Nuclear Footprint Ignored

By Eric Epstein


   PPL has announced its strategy to cure global warming: add another nuclear generating station.

 While PPL’s nuclear stations have smaller carbon “foot prints” than their coal generating siblings, the company has failed to acknowledge the financial, radioactive and aquatic footprints associated with adding on to the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station (SSES) on the Susquehanna River.

According to PPL, a new nuclear reactor requires a federal subsidy of $4.5 billion – or 80 percent of the projected cost of the project. This “nuclear loan” is guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury: that is, by taxpayers. The real cost, based on overruns in Florida and Texas, will be around $10 billion. Which begs the obvious question: Why aren’t the shareholders of what Forbes Magazine in December 2007 called one the “best-managed” and “most profitable utilities,”  assuming the risk for a multibillion dollar slam dunk?

It’s back to the future. PPL’s operating nuclear power plants were projected to cost rate payers $2.1 billion, but overruns left a $4.10 billion price tag. These same folks are currently collecting $2.86 billion in nuclear taxes to make up the cost overruns. Check out the “Competitive Transition Costs” (CTC) - portion of your electric bill. It gets worse for senior citizens and those living on fixed in comes. PPL will be treating their loyal customer base to a 35 percent rate increase on Jan. 1, 2010.    

What’s on deck? PPL is currently requesting permission to store an additional 1,200 tons of high-level radioactive nuclear waste alongside the Susquehanna River, over a 20-year period. PPL’s nuclear generation station currently produces 60 metric tons of spent fuel each year. This “radioactive footprint” will last thousands of years. The Susquehanna station is one of 21 nuclear power plants where used reactor fuel pools have reached capacity. In other words, PPL already has 1,440 tons high-level nuclear garbage looking for a home.

  And, as the The Patriot News pointed out in a June 2008 article, “Disposal of nuclear waste nears crisis stage” there is no storage bin for nuclear waste. PPL will begin storing low-level radioactive waste on site as of July 1, 2008 when Barnwell, S.C. closes its storage facility to states outside of the Atlantic Compact – Pennsylvania belongs to the Appalachian Compact. Neither PPL, the NRC, or the DEP have been able to incentivize a single Pennsylvania community to bed down with a 500-year low-level radioactive foot print.

Communities and ecosystems that depend on limited water resources are also adversely affected by the SSES, as the plant draws 58 to 63.5 million gallons of water per day and returns reduced amounts of backwash, at elevated temperatures. Last fall, 53 counties were placed on “drought watch, ” including Luzerne County where the SSES is moored. Yet PPL was exempted from water conservation efforts.  

  Why should taxpayers subsidize PPL’s radioactive footprint? When a major industrial facility on the Susquehanna River is unable or unwilling to conserve water or isolate radioactive waste, we should not award them a  green badge. PPL’s solution to global warming is little more than corporate socialism wrapped in a green bow.


   Eric Epstein chairman of Three Mile Island Alert , Inc. TMIA a  safe-energy organization based  in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and founded in  1977. TMIA monitors Peach Bottom Susquehanna, and Three Mile Island nuclear generating stations.