Posts Tagged ‘STP’

Earlier today, Southern California Edison (SCE) announced that they will retire Units 2 and 3 of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), essentially closing the troubled nuclear power plant which is located between San Diego and Los Angeles.

SONGS, which has been in operation for 45 years, may be a harbinger for the future of our aging nuclear fleet, many of which are near the end their original license period and are applying for extensions.

  • Unit 1 began commercial operation on January 1, 1968 and ceased operation on November 30, 1992.  Since then it has been dismantled and is used as a storage site for spent fuel for Units 2 and 3,
  • Units 2 and 3 were both licensed in 1982 and by license amendments in March, 2000 are currently licensed until 2022. However, unit 3 has been shut down since the detection of a leak in one of the steam generator tubes on January 31 and Unit 2 is off line, for routine inspections which found that design flaws appeared to be the cause of excessive wear in tubing that carries radioactive water at San Onofre.

SCE cited continuing questions about when or if the remaining SONGS units might return to service as the cause for their decision, concluding that the uncertainty was not good for customers or investors.

In a statement Friday, California Public Utility Commission’s President Michael R. Peevey called the decision “understandable,” and that the closure of the nuclear power generating station “will require even greater emphasis on energy efficiency and demand response programs.” Utility companies will also need to add transmission upgrade and find new generation resources.

Concerns in Texas

In Texas, both nuclear plants (Comanche Peak outside of Fort Worth, and South Texas Nuclear Generating Station (STP), between Houston and Corpus Christi on the Texas Gulf Coast) are nearing the end of their life expectancies as reflected in their original licenses which are due to expire in 2027 and 2028, and have filed for a license extension.  STNP’s unit two has experienced nine months of outage during 2 prolonged shutdowns in 2 years. The second outage was triggered by a fire that occurred only days before the public hearing on the license extension application.

Environmentalists expressed concerns about the plant’s ability to operate safely beyond the original life expectancy of the plant.

“Relicensing should be halted while a serious, in-depth examination occurs,” said Karen Hadden, executive director of the Austin-based SEED coalition, which advocates for sustainable energy, and member of the Austin Electric Utility Commission (Austin Energy owns 16% of STP Units 1 and 2). “I think it’s becoming increasingly unreliable, and it’s costing us money to fix it.” She noted that it was difficult to get information about the plant’s problems and she expressed concern that these aging plants will experience problems more often and of greater threat to the safety of the plant and the surrounding communities.



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A 2003 Nuclear Regulatory Commission report shows the susceptibility of US nuclear power plants to blackouts that could lead to core damage.

Click here to read the 2003 NRC report and click here to read the 2005 re-evaluation report.  Draw your own conclusions but be warned, these are not user friendly reports.

Click here to go to MSNBC”s interactive US map showing the risk for plants around the country.

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The word “meltdown” goes to the heart of the big nuclear question – is nuclear power safe?  Richard Black,  Environment correspondent with the BBC News tries to answer this question and address questions about what is happening at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.   Click here to read the BBC article.

One issue he does bring up is that Fukushima Daiichi is bound to raise some very big questions, inside and outside Japan including here in Texas.

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

Tepco has been implicated in a series of cover-ups down the years.

  • In 2002, the chairman and four other executives resigned, suspected of having falsified safety records at Tepco power stations.
  • Further examples of falsification were identified in 2006 and 2007.

As Austin Energy and CPS consider the Power Purchase Agreements NRG is peddling they should look very hard at what is happening in Japan and at TEPCO’s ability to remain a financial partner in STP.

In a Wall Street Journal article by Rebecca Smith (click here to read the entire article), she writes that the unfolding crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant casts doubt on the fundamental premise that has undergirded the global nuclear industry for five decades: that engineers can build enough redundancy into plant safety systems to overcome dangers.

Peter Bradford, a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time of the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 (who has spoken to local leaders in Central Texas about numerous issues that should preclude them from becoming partners in or signing power purchase agreements with NRG in the STP expansion), said that the accident exposes shortcomings in risk analysis as well as in engineering.

