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The tangled web – well-being of communities has become dependent on the nuclear weapons industry


Nuclear disarmers can’t forget the communities that rely on military spending Tricia WhiteMatt Korda | October 28, 2020  If Russia were to launch a nuclear attack against the United States, what would the targets be? You might guess the most likely targets would be major cities like Washington D.C. or New York City, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But would you have also guessed Great Falls, Montana (population: 58,505) and Cheyenne, Wyoming (population: 65,165)? These small communities are part of the United States’ “nuclear sponge”—areas in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming that house the US arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and that are supposed to “soak up” hundreds of incoming nuclear warheads. Should an attack on the United States ever occur, these Midwestern states would be the first to go. And, somewhat counterintuitively, the majority of residents in these communities want to keep it that way.

It is difficult to overstate the degree to which ICBM-hosting communities rely on retaining their missiles. Missile bases like Minot in North Dakota, F. E. Warren in Wyoming, and Malmstrom in Montana are directly responsible for between eight and thirteen percent of their respective local labor forces. Additionally, the indirect economic benefits—a by-product of everyday activities like grocery shopping or school registration—certainly boost those numbers even further.

Recognizing that ICBMs could function as an economic insurance policy for local communities, politicians jockeyed to bring nuclear missiles to their states during the early stages of deployment in the 1960s.

In one particularly infamous case, Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington wrote to General Thomas Power, head of Strategic Air Command to ask, “Dear Tommy, why can’t we have one of the missile bases in Missouri?” Symington, previously the first Secretary of the Air Force, was heavily tied to weapons contractors, and his then-unique position at the intersection of business, politics, and the military prompted President Eisenhower to issue his prescient warning about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.”

Today, this type of politicking has organized itself into the Congressional ICBM Coalition—a bipartisan collective of lawmakers from the three ICBM host states plus Utah, where ICBM sustainment and replacement activities are headquartered at Hill Air Force Base. The coalition’s members are extremely well-funded by contractors like Northrop Grumman, which spent more than $162 million on lobbying from 2008 to 2018. In a fantastic return on investment, Northrop Grumman was recently awarded a $13.3 billion contract to manufacture a replacement for the aging Minuteman III, the only land-based, nuclear-armed missile in the US arsenal. 

These weapons contractors are not just funding politicians, however. They also work in concert with local community leaders to sustain and modernize the ICBM force ad infinitum. In response to potential base closures throughout the 1990s, many ICBM communities formed coalitions via their Chambers of Commerce to advocate for their neighboring bases to stay open. Today, community-led organizations like Task Force 21 (Minot), the Montana Defense Alliance (Malmstrom), and the Wyoming Wranglers Committee (F. E. Warren) meet with Pentagon officials, weapons contractors, and their Congressional representatives to advocate on behalf of their respective bases.

It’s especially notable just how integrated these groups are with their local communities: they offer career opportunities in schools, allow weapons contractors to host community events when new project bids are occurring, and guide local businesses through the ins-and-outs of subcontracting for Northrop Grumman, Boeing, or Lockheed Martin. Since many of the organizations’ activities are in turn sponsored by these corporations, it’s effectively a win-win for everyone involved.

However, these intimate relationships between local communities, corporations, and politicians come with serious ramifications. In a cruel twist of irony, it means that in order to protect their livelihoods, community leaders are encouraged to ensure that their respective cities remain—now and forever—ground zero for a future nuclear attack.

These communities are also expected to lobby on behalf of an ICBM replacement program that is dangerous, unnecessary, and very expensive. Not only do ICBMs serve little strategic purpose in a post-Cold War environment, but they are also the only weapons in the US nuclear arsenal that force the president to make potentially catastrophic decisions within mere minutes. For these reasons, as well as their astounding $264 billion estimated life-cycle costs, several nuclear experts—and a majority of both Democrats and Republicans—agree that the Pentagon should hit pause on the ICBM replacement program while officials examine cheaper life-extension options for the current arsenal. Many even argue the United States should eliminate the ICBM leg of the nuclear triad altogether. 

