Posts Tagged ‘Exelon’

Excelon at Victoria, TX

Earlier this week, Exelon Generation announced plans to withdraw its Early Site Permit application for an 11,500-acre tract of land southeast of Victoria, TX.

The company said the decision was based mainly on economics and sited current market conditions that make it impossible to create electricity for less than what the company could sell it for.  This comes down to the price of natural gas which has seen substantial drop making it impossible to build a large base load nuclear plant and make a profit.

Excelon had submitted an Early Site Permit application that would have given them 20 years before they would be required to build a plant.  Given that,  they must believe that the current economic trend is a long-term one.

Citizens in the region opposing the plant had expressed concerns regarding the region’s water supply, the knowledge that most of power generated would have gone to other areas, and safety risks regarding malfunctions and attacks.

South Texas Nuclear Project

With the NRC rejection of the Calvert Cliffs new site permit because of its foreign ownership (French Électricité de France-EDF), the application for expansion of South Texas Project (for a 3rd and 4th unit) will probably be rejected to because of it’s predominantly Japanese ownership (Toshiba).

The 1954 Atomic Energy Act prohibits the NRC from issuing a reactor license to any company owned by a foreign corporation or government.

STP also has an application in for a license extension.  We don’t know what is happening with license extensions with regard to the issue of long term waste storage.  We will update when we have a better indication of how the NRC is going to handle those applications.

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Exelon’s  Dresden Nuclear Power Plant located in Morris, Ill., roughly 60 miles southwest of Chicago declared an alert at 10:16 a.m. CT today after a chemical leak restricted access to a vital area that houses plant cooling water pumps.  The leaking chemical is sodium hypochlorite, which is similar to bleach, and is routinely used in plant operations to treat water.

NRC says there is currently no impact to the public health and safety and the environment.

The leak has been stopped and clean up by plant workers is underway.  The utility reported about 330 gallons of the chemical leaked and two plant workers who were working in the area were taken offsite for treatment due to possible inhalation of the chemical fumes

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Back in January, Texans For A Sound Energy Policy (TSEP) 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.

Yesterday, TSEP appeared at a hearing before a three-judge panel of the Atomic Safety & Licensing Board (ASLB) to press its legal and scientific arguments.  This is the first NRC proceeding since onset of the ongoing Japanese nuclear disaster. 

TSEP argued that nuclear power is a high risk, high stakes business, and that the events in Japan must be paramount in the board’s determination of the suitability of the site for the construction of one or more nuclear power reactors – a determination that includes both safety concerns and environmental impact concerns.  TSEP believes that this site is neither safe nor environmentally acceptable and that the key to preventing nuclear and environmental disasters is to address site selection honestly, openly and comprehensively.

From a safety perspective, TSEP has raised four proposed contentions and noted, from the outset, their concerns with the cavalier attitude of Exelon, and a process that appears designed to deliberately obscure key safety issues regarding the site from the public.

TSEP said that their perception is that Exelon believes that it does not matter if there is faulting, hundreds of oil and gas wells, toxic gas and methane and inadequate water supply as long as the power block itself is not directly affected.  Additionally, there is a total disdain for any instability and uncertainty of the geologic platform for the proposed facility which is silt and clay riddled by fractures and oil and gas penetrations.  That coupled with the fact that there is co-location with toxic and explosive gas  poses potential dangers to the safe operation of a nuclear

TSEP believes good engineering can address many potential safety issues, but that we cannot engineer around issues that are not recognized, studied and evaluated.

In light of what the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is dealing with, water – which has been a major environmental concern – now shows itself to be a major safety issue.  According to Jim Blackburn, the attorney representing TSEP,

Exelon’s proposed plan includes a cooling pond that is clearly crossed by two and potentially four subsurface faults.  These faults clearly threaten the stability of the cooling pond.  Exelon does not deny this but instead argues that it does not matter if the cooling pond fails because it is not a safety feature.  It seems that the Japanese situation suggests that a reserve supply of water may in fact be a major safety issue.  Without the salt water to pour on the core as a last resort, the situation in Japan would already have been worse.  There is no such fall-back plan here.  The cooling pond would function as a last resort facility, but it may in fact be breached and drained, assuming sufficient water to fill the pond at all.

Click here to watch a segment of the Rachel Maddow Show for information on spent fuel pools.