“The redundancy, such as it was, obviously was inadequate to the event that actually happened,” he said. He said the problem is that certain risks always are discounted in the licensing process as “so highly unlikely that you don’t have to plan for them.”

He said that may be the case in Japan, with an earthquake that apparently exceeded the level that the plant was designed to withstand, possibly compounded by other unexpected technical problems or by the tsunami. It’s not yet known if operator error may have played a role, as it did three decades ago at Three Mile Island.

“The really important question,” Mr. Bradford said, “is to ask how different licensing bodies decide what risks have to be guarded against and see if that analysis was adequate.”

Even Texas Congressman Joe Barton, who is chair emeritus of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and a strong proponent of the push for nuclear expansion in the U.S. is now saying:

. . . that nuclear plants are designed with earthquakes in mind. “They’re supposed to be double and triple redundant…. If I’ve been to one briefing, I’ve been to a dozen, given by the industry, where they talk about all the safety features and the built-in redundancy features that protect the reactors in the event of an accident, a natural disaster, even a terrorist attack.”

Mr. Barton added that he’s “very puzzled that, even as big as this earthquake was, the plant didn’t meet those standards. That’s something that even proponents of nuclear power want to get to the bottom of…. I believe very strongly in the future of nuclear power, but those who support it have to insist that the safety redundancy features perform.”

To date, the major stumbling block to the US rushing headlong into a “nuclear renaissance”  has been the huge financial cost and risks involved in building new nuclear plants in down economy.  It is tragic and unfortunate that it is taking the failure of these Japanese plants in the wake of what surely is one of the worst disasters in Japanese history to cause the US to look more closely at their rush to increase our country’s nuclear portfolio.

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NRG desperate for PPAsNRG Energy, Inc. posted their 2010 Full-Year and Fourth Quarter results today.  It appears that if no loan guarantees are forthcoming and the company fails to secure sufficient Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for the STP expansion project by the third quarter of this year, NRG could make a final decision to pull the project.

For this reason, Central Texas utilities like Austin Energy, LCRA, and San Marcos are going to be lobbied heavily by NRG representatives in the coming months.  Click here to read our earlier post on NRG’s approach to Austin Energy.

A section directly from their 4th quarter report is excerpted below:

On November 29, 2010,  NINA awarded the EPC contract for the development of STP Units 3 and 4 to a restructured EPC consortium formed by Toshiba America Nuclear Energy Corporation and The Shaw Group Inc. Shaw is providing a $100 million credit facility to NINA to assist in financing STP. The credit facility will convert to equity in NINA upon the satisfaction of certain conditions including the project receiving full notice to proceed, which is expected in mid-2012. The project is presently scheduled to come online with one unit in 2016 and the second in 2017.  The project remains subject to receipt of a conditional loan guarantee from the Department of Energy and to the satisfaction of certain conditions, most notably, the arrangement of long term PPAs for a significant portion of the plant’s capacity. It is anticipated that the pace of development and pre-construction work required to meet the 2016/2017 online schedule dictates that the loan guarantee needs to be received and critical conditions satisfied in the third quarter of 2011. As a result, NRG expects to make a final decision with respect to its continued funding of STP 3&4 during the third quarter of 2011.


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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Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) are asking folks to sign on to a petition to the Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet in opposition to proposed loans from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) for the construction of two new nuclear reactors in south Texas.

NIRS is also sending a letter signed by a large list of organizations from the U.S., Japan and other international NGOs.  We don’t believe JBIC has ever received this kind of international attention on a nuclear issue before—indeed, this loan is being considered before JBIC has even drawn up guidelines for funding nuclear projects! And it would be a bad deal for JBIC and Japanese taxpayers, as well as people in Texas.

If you want to sign on to the petition to the Prime Minister, click here.

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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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Constellation Energy Group Inc. said last week it was pulling out of talks on a $7.5 billion loan guarantee to build a reactor at its Calvert Cliffs facility in Maryland.  Constellation Energy Group’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Wallace told the Energy Department that they felt the estimated $880 million the company would have to pay the Treasury Department was “shockingly high”.

