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The massive tax-payer funding for security of nuclear reactors – and this will be just as bad for Small Nuclear Reactors

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Nuclear Security Represents $4 Billion Annual Subsidy In US, Trillion For Fleet For Full Lifecycle

This equates to a roughly $4 billion annual subsidy to the US nuclear industry, in addition to the $1.6 billion in permanent tax breaks in the US federal tax code.

Clean Technica, By Michael Barnard 30 Mar 21,The nuclear industry requires, but doesn’t pay much of the price of, several overlapping layers of security on its international and national supply chains, generation sites, and waste management. It’s spread across a hard to fathom number of budget lines, and there doesn’t appear to have been any attempt to consolidate the costs prior to this article. This was covered recently in a CleanTech Talk with Paul Werbos, formerly with the US National Science Foundation, and he agreed that the costs were large and mostly under the radar.[1]

Per reactor annual costs appear to be in the range of $50 million USD per year, with half or less of that paid by the nuclear operator. This equates to a roughly $4 billion annual subsidy to the US nuclear industry, in addition to the $1.6 billion in permanent tax breaks in the US federal tax code.

For this analysis, the expenditures are broken into international fuel and components supply chain security, national/state/municipal security, and finally generation site security.

This will be put in context of costs across the 135 US nuclear reactors that include 94 in operation, 2 in construction, and 39 no longer operating.[2] Nuclear power plants take an average of 10 years to be constructed, operate for 40 years, and are currently taking 100 years to decommission.[3] While these are US costs, they should be reasonably easy to extend to other countries with nuclear generation.

International Costs

There are international security costs for nuclear supply, waste, and materials chains, coordinated through the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA). The US provides the majority of the IAEA’s annual budget, about $200 million USD.[4] That turns into roughly $1.5 million per reactor per year, or about $220 million for the full lifecycle of each reactor .

The Department of Defense (DOD) undoubtedly spends part of its $637 billion annual peacetime base budget on security for the global nuclear supply chain.[5] Bernie Sanders’ campaign estimated that $81 billion of DOD’s annual budget was effectively oil and gas security forces globally, with a strong concentration in the Middle East.[6] The nuclear war ships and armaments of the us military share supply chains with civilian nuclear reactor fuel and many components. ………….

US international expenditures on security total $1.1 billion annually, or about $8 million per reactor per year, or about $1.2 billion over the full lifecycle of the reactor.

National, State, & Municipal Security

Nuclear energy is the only form of energy with its own regulatory agency in most countries, and with specific call outs in budgets of other agencies. ……….

adds up to about $1.5 billion more per year for security provisions for nuclear power generation in the US. That money is not recovered from operators, but should be considered a complete subsidy for nuclear generation in addition to the nuclear tax code permanent tax breaks of $1.6 billion annually.

Over the 135 reactors in operation, that turns into a per reactor cost borne by US taxpayers of $11.3 million, and a full 150-year lifecycle cost of about $1.7 billion………….

Nuclear Generation Site Security

Only now do we get to the specific site’s annual costs. The budgets are even less transparent for individual reactors. There are aggregated numbers, but not individual budgets as the companies running them are private and not required to disclose that level of detail………..

There are three levels of security for any nuclear reactor site, and the security is shared across the reactors at the site.[22]

“The large outer perimeter, called the “owner-controlled area,” is far enough from the reactor that only minimal security is needed. Other than signs, the security measures in place for the owner-controlled area are not always visible to the public. The “protected area” is fenced and protected by sophisticated security systems and armed security officers. The innermost circle is called the “vital area.” It contains the reactor and associated safety systems, the control room, the used fuel pool, and the main security alarm stations. Access to the vital area is limited and protected by locked and alarmed security doors.”

Then there are the cybersecurity measures on top of that.

AEA best practices staffing guidelines suggest 20% of staff at nuclear generation facilities are security staff.[23] Plants have 500–1000 staff.[24] For an average facility then, there might be 750 staff and 150 security staff. ……..

Given that the site pays for 90% of NRC licensing costs and its site security, nuclear operators are paying roughly $24 million of the annual $53 million in security costs. The rest, roughly $30 million, can be considered uncounted subsidies of nuclear generation per reactor. That amounts to a $4 billion dollar indirect annual nuclear subsidy in addition to the $1.6 billion in direct tax breaks for the nuclear industry……..

Small Modular Reactors

There is nothing about small modular reactors (SMRs) which would indicate that they would have lower security costs than full sized reactors. They would have to be grouped in reactor sites, but with more SMRs per site, in order to spread the operational costs and the like across the reactors economically. They would still require full international, national, state and municipal overlapping layers of protection. They would still require high levels of site security. There is no evidence that decommissioning them will take less time.

