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Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Power’

San Antonio’s electric utility, CPS, has halted their negotiations on a power purchase agreement between CPS and STP’s expansion units 3 and 4.  CPS’s CEO, Doyle Beneby, announced that CPS and NRG have mutually agreed to terminate their PPA negotiations at this point. 

It would appear that the issues facing NRG’s Japanese partners (including Tepco, the beleaguered owners of the doomed Fukushima nuclear plant) are giving everyone pause in their relentless pursuit of the STP expansion.

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Investors dumped Japanese shares Monday, sending the Nikkei down 6.2% amid concerns about a nuclear emergency in the country following Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, with stocks of exporters and plant operators hardest hit.

Analysts say stocks were being largely driven by the quake-related news flow; while news of the devastating tsunami effects in northeastern Japan waned.  Fears spread amid the scramble to contain meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power’s (Tepco) troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as investor attention remained riveted on the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors at the facility, which were damaged by the effects of the quake and tsunami. Selling accelerated in the afternoon following a new explosion at the No. 3 reactor, similar to the one that hit the No. 1 reactor on Saturday.

Tepco’s shares went largely untraded, closing down 24 percent. Goldman Sachs also lowered its rating on the stock to Neutral from Buy and cut its target price 13 percent.

Between Tepco and Tohoku Electric Power, some 15 nuclear power units are in questionable status.

Hitachi and Toshiba, which make nuclear power technology, both sank 16 percent.

Why is the economic news of these Japanese companies of interest to Texas?

Nuclear Innovation North America LLC (NINA), the nuclear development company jointly owned by NRG Energy, Inc. and Toshiba Corporation, are the major financial partners in the two new nuclear units at the South Texas Project (STP).  Last year they announced they had reached an agreement with Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), that owns the Fukushima Daiichi, to also partner in the STP expansion.

NINA was also counting on the Japanese government to provide loan guarantees to the project.  So, of the major financial investments in this Texas nuclear expansion, three are Japanese.  One can easily predict that both the Japanese government and Japan’s nuclear industry’s economic future are going to be tied up for the foreseeable future.  Given this, it would be mind-boggling if the U.S. Department of Energy approved a loan guarantee for STP’s expansion.

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According to an update from the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) an explosion has occurred at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1.

Video of the aftermath of the explosion shows that the containment building
has been destroyed.

The NIRS update goes on to explain, in a General Electric Mark I reactor, the containment building is fairly weak and is considered the secondary containment. The primary containment is a steel liner that surrounds the reactor core. So far, video and photos have not been clear enough for us to determine whether this steel liner is intact.

Radiation levels at the site are reported to be 1,015 micro/Sieverts per hour. This is roughly equivalent to 100 millirems/hour. The allowable annual dose for members of the public from nuclear facilities in the U.S. is 100 millirems/year. The allowable annual dose for nuclear workers is 5,000 millirems/year. The average annual background dose from all radiation sources in the U.S. is about 360 millirems/year.

The explosion in Unit 1 was almost surely a hydrogen explosion. Pressure has been building up in the containment since offsite power was lost to the reactor because of the earthquake/tsunami. The GE Mark I reactor design is called a “pressure suppression” design. Rather than be built to withstand large pressure increases, General Electric sought with this design to attempt to reduce such increases in an accident scenario. The design has been criticized by independent nuclear experts and even Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff for many years (see: http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/bwrfact.htm).  In this case, the design clearly did not work. 24 U.S. reactors use the GE Mark I design.

The evacuation zone around the site has been expanded to 20 kilometers (about 12 miles). Another reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, Unit 2, is reported to be without cooling capability at this time. Three reactors at the nearby Fukushima Daini site are reported to be without cooling capability. These are GE Mark II designs, which are considered a mild improvement over the Mark I design. Both sites are on the Pacific Ocean, about six miles apart.

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This morning’s quake on the other side of the world has implications for nuclear plants here in the U.S.   The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), through its regional office in Arlington, TX, announced they are closely monitoring this situation - the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami – as it unfolds with respect to nuclear facilities within the United States.

Earlier today the NRC issued a “notice of unusual event” (NOUE) at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, located near San Luis Obispo, CA.  In addition to the Diablo Canyon plant, the NRC is also monitoring the San Onofre nuclear power plant, the Humboldt Bay spent fuel storage site and NRC-regulated nuclear materials sites in Hawaii and Alaska to name a few.