Still, that’s only 12% of the loan guarantee, and only 7% of the estimated (pre-financed) cost of building a nuclear plant.  Compare that to low-risk lender qualifications for buying a home in this country and it doesn’t seem so shockingly high.  Traditionally lenders required a down payment of at least 20% of the home’s purchase price for a home mortgage, and to qualify for owner-builder construction loans, the down payment can be up to 30 percent of the requested loan amount.  Seems to me the industry is getting a better break than the American public right now.

A senior energy and environment analyst for a Milwaukee-based brokerage whined that the administration is offering terms no better than Constellation could get from private investors, yet we are not seeing private investors lining up to get a piece of this action-especially considering that these projects are projected to have a 50% loan default rate.

If the administration must support a nuclear renaissance, it is irresponsible of them to not consider limiting the risk that taxpayers will be stuck with should a nuclear utility default, and the Office of Management and Budget is doing just that by requiring these fees.

Constellation’s decision probably places NRG Energy Inc., a Princeton, New Jersey-based power producer, in the lead for the next loan-guarantee award.  However, if the fees are this large, it might be a victory that NRG and its partners will also not necessarily want, dooming that project too.

NRG is seeking a guarantee to add two units at its South Texas power plant in Matagorda County.  The company is also seeking to secure Japanese government financing, but that is also contingent upon the project securing the US loan guarantee.  Perhaps this is a project that needs to be doomed.  Clearly the building of nuclear plants are so high risk that the private sector appears unwilling to take on that risk, without the US government (read US taxpayer) bearing the brunt of the risk.  If they put it up to a vote, I certainly wouldn’t vote to put my money into such a high risk project, would you?


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, 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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About 20 of the roughly 100 contractor personnel working on the proposed addition of two new 1,350-MW nuclear units at the South Texas nuclear station have been let go.

Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA), an 88/12 joint venture of NRG Energy and Toshiba, currently owns 92.35% of the planned expansion, and CPS Energy, the municipal utility in San Antonio owns the remaining 7.65%.   In May, NINA announced Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to eventually take up to a 20% stake in NINA’s share, beginning with a 10% stake in that share–or a 9.235% stake in the  project itself–if a $7 billion federal loan guarantee is secured.

NINA has recently said it expects the project to cost about $13 billion, including $10 billion in “overnight” costs and $3 billion in financing costs. Although earlier cost projections have put the project coming in at $18 billion.

At this time, there is spectulation that the remaining loan guarantees will go to Calvert Cliffs in Maryland.  NINA has said they would not go forward with the expansion without the loan guarantees.  Could this be the beginning of the end for the STP expansion?  Stay tuned.


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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Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Today’s announcement that as a part of a settlement with NRG Energy, CPS Energy will withdraw its application for a federal loan guarantee for the South Texas (Nuclear) Project (STP) expansion and end further investment in the project demonstrates nuclear plants are too costly and too risky to build.

CPS Energy and the San Antonio City Council have signaled their desire to stop throwing good money after bad at STP, a message we hope will tell the U.S. Department of Energy that this plant is a poor candidate for federal loan guarantees. This debacle should show the federal government that nuclear loan guarantees are a fundamentally flawed and wasteful use of taxpayer money.

At $18.2 billion, the cost of STP has already tripled in just a year. When STP 1 and 2 were built, they ended up being six times over-budget and eight years behind schedule, and STP 3 and 4 look like they are on track to beat out that poor performance record.

Today’s announcement is a victory for the many citizens of San Antonio that have worked so hard in the last year to bring openness and accountability to the city’s participation in this project. We applaud CPS for wisely seeing the futility of wasting more time and energy on this flawed nuclear endeavor. We hope that they will be satisfied with the deal they’ve gotten and avoid the temptation to increase their ownership in the project. CPS has finally reached a settlement that shields San Antonio ratepayers from the financial risks of yet another nuclear deal gone wrong. Any future investment would throw that protection to the wind.

On Thursday, the City Council will vote on a proposed rate increase for CPS. The City Council should put a firewall in that proposal to ensure that no unauthorized money will be siphoned off to buy a bigger stake in STP.  San Antonio can’t afford to let this rate increase become a back door to continued nuclear investment.