We hope the NRC will slow some of these license approvals and re-licensing applications down until they have had time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t work when backup systems fail. 

The ASLB will be reviewing and deciding which contentions put forth by TSEP will be heard in a licensing hearing later this year.

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The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) will hear oral argument relating to the Victoria County Station Early Site Permit (ESP) proceeding on March 16-17 in Victoria, Texas.

The ASLB is the independent body within the NRC that presides over hearings where the public can challenge proposed licensing and enforcement actions.

Oral arguments will begin at 9 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, March 16, in the Theatre Victoria at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, 214 N. Main St. in Victoria. The session will continue at 9 a.m. CDT on March 17. The session is open for public observation, but participation will be limited to authorized representatives of the groups taking part in the proceeding (Texans for a Sound Energy Policy [TSEP], the applicant – Exelon Nuclear Texas Holdings – and NRC staff involved in the proceeding).

Early arrival is suggested to allow for security screening for all members of the public interested in attending. NRC policy prohibits signs, banners, posters or displays in the hearing room.

Exelon submitted an ESP application March 25, 2010, seeking approval of the Victoria County Station site, which is approximately 13 miles south of Victoria. The ASLB is considering whether to grant TSEP intervenor status. The group has submitted several objections, or contentions, challenging Exelon’s application. The ASLB will hear oral argument on whether TSEP’s contentions meet the NRC’s requirements to be admitted for hearing under the NRC’s jurisdiction.

Documents related to the Victoria County Station ESP application are available on the NRC Web site at: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/esp/victoria.html .

Documents pertaining to the ASLB proceeding are available in the agency’s electronic hearing docket at: http://ehd1.nrc.gov/EHD .

More information about the ASLB can be found at: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/organization/aslbpfuncdesc.html.

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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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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today announced the opportunity for public participation in a hearing on an Early Site Permit (ESP) application for a site in Victoria County, Texas.

Exelon submitted its ESP application on March 25, seeking the NRC’s determination on whether the site is suitable for a nuclear power facility, contingent on the approval of an additional application for a construction permit or combined license. An ESP is valid for 10 to 20 years and can potentially be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years. The Exelon application, minus proprietary and security-related details, is available on the NRC website at: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/esp/victoria.html.

The NRC staff has determined that the application contains sufficient information for the agency to formally “docket,” or file, the application and begin its technical review. Docketing the application does not preclude requests for additional information as the review proceeds; nor does it indicate whether the Commission will issue the permit. The docket number established for this application is 52-042.

The NRC has issued in the Federal Register a notice of opportunity for the public to intervene inthe proceeding on the application (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-29481.pdf), and the deadline for requesting a hearing is Jan. 24, 2011. Petitions may be filed by anyone whose interest may be affected by the proposed license, who wishes to participate as a party in the proceeding, and who meets criteria set out in the NRC’s regulations. Background information regarding the hearing process was provided by NRC staff to members of the public during an April 15 public information session in Victoria, Texas.

A petition to intervene must be electronically submitted in a timely manner to the NRC’s Electronic Information Exchange (EIE) system. The petition to intervene must be filed in accordance with the NRC’s E-Filing Rule that appeared in the Federal Register on Aug. 28, 2007

(http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/E7-16898.pdf). Additional guidance and instructions regarding electronic submissions to the NRC EIE system is available on the NRC web pages at http://www.nrc.gov/site-help/e-submittals.html.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review the Exelon Nuclear Texas Holdings Early Site Permit (ESP) application for the Victoria County site near Victoria, Texas.

The application and associated information were initially submitted on March 25 and is available, minus proprietary and security-related details, on the NRC Web site at: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/esp/victoria.html.

Exelon’s application seeks approval for safety and environmental issues for the site, approximately 13 miles south of Victoria.  If approved by the NRC this would give Exelon three to 20 years to decide whether to build a plant in Victoria County. It can be extended for another 20 years, giving the company up to 40 years to begin construction from the time that the NRC approves the permit.

Now the site permit application will undergo a three- to four-year review process by the NRC in which it will evaluate the project’s environmental impact and safety preparedness.

Water use figures prominently into the concerns of many. The Guadalupe River is the designated water source for the possible power plant, and Exelon has a water reservation agreement with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) that expires in 2013. (more…)

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Exelon Nuclear plans to file a 6,000-plus-page document that would give it as many as 40 years to begin work on a power plant in Victoria.