A push to build new nuclear facililties in the U.S. has catapulted the nation’s aging nuclear industry into the limelight and the NRC is being quick to assure the public that nuclear power plants are engineered to withstand environmental hazards, including earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters.

The NRC claims plants are designed to take into account the most severe natural phenomena historically reported for the site and surrounding area.  Still, while the emergency situation at two Japanese plants is seemingly contained at this point, with one Texas plant situated on the hurricane prone Texas Gulf coast and the other in the middle of tornado alley, one has to wonder . . . what if we haven’t yet seen the most severe natural phenomena for those areas?

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In the wake of the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan earlier today, the government has issued an evacuation order to thousands of residents near Fukushima No. 1 power plant in Onahama city, about 170 miles northeast of Tokyo, after its primary and emergency cooling systems failed (there are six nuclear units located at this facility run by Tohoku Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) which is the Japanese power company that has expressed interest in investing in NRG’s expansion at South Texas (nuclear) Project). 

Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Japan’s nuclear safety agency said workers are currently scrambling to restore cooling water supply at the facility, but that there was no prospect for an immediate success.  So far there have been no reports of any radiation leaks.

UPDATE:  At 4:30 CT on Friday, March 11th all the U.S. news outlets were breaking news about radiation levels in the control room of the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima nuclear power plant reaching around 1,000 times the normal level and that some radiation has also seeped outside the plant, prompting calls for further evacuations of the area.

Japan's nuclear plants near the earthquake epicenter from MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42025882/ns/world_news-asiapacific/)

The quake struck just under 250 miles northeast of Tokyo, the U.S. Geological Survey said.  It was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks, one as strong as 7.1, and eleven nuclear reactors were automatically shut down in the affected area, according to the Japanese government, but they haven’t confirmed any effects induced by radioactive materials outside the facilities.

In addition to the situation at the Fukushima plant, at the TEPCO’s nearby Onagawa facility, which is in the worst-hit Miyagi prefecture north of the Fukushima facility, a fire broke out at the plant following the quake. The blaze occurred in a turbine building, which is separate from the plant’s reactor, and was reported as being quickly extinguished.  However, there seems to be some concerns about the cooling system at this plant too and the the Japanese government has also declared a state of emergency at this facility.  Another unit at Onagawa is reported as experiencing a water leak, though it is unclear whether the incident is significant.

Obviously, we don’t know if any of these reports will lead to a serious nuclear event or not, but the isolated reports so far are worrisome.  

In this region, earthquakes are a design basis accident which nuclear plants are supposed to survive, but engineering, while it can take many factors into consideration and build in multiple backups, can only be  tested by an actual natural disaster.  The problem is, under such circumstances, if there is a failure, one can only assume that other systems (transportation, power availability, access to experts and technicians – all the ancillary things ones needs to deal with a containing a serious event) will also be disrupted.  So when a nuclear “expert” tell you that a plant is designed to withstand a massive hurricane, storm surge, tornado, or earthquake, keep that in mind.

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Citizens spoke at Austin City Hall to let city leaders know that purchasing more nuclear power is unacceptable.  NRG, the energy company that is the major owner of South Texas (Nuclear) Project,  is scrambling for investors in its proposed expansion of the plant, especially since a messy court battle with partner CPS Energy last year that ended with San Antonio reducing their 50% share down to just over 7%.  Reactor development had been costing San Antonio $30 million a month. After spending $370 million, CPS Energy sued NRG for $32 billion, accused NRG of fraud and conspiracy and spent $6.1 million on litigation to determine how get out of the partnership

NRG now wants Austin to buy into nuclear power through a power purchase agreement instead of direct investment.  (Click here to read our earlier post on the letter sent by NRG to Austin Energy.)  “Considering this messy history and the fact that reactor costs have tripled, why should Austin Energy even be talking about a nuclear deal with NRG?” asked Karen Hadden, Director of the SEED Coalition.  Watch the press conference video to see how other concerned citizens are responding to this new NRG tact.