We also have to wonder how NRG will move forward, without another clearly delineated partner in the project. Less than a month ago, NRG announced that if CPS “does not meet future obligations representative of its ownership interest in the site”, they “will wind down the project as quickly and as economically as possible.” We certainly hope that NRG CEO David Crane will remain true to that expressed intent to protect his shareholders from the next financial failure in a long historic line of overly expensive, poorly executed nuclear projects.


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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I got at least one worried phone call this morning about an article in the Bay City Tribune claiming that

A resolution backing STP Units 3 & 4, possibly within the next few days, may be at least partly the outcome of a meeting Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald and Bay City Mayor Richard Knapik had with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro last Friday.

Whaaa–? The announcement seemed to be coming out of left field. After all the scandal and controversy of the last few months, a statement of support for STP expansion from San Antonio City Council is about the last thing I’d expect to see.  But before I had a chance to investigate, the intrepid Greg Harman of the San Antonio Current (who just this fall we gave an award to for “Best Environmental Journalist”) already had all the answers.

In a nutshell: rest easy my duckies, the Bay City Tribune’s announcement was just wishful thinking on the part of Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald (who is no fan of us, boy oh boy), Bay City Mayor Richard Knapik, and Mike Reddell, the author of the article in question.  From Harman himself,

No such resolution is on the horizon for San Antonio, where the proposed expansion has fallen into deep disfavor after CPS Energy officials sought to cover up escalating cost estimates. The closest thing matching Reddell’s statements would be an expected CPS Energy Board of Trustees vote on whether or not to continue in the construction of two new reactors with NRG Energy, at all. However, that vote was delayed yesterday.

Harman’s article is well worth reading for the rest of the story on the Tribune’s journalistic integrity. Crazy story there, check it out!


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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*Update: Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current just published a fantastic and very thorough recap of the twisted nuclear saga. Check it out!

Here’s part 2 in this year’s first annual Year in Review: Top Texas Vox Stories of 2009 series. Part 1 is just a hop, skip and scroll down.

3. San Antonio Nuclear Debacle/Amores Nucleares Telenovela

This year has been a doozy for nuclear power, with the highlight of course being the San Antonio situation.  Over the last 12 months San Antonio has ridden a wild wave of cost estimates, community meetings, protests, scandals, and misinformation.  But I’m getting ahead of myself. Remember when…

Last January, CPS Energy committed to spend $60 million more on the proposed expansion of the South Texas Nuclear Project, a decision which at that point brings the city utility’s total expenditures on units 3 & 4 to $267 million. Not long after that, Austin City Council took a look at participating in the expansion project but said “No way, that’s much too risky of an investment for us.” San Antonio decided that something magical (but mysterious) was different for them, despite our prediction in late April that the proposed reactors could actually cost as much as $22 Billion.  Mum was CPS’ word on a cost estimate at that time, but by June they announced that $13 Billion was a good, round number. We worried at this point that CPS was being overly optimistic, ignoring the history of the South Texas Project and other nukes around the nation and independent reports, but those concerns largely fell on deaf ears.

Then over the summer, CPS Energy launched a massive public outreach campaign, with meetings in every district — but kind of botched it.  Despite activists’ protests that CPS’ cost numbers were innacurate, the utiltiy refused to release their information or back up numbers, and many San Antonio citizens left the community meetings feeling disenchanted with the process and suspicious of CPS.

As a rising tide of activists and concerned citizens grew, eventually they formed the coalition group Energía Mía and worked together to halt CPS’ spending for more nuclear reactors. The group launched a string of protests and press conferences highlighting the many flaws of nuclear power and the San Antonio deal in particular.  Everyone was all geared up for a big showdown the last week in October, but then the cowpie really hit the rotating bladed device (let’s call it a windmill). For the next part, I’m going to pull from a previous post where I likened the whole situation to a geeky, policy version of a telenovela.

Previously, on Amores Nucleares:

With just days before San Antonio City Council was to vote to approve $400 million in bonds for new nuclear reactors, it was leaked that the project could actually cost $4 Billion more than CPS had been saying all summer (according to Toshiba, who would actually be building the plant). The vote was postponed, there was an impromptu press conference, and it came out that CPS staff had actually known about the cost increase for more than a week — Oops! Oh, and the “leak” wasn’t that CPS came out with the truth, an aide from the mayor’s office only found out after confronting CPS about a rumor he’d heard. But how did the mayor’s office find out? NRG, CPS’ partner in the project was the “Deepthroat”, because they were going to announce Toshiba’s $17 Billion cost estimate at a shareholder’s meeting soon after the city council vote and thought, geez, that could look really bad for CPS! Meanwhile, CPS reps flew to Japan in a hurry to figure things out. Steve Bartley, interim GM for CPS, resigned. Furious that CPS had hidden the ugly truth from City Council, the mayor demanded the resignation of two key CPS board members, and got City Council to vote unanimously that they get the boot. Chairwoman Aurora Geis agreed to go, but Steve Hennigan said “No Way, Jose.” THEN CPS completed an internal audit of the whole shebang to figure out what-the-hell-happened, which found that Steve Bartley was to blame, and everyone else was only guilty of failure in their “responsibility of prompt disclosure”. Then it came out the project could be even more way way expensive than anyone thought (except of course Energia Mia, Public Citizen, SEED Coalition, the Center for American Progress, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and analysts Arjun Makhijani, Clarence Johnson, Craig Severance, and Mark Cooper to name a few). And then those crazy cats all started suing each other.

So in the end, they told folks all summer long that the plant would cost $13 Billion, even though insiders knew since late June that it could very well be $4 Billion more. Latest update is that the plant could really cost $18.2 Billion! On December 31st, Toshiba provided CPS with another new estimate, which the utility will use to come up with their own new cost estimate mid-January. City council is slated to vote sometime after that, once and for all, on $400 million in bonds to continue the project.

But clearly, enough is enough. So if you live in San Antonio, tell City Council to stop throwing good money after bad, and to cut their losses before its too late. Tell them to vote “no” to nuclear bonds and start the year off fresh and free from the “ghost of nuclear projects past.”


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, 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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With just two days before San Antonio City Council was to vote to approve $400 million in bonds to move forward with the South Texas Nuclear Project two reactor expansion, officials announced yesterday that the cost estimate for the project had ballooned by up to $4 BILLION.  That means that the new price tag on the new reactors, up from $13 Billion, is now a whopping $17 Billion (and don’t forget that even $13 Billion was a big jump from the original cost estimate of $5.4 Billion).  As a result, the Council has postponed the vote until January.

This is a huge victory for environmentalists, social justice workers, and citizen activists who have been tirelessly organizing opposition to new nuclear reactors.  If these concerned citizens hadn’t gotten involved, the City Council would have voted to approve the bonds a month ago, with no option to renegotiate their contract or pricing.  Because citizens got educated and involved, City Council was forced to delay the vote until they had all the information.  And the information, as it turns out, is that the cost estimates that groups like Public Citizen and SEED Coalition have been predicting for more than a year (up to $17.5 Billion according to a 2008 study by Arjun Makhijani and as much as $22 Billion according to analyst Clarence Johnson), far from a Cassandra cry, have been right on the money all along.

For all the dirty details, be sure to read the San Antonio Express-News’ breaking article Nuclear cost estimate rises by as much as $4 billion and the San Antonio Current’s blog post Nuke Collider: San Antonio delays $400 million nuke bond vote over Toshiba cost surge.  And courtesy of the unstoppable Greg Harman at the Current, check out the following video from the emergency press conference CPS officials and the Mayor’s office held yesterday, a MUST WATCH:


What I find most interesting about this whole mess is that CPS insiders knew a week and a half ago that the costs were up by $4 Billion, but neglected to tell the Mayor or City Council until yesterday.  And even then, it didn’t come as a formal announcement — the cat was only let out of the bag because, as the Express-News reports, an aide of the Mayor confronted CPS about rumors of a cost increase.

