Tag Archive: Exelon

Safety Problems Identified at Oyster Creek Nuke

The Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township is the oldest operating plant in the United States and is scheduled to be shut down in 2019. Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission identified some serious safety hazards at the plant.

While the NRC findings (below the fold) try to assuage any worries, remember that every plant (with the possible exception of Chernobyl) that has experienced significant problems had previously been deemed “safe.”

Let’s hope that Congressman Tom MacArthur, in whose district this plant is, puts the NRC’s and the operator’s feet to the fire and works to ramp up independent safety evaluations and work toward a smooth shut-down and site remediation.

Avoiding the Next Exxon Giveaway

Even as Governor Christie’s Exxon giveaway is being scrutinized during a 60-day public comment period, there’s another potential taxpayer cleanup liability looming.

The Exxon sites are not alone, nor are they the most complex cleanup tasks facing New Jersey.

The Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township is scheduled to close in 2019. It will leave behind the detritus of spent nuclear fuel, contaminated ground soil, and other residual chemical pollution that will plague the Ocean County town for years to come, even with the best-financed and well-executed planning.

Christie’s currently-proposed Exxon settlement for a small fraction of the cleanup costs makes sense when viewed through his lens of presidential ambition. Any amount of settlement money that goes to the general fund, no matter how small, helps Christie in his claim that he is balancing the budget. This is not his first one-shot gimmick that he will be using toward this end, and probably not the last. The real cost of the Exxon cleanup will come years after Christie is out of office and will be left to future taxpayers.

New Jersey’s Ticking Time Bomb

Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that it is planning on performing a special inspection of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township, an area that was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy. This plant is one of the oldest in the country and its design is essentially the same as the Fukushima reactors that resulted in a long-lasting calamity in Japan.

Oyster Creek is operated by a for-profit company, Exelon, and while the NRC imposes (hopefully) strict safety standards, the age of the plant indicates that maintenance and safety costs will be rising. The state has indicated that the plant will be decommissioned in 2019, but since the operating license is issued by the Federal government, there are some, including the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel, who look at that date with some doubt.

According to the NRC, we may have dodged a Fukushima-type bullet during the hurricane:

“Because the reactor was out of service at the time of the storm for a previously scheduled refueling and maintenance outage, plant operators did not have to contend with the possibility of a reactor shutdown as Sandy passed through the area. There were no immediate safety concerns,” Region I Administrator Bill Dean said. “Nevertheless, there are certain observations involving procedures and on-site activities that surfaced during the event warranting a closer look. This Special Inspection will focus on those areas to gain a better understanding of how the intake water level information was monitored and communicated during the event.”

We may not be so lucky the next time a global-warming-strengthened storm hits the Jersey Shore. Exelon has refused to build cooling towers for the plant, and according to Jeff Tittel, “Without cooling towers, the plants depend on continuous withdrawals from waterways to cool spent fuel, making the plant more vulnerable during power outages and to disruption of their water intake systems.”

While Exelon is not required to announce its decommissioning and environmental cleanup plan until two years before closure, it’s time to start working to get this ticking time bomb shut down safely. The Governor should form an advisory council now, consisting of area residents, environmentalists, and decontamination experts as well as energy experts to develop a plan and apply pressure to the NRC to ensure a safe and quick decommissioning of the plant and to boost clean energy alternatives.

Oyster Creek to close in 2019

Rather than build cooling towers, Exelon will close Oyster Creek in 2019. This is a gain for current Exelon shareholders as they defer $600 Million on capital improvments, and corresponding $600 Million of liabilities, and collect revenues and realize profits from the sale of electricity for the next nine years.

Oyster Creek is a 610 megawatt plant. NJ has 311 megawatts of solar energy, about 221 which were installed between June 30, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010. The energy from Oyster Creek and the other nuclear power plants can easily be supplied by new photovoltaic solar systems and wind turbines.  

Fired up and Ready to Go Nuclear?

I’m leaning Obama, but yesterday’s NYTimes story on his relationship to Exelon has me troubled.

The episode …began on Dec. 1, 2005, when Exelon issued a news release saying it had discovered tritium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear power, in monitoring wells at its Braidwood plant, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. A few days later, tritium was detected in a drinking water well at a home near the plant, although the levels did not exceed federal safety standards… Exelon believed the tritium came from millions of gallons of water that had leaked from the plant years earlier but went unreported at the time. Under nuclear commission rules, plants are required to tell state and local authorities only about radioactive discharges that rise to the level of an emergency.

On March 1, Mr. Obama introduced a bill known as the Nuclear Release Notice Act of 2006. It stated flatly that nuclear plants “shall immediately” notify federal, state and local officials of any accidental release of radioactive material that exceeded “allowable limits for normal operation.”…

But eventually, Mr. Obama agreed to rewrite the bill… In interviews over the past two weeks, Obama aides insisted that the revisions did not substantively alter the bill. In fact, it was left drastically different... The revised bill was never taken up in the full Senate … Last October, Mr. Obama reintroduced the bill, in its rewritten form.  …turning the whole matter over to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as Mr. Obama’s revised bill would have done, played into the hands of the nuclear power industry, which they say has little to fear from the regulators. Mr. Obama seemed to share those concerns when he told a New Hampshire newspaper last year that the commission “is a moribund agency that needs to be revamped and has become a captive of the industry it regulates.”…

Even more troubling is the pattern of contributions:

Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.