Solar Si, Nuclear No! Press Conference
Speakers, in order of appearance:
Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition
Frank Cooksey, Former Mayor of Austin
Susan Dancer, South Texas Association for Responsible Energy
Susana Almanza, PODER
Roy Waley, Vice Chair, Austin Regional Group of the Sierra Club”

The power purchase agreement would raise electric bills 20% or more and would cost $13 – $20 billion over the life of the reactors. These billions of dollars could do so much more if used for safe, clean renewable energy and efficiency projects..

Frank Cooksey, who was the Mayor of Austin from 1985-1988 when Austin was hemoraging money during the construction of the first two units at STP as cost overruns and construction delays caused the existing reactors to balloon to six times the original budget estimate and come online eight years late, said “I was serving during the time when those costs were placed into our electric utility rate base, resulting in large increases in the utility bills of our citizens. The angriest and most difficult public hearing that I ever presided over was the one that addressed the increases in electric rates generated by the high costs of construction of the STNP (South Texas Nuclear Project).”

Austin Energy has been a leader on energy efficiency and in developing solar projects, and other clean energy efforts that benefit our local economy.  The recently approved Austin Generation Plan, developed by a citizen task force with input from Austin Energy and approved by the City Council, builds on that legacy and did not include a power purchase agreement  with a nuclear project that Austin already decided was too risky to buy into as a partner.

Nuclear reactors would consume vast quantities of Colorado River water at a time when regional drought is expected to increase. No other form of power comes with such high security and terrorism risks and creating more radioactive waste adds to a problem that has not been solved.

Austin should steer clear of more nuclear power and pursue a safe and clean energy path.

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Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France

Nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France -Wikipedia

According to the Associated Press, France, the most nuclear-dependent country in the world, with over 75 percent of its electricity coming from nuclear reactors, recently reported incidents at 8 of their 59 reactor units.

French authorities say they are having to replace faulty metal bearings in the emergency power systems of eight nuclear plants due to signs of wear.

At the Tricastin nuclear complex, located 90 miles north of Marseille, all of the emergency diesel generators used as backups for two of the four reactors were equipped with the faulty bearings.

That incident was classified as a level 2 incident, on a scale of zero to seven, with seven being a major disaster.  At other plants the same problem was classified at level 1.

To give some perspective to a level 1 incident, in July 2008, thousands of gallons of uranium solution, containing unprocessed uranium, were accidentally released when cleaning and repair work on the containment system for a holding tank caused the tank to not function properly when filled.  The faulty containment system allowed 7,925 gallons of uranium solution to leak out of the tank, with 4,755 gallons of the solution spilling onto the ground.   Later testing showed elevated uranium levels in the nearby Gaffière and Lauzon rivers. The liquid contained about 165 pounds of un-enriched uranium which, while only slightly radioactive,  is highly toxic as a heavy metal.  Ground and surface water tests indicated that levels of radioactivity were 5% higher than the maximum rate allowed.

French authorities have banned the use of water from the Gaffière and Lauzon for drinking and watering of crops. Swimming, water sports and fishing were also banned. This incident has been classified as Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale .

France is often held up as the poster child for nuclear energy, but the country has had its share of problems with their nuclear plants.  Among the problems are included a partial core meltdown in 1980 at the Saint-Laurent Nuclear Power Plant, and the shut down of plants during a summer heatwave in 2003.  In spite of heatwave preparedness efforts in Europe, the intense heatwave that swept through Europe in 2009 put a third of France’s nuclear power stations out of action and forced France to buy electricity from England.

And even French nuclear power plants are not immune to the high capital costs and construction delays that plague the industry.

In May 2006, Electricité de France (EdF) approved construction of a new 1650 MW European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) unit, alongside two existing 1300 MW units.   The first concrete was poured on schedule in December 2007 and construction was expected to take 54 months.  However, completion is now expected late in 2012.  Even in an extremely nuclear friendly country, nuclear plants have a history of coming online later than estimated.

According to the The World Nuclear Association, an international organization that promotes nuclear energy and supports the global nuclear industry, France’s nuclear power program cost 400 billion French Francs in 1993 currency, (or $8.4 billion U.S.) excluding interest during construction. Half of this was self-financed by Electricité de France, 8% was invested by the state but discounted in 1981, and 42% was financed by commercial loans.