CPS interim General Manager Steve Bartley said the utility’s main contractor on the project, Toshiba Inc., informed officials that the cost of the reactors would be “substantially greater” than CPS’ estimate of $13 billion, which includes financing.

He said utility officials found out about the increase “within the last week and a half or so.”

But the mayor said he only learned the news Monday night after an aide asked Bartley about rumors of a cost estimate increase.

Castro said he didn’t know whether CPS would have divulged the increase to the council before its vote Thursday had his aide not directly questioned utility management.

“One would hope otherwise, but the evidence seems to suggest that they were less than proactive,” he said.

Sounds like CPS was going to wait until after Thursday’s vote to share their special need-to-know information, and that if it weren’t for those meddling kids they would have gotten away with it too.

Any way you look at it, yesterday’s announcement is fortuitous for the City of San Antonio.  Now City Council has a better idea of the real costs they are looking at with the project, and hopefully will think twice about placing their trust in CPS Energy now that they’ve been burned by the utility’s untransparent business practices.  With two months time until the vote, City Council now has plenty of time to order an independent study to model various energy scenarios and present a slew of options (besides just “nuclear or nothing”) for San Antonio’s energy future — including a heavy mix of renewable energy and efficiency. An outside study to model alternatives would present City Council with the most cost-effective, least risky, most environmentally sustainable plan possible. CPS claims to have done a ‘thorough’ investigation of these options, but just as they conveniently underestimated the cost of nuclear, they have overestimated the cost of renewable energies such as wind, solar, storage, and energy efficiency to the point of absurdity.  With two months to work at it, there is no reason why San Antonio shouldn’t have a green plan to put up against the nuclear plan by January.  They nearly voted to approve the project this week without the full range of information.  San Antonio City Council can’t put themselves in that situation again.

But don’t take my word for it.  Check out the following statements from Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office and Karen Hadden, director of the SEED Coalition:

Cost Increase of South Texas Project Shows Nuclear Power Is Too Expensive, Too Risky

Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

We can’t think of any good reasons for the San Antonio City Council to continue with this project when there are far less expensive alternatives readily available. Investing in wind and solar makes much more sense and carries none of the risks – both the extreme financial risk that CPS wants taxpayers to bear and the health and safety risks inherent with nuclear power. If the City Council continues with this project, the average ratepayers will see their utility bills increase by 50 percent.

If San Antonio citizens hadn’t stepped to the plate, the City Council would have voted for the STP a month ago and the city would have been another $400 million in the hole with no option to renegotiate. But citizens got educated and got involved. Their involvement made the City Council delay the vote until they had all the information.

We know the San Antonio City Council is too smart to continue to support this boondoggle. Nuclear power is too expensive and too risky to use. It’s time for the San Antonio City Council to pull the plug on the STP expansion.

Statement of Karen Hadden, executive director, Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition:

We aren’t surprised to hear that the latest cost estimate for the South Texas Project puts the price to build two new nuclear reactors at $17 billion, $4 billion more than what CPS Energy said in June and more than three times the project’s original $5.4 billion price tag. We’ve been saying for two years that CPS has been feeding the public lowball estimates that wouldn’t hold up to reality.

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Community Demonstration!
Wed Oct 14th
4pm – 8pm
City Hall
{103 Main Plaza,78205}
..next to Main Plaza downtown SA

Come to the demonstration! BRING 3 people with you!
BRING: street theatre props & political costumes, signs, puppets, bikes, hats, banners, CPS suits, etc!
Download flyers and more information at www.esperanzacenter.org

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CPS has dropped the ball on alternatives to nuclear

By Arjun Makhijani – Special to the San Antonio Express-News

CPS Energy is asking its board and the San Antonio City Council for permission to sell $400 million of bonds to follow the $276 million CPS Energy has already spent to get an option to buy a nuclear pig in a poke.

Yet, the price that Toshiba, the company that would build the plant, would charge won’t be fully disclosed until 2012; a “baseline” cost estimate will be disclosed this winter. A commitment of such a vast additional sum is premature, at best.

