By John DeCock
Guest columnist
Updated: June 14, 2010 11:53 a.m.

According to current nuclear industry proposals, over two dozen new nuclear reactors would be constructed in the United States, the vast majority in the Southeast and Texas. President Obama recently offered $8.3 billion worth of taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to two of them in Georgia, which could be the first to be built in the U.S. in nearly four decades.

Wall Street isn’t interested in investing in these expensive and risky projects, so these guarantees promise that taxpayers will pay back the nuclear industry’s loans if the project fails.

In addition to the high cost and risks, new reactors create another problem, one that is rarely mentioned: they put enormous pressure on water resources. Nuclear reactors require huge amounts of cooling water to operate; without adequate water, they cannot produce electricity. (According to the industry’s Electric Power Research Institute, nuclear reactors can consume between 400 and 720 gallons per megawatt hour while coal consumes about 300 gallons and natural gas, less than 250 gallons.)

So, the U.S. is pinning its energy future on a power source that is the most vulnerable to weather extremes and that stresses the water resources on which we rely for healthy people and strong economies. As we all have seen in recent years, weather patterns can be wildly erratic, producing floods as well as droughts. 

Does anybody remember the drought that hit the Southeastern U.S. in 2007? During that summer and fall, one of the worst dry spells in over a century triggered water wars, forced power stations – including reactors – to reduce operations, and saw rivers and lakes reach their lowest levels in memory. Water had to be trucked into communities and rationing was widespread. In many areas, daily life was heavily disrupted.

Scientists say that warmer temperatures from climate change will mean a less dependable supply of water. This should be of special concern to residents of the southeastern United States, which is seeing its energy demand grow –  and its water resources become increasingly stressed. In the Southeast, electric power production accounts for nearly two-thirds of all freshwater withdrawals, or nearly 40 billion gallons daily. (That’s as much as all public-water supply customers use in the U.S. each day.)

During a 2006 heat wave, reactors in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Minnesota were either forced to cut output or shut down entirely because there was not enough cooling water.

During a 2003 heat wave in France, air temperatures at nuclear reactors came within two degrees of requiring an emergency shutdown. Employees were forced to use garden hoses to spray cold water on the exterior walls of the reactors to keep them from overheating. 

Concerns about adequate cooling water have been raised in the context of Exelon Corporation’s plans to build two reactors in Victoria County, Texas. Those reactors would use water from the Guadalupe River, which during a 2009 drought dropped so low it could no longer supply drinking water to the community. 

On March 25, Exelon withdrew its application for a construction and operating license for the site, and has applied for an “early site permit” that must examine the water issue.
The water supply question isn’t an arcane one to be thrashed out quietly among engineers working for utility companies. Taxpayers have a multi-billion-dollar stake in this question. They are guaranteeing the loans to build these reactors. If they aren’t economical and reliable, then the utility could default, leaving U.S. taxpayers to bail them out.

The Obama administration has proposed tripling loan guarantees for additional reactors. Some in Congress even support a “permanent financing platform” in the form of risky loan guarantees to underwrite all new reactors.

So, as investors in these projects, taxpayers have every right to ask: Will these multi-billion-dollar reactors be rendered useless each summer as rivers and lakes dry up and the region scrambles to meet basic water needs? Will this expensive and risky power source be able to help us curb our global warming pollution?

We need to make smart choices for our energy future – choices that are economical and protective of public health and natural resources. Nuclear power falls short in both categories.

 Decock is the president of Clean Water Action

Jonathan A. Scott
Director of Corporate Relations & Legacy Gifts
Clean Water Action


From the Hazleton Standard Speaker:

A coalition of environmental groups has appealed a New Jersey utility commission ruling in an effort to halt construction of a controversial, high-power electrical line that would run through this region.

The suit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court, alleges the state's Board of Public Utilities erred in April by approving Public Service Electric & Gas' application to construct its part of the $1.2 billion Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in April affirmed a ruling allowing Allentown-based PPL Electric Utilities to begin construction of its part of the Susquehanna-Roseland project, a 500-kilovolt line running 100 miles through parts of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties. PPL plans to use the line to deliver power from its nuclear plant near Berwick to other markets in the Mid-Atlantic.

The New Jersey appeal states that the utility board failed to consider the need for or alternatives to the power line, its potential environmental effects and costs to ratepayers.

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Nuclear power watchdog groups are calling for an across-the-board and transparent analysis of all critical actions which will be necessary to prevent damage to coastal reactors posed by the threat of contaminated water. In a letter to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, the watchdog groups ask for assurances that comprehensive guidance from federal agencies is being provided to reactor licensees. They are also calling for the constant monitoring of the oil plumes.

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From the San Luis Obispo:

It’s hard to miss Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant when passing it by air or sea. One immediately sees the hulking containment domes that house and protect the plant’s two nuclear reactors rising above the squat, brown generator building.

Attention is soon drawn to another sight — a massive plume of whitewater cascading from the plant’s cooling water system. When operating at full power, Diablo Canyon uses 2.5 billion gallons of seawater a day to condense steam after it has passed through the two electrical generators.