In 1988 medium and long-term debt amounted to 233 billion French Francs, or 1.8 times EdF’s sales revenue. By the end of 1998 EdF had reduced this to about two thirds of sales revenue and less than three times annual cash flow. Net interest charges had dropped to 4.16% of sales by 1998.  In 2006 EdF debt had fallen to 25% of sales revenue.

In October of last year, the French parliament passed legislation establishing NOME, or new organization of the electricity market, which put an end to two European Commission antitrust cases hanging over the French electricity sector without threatening the pricing that stems from France’s nuclear-heavy energy mix.  The restructuring requires EdF to sell a quarter of its nuclear electricity production to competitors on a temporary basis, allowing them to develop their own power supplies.  The restructuring was designed to create a framework for investment in much-needed peakload capacity and financing for the modernization of the existing nuclear fleet.

But lingering concern over the effects of this reform of the French electricity market coupled with a weakened outlook in European energy markets after the 2009 recession has caused some trepidation about the price the company will be forced to accept under the NOME law, making the outlook for this restructuring as a financing tool for new nuclear projects somewhat questionable even in the world’s most nuclear friendly country.

Because of the high capitol cost, debt service on these projects is quite high and long term even in France. And here in our own back yard, the City of Austin is still paying several hundred million dollars on the debt from our measly sixteen percent of STP units 1 and 2.   We can do better than that as we move forward.  We can invest in truly renewable energy that won’t break the backs of taxpayers and ratepayers.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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"Come Unto Me", a depiction of Jesus...

"Come Unto Me", a depiction of Jesus Christ at Cedarvale Bay City Cemetery - on Wikipedia

The U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will hold two public meetings on the environmental review of South Texas Project (STP) Nuclear Operating Co.’s application to renew the operating licenses for the STP nuclear reactors near Bay City.

The public is invited to attend and comment on environmental issues the NRC should consider in its review of the proposed license renewal.  Formal comments on environmental issues should be provided during either of the scheduled sessions.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011
          In the afternoon from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.
          In the evening from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.
                      NRC staff will host informal discussions an hour prior to
                      each meeting to answer questions and provide
                      additional information about the process.
Bay City Civic Center located at 201 7th St. in Bay City, Texas,

The meetings will include an NRC staff presentation on the license renewal process, after which members of the public will be given the opportunity to present their comments on what environmental issues the NRC should consider during its review.

For planning purposes, those who wish to present oral comments at the meeting are encouraged to contact Tam Tran, email at [email protected] or telephone at 301- 415-3617. People may also register to speak before the start of each session. Individual comment time may be limited by the time available.

Both South Texas Project Units 1 and 2 are pressurized-water nuclear reactors, located 12 miles southwest of Bay City, Texas. The plant’s current operating licenses for Units 1 and 2 will expire on Aug. 20, 2027, and Dec. 15, 2028, respectively.

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Governor Peter Shumlin, the newly sworn in Governor of Vermont, has appointed Montpelier attorney Richard Saudek and Vermont Law School professor Peter Bradford to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission (TLLRWCC).   The TLLRWCC is an 8 member legal entity, separate and distinct from the party states, whose commissioners are appointed by the Governors of Texas and Vermont. The Commission consists of six Texas and two Vermont appointees.

The commission are responsible for administering the provisions of the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact. The States of Vermont and Texas are the party states. Texas is the host state for a low level radioactive waste disposal facility.

Saudek, who is a partner in the law firm of Cheney, Brock & Saudek, P.C., has advised legislative committees on issues involving Vermont Yankee and its owner, Entergy Corp. Saudek has also served as Chair of the Vermont Department of Public Service, and as Vermont’s first Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service.

Bradford is an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, where he teaches ‘Nuclear Power and Public Policy.’ He also teaches utility regulation, restructuring, nuclear power and energy policy. Bradford served on the Public Oversight Panel for the Comprehensive Vertical Assessment of Vermont Yankee, and has served as an expert witness on investment in new nuclear power.

Public Citizen is very pleased with Mr. Bradford’s appointment and believes Mr. Saudek will also make a good addition to this industry skewed commission.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Energy interests of all sizes are poised to defend their share of tax breaks, loan guarantees and other financial incentives amid calls to slash spending both at the state and the federal level.