Additionally, as Gretchen Heefner, a professor at Northeastern University, articulates in her book The Missile Next Door, “By insisting that new missions be found for old bases, that more money be spent to upgrade facilities and fortify defenses, Americans [have] long stopped resisting militarism and instead embraced it as an economic necessity.” And who could blame them? If the Minuteman ICBMs were to be phased out, the futures of Minot, Malmstrom, and F. E. Warren Air Force Bases—and the communities that serve them—would be thrown into jeopardy. Heefner quotes one ICBM community’s Chamber of Commerce president on the indirect impacts of such closures: “A lot of people probably won’t realize the impact until their soccer coach is gone and their Bible teacher is not here or their teacher’s aide is gone.” “Nothing so aptly demonstrates the dependency of American municipalities on the military,” Heefner concludes, “as the threat of its abandonment.” To that end, organizing to keep their nuclear ICBMs is a form of community self-defense, albeit one with far-reaching consequences.

This presents a challenging conundrum for the nuclear expert community. It is easy to advocate for the phaseout of the ICBM force by only examining the costs and benefits on paper. In fact, such a phaseout is a realistic and worthwhile security goal, but it may come at the cost of American jobs and rural towns.

If disarmament advocates really want to push for the retirement of the US ICBM force, we need to come prepared with answers to the economic problems it would have on these “nuclear sponge” communities. Is Congress willing to offer a guaranteed income to the constituents who will lose their jobs? Will there be an equivalent of the Paycheck Protection Program? How does a community that loses its predominant industry rebuild its economy, especially in the aftermath of a devastating pandemic? Without answers to these questions, disarmament could be the very thing that destroys them—long before a nuclear missile ever strikes American soil.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, health, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The world’s banks must start to value nature and stop paying for its destruction

The world’s banks must start to value nature and stop paying for its destruction, Guardian, Robert Watson 28 Oct 20, As a new report spells out how financial institutions contribute to biodiversity loss, the clamour is growing for a new approach.

  • Banks lent $2.6tn linked to ecosystem and wildlife destruction in 2019 – report
  • The scientific community has long been unequivocal about biodiversity destruction. Last month, the UN reported that the world had failed to meet fully any of the 2020 Aichi bioiversity targets that countries agreed with fanfare in 2010, even as it found that biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, and the pressures driving this decline are intensifying.This week’s Bankrolling Extinction report finds that financial institutions provide the capital that is funding over-exploitation of our lands and seas, putting biodiversity in freefall. Last year, the world’s 50 biggest banks provided $2.6tn (£1.9tn) in loans and other credit to sectors with a high impact on biodiversity, such as forestry and agriculture. Bank by bank, the report authors found a cavalier ignorance of – or indifference to – the implications, with the vast majority unaware of their impact on biodiversity.

    In short, this report is a frightening statement of the status quo.

  • Fortunately, signs are emerging that some governments are – slowly – taking aim at financial backers of the destruction of the natural world. They must now push more forcefully. In the wake of Covid-19, treasury cupboards may be bare, but with new policies and limited recovery funds, they can steer trillions of dollars of private capital towards a nature-positive response to coronavirus, to spur growth, prosperity and resilience without returning to business as usual over-consumption and climate and biodiversity risk.
  • Voices from economics and finance are starting to add impetus and rationale for such momentum. One of the world’s foremost business groups, the World Economic Forum (WEF), has recognised the economic importance of nature. In its annual Global Risks Report, published earlier this year, WEF found that for the first time environmental risks dominated perceived business threats. Biodiversity loss was considered among the five most impactful and most likely risks in the next decade, with concerns ranging from the potential collapse of food and health systems to the disruption of entire supply chains. …………….

October 29, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, environment, Women | Leave a comment

France trying to market nuclear reactors to Romania

World Nuclear News 27th Oct 2020, France and Romania have signed a declaration of intent on cooperation in
the civil nuclear field, which aims, among other things, to work “with
strategic partners” to build units 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear power
plant and to upgrade unit 1. The document was signed yesterday by French
Prime Minister Jean Castex and his Romanian counterpart Ludovic Orban, who
led a delegation of his ministers to Paris.

