Not A Good Week For Nuclear Power

The NRC has adopted a new model for looking at the seismic risk to nuclear power plants.  This along with new USGS seismic maps to be released next year could cause many nuclear power plants in the US to have to make significant upgrades or be shut down.  Currently the NRC is going to give reactor operators four years to re-evaluate seismic risk. The Union of Concerned Scientists called this a bureaucratic stall tactic. They also cited a large amount of existing evidence showing certain plants need seismic upgrades based on current standards. With the new seismic maps a year away and a four year window just for operators to decide what to do it could easily be a decade before anything is actually done. Meanwhile the public is put at more risk.

The large list of urgent safety upgrades cited by the NRC to be imposed on reactors in the US are already under an attempt to water them down and delay implementation. The NEI, the nuclear industry lobbyist group is asking for implementation of safety measures to be delayed and reviewed vs. cost to implement. In short, they want public safety to only be implemented if it fits with their desired profit margin. Some of the new safety requirements the NRC is proposing are critical to public safety and address significant risks. Two rather critical NRC requirements would be to prove or replace reactor venting systems. The other being to establish back up power and alternative water injection systems for spent fuel pools. Both of these issues were major contributing factors in the accidents at Fukushima.

The UK may not need nuclear power either. A recent scandal involved reports created by various government agencies for Parliament that grossly overstated future power demands and agencies took a desired build of 10 new nuclear reactors and then created information to support that number rather than looking at actual need and demand. There are substantial accusations of manipulation and wrongdoing going around. This familiar situation has played out in Japan where power companies and government agencies overstated demand to make nuclear power look more needed than it actually is. Reality has caused Japan to realized they don’t actually need their nuclear fleet as threatened blackouts did not happen. The US is quickly seeing the same shell game going on here where cherry picked information is used to scare the public into thinking we are dependent on the aging nuclear fleet. The common tactic is to claim 20% of US power is nuclear when the details point out that isn’t quite true. 18-20% is frequently how much is generated from nuclear due to decisions by power utilities but nuclear is only 9% of the US current power generation capacity and renewables now exceed nuclear in available capacity.

France has found themselves at a dead end in their power policy. France has not looked at future solutions to their power needs and have now found themselves in a situation where the cost of new nuclear reactors is un-affordable based on construction costs and the massive cost to decommission old reactors. Virtually no other power generation source has been funded so turning to new options would be a large project. This leaves France looking at costly upgrades to their aging fleet not just to combat aging but to install new safety needed post Fukushima. France feels it has no option but to continue to run their old reactors due to cost factors.

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