Concerned that debt-obsession at the federal and state will translate into real cuts, industry groups and their lobbyists are preparing for what amounts to an all-out war, pitting energy resource against energy resource. Their battles should prove to be daunting given that there will probably be no sacred cows when it comes to cutting the billions of dollars in assistance that the government hands out every year.

In his State of the Union speech last Tuesday, Obama cracked a smile as he said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own,” repeating the call he’s made the past two years for the elimination of billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies.

While that alone would not be enough to cause the industry to break their stride, rumblings from house Republicans lining up their own targets, are probably giving the industry pause. The conservative Republican Study Committee recently outlined $2.5 trillion in spending, tax breaks and subsidies it wants to see cut over the next decade, including billions of dollars in Energy Department research, vehicle, fuels, weatherization and energy efficiency programs.

With so many battlefronts ahead, energy businesses trying to map out investments are probably sweating bullets trying to figure out how to make the case for pending large capital outlays (say for instance – the billions of dollars needed to build a new nuclear power plant which won’t see a return on investment for a decade).

Hoping they will be spared, we can expect energy lobbyists to push back with warnings that messing with the status quo will force lay offs and halt projects that are helping get the economy back on its feet.  

Still, even in a state with as intimate a relationship with the energy industry as Texas, you can’t get blood from a stone.  In the face of a massive budget deficit this legislative session and a constitutionally required balanced budget, you can bet Texas will be looking hard at every dollar it spends and every dollar of revenue it gives up.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Whooping Cranes

Endangered Whooping Cranes in South Texas -byWikipedia

Texans For A Sound Energy Policy (TSEP) has filed formal legal contentions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) urging denial of Exelon’s application for an Early Site Permit (ESP) for a proposed nuclear power plant site south of Victoria, Texas. The filing of these contentions will set the stage for a formal legal hearing on TSEP’s contentions regarding the site.

The voluminous contentions filed by TSEP provide an unprecedented level of detailed scientific analysis of the serious water, environmental, endangered species and site safety concerns surrounding the proposed Victoria County site that render it unsuitable for a nuclear power plant.

TSEP’s attorney, Jim Blackburn, offered, “We have extensively documented through thorough research and analysis extremely serious and far-reaching concerns with this proposed site. We are pleased to file them formally with the NRC and look forward to the opportunity to be heard on each of them.”

TSEP’s contentions regarding the proposed Exelon site center on several key issues, including:

  • Water Availability:  Exelon proposes to construct a nuclear power plant—one of the most water-intensive forms of electric power generation available—in one of the most drought prone regions of the state on an already severely over-allocated Guadalupe River Basin.  Yet Exelon’s selective use of data in its application fails to accurately represent current diversions of water from the Guadalupe River, and Exelon fails to establish that it can secure a “highly dependable” long-term water supply, which the NRC regulations require.
  • Endangered Species: TSEP’s scientific analysis demonstrates a direct and statistically significant relationship between the decline of Guadalupe River freshwater inflows and an increase in deaths of the federally protected, endangered Whooping Crane.  According to analysis provided by Dr. Ron Sass of Rice University, there is only a 1% chance that the whooping crane deaths observed over the last couple of decades are unrelated to river flows.
  •  Health & Site Safety: The presence of active geologic growth faults underlying the cooling pond and important plant infrastructure pose significant and unacceptable stability risks to the site. Additionally, the presence of an unprecedented number of active and abandoned oil and gas wells on the site (with over 100 known abandoned wells on the site) pose significant risks of explosion, releases of hydrogen sulfide and other poisonous gases.  The wells also pose the potential for water contamination—including potential tritium contamination.

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On January 13th, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced the opportunity to request a hearing on an application to renew the operating licenses for the South Texas Project (STP) Units 1 and 2 which will expire on Aug. 20, 2027, and Dec. 15, 2028, respectively.

South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company, submitted the renewal application to the NRC on Oct. 25, 2010. When the agency receives a license renewal application and it is docketed three actions are triggered:

  • technical safety reviews
  • environmental reviews
  • an announcement of an opportunity for a hearing

The deadline for requesting a hearing is 60 days following the publication of a notice in the Federal Register.   This means, by March 14, petitions should be filed by anyone whose interest may be affected by the license renewal and who wishes to participate as a party in the proceeding. (more…)

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The United State’s much-touted nuclear renaissance is in jeopardy, but it is not primarily from environmental and safety concerns. The industry is finding it increasingly difficult to make the economic case for building new nuclear plants.

