciting as it utilizes SEF’s unique position as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, financial expertise and knowledge of renewable energy markets to support the development of residential and small scale commercial renewable generation,” said Jennifer Hopkins. She continued “We are constantly working to develop new programs that support the development of sustainable energy.”

Informational meetings on SEF’s new program dubbed “Green to Green” will be held on January 6, 7 and 8 in Valley Forge, Harrisburg and the Lehigh Valley respectively. To register, please visit www.thesef.com and click incentives and financing.
Hopkins closed by stating, “The acquisition of these environmental attributes by SEF will not eliminate the unfair practices by the utilities but will help residential and small commercial generators realize value from their investment.”

 

About Sustainable Energy Fund

SEF is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was create as the result of a settlement approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission during electric deregulation proceedings. The organization seeks out, focuses on and invests in economically viable, energy related businesses, projects, and educational initiatives that create innovative, market-based technologies and solutions to enable environmentally sound sustainable energy use in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. SEF assists all types of commercial entities to reduce the consumption of energy from non sustainable sources. These reductions are achieved by reducing or removing financial and/or educational barriers that prevent these organizations from generating energy from renewable resources and implementing improvements in efficiency of energy utilization as well as reducing energy consumption through behavioral change.

For more information on Sustainable Energy Fund, visit www.thesef.org

Court records reveal trouble at Turkey Point

From the Miami Herald:

``There are the old gauges . . . where . . . a needle that goes around and around,'' Ware testified, saying they were ``not very reliable.'' When operators looked at the indicators daily, ``they'd be stuck.

``So over the years, they developed the habit of pinging them to get them to move. . . . Well, that's not OK in a nuclear plant because you have to have reliable, you know, verification of where those rods are positioned. . . . That's a lesson from Three Mile Island,'' the worst nuclear disaster in American history.

In the hush-hush nuclear world, such insider details rarely, if ever, become public, but now a lawsuit has made public 2,000 pages of testimony that offer a fascinating window into the experiences, thoughts and frustrations of Turkey Point executives, employees and contract workers that reveal myriad problems.

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“Electric Deregulation: The Great Failed Experiment”

Comments of Eric J. Epstein,
January 6, 2010

 

On August 4, 2000 Governor Tom Ridge announced that electric competition would lead to job growth, economic expansion, and decreased rates. According to Governor Ridge, “Pennsylvania’s national leadership in electric competition continues to bring dramatic savings and economic benefits to Pennsylvanians.” Gov. Ridge added, "And, according to this new report, those savings and benefits will continue for some time to come!”

The Department of Revenue released "Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition” (August, 2000), and predicted free market nirvana. Secretary of Revenue, Robert A. Judge Sr., forecast reductions in retail electricity prices would lead to the following economic impacts in Pennsylvania by 2004:

The real gross state product will be $1.9 billion higher; overall employment will increase by 36,400 full-time and part-time jobs, nominal personal income will increase by $1.4 billion; the price index will decrease by .47 percent; and the population will increase by 51,400 people, as workers are attracted to job opportunities in Pennsylvania.

The Department of Revenue also reported that deregulation would result in greater sales tax and Personal Income Tax collections.

Could the deregulators have gotten it more wrong?

The reality is not so dreamy. Electric companies are collecting $11.4 billion in stranded costs, shifted taxes to hostage rate payers, and dumped customers at record rates.

Deregulation shifted power plants back to the local tax rolls under the assumption that utilities would pay at least the same amount had they been subject to real estate taxes.

By 2004 homeowners were paying an average of 30% more in property taxes than they did in 1997. PPL and the other electric utility companies are paying 85% less in taxes on their plants, down from about $120 million annually to about $20 million according to a Philadelphia Inquirer analysis.

Uncollectible accounts were supposed to decrease with the price of electric.

On November 19, 2004 - the last day of a “lame duck session” - the General Assembly passed “The Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act” (SB #677 or Chapter 14) at the behest of the energy industry. This legislation - passed in secrecy and without public comment - became Act 201.

Prior to this legislation, the PA Public Utility Commission prevented most winter time utility shut offs between November through March.

Deregulation’s “Consume Protection Act” has produced a 113% increase in terminations. In the first eight months of 2008, PPL cut electricity to 28,561 customers, which was an 111% increase over the number of customers whose power was shut off during the same period in 2007. The statewide average was 24%.

In 2004, about 70% of customers who received notices saying power could be shut off called the company and tried to arrange an alternate payment schedule according to PPL. Now only 28% of those who receive termination warnings try to arrange other payment plans.

But it got worse for Joe the Plumber.

A study published by Carnegie Mellon University's Electricity Industry Center found, “On average, power users in restructured states pay 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt hour more than customers in states that didn't restructure.” (Electricity Prices and Costs Under Regulation and Restructuring, 2008)

Future shock: The Office of Consumer Advocate, in a letter to Governor Rendell on April 20, 2008, estimated approximate increases in the overall rates of residential customers, comparing rates that were in effect and rates that would be expected to be in effect for each company after the rate caps have expired:

Met Ed -54%

PECO - 8%

Penelec - 50%

Allegheny (West Penn) - 63%

These numbers are staggering and coincide with the deteriorating health of Pennsylvania's shrinking middle class. The promise of deregulation leading to more capacity, more competition and lower prices has turned out to be a profitable illusion for a select few.

Pa. leaders have failed to protect us from worst of electricity deregulation

Patriot-News Op-Ed by David Hughes

December 29, 2009

 

Pennsylvania decision-makers’ poor understanding of the electricity industry led them into a big mistake 13 years ago: Giving up the state’s authority to control electricity-generation prices.

Consumers were promised a competitive retail electricity market that would restrain prices. The warnings that such a market would not develop went unheeded, but they turned out to be correct.

NRC to Meet With Exelon Over Spent Fuel Tech-Specs

 The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the supplement provided by 

Exelon Nuclear on December 18, 2009, regarding a License Amendment 

Request currently under review to revise the Technical Specifications 

related to the Spent Fuel Pool K-infinity value for Peach Bottom Atomic 

Power Station (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System 

Accession No. ML093521435). 

To read the full NRC memo, open pdf: 

 

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