October 29, 2020 Posted by | France, marketing | Leave a comment

Shadow of $25 billion Nuclear Plant Vogtle hangs over Georgia Public Service Commission elections

Nuclear costs loom over races for Georgia PSC races
Public Service Commission must deal with $25 billion Plant Vogtle’s impact on electric rates,
News 4 Ajax, Jeff Amy, Associated Press,  25 Oct 20,  ATLANTA – The shadow of two nuclear reactors that Georgia Power Co. is building near Waynesboro hangs over two statewide elections for the Georgia Public Service Commission. Although the reactors are now getting so close to completion that they are likely to enter service, whoever is elected will have to deal with the $25 billion project’s ultimate impact on customer bills.

Electric customers statewide and even in Jacksonville will help pay for Plant Vogtle, as Georgia Power has contracts to provide power from the plant around the Southeast.

The five-person utility regulatory body is currently all Republican, with two members up for reelection this year. ………..

Amid rising costs, the plan to add a third and fourth nuclear reactor at Plant Vogtle survived a cost-overrun scare in 2018 with the heavy support of the state’s Republican establishment. Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Southern Co. is now building the only new nuclear plants in the U.S.  ………

October 26, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

And again, it’s delay delay at the costly Vogtle nuclear project

October 26, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

USA government puts out a financial lifeline to the failing nuclear industry

Nuclear Energy Granted A State-Sponsored Lifeline In The U.S. Oil Price By Haley Zaremba – Oct 24, 2020  For the past several decades, the United States has been the poster child for the ailing state of the nuclear industry. The nuclear sector in the U.S. is plagued by aging infrastructure, mounting debts, dependence on government handouts, and the staggering cost of maintaining spent nuclear fuel. What’s more, it’s had to compete with the homegrown shale revolution, and expensive nuclear is simply no match for the tidal wave of cheap shale oil and gas that came flooding out of the West Texas Permian Basin.The United States has long been the single-biggest generator of nuclear power in the world, accounting for a whopping third of global nuclear energy production. However, that status will likely soon be stripped away as the United States has seen one nuclear plant after another shutter after struggling and failing to stay in the black, at the same time that other nations have pushed their nuclear programs forward with rapid rates of expansion. China, in particular, has invested huge sums into building up its nuclear program, and is on track to overtake France and then the United States to become the new biggest nuclear power producer on the planet.

But the winds of change could soon be blowing for U.S. nuclear. Last month the nuclear sector got a small but certainly not insignificant state-sponsored lifeline when the the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that “it would be awarding more than $65m in nuclear energy research, crosscutting technology development, facility access, and infrastructure awards.” According to reporting by PowerTechnology, “the awards fall under the department’s nuclear energy programs – the Nuclear Energy University Programme, the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies, and the Nuclear Science User Facilities.”

And now, just this week, there’s even better news for U.S. nuclear power. “After hemming and hawing for decades, the United States is taking some big steps in developing advanced nuclear reactor technologies,” Forbes reported on Wednesday. The article is referring to yet another major announcement from the DOE that took place just last week. The department will be awarding $80 million each–and that’s just in initial funding–to two different teams under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The DOE has planned for an additional $3.2 billion in investment over the next seven years, an impressive sum that will be matched by the private sector within the nuclear industry. One of these teams is to be led by Bill Gates’ brainchild TerraPower in a joint effort with GE Hitachi. The other will be spearheaded by X-energy. …….

October 26, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Trump’s USA is pushing NuScale’s small nuclear reactors for South Africa

The US nuclear company with an eye on South Africa  just got a R23 billion boost, courtesy of Donald Trump,    Phillip de Wet , Business Insider SA Oct 22, 2020, 

  • American nuclear energy company NuScale has been citing Cape Town as an example of an ideal customer for its still-theoretical generators.
  • It has now received in-principle financial support from the American government to build a nuclear power station in South Africa.
  • NuScale’s pathfinder project for its new technology, in Idaho, just got a promise of an infusion of US government cash worth some R23 billion.
  • While South Africa abandoned plans to create next-generation PBMR systems, the administration of Donald Trump has pushed small-scale nuclear development.