On May 4, the state Water Resources Control Board adopted a new policy that declared these once-through cooling systems used at Diablo Canyon and 18 other coastal power plants in California to be antiquated. The board gave the utilities that own those plants deadlines for installing less environmentally damaging cooling systems.

Once-through cooling damages the environment because it kills adult and larval fish. The flood of warmer discharge water also alters the marine ecosystem around the plant.

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This issue's contents:

  • Introduction
  • The Emergence and Development of Nuclear Medicine
  • Medical Radioisotopes & Applications
  • Reactor-based Radioisotopes Produced by Cyclotrons?
  • Recent Developments and Prospects in Radioisotopes Production
  • Discussion, Conclusions and Recommendations

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This issue's contents:

  • Argentina: Court Halts Open-Pit Uranium Mine
  • European Support for Nuclear Power As a Solution to Climate Change Plummets
  • Florida Levy Reactors: More Delays and Rising Costs
  • Consultation for a New Euratom Directive on Radioactive Waste
  • China: Us-India Deal Justification for Selling Reactors to Pakistan
  • Operations of Nuclear Giant Areva Put Lives at Risk in Niger
  • USA: Groups Urge Nrc to Suspend Nuclear Licensing Ap1000
  • Iter: Costs Overruns, Again
  • Eia Mochovce 3,4 Accepted – Gp Will Go to Court

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This issue's contents:

  • Chernobyl: Commemoration and Anti-Nuclear Struggle
  • Australia: Aboriginal Landowners Oppose Radwaste Storage
  • U.S.: National Grassroots Summit & Forum on Radwaste Policy
  • West Valley: Doe Delays 10 More Years on Reprocessing Waste Cleanup
  • Completion of Khmelnitska 3 & 4 Too Expensive Gamble
  • Belarusian Npp Plan Fails to Convince at Public Hearing in Kyiv

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Exelon Nuclear

For Immediate Release

Three Power Transformers Travelling to Peach Bottom Next Week,
Part of Exelon’s $87 Million Plan for Continued Electricity Reliability

Exelon representatives working closely with state, local officials to notify public, minimize
 traffic disruptions along nighttime route from Havre de Grace, Md. to Delta, Pa.



David Brown, Joseph Dominguez to take on expanded leadership roles in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – Exelon Corporation today announced several changes to its Washington, D.C., office, including the retirement of Elizabeth A. “Betsy” Moler.

Moler, currently Exelon executive vice president of government affairs and public policy, intends to retire from the company effective July 1, 2010. Moler has led Exelon’s Washington, D.C., office since January 2000. Prior to joining the company, she served as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy and the Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). She will remain an advisor to the company through the end of the year.

“I truly appreciate the decade of leadership Betsy has provided to Exelon. Her contributions, both to Exelon and the energy industry, have been invaluable. While it saddens me to see her leave, I understand how much she’s looking forward to this transition and the chance to spend more time with her family. I will miss Betsy as a colleague, and will always consider her a friend,” said Exelon chairman and CEO John W. Rowe.

Exelon also announced that David C. Brown has been promoted to senior vice president, federal government affairs and public policy, leading the company’s Washington, D.C., office. Brown has led Exelon’s federal legislative affairs in Washington since 2000. Prior to that, he served in a similar leadership capacity for PECO from 1990-2000, prior to the merger with Unicom that created Exelon. Upon Moler’s retirement, Brown will report to William A. Von Hoene, Jr., executive vice president of finance and legal.

In addition, Joseph Dominguez, currently senior vice president of communications and public affairs, will then become Exelon’s senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs, also reporting to Von Hoene. In Dominguez’s new capacity, he will lead Exelon’s federal regulatory affairs, communications and public policy, as well as Exelon Generation’s state regulatory affairs. Reporting to Dominguez will be Steve Naumann, vice president of wholesale market development and Karen Hill, vice president and director of federal regulatory affairs and policy. James Firth, senior vice president of communications, public policy and state government affairs, will continue to report to Dominguez. Dominguez will also continue in his role as general counsel of Exelon Generation, reporting in that capacity to Andrea Zopp, Exelon executive vice president and general counsel.

Exelon Corporation is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities with approximately $17 billion in annual revenues. The company has one of the industry’s largest portfolios of electricity generation capacity, with a nationwide reach and strong positions in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. Exelon distributes electricity to approximately 5.4 million customers in northern Illinois and southeastern Pennsylvania and natural gas to approximately 485,000 customers in the Philadelphia area. Exelon is headquartered in Chicago and trades on the NYSE under the ticker EXC.

Paul Elsberg
Exelon Corporate Communications


From the Rutland Herald:

One of Entergy's top-ranking officials who tried to salvage Vermont Yankee's reputation in the state after a series of environmental and public relations blunders has left the company.

Curt Hebert, executive vice president of external affairs for Entergy, stepped down recently from his position with Entergy Corp. in New Orleans. He was the public face of the company for nearly a decade.

The reasons for his departure – which came one day after the Vermont Public Service Board fined Entergy for making false statements under oath – were not known Tuesday. Entergy on Tuesday would only say that Hebert was no longer an employee.

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