March 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Mexico sues US over proposed nuclear waste storage plans

New Mexico sues US over proposed nuclear waste storage plans, Sacramento Bee
BY SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN ASSOCIATED PRESSMARCH 29, 2021 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. New Mexico sued the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday over concerns that the federal agency hasn’t done enough to vet plans for a multibillion-dollar facility to store spent nuclear fuel in the state, arguing that the project would endanger residents, the environment and the economy.

New Jersey-based Holtec International wants to build a complex in southeastern New Mexico where tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants around the nation could be stored until the federal government finds a permanent solution. State officials worry that New Mexico will become a permanent dumping ground for the radioactive material.

The complaint filed in federal court contends the commission overstepped its authority regarding Holtec’s plans and that granting a license to the company could result in “imminent and substantial endangerment” to New Mexico. The state cited the potential for surface and groundwater contamination, disruption of oil and gas development in one of the nation’s most productive basins and added strain on emergency response resources.

The state also raised concerns about a similar project planned just across the state line in West Texas.New Mexico has accused the commission of colluding with Holtec in “rubber-stamping” the proposal. The state argues that almost every interested party that has filed a challenge has been denied standing and an opportunity to meaningfully participate.The NRC’s mandate does not include policy setting or altering the public debate and emphatically cheerleading nuclear industry projects. Yet it is doing both to the detriment of New Mexico,” the complaint says……….

According to the U.S. Energy Department, nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 metric tons of radioactive waste a year, with most of it remaining on-site because there’s nowhere else to put it.
In all, there’s roughly 83,000 metric tons of spent fuel sitting at temporary storage sites in nearly three dozen states. The fuel is either enclosed in steel-lined concrete pools of water or in steel and concrete containers known as casks.

The first phase of the proposed New Mexico project calls for storing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which would be packed into 500 canisters. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent nuclear fuel over six decades.New Mexico’s complaint highlights a legal quandary for the federal government. Both license applications call for the Energy Department to take ownership of the spent fuel at a future date and contract with the developers of the facilities to store it until a permanent repository becomes available.

However, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act doesn’t allow the Energy Department to take ownership until a permanent repository is in place.”It is fundamentally unfair for our residents to bear the risks of open ended uncertainty,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement……..The state first objected to federal regulators’ preliminary recommendation that a license be granted to Holtec in comments submitted to the commission last fall. Aside from New Mexico’s other concerns, state officials have said regulators failed to consider environmental justice concerns and have fallen short of other requirements spelled out by federal environmental laws.

March 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NRC considers nuclear reactors running for 100 years (saves the big costs of decommissioning)

How long can a nuclear plant run? Regulators consider 100 years,   Utility Dive , 29 Mar 21,


This fall, This fall, Exelon plans to retire the Dresden nuclear power plant in Illinois after more than 51 years in operation, one of the longest life spans any commercial nuclear power reactor has ever achieved. The only older operating power reactor in the country, unit 1 at Exelon’s Nine Mile Point plant, came online in 1969, a few months before the older of the two units at Dresden. 

Now, nuclear regulators, industry groups and power plant owners have begun talking about the possibility of doubling these record run times and operating some U.S. nuclear plants for up to 100 years. 

The discussions cut quickly followed the 2019 and 2020 Nuclear Regulatory Commission approvals of the first licenses for reactors in Florida and Pennsylvania to operate for 80 years, which would themselves be unprecedented milestones. According to industry experts, with state governments, utilities and corporations setting emissions reductions targets 20 to 30 years out into in the future, the nuclear industry is experiencing pressure to tackle the technical challenges around long life extensions sooner rather than later……..

Replacing nuclear plants before their licenses expire may not be on the table at all, due to high costs and competitive pressures from other power sources………

From 80 to 100?

The NRC has been tackling technical questions and research around the long-term aging of nuclear reactor components as part of its review of requests from plants to operate for 80 years………..

Four reactors — two at NextEra Energy subsidiary Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point plant and two at Exelon’s Peach Bottom plant in Pennsylvania — have already received approval from the NRC to operate for up to 80 years, while six more — four at Dominion Energy’s North Anna and Surry plants in Virginia and two at NextEra Energy’s Point Beach plant in Wisconsin — have asked for license extensions to 80 years.

But all of these nuclear plants, like Oconee, would have to retire in the early 2050s if the NRC does not allow operation beyond 80 years. ……….

Unknown unknowns”

If the NRC decides to push forward with developing guidance for 100-year licenses, some of the most complicated questions that will have to be tackled are around how nuclear plants can safely operate at advanced ages……..

[Some]  are skeptical, about how certain regulators can be about safety if they are looking so far out into the future. “Would you get on a 747 that is 100 years old?” asked Allison Macfarlane, who served as chairman of the NRC from 2012 to 2014 and now directs the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia. Her concerns are with the number of “unknown unknowns” — safety issues that regulators and plant operators are not even aware could pose problems — that may surface as parts of a nuclear plant are exposed to radiation at lengths of time never before observed. For example, a nuclear plant typically has miles of buried cables and piping, and inspecting them can be difficult due to the costs of digging to access them, Macfarlane said…….