NuScale, a company with roots in US-funded research, this week received assurances that the American government will provide up to $1.4 billion (around R23 billion) in subsidies for a 12-module reactor it hopes to start building in Idaho by 2025.

The project is a commercial one, with municipal buyers lined up for the electricity, but the cash from the US department of energy is intended to bring the cost of that electricity down to $55 per MWh on a levelised cost of energy (LCOE) basis, making the project at least vaguely competitive with other forms of power generation.

Without the subsidies, the supposedly once-off cost of building a first-of-its kind power station would make the NuScale project commercially unviable, its planned customers say.

Just how once-off such costs are, and how much money the US government ends up actually spending on the project, will be closely watched in South Africa

Last week the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced it had signed a letter of intent to support NuScale “to develop 2,500 MW of nuclear energy in South Africa”.

NuScale has cited Cape Town as a purely theoretical customer for a 12-module version of its nuclear energy system, saying that such an installation could desalinate enough water to keep the entire city going.

But the 2,500MW number cited by the DFC suggests its South African ambitions are substantial. That is the full generating capability the South African government now envisages adding to the national grid from nuclear stations – but the government plan calls for a mixture of the conventional pressurised water reactors (PWRs) such as Russia’s Rosatom sells, and the type of small modular reactors (SMRs) NuScale is developing.

By seeking development finance for the full 2,500MW, NuScale appears to be signalling a plan to bid for the whole thing, rather than seeking to build only part of a new set of nuclear generators in SA alongside companies from China or elsewhere.

That matches the aggressive posture of the US government under the administration of Donald Trump. The DFC letter of intent is the first time the organisation has supported any nuclear project; a ban on its involvement in nuclear energy was lifted on the recommendation of a working group formed by the White House.

The state funding for the NuScale project in the US, meanwhile, comes after consistent and determined efforts under Trump’s presidency to “revitalise” nuclear energy in America, both in production and through research and development on next-generation systems.

South Africa, though determined to buy new nuclear power stations, has not had a similar political appetite to invest in research. In 2010 it mothballed work on the pebble bed modular reactor, a project launched in the late 1990s to create a safe, small, modular reactor system for both domestic use and sale abroad.

Russia once thought it had a done deal to build new nuclear reactors in South Africa. Half a decade later, thanks to its sheer political weight, China seems to be a serious contender for the job. Both France and South Korea have, at various points, been in the running too.

But as of this week, an American company with no track record of actually building commerical nuclear reactors yet is lining up the kind of money from the US government that could make its plans for South Africa viable – replacing a dream of home-grown next-generation nuclear with an imported version.

As of this year there are still vague plans to revive the project, in one form or another, but even if those were to succeed, the pace of development would have to be improbably fast for it to have any place in South Africa’s current round of explorations.

October 24, 2020 Posted by | marketing, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, South Africa | Leave a comment

BHP abandons plan to expand Olympic Dam uranium mine – a sign foe the future


Wire 21st Oct 2020, The news this week that mining giant BHP will not continue with its long planned multi-billion dollar expansion of its Olympic Dam uranium and copper project is a sign that the market is turning against the controversial mineral.

It spells good news for the future of renewables but leaves the problem of leftover radioactive waste at Olympic Dam. There is no decision to change tack and mine the many many rare earths which also exist at the site.

October 24, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

USA: Millions of jobs in clean energy and infrastructure – analysis finds.

Investing $2 Trillion in US Clean Energy and Infrastructure Could Create Millions of ‘Good Jobs,’ Analysis Finds

“We don’t have to choose between a strong economy or a healthy environment—we can have both,” says an EPI data analyst.  Common Dreams, byJessica Corbett, staff writer   – 20 Oct 20, Pursuing trade and industrial policies that boost U.S. exports and eliminate the trade deficit while investing $2 trillion over four years in the nation’s infrastructure, clean energy, and energy efficiency improvements could support 6.9 to 12.9 million “good jobs” annually by 2024, according to an analysis published Tuesday.