The enormous capital cost of building reactors is just one factor holding back the long-promised nuclear revival. Just as critical is the risk that the already high costs will balloon as companies build new-generation plants that must be able to withstand the impact of a terrorist crashing an airliner into one.  Companies are facing difficulties financing their plants due to the long lead times needed for permits and construction before they can begin to recoup capital expenditures. Then there’s the potential for cost overruns, so companies are looking for political and regulatory support to shift financial obligations onto customers and taxpayers to minimize risk in what Moody’s Investor Service Inc. has dubbed a “bet-the-farm” type of project.

That effort to offload financial risk to partners, customers and governments is the hallmark of the 21st-century nuclear industry. (more…)

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Last week, Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA) released a “poll” that they claim shows strong support both across Texas and in Austin for building more nuclear power plants in the state, but the dirty secret of polling in the corporate world is that corporate clients don’t conduct polls to find out public opinion: they conduct polling to buy results, which they can then trot in front of the media and elected officials to prove how popular they are.

Although the polls were done by taking random samples of registered voters (1,004 in the statewide survey and 700 in the Austin market), the questions were worded in such a way to elicit a positive response.  The Littlefield Consulting is one such poll, and its results were presented in a misleading fashion to the public.  It does not accurately reflect the voters of Austin’s true feelings on nuclear power which is, at best, mixed.

We’d like to run down the problems that we see with this poll below.
Major problem 1:
The poll says that 64% of Austin voters think nuclear power should play in important role in the city’s future.  But question 1 of the actual poll tells a very different story:

In general, do you favor or oppose nuclear power plants to generate electricity for Austin Energy?
Strongly Favor:  18.5%  / Somewhat Favor: 28.5%  / Somewhat Oppose:  16.2%  / Strongly Oppose: 19.9%  / Don’t Know 17%

Favor:  only 47% with Oppose / Don’t know: 53%

Support is tepid at best, with not even a majority of voters in favor of nuclear energy, much less nuclear expansion.  There are more voters who strongly oppose nuclear than strongly support it, meaning it is a bad issue at the ballot box.

By the end of the poll, after hearing all of the positive messages, support only increased to 64%.  Support is not only tepid, but even after hearing only one side of the argument, voters are not overwhelmingly convinced.

Major problem 2:
This poll makes false comparisons between energy choices.

Would you favor or oppose Austin Energy purchasing nuclear power if AE signed a contract to purchase the power at a rate competitive with coal and natural gas that is set and will not rise for 40 years?
Favor: 65%  /  Oppose: 23%  / Don’t Know: 12%

Given current economics, this is not possible. Cost estimates for new nuclear from STP 3&4 are generally 7.5 – 8.5 cents per kwh, while coal, gas, and renewables are all under 5 cents.

Major problem 3:
This poll presents inaccurate information to those people being polled and then asks them if that makes them more favorable to nuclear energy.
The poll touts STP’s stable price, reliable electricity, and environmental benefits without giving the true history of cost overruns, bailouts, enormous carbon footprint of construction or the mining and milling of uranium and storage of radioactive waste.  It also falsely connects nuclear power to energy independence, although nuclear power will not affect oil consumption in Austin at all.

Please tell me if each statement more likely or less likely to support Austin Energy purchasing more nuclear energy from the South Texas Nuclear Project:
Nuclear power plants are cleaner for the environment than plants fueled by coal or natural gas because they don’t produce emissions.    More: 75%   / Less: 25%
More nuclear energy could lock in stable prices and affordable prices for AE customers- especially for lower income customers.    More: 75%   / Less: 25%
The US needs to become more energy independent and not rely on energy from politically unstable parts of the world.   More: 85%   / Less: 15%

None of these answers actually show Austin’s support for nuclear power, only that positive messaging makes them more likely to support it, which is exactly what the people paying for the poll wanted.

Major problem 3:
The poll glosses over major opposition to the plant due to water usage.  Furthermore, no other negative messages are presented to those being polled, meaning they are given a one-sided description of nuclear power.

