Posts Tagged ‘reactors’

Original post can be found at our DC “Citizen Energy” blog


President Obama wants to triple the loan program for construction of new nuclear reactors, to $54 billion.

The nuclear loan guarantee program commits taxpayers to not only underwrite risky nuclear reactor projects, but also allows wealthy nuclear utilities to borrow the money from the government’s Federal Financing Bank- funds for this bank come directly from the U.S Treasury. You might want to read that again.

If you are struggling with the absurdity of a program that allows taxpayer dollars to both guarantee and provide direct loans for billion dollar projects that the Congressional Budget Office has found will default 50% of the time, you are not alone.

On February 25th, Public Citizen and several ally organizations are calling on their members to tell Congress to stop the tripling of the nuclear loan program. The proposal to expand this ill-conceived program is not a done deal. So, please join us to stop this boondoggle. You can reach all of your Congress members at 202-224-3121.


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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After CPS Energy unveiled its optimistically low $13 billion proposal for South Texas Project reactors three and four, I decided to look into the history of the construction of the first two reactors. What I found was troubling, but it seemed to be pretty much in line with my understanding of problems with nuclear projects during the 70s and 80. Here is a brief time line:

1971: Houston Lighting and Power presents proposal for South Texas Nuclear Project, with an estimated cost of 1 billion dollars for the entire project.

1973: Construction begins, with contractor Brown and Root. A $1 billion cost is agreed upon and the first reactor is projected to be finished by 1980 and the second by 1982.

1979: Brown and Root Inspector Dan Swayze gives interview with CBS Magazine, discussing his decision to stop inspecting concrete pours after a 1977 incident at STP in which concrete workers at STP threatened his life and physically assaulted another inspector. “They beat the hell out of him” -Swayze

1979: Estimated costs rise to $2.7 Billion and completion of the reactors is postponed

to 1984 for the first and 1986 for the second.

1979: Three Mile Island accident. San Antonio reevaluates its role in the project.

1980: After 3,000 complaints reports of work deficiencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issues a report citing 22 violations and fines HL&P $100,000 and issues a “show cause order” requiring the company to explain why the project should be allowed to continue.

1980: HL&P voluntarily stops work after problems are discovered in the welding and concrete. The projected is rated below average by Ralph Nader’s Critical Mass Energy Project. It is ranked among the top 4 worst ongoing projects.

1981: HL&P fires original contractor Brown and Root (who had no previous experience with nuclear reactors) and replaces them with Bechtel Corporation. Estimated completion costs increase to $4.5 billion.

1985: Brown and Root looses a $750 million law suit, filed by Houston Lighting & Power, San Antonio City Public Service, Central Power, Light of Corpus Christi and the city of Austin. At the time this was the largest cash legal settlement in U.S History.

1987: HL&P receives low-power operating license for Unit 1 nuclear reactor.

1988: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducts last minute inspection of facility after hundreds of allegations of poor construction, over 50 of which were made by plant workers through the Government Accountability Project. Among the allegations was a claim that roughly 20% of the plant’s safety valves were installed backwards. This was never corrected after it was concluded that the plant could still function with backwards safety valves.

1988: Completion is announced 7 years late and 500% over budget.

1989: City of Austin files lawsuit against Houston Lighting and Power for unexpected expenses and delays during the construction of STP. Texas Court in Dallas Rules in HL&P’s Favor.

Since 1990: STP and other nuclear plants spend an average of $45 million each year disposing of waste. To clarify that is average is per plant.

CPS energy is giving an optimistically low estimate of the total cost of the project.  Estimates that consider the cost overruns and construction delays that plagued STP and similar projects last time  peg the plant at no lower than $17 billion. This look at STP’s history provides a good example of what can happen when we don’t recognize the likely additional expenditures an expensive project like this will have and operate on an unrealistic time frame.  San Antonio is on the verge of repeating many of the mistakes of the past, and it is the citizens that will have to pay.

The Disappointed Environmentalist

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