The new report from a trio of experts at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a U.S.-based think tank, comes as the country continues to endure the public health and economic consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 220,000 lives and millions of jobs in the United States alone this year.

As hurricanes and wildfires made worse by human-caused climate change have ravaged communities in the U.S. and around the world throughout the pandemic, demands have mounted for policymakers to use the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to #BuildBackBetter by incorporating ambitious plans to address the planetary emergency in relief and recovery packages.

“Our policymakers urgently need to confront climate change and the deep recession caused by a global pandemic. One way to do this is investing a substantial part of our budget to reduce our carbon emissions while also creating good jobs,” EPI data analyst Zane Mokhiber, who co-authored the report, said in a statement. “We don’t have to choose between a strong economy or a healthy environment—we can have both.”……….

October 22, 2020 Posted by | climate change, employment, renewable, USA | Leave a comment

$40 billion cost to Poland for nuclear power – $18 billion to USA for starters

Poland Strikes $18 Billion Nuclear Power Deal With U.S.   Oil Price, By Charles Kennedy – Oct 20, 2020, The United States and Poland closed a nuclear power deal potentially worth $18 billion as the Central European country seeks to reduce its reliance on coal and Russian natural gas……….

The agreement closed this week stipulates that over the next 18 months, the parties will develop a program for the construction of the reactors and how they will be financed. Per plans, the first reactors should come online in 2033. The whole program could end up costing Warsaw some $40 billion, of which at least $18 billion would go towards acquiring U.S. nuclear technology, according to a U.S. government official…….

October 22, 2020 Posted by | EUROPE, marketing, USA | Leave a comment

Hinkley Point C nuclear station – construction costs $388.9 million every month

S&P 20th Oct 2020, EDF Energy is spending GBP300 million ($388.9 million) a month on the
construction of the 3.2-GW Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant that it is
building with its equity partner China General Nuclear Corp. in western
England, a company executive said at a London webinar Oct. 20.

Humphrey Cadoux-Hudson, managing director, nuclear new build at EDF Energy, was
speaking at a webinar on the future development of the UK nuclear power
industry organized by the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport
Forum. He said that EDF Energy had been spending this amount monthly on
Hinkley Point C “since 2018” and intended to continue at the same rate of
monthly expenditure until the plant’s completion.

The two EPR Hinkley Point C plant in western England is currently scheduled to start operations
during 2025. The plant is 66.5% owned by EDF Energy and 33.5% owned by CGN.

October 22, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

The nuclear industry’s cunning strategy to pass its clean-up costs to the tax-payer

“This is a way that bankruptcy is increasingly being used by companies — to shed their environmental liability.”
“To the extent that decommissioning and environmental repair costs exceed Energy Harbor’s ability to pay, those costs will be borne by Ohio through its ratepayers or taxpayers.
The cleanup envisioned for Perry and Davis-Besse plants in Ohio and the two Beaver Valley units in Pennsylvania would extend for the better part of a century — from 2021 through 2083,
By the time FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy in February, it had a new name, Energy Harbor, and it had largely released its former parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., from any responsibility to clean up the nuclear plants it used to own.
The nuclear bailout nobody’s talking about, By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal, 19 Oct 20,

Ohio state government continues to be gripped by an alleged $61 million bribery scandal involving a billion-dollar nuclear bailout.

But while the effort for that bailout was brewing as part Akron-based FirstEnergy’s strategy to prop up and spin off unprofitable nuclear power plants, another part of the strategy might have resulted in an additional — and potentially larger — bailout in a separate venue.

And, some observers warn, many more such bailouts throughout the country might be on the way.

In February, seven months after Gov. Mike Dewine signed the $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout that mostly would subsidize two Northern Ohio nuclear plants, FirstEnergy might have gotten an even bigger break in U.S. bankruptcy court. That’s when Judge Alan M. Koschik signed off on a settlement that largely excused FirstEnergy from footing part of the bill to clean up the aging nuclear plants in Ohio and another in Pennsylvania that it had bequeathed to to its successor, now known as Energy Harbor, in the event that company goes belly up.