March 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

U.S. Democrats introduce Bill to stop nuclear missile funding, switch funding to universal Covid vaccine development

Democrats call for $1bn shift from weapons of mass destruction to ‘vaccine of mass prevention’

Democrats call for $1bn shift from weapons of mass destruction to ‘vaccine of mass prevention’  Guardian, Julian Borger in WashingtonSat 27 Mar 2021

Investing in Cures Before Missiles Act would stop funding on ballistic missile and help develop a Covid vaccine   Congressional Democrats are introducing legislation to transfer $1bn in funding from a controversial new intercontinental ballistic missile to the development of a universal Covid vaccine.

The Investing in Cures Before Missiles (ICBM) Act, introduced in the House and Senate on Friday, would stop funding on the proposed new missile, known as the ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD) which is projected to cost a total of $264bn over its projected lifespan, and discontinue spending on a linked warhead modification program.

Instead, the life of the existing US intercontinental ballistic missile, the Minuteman III, would be extended until 2050, and an independent study commissioned on how best to do that.

“The United States should invest in a vaccine of mass prevention before another new land-based weapon of mass destruction,” Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, co-author of the bill, said.

“The ICBM Act makes clear that we can begin to phase out the cold-war nuclear posture that risks accidental nuclear war while still deterring adversaries and assuring allies, and redirect those savings to the clear and present dangers presented by coronaviruses and other emerging and infectious diseases.”

Arms control experts say static intercontinental ballistic missiles, of which the US has 400 in silos across the northern midwest, are inherently destabilizing and dangerous, because a president would have just a few minutes to launch them on the basis of early warning signals of an impending enemy attack, or risk losing them to a pre-emptive strike. They point to a history of near-launches based on defective data, and the risk of cyber-attacks distorting early warning systems.

“With all of the global challenges we face, the last thing we should be doing is giving billions to defense contractors to build missiles we don’t need to keep as a strong nuclear deterrence,” Ro Khanna, Democratic congressman from California and the bill’s co-author in the House, said.

In September 2020, Northrop Grumman was awarded an uncontested bid for the $13.3bn engineering, manufacturing and development phase of GBSD, after its only rival for the vast contract, Boeing, pulled out of the race complaining of a rigged competition………

March 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

U.S. nuclear weapons are aging quickly. With few spare parts, how long can they last?

U.S. nuclear weapons are aging quickly. With few spare parts, how long can they last?, McClatchy


When hundreds of land-based nuclear armed ballistic missiles were first lowered into underground cement silos spread across the vast cornfields here in 1970, the weapons were only intended to last a decade before a newer system came in.

Fifty years later, these missiles  called the Minuteman III  are still on alert, manned by members of the U.S. Air Force in teams of two who spend 24 hours straight below ground in front of analog terminals from the 1980s, decoding messages and running tests on the missiles’ systems to check if they could still launch if needed.

But it’s not the age of weapons or the decades-old technology that troubles their operators. It’s that the original manufacturers who supplied the gears, tubes and other materials to fix those systems are long gone………….


Next month Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will seek billions to keep the 50-year-old land based missiles running while a debate begins on whether they should be replaced.

It’s a difficult ask: At the same time, the Pentagon is also in the middle of the most expensive nuclear modernization effort in its history.

All three legs of the nuclear triad  air, land and sea defenses launched from silos, overhead strategic bombers or nuclear submarines  are getting replaced with newer weapons systems, simultaneously.

The next-generation replacement bombers, missiles and submarines now under development have a price tag topping $400 billion and are expected to be a primary topic of questioning during hearings next month as lawmakers debate whether modernizing all three legs is necessary……………

March 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fusion nuclear reactors – a boondoggle run by bureaucrats

The Week 28th March 2021, Proponents believe fusion reactors could solve the climate-change crisis by providing inexhaustible energy with zero emissions and no chance of a meltdown. But the challenge of creating fusion reactions is enormous:

Scientists and engineers essentially have to create a small star. Hydrogen must be heated to about 100 million degrees Celsius — six times hotter than the sun’s core. At that temperature, hydrogen is no longer a gas but a plasma, a soupy mix of charged particles that is incredibly difficult to sustain. Scientists have been trying to contain the plasma using a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped structure with an extremely strong magnetic field, but thus far have been successful only for seconds.

Several retired fusion physicists, including Ernesto Mazzucato and Daniel Jassby of Princeton’s Plasma Physics Lab, have described ITER as a boondoggle run by bureaucrats that is likely to waste its potential cost of up to $65 billion.

March 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Book review: Post Growth, by Tim Jackson — The Earthbound Report

Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth is one of the most influential books on the postgrowth bookshelf, written in the wake of the financial crisis and clearly articulating the limits of economic growth as a measure of success. This book also comes in the wake of crisis, a time when “alongside an uncomfortable reminder of what […]

Book review: Post Growth, by Tim Jackson — The Earthbound Report

March 30, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment