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22 Environmental Groups Urge Energy Secretary Chu to Suspend Loan Guarantee Process for Areva EPR Reactors

Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition
Missourians for Safe Energy * Missouri Chapter, Sierra Club
Three Mile Island Alert * Taxpayers and Ratepayers United
Central New York-Citizens Awareness Network
NYPIRG * Syracuse Peace Council
Citizens Environmental Coalition * Peace Action of Central New York
Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes * Don’t Waste Michigan
Citizens Resistance at Fermi-Two

December 2, 2009

22 Environmental Groups Urge Energy Secretary Chu to Suspend Loan Guarantee Process for Areva EPR Reactors

Groups Cite Serious New Safety Concerns From European Regulators and Soaring Cost Estimates

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twenty-two environmental groups in regions potentially affected by proposed new Areva EPR reactors today urged Energy Secretary Steven Chu to suspend the loan guarantee process for EPR reactor designs.

The groups cited an unprecedented November 2, 2009 joint statement from nuclear regulators in France, Finland and the United Kingdom that identifies a significant and fundamental nuclear safety problem with the EPR’s instrumentation and control system. The problem has not yet been corrected and may lead to the design being unable to meet NRC licensing requirements.

The groups also pointed out the soaring cost estimates for construction of EPR reactors, noting that PPL has posted an estimate of $13-15 billion for a single reactor at Bell Bend, Pennsylvania, which works out to about $8,000-$9,000/kw—at least twice the cost of potential competing technologies. Such costs pose extraordinary risks to taxpayers if loan guarantees are granted. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that about half of new reactor projects using loan guarantees will fail.

No EPR reactors are operating anywhere in the world. The groups noted that the first EPR, being built by Areva in Finland, is currently 3 ½ years behind schedule and 75% over budget. Some 3,000 construction deficiencies have been identified at the Finnish site.

Given all of these factors, the groups wrote to Chu, “It would, at best, be grossly premature to provide a “conditional” loan guarantee to any project that currently presents extraordinary risks to taxpayers, that currently suffers from serious and identified safety deficiencies, that uses a design that may not be certified, and that may not be eligible to receive a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

At worst, risking taxpayer dollars on such projects at this time would be evidence of negligence given the preponderance of evidence that the EPR and the specific projects identified face substantial and perhaps insurmountable hurdles to licensing, construction, and operation.”

The full letter from the groups is here https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/eprchulttr.pdf

The statement from the European regulators is here: https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/epr_stuk_asn_ja_hse_englanniksi.pdf

EPR reactors have so far been proposed for Maryland (Calvert Cliffs-3), New York (Nine Mile Point-3), Pennsylvania (Bell Bend) and Missouri (Callaway-2). The Calvert Cliffs-3 reactor is reportedly on the Department of Energy’s “shortlist” to receive funding under its $18.5 billion loan guarantee program.

Separately, groups intervening in the NRC licensing process for Calvert Cliffs-3 yesterday filed a new contention based on the European regulators’ statement, seeking a full hearing on the issue. The four organizations (NIRS, Public Citizen, Beyond Nuclear and Southern Maryland CARES) also filed a new contention seeking a hearing based on new information on the risks of Calvert Cliffs’ proximity to a major Liquified Natural Gas facility. Hearings will be held, but have not yet been scheduled, on two contentions filed earlier by the groups: that the project is dominated by foreign corporations and the French government in violation of the clear language of the Atomic Energy Act, and that the utility has no viable plans for storage or disposal of the lethal Class B and C radioactive waste the reactor would produce.

The groups’ letter to Chu was also sent to officials in DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program and to the Congressional delegations of Maryland, Missouri, New York and Pennsylvania.