If the new company can’t make a go of it with the nuclear and coal plants that had been owned by FirstEnergy, taxpayers could well be on the hook for whatever part of the estimated $10 billion nuclear cleanup that Energy Harbor and a trust fund it’s required to maintain can’t.

Those are cleanups that, for financial reasons, will take 60 years — decades during which the crumbling cooling tower of the company’s Davis-Besse plant, for example, will loom over the Lake Erie shoreline in view of South Bass Island, one of Ohio’s premier tourist attractions.

Energy Harbor’s “financial future doesn’t look bright and when we say (FirstEnergy) needs to set aside money for (shutting down and cleaning up the plants), their response is going to be, ‘The bankruptcy court approved the reorganization, FirstEnergy isn’t on the hook anymore,’” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which is appealing the bankruptcy ruling to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. “This is a way that bankruptcy is increasingly being used by companies — to shed their environmental liability.”

And, Kearney said, companies across the country that own nuclear generators likely will try to use the bankruptcy to ease looming cleanup costs off of their books and onto the backs of taxpayers.

“Especially here in the Midwest we have a lot of nuclear power plants, a lot of them are coming to the end of their useful life, most of them are out of the money, so it doesn’t really make sense to invest in them because natural gas and renewable energy is less expensive and we’re going to have a real crisis when it comes to the decommissioning of power plants and the financial ability to pay for them,” she said.

A doozy of a scandal

The Ohio Capitol was rocked in July when the FBI arrested then-House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates in what U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said was “likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme ever in the state of Ohio.”

DeVillers alleged that $61 million flowed from FirstEnergy and related companies through 501(c)(4) dark money groups and into campaigns of House candidates who later elected Householder speaker, a perch from which he shepherded House Bill 6, the $1.3 billion bailout, to passage. (House Bill 6 was cosponsored by Hillsboro Republican State Rep. Shane Wilkin and Rep. Jamie Callender, a Lake County Republican.)

The money also funded a nasty, xenophic campaign to block a voter initiative to repeal HB 6, while Householder and his associates simultaneously lined their own pockets with some of the loot, DeVillers said.

It wasn’t the only such scandal to break in July. In Illinois, Commonwealth Edison and parent company Exelon admitted to an eight-year bribery scheme targeting people around Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who hasn’t been charged. One of the things the company received from the legislature during that period was a $2.35 billion bailout of two struggling nuclear power plants in that state.

In Ohio, nobody from FirstEnergy has been charged. But DeVillers in July said his investigation was far from over.
In September, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost named FirstEnergy and associated companies as defendants in a civil suit. Among other things, it demanded that bailout funds be blocked and that the companies that funded the HB 6 scheme either fire the officials involved or see the companies themselves dissolved.

Who was in charge?

The funds promised by HB 6 were far from the first ratepayer largesse enjoyed by companies related to FirstEnergy, whose name graces the stadium in which the Cleveland Browns play. Last year, Ohio Rep. Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, said the company’s Ohio nuclear plants had received $10.2 billion in state subsidies since 1999.

The attorney general’s lawsuit says that four years ago, what to do about the failing nuclear plants was at the heart of what he said was a corrupt scheme to obtain a bailout.

“In late 2016, FirstEnergy Corp. had a problem,” the suit says. “The nuclear power generation plants it owned through its subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. had turned from assets to liabilities.”

It also said that by spinning off the plants, passing the bailout and sending its former subsidiary through bankruptcy, FirstEnergy did lasting harm to the state. That’s because, the suit said, FirstEnergy had potentially shifted some of the burden to clean up the Perry and Davis-Besse reactors in Ohio from itself and onto the taxpayers.

“Ohio’s environmental future has been damaged, because the costs for the ultimate decommissioning of the nuclear plants are now secured by Energy Harbor, a company with far smaller capitalization than FirstEnergy Corp.,” the suit said. “To the extent that decommissioning and environmental repair costs exceed Energy Harbor’s ability to pay, those costs will be borne by Ohio through its ratepayers or taxpayers — a scenario that already played out once in the FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy plan that created Energy Harbor.”
Yet, FirstEnergy maintains that after 2016 its leaders had no control over the former subsidiary that owns nuclear as well as coal plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“FirstEnergy leadership has not had any decision-making power regarding the strategic direction of FES since November 2016, and FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor are now separate, unaffiliated companies,” FirstEnergy spokeswoman Jennifer Young said in September after the Ohio attorney general’s lawsuit was filed.

However, that claim seems hard to credit because FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones is also CEO of FirstEnergy Services.

Until June, First Energy Services provided the power plant-owning company that became Energy Harbor with many — if not all — of the services one would associate with running it. They include “administrative, management, financial, compliance, ethical, external affairs, and political and regulatory advocacy services. ”

For her part, Young said that the companies are independent because they have separate boards.

Long-term strategy

In late 2016, as FirstEnergy was spinning off the company that after bankruptcy became Energy Harbor, Jones announced a strategy of seeking a bailout for the spun-off company’s failing nuclear assets.

“We are advocating for Ohio’s support for its two nuclear plants, even though the likely outcome is that FirstEnergy won’t be the long-term owner of these assets,” Jones said.

In an affidavit supporting criminal charges against the former Ohio speaker and others, FBI Special Agent Blane Wetzel introduces the case for a criminal conspiracy by referring back to that time.

“In 2016, (FirstEnergy) Corp.’s nuclear generation future looked grim,” it said. “In its November 2016 annual report to shareholders, Ohio-based (FirstEnergy) Corp. and its affiliates reported a weak energy market, poor forecast demands, and hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, particularly from its nuclear energy affiliate…

“Given this backdrop, (FirstEnergy) announced future options for its generation portfolio as follows: ‘legislative and regulatory solutions for generation assets’; asset sales and plant deactivations; restructuring debt; and/or seeking protection under U.S. bankruptcy laws for its affiliates involved in nuclear generation.”

On March 31, 2018, Energy Harbor predecessor FirstEnergy Solutions exercised one of those options when it filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of Ohio.

Broad immunity

By the time FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy in February, it had a new name, Energy Harbor, and it had largely released its former parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., from any responsibility to clean up the nuclear plants it used to own.

“It makes it really difficult to get into the pockets of the parent if the subsidiary runs out of money,” Kearney, of the Environmental Law and Policy Center said of the settlement.

In fact, the release worked out between FirstEnergy, a primary creditor, and its former subsidiary was so broad that Judge Koschik disallowed part of it, saying it would make the overall settlement legally unconfirmable.

“The only (nuclear cleanup) ‘mechanism’ offered by (Energy Harbor) is its own assumption of these long-term environmental obligations and a promise that as a reorganized debtor with new capital structure facilitated by (FirstEnergy Corp.), it will stalwartly stand by and satisfy these claims if and when they arise,” Koschik wrote.

FirstEnergy and its former subsidiary modified the “third-party releases” and Koschik signed off on the overall settlement.

But he did so without allowing Kearney’s group to put on testimony from an expert witness, Peter Bradford, a former commissioner with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Bradford planned to testify that there were expenses far in excess of what the commission — which is responsible only for the cleanup of radioactive material — requires nuclear operators to pay into a trust fund, Kearney said.

Koschik’s refusal to hear from Bradford is a big part of why the Environmental Law and Policy Center and associated groups are appealing the bankruptcy settlement, although they also have briefed the appellate court on the federal criminal and state civil actions surrounding the HB 6 bailout scandal.
“We are asking to have our expert heard on the nuclear decommissioning issues,” Kearney said. “That doesn’t mean that the entirety of the bankruptcy proceeding will be reopened.”

Cleanup of the century

Asked last week about what it would cost to clean up its former nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, FirstEnergy’s Young said, “FirstEnergy’s liabilities related to nuclear decommissioning are hypothetical and comparable to any former owner of nuclear generating facilities. The bankruptcy did not change that. The other questions you asked about decommissioning would need to be directed to Energy Harbor since they are the current owners and operators of the plants and are primarily liable for decommissioning. As you’ll recall, Energy Harbor is a separate company now unaffiliated with FirstEnergy.”

Calls and emails to two Energy Harbor spokesmen were unanswered.

Young said that as of June, Energy Harbor’s nuclear decommissioning trust funds were worth about $2 billion.

The cleanup envisioned for Perry and Davis-Besse plants in Ohio and the two Beaver Valley units in Pennsylvania would extend for the better part of a century — from 2021 through 2083, according to 2018 studies performed for FirstEnergy as part of the bankruptcy. Kearney said the longevity of the process isn’t because the cleanup is so complex. It’s because the money in the trust fund isn’t enough to pay for it now, so it needs time to grow.

However, based on the estimates commissioned by FirstEnergy, it’s hard so see how $2 billion would be enough. They list four categories of costs associated with the cleanup:

• Decommissioning, including a 17% contingency;

• Hefty NRC license-termination fees (fees are a major source of the agency’s funding);

• Spent-fuel management; and

• Non-nuclear demolition.

Taken together, the combined estimated cost to shut down and clean up all the facilities is $9.6 billion in 2014 dollars. And not nearly all of the $2 billion in the trust fund will be allowed to grow until 2074 to meet it.

The total cost to clean up Beaver Valley Unit 2, for example, is estimated at just under $2 billion, or about 20% of the total.

The timeline in the estimate calls for about an eighth of that — $233 million — to be spent through 2026 preparing for a 48-year “dormancy” period. The estimate says that it will cost between $6 million and $7 million a year for the first 33 years and $3 million to $4 million a year for the next 15.

In other words, if Energy Harbor were to stop paying into the trust fund tomorrow, far less than $2 billion will be allowed to grow until the final cleanup starts in 2075.

The estimates were financed by an interested party, FirstEnergy. But even if they weren’t, Kearney stressed that they could be significantly off — especially since they’re drawn out over such a long period. She said, however, “That $2 billion represents about half of the (overall) estimated cleanup costs.”

The uncertainty over how much the nuclear cleanups will cost and whether Energy Harbor can pay for them makes it unjust that its bankruptcy let FirstEnergy off the hook — especially in light of the criminality alleged in Ohio’s other nuclear bailout, the state’s official consumer representative said.

“An inadequate funding of the future decommissioning costs for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants would also be of concern to Ohioans who, one way or another, may ultimately be asked to pay the tab for any shortfall in funding of these costs,” the Office of the Ohio Consumer Counsel said in a brief filed with the 6th Circuit. “Such a result would be objectionable for consumers.”

The OCC needn’t have limited his claims to the potential burden to Ohioans. As things stand now, if Energy Harbor can’t cover the cost of the cleanup, it will fall on all U.S. taxpayers.

Read the federal complaint

Marty Schladen has been a reporter for decades, working in Indiana, Texas and other places before returning to his native Ohio to work at The Columbus Dispatch in 2017. He’s won state and national journalism awards for investigations into utility regulation, public corruption, the environment, prescription drug spending and other matters.

October 20, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Many 1000s sick in USA, but government spending priority is $billions, $trillions – for nuclear missiles!

October 20, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA aiming to beat Russia, China etc, in marketing nuclear reactors to Poland

October 20, 2020 Posted by | EUROPE, marketing, USA | Leave a comment

Britain’s zero emissions policy will bring many 1000s of jobs, investing in green infrastructure

Times 19th Oct 2020, Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will create as many as 80,000 jobs and
help to achieve Boris Johnson’s national renewal mission, a report
published today says. Investment in green infrastructure and technologies
will prevent long-term scarring of the labour market in the wake of the
Covid-19 crisis, the report by the London School of Economics adds.
It calls on the prime minister to make good on his “levelling-up” promise
this summer to “build back better, build back greener, build back
faster” after GDP collapsed by a record 19.8 per cent as a result of a
national lockdown.
The report highlights six labour-intensive areas where
government investment would create the maximum number of jobs while also
helping to achieve the UK’s commitment of carbon neutrality, including
renewable energy infrastructure, electric vehicle production and home
energy efficiency retrofits. The UK was the world’s first major economy
to enshrine in law a commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

October 20, 2020 Posted by | employment, renewable, UK | Leave a comment