Exelon has looked at building a plant in this area of Texas since 2007. It plans to file an early site permit application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on  March 25, 2010.  This will allow them to keep their options open as the permit, if approved by the NRC, would give Exelon three to 20 years to decide whether to build a plant in Victoria County. It can be extended for another 20 years, giving the company up to 40 years to begin construction from the time that the NRC approves the permit.

Once the early site permit application is submitted, it undergoes a three- to four-year review process by the NRC in which it will evaluate the project’s environmental impact and safety preparedness.

The NRC will conduct a public meeting April 15 at the Victoria Community Center to explain what the review process entails.

Water use figures prominently into the concerns of many. The Guadalupe River is the designated water source for the possible power plant, and Exelon has a water reservation agreement with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) that expires in 2013.

In the agreement with the GBRA, Exelon reserved 75,000 acre-feet of water every year.  The plant’s water use supercedes that of other water users, including the city of Victoria and farmers in the region.

We strongly urge the public to attend this meeting.


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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Environmentalists may soon find a powerful ally in big business.  Some of the United States’ top corporations are now rallying together in support of climate and energy reform, after finally realizing the severity of climate change and the negative effects of global warming on our society.  Several Fortune 500 companies, including GE, Johnson & Johnson, HP, eBay, and the Gap, have joined together to form two core coalitions.  The groups—armed with million dollar advertising budgets—plan to nudge Washington toward the passing of comprehensive climate change legislation.  Participating business executives claim that “many businesses, and the overall economy, would eventually benefit from the new law.”

This week, an assemblage of over 150 entrepreneurs, investors, manufacturers, and energy providers—under the banner of the We Can Lead business group—will march to Capitol Hill to show their support for energy legislation such as this year’s American Clean Energy and Security Act.  The attendees will receive media training, go to policy briefings, and have the opportunity to meet and greet with key policy makers.  The main message for the event?  A climate bill is good for the earth, AND good for business.

Contrary to popular belief, not all businesses are alarmed by the alleged high costs of a new climate bill.  Some 28 companies and green groups, including United Technologies and the Nature Conservatory, are paying a pretty penny in advertising to publicly voice their support of energy reform.  The seven-figure campaign will be launched this Tuesday and, hopefully, other companies will take note and realize that there aren’t sufficient financial reasons to fear a climate bill.

Exelon Corp. is one such company participating in both the advocacy events on Capitol Hill and the allied advertising campaign.  As the largest nuclear power company in the nation, Exelon made waves earlier this month when the company left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The company claims the two bodies simply did not see eye-to-eye on climate change issues.  Exelon is not alone in its flight from the Chamber.  California’s PG&E Corp. and New Mexico’s PNM Resources also announced plans last week to disband from the national business alliance.  Most recently, Apple pulled out and Nike relinquished its spot on the group’s board of directors.  The latter also claims its views on climate change differ drastically from those of the Chamber; however the company plans to retain their membership and continue their efforts toward new climate change legislation.  Much of this disapproval came directly after the Chamber publicly challenged positive findings from the federal EPA concerning the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Clean Air Act.

Built at the peak of a major Republican decade, some would say that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a mostly conservative, antiregulatory lobbying group.  Now that Washington seems to be swaying to the liberal side—essentially becoming more populist and green, the major faces of big business are skeptical of being associated with institutions as such.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website, the group hopes to promote five core principles in regards to climate change.

Any legislation or regulation introduced must:

  1. Preserve American jobs and competitiveness of U.S. industry;
  2. Provide an international, economy-wide solution, including developing nations;
  3. Promote accelerated development and deployment of greenhouse gas reduction technology;
  4. Reduce barriers to the development of climate-friendly energy sources; and
  5. Promote energy conservation and efficiency.

The group’s stance on global warming legislation is currently and constantly publicly disputed by various parties on the big business roster, including their former members.

From the We Can Lead two-day rally in Washington to the powerfully proclaimed ‘pro-climate bill’ advertising campaigns; from the recent exodus of corporate icons from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the overall vocal support for climate change legislation.  It seems as if corporate America and the American public alike view climate change as a business worth investing in.