First, CPS’ electricity demand projections are suspect. Its projected annual growth rate would increase from about 1.5 percent during 2009-2020 to about 2.4 percent after that. Yet, stringent building and appliance efficiency regulations are in the works nationally. Carbon prices are likely to rise steeply after 2020.

CPS’ assumption about an increasing growth rate makes neither market sense nor common sense. The risk to San Antonio would not be as serious had CPS done a careful analysis of the options. It has not. It only considered coal (a poor risk) and natural gas as potential alternatives.

CPS did not consider compressed-air energy storage, in use on a large scale both in Alabama and Germany. An investment of $400 million could convert the 1,250 megawatts of wind energy that CPS has or plans to acquire into about 400 megawatts of baseload capacity. CPS estimates a cost of $9,000 per kilowatt for a concentrating solar thermal power plant with heat storage, yet utilities are signing contracts (or purchased power agreements) for half this amount or less today. Google’s green energy chief, Bill Weihl, recently stated that solar projects typically cost $2,500 to $4,000 per kilowatt, plus $1,000 for storage.

Moreover, these costs are coming down. CPS did not consider combined heat and power, which is commercial, biomass used in an integrated gasification combined cycle plant, or elements of a smart grid that could convert intermittent renewable capacity into dependable capacity for loads like washing machines and air conditioners. It doesn’t appear to have considered recent drops in natural gas prices.

In brief, CPS has dropped the ball on alternatives. The argument that CPS must meet urgent deadlines to preserve its nuclear option should not rush the board or the city. NRG, CPS’ 50-50 partner in the project, can hardly proceed without CPS. Without CPS’ stellar bond rating and money, NRG, with its junk bond rating, would be far less likely to get federal loan guarantees.

Indeed, in my view, without CPS, NRG would not have a viable project. During the Clean Technology Forum in San Antonio on Sept. 16, Mayor Julián Castro promised the public that CPS’ investment decision will be made on merits.

However, this cannot be done now, because CPS has not put the options on the table that would enable a comparison on the merits. An independent expert panel could probably do a study for City Council in six months, possibly less. It would be unwise to risk $400 million more without it.

Arjun Makhijani is president of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. He has published two studies on CPS nuclear costs.

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Great news about the legal fight against STP.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel admitted four more of the contentions (all water related) brought by SEED Coalition, bringing the grand total to 5 contentions admitted for a hearing with 7 still pending.

This is more than anywhere else in the country.

This increased uncertainty *should* make CPS and San Antonio City Council think twice about going forward.

Look! A Press Release!  (fully continued after the jump if you want to get into all the legal contentions)  As always, for more info go read everything at NukeFreeTexas.org

For Immediate Release: September 30, 2009

Contacts: Karen Hadden,  SEED Coalition,

Susan Dancer, South Texas Association for Responsible Energy

Robert V. Eye, Attorney for Intervenors

Citizens Gain Ground in STP Intervention Over Water Concerns

Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel Admits

Four Additional Water Related Contentions for a Hearing

Citizen opposition to two proposed nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project (STP) continues with another success. Yesterday the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) Panel ruled that South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company (STPNOC) had failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of radioactive contaminated water and water availability, issues or “contentions” raised by concerned citizens in their Petition to Intervene in the proposed expansion at STP. The Order is of national significance since STPNOC is the first in the nation to request licensing in 30 years.

“Citizens intervening in the South Texas Project’s licensing process gained significant legal ground yesterday when the ASLB Panel ruled that four additional contentions be admitted for a hearing,” said Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the SEED Coalition, one of the Intervenors. “Intervenors now have a total of five admissible contentions, with seven contentions related to fires and explosions and losses of large areas of the plant still pending.” The licensing process is likely to be delayed as a result of additional contentions. It was delay and construction problems that led to the first reactors at STP coming in six times over budget.

SEED Coalition, Public Citizen and the Bay City based South Texas Association for Responsible Energy (STARE) are Intervenors in the case. Attorney Robert V. Eye went before the ASLB Panel in June and argued the admissibility of 28 contentions challenging the license application for two additional reactors, Units 3 and 4, at the South Texas Project.


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