For example, support evaporates (no pun intended) for STP expansion or Austin buying power from nuclear expansion at the slightest mention of the water cost.

Would you favor or oppose the building of these new units if the daily operation of these new units increased the amount of water that the STNP draws from the Colorado River?Strongly favor:  9.8%  / Somewhat favor: 19.9%  / Somewhat oppose:  26.1%  / Strongly oppose:       26.2%  / Don’t Know: 18.1%

Total Favor: 30%  / Total Oppose: 52%
Total Oppose /Don’t Know:  70%

When faced with the facts on the cost overruns, the dangers of radioactive waste, the performance and safety record at STP and nuclear power nationwide, allegations of fraud when dealing with CPS and San Antonio, you will see drastically different results.

This does not even begin to discuss issues like whether Austin needs more baseload power (we don’t— we need more peak power, which can more reliably and cheaply be provided by efficiency, renewables, and natural gas peakers)

Bottom line:  STP expansion and further power purchase agreements with STP are, in a word, radioactive.  Support is soft, at best, and based on easily debunked and misleading claims. Smart elected officials will stay away from this issue and reaffirm the City Council’s previous decisions to not buy into the nuke.

Too see a breakdown of both polls’ questions and answers, click here.

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UPDATE AND EDITOR’S NOTE: We received a comment on this post that we found to be helpful and removed a section our commenter, Bliz, found to be a “Karl Rove-ish” attack.   The lessons we learn are the following: YES, we read your comments.  And give them the attention they deserve.  Second, when we make a mistake we try to fess up to it.  Mea culpa, as it was I who wrote the majority of this, not Carol.  And third, while we generally don’t like to flush things down the old memory hole, there are times when it is worthwhile to delete something.  This is one of those times. But we confess that we are deleting in and not trying to cover up for the fact that it never happened.  So thanks, and good night and have a pleasant tomorrow. ~~Andy Wilson, TexasVox editor.

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The Texas Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) approved rules yesterday that pave the way for 36 states to export low-level radioactive waste to a remote landfill along the Texas-New Mexico border.

The 5-2 vote by the TLLRWDCC came after last-minute legal maneuvering on Monday failed to delay the meeting when a federal judge threw the case out because he didn’t believe he had jurisdiction even though he expressed concerns about the issue brought before him involving the loss of comments because of an incorrect email address being posted in the Texas Register instructing citizens on how to and where to comment about the rules.  Even with that, more than 5,000 people commented on the plan, almost all in opposition to it.

The vote also came two days before Vermont’s incoming governor, Peter Shumlin, takes office. The Governor-elect has openly criticized the plan and had said he would replace the state’s two commissioners with members more in line with his views.  And we believe the commission was rushing to vote on the rules to ensure a majority.

WCS has stated that they are expecting some legal challenges to the commission’s decision, but is moving ahead with construction of the landfill. The first phase of construction should be completed by November. In early 2012, the second part of the site — where federal waste will be stored — will also be finished.

While the facility will now be able to accept waste from three dozen states, the TLLRWDCC guaranteed Vermont — which paid $25 million to have two members on the commission — 20 percent capacity in the landfill. Vermont has only one nuclear facility, but since it plans to phase it out in the next 30 to 40 years it sought to promise itself space for the waste that process would create.  And yes . . . this facility will accept waste from nuclear power plants—every thing but the spent fuel rods, not just the medical booties and gloves the mainstream media (as fed to them by WCS) always talked about in their stories.

TLLRWDCC Commissioner Bob Wilson has opposed the expansion plans and the rules for some time. He voted against the rules on Tuesday, but largely because he fears the commission is unprepared to deal with the enormity of the task once the 1,340-acre site begins accepting waste from other states. The commission is largely unfunded, getting $25,000 a year from Vermont and money from Texas only to cover meeting and travel costs.  It has no office—just a postal box in a building in Austin from what we can tell (yes we went by to see if there actually was someone in an office space to accept all those comments that came flooding in through the Christmas holiday)—and their one staff member’s last day was right after the new year.  Expanding the importation of waste will interfere with the site’s capacity and Wilson questioned whether it will be as profitable as is being predicted.

Public Citizen, is reviewing the past months events and will decide the next step later this week, but a lawsuit is possible.

We will let you know how things progress.

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