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Power companies’ plans to pursue new nuclear projects are damaging their credit ratings, which may mean higher costs will be shifted onto ratepayers. In a new report by Moody’s Investors Service titled “New Nuclear Generation: Ratings Pressure Increasing”, the firm raises concerns about investing in new nuclear plants with great risks and capitol costs at a time when national energy policy is uncertain.

Of the 17 proposed reactor projects Moody’s analyzed, two already have obligations rated as speculative or “junk”, and both are in Texas: NRG’s South Texas Project (“questionable credit quality”) and Energy Future Holding’s Comanche Peak (“generally poor credit quality”).

Exelon’s proposed two unit reactor in Victoria was rated as one step above junk status (between Baa1 and Baa3).

“If these guys are already having trouble with their credit ratings, why should Texans mortgage their future building new plants that even the builders can’t finance?,” asks Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office.

Good question.

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water header

I’ve been thinking (and worrying) about water a lot lately.  I suppose that the drought has brought all this concern along.  Just a few months ago, folks were comparing this drought to the one that devastated Texas agriculture in the ’50s (when crop yields dropped by as much as 50%, all but one county in Texas was declared a federal drought disaster area, and grasslands were scorched and ranchers that couldn’t afford high hay prices resorted to a mixture of prickly pear cactus and molasses), but now folks are saying that this drought is well on its way to being worse, and certainly more costly, than any other dry spell in Texas history.

We’re already seeing ranching and agriculture suffer substantially from this drought.  Agricultural officials are now pinning crop and livestock losses at $3.6 billion.  Just 12% of the cotton acreage planted this year will be harvested, and many gins won’t open up this season because there isn’t enought work to justify it.  Ranchers are also buying high priced hay and feed supplements because their own pastures haven’t produced enough to feed their herds.  Ranchers are selling off calves younger and thinner than usual, and even letting go of the mature females that sustain their herds.  In the last week, Bastrop County alone lost 12,000 cattle from the drought.  As Roy Wheeler, an Atascosa County rancher told the San Antonio Express-News, “We’re selling the factory, so they say.”

So why worry about the weather,  you may ask.  Haven’t farmers and ranchers been scraping by and beaten by the weather since the first man stuck a seed in the ground?  Perhaps, but during the dust bowl and in this last great drought in the ’50s, we could still shake our fists at the sky and vow never to go hungry again — but now we can only shake our fists at ourselves.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that this drought is a result of human interference.  I’m no scientist, just an educated girl with a blog, but I’d bet the farm that we’re seeing global warming in action.

But you don’t have take my word for it.  Take the word of Dr. Gerald North, a climate scientist at that notorious liberal holdout Texas A&M, who says that this drought is the beginning of a permanent trend for Texas.  He cites the 2007 IPCC report, which shows trends toward hotter and drier summers.  In reference to this weather pattern, North told the Environment News Service that, “It could be just a fluke that persists for a decade… But my guess is that it’s here to stay, but with fluctuations up and down.”

Of course we can’t point at any one weather event and say that it is a direct result of global warming, but we can take events as indicative of what is to come as global warming progresses.  Just as Hurricane Katrina woke up the world to the devastation that will ensue as storms of increase in frequency and severity from climate change, this current drought can give Texans a hint of what the future of Texas weather will look like.

There’s a terrible element of irony here.  Our current trajectory of unsustainable growth and energy consumption increase the likelihood that drought in Texas will become the new norm.  AND those same industries and energy sources which have poisoned our atmosphere and raised global temperatures… use enormous amounts of water.  Coal, natural gas, and nuclear — which propents are trying to sell as “the low-carbon cure we need” — are incredibly, enormously, despicably water intensive. (more…)

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NRC Night at the Dome

Never been built

General Electric's ESBWR: Not ready for prime time

Turnout was high at the NRC’s public meeting in Victoria on Thursday about the future of nuclear power in the area. Tara Bozick of the Victoria Advocate estimated 400 people showed up. There was so much going on it might warrant a second post.

The NRC attempted to quell concerns about the fact that Exelon plans to build the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR), despite the fact that they have not yet certified it. In fact, the application for design certification was filed in 2005. Who knows when or if it will be certified, but Exelon’s application to build two of them in Victoria County puts added pressure on the NRC to approve the design.

It was publicly stated by the NRC last night that the ESBWR has never been built before. Why they would consider a combined operating license (COL) at the same time as they are reviewing revisions to the reactor design application is perplexing to say the least. So much for a streamlined process.


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