Another Obama donor, John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon, is also chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry’s lobbying group, based in Washington. Exelon’s support for Mr. Obama far exceeds its support for any other presidential candidate. In addition, Mr. Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has worked as a consultant to Exelon.

New Jerseyans will remember Exelon’s failed attempted takeover of PSEG and the application for renewal of one of the oldest nuclear power plants in the country, Oyster Creek.  From the Star Ledger 1/26:

Critics, including some neighbors and environmentalists, say Oyster Creek’s reactor design is obsolete, its community evacuation plan is flawed, and numerous safety issues remain unanswered, including the reliability of a steel containment shell around the core reactor. In the next few weeks, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to decide whether to grant a 20-year license extension to the nation’s oldest commercial nuclear station, a step even the plant’s most ardent foes expect to happen. After all, the commission has approved 48 of 48 license renewal applications that have come before it.

The NRC’s action will cap a process that began in July 2005, when the plant’s owner, Exelon Corp., submitted a 2,400-page application to renew its license. The public hearings and legal maneuvering that followed marked what has been one of the most heated nuclear relicensing cases the federal government has heard.  The fight has focused on the reactor’s containment shell, which protects workers from radiation, and whether corrosion has thinned it to the point where it might buckle if the plant were allowed to operate for another 20 years after the current license expires in 2009. Opponents’ arguments about the safety of the containment shell were persuasive enough to win the first-ever public hearing by the agency’s licensing board, which in the end signed off on the safety of the plant.  “I fully expect them to relicense the plant. We’ve always suspected the NRC was a rubber stamp for the industry,” said Janet Tauro, a mother of two teenagers in Brick Township who is a co-founder of one of the groups trying to shut the plant, Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety

To be fair, there is no daylight between the candidates on the new licenses that will be issued to nuclear power industry.  Both Hillary and Obama do not oppose nuclear power, and I can’t imagine McCain or Romney do.  Mother Jones reported on Edwards rhetoric opposing it, but when he was in the Senate, he didn’t vote against it either (Dec issue I think?).

Still, I have to wonder about the Exelon exec’s giving so much to Obama.   Don’t have time to research if they also gave to Hillary and McCain…

Not sure what to do.  This is the most conflicted I’ve been about a vote since I had to pick an alternative to Arnold for CA governor in 2003.

See ya Exelon

So much for that whole merger thing between Exelon and PSE&G…

The $17 billion deal hit a roadblock in August, when New Jersey regulators raised concerns that the combined company would have too much market power, and should provide greater rate relief in New Jersey, where a PSEG subsidiary is the state’s largest utility.

In statements, executives with both companies said they were disappointed, and confirmed that differences on rate concessions and market domination issues were “insurmountable.”

Concerns had been raised over the merger ranging from the potential for job loss, the environmental impact, the monopoly the company would represent and the possibility to set market rates and gouge consumers.  NJPIRG was opposing this deal and the Assembly Majority voted to oppose the deal in June as well.

At the beginning of August, Exelon basically told NJ to take their offer or leave it.  I guess NJ left it and now Exelon has chosen to do the same.  I think the ratepayers will end up benefiting from this non-deal.

Exelon Running on Empty

While Exelon is being a blowhard to the BPU about “taking it or leaving it” I wonder if the BPU will take this story into consideration:

Exelon Corp.’s 619-megawatt Oyster Creek nuclear power station in New Jersey dipped to 53 percent of capacity by early Friday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a report.

On Thursday, the unit was operating at 98 percent.

The Oyster Creek station, which entered service in 1969, is one of the oldest reactors in the nation. It is located in Forked River in Ocean County, about 60 miles east of Philadelphia.

One MW powers about 800 homes.

HMMM… My calculations makes that 262,456 homes without power (if your home was one of them please let us know in the comments).

So… if Exelon can’t operate Oyster Creek when it is most needed, why should they be able to operate the entire PSE&G Energy grid (of which I am a customer)?

There was another recent moment in time when a huge power company failed to supply a large area with Power for (ahem) 10 days or so.

Good folks at the BPU, if Exelon keeps bullying you around just remember Exelon = ConEd. If you ask me, allowing this takeover to take place would just increase your workload with future hearings about entire grids blacking out, and businesses shutting down, and rotten food in refrigerators.

Public Advocate: Exelon Deal “Falls Far Short”

We just received a press release from the office of the Public Advocate, which says that the latest deal offered by Exelon for PSE&G is still a bad one, as City Belt noted . According to Ronald Chen’s statement, the new proposal still does not resolve the market power issue, which was indeed the scariest part of the proposal. All the slick PR in the world’s not going to change that.

For more on the merger, check out City Belt’s story.

Press release follows: