Over Half of the Nation’s Nuclear Reactors Are Not Competitive: Public Citizen Study Opposes New NRC License Renewal Rule

Over Half of the Nation’s Nuclear Reactors Are Not Competitive: Public Citizen Study Opposes New NRC License Renewal Rule

Noon, April 26, 1995 James Riccio 202-546-4996 Julia Lyman 202-833-3000

Washington, D.C. – More than half of the nuclear reactors in the U.S. are not economically competitive with replacement power, reports a study released today by Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy Project. High operations and maintenance costs, along with serious unresolved safety problems, will likely force many reactors to close prior to the expiration of their current 40-year licenses. Despite this reality, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is preparing to allow reactors to operate for an additional 20 years. “The nuclear industry is facing a mid-life crisis and the NRC is attempting to give it a new lease on life,” said Jim Riccio, a Critical Mass staff attorney who wrote the report. Riccio criticized the NRC’s revised license renewal rule, which is scheduled for publication this week. “Nuclear reactors that can not compete with other sources of power should be shut down, not relicensed,” Riccio concluded. “The NRC’s second attempt at license renewal relaxes safety standards that were already woefully weak,” said Critical Mass Director Bill Magavern. “Once again, pressure from the failing nuclear industry has prompted the NRC to put utility profits ahead of safety,” Magavern asserted, noting that the agency revised its initial rule after nuclear utilities complained that they could not meet its standards. “Today is the ninth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which should remind us of the dangers of lax oversight of nuclear power,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Rather than extending the operating lives of unsafe, costly reactors, the NRC should develop objective criteria on which to base a decision to retire a reactor,” Claybrook concluded. Public Citizen also called on Shirley Jackson, the newly designated NRC chair, to review NRC’s relaxation of license renewal requirements prior to the rule’s implementation. A Roll of the Dice: NRC’s Efforts to Renew Nuclear Reactor Licenses, examines a number of issues that have led or may soon lead to the early retirement of U.S. nuclear power plants including: steam generator tube degradation, reactor pressure vessel embrittlement, reactor core shroud cracking, economic competitiveness and high level radioactive waste. These factors, along with political considerations regarding the public perception of nuclear power, have led to the early demise of several reactors and threaten the viability of several more nuclear power plants across the country. No commercial nuclear reactor has yet operated for 40 years. The oldest reactor, Big Rock Point in Michigan, is 32 years old and is already economically non-competitive with other sources of electricity. As of January 1994, more than half of the reactors operating in the U.S. failed to produce electricity more cheaply than other available sources. The following is a list of the 30 least competitive nuclear reactors in the United States. 1 South Texas-1 TX Houston Light & Power 1 South Texas-2 TX Houston Light & Power 3 Big Rock Point MI Consumers Power 4 Browns Ferry-2 AL Tennessee Valley Authority 4 Browns Ferry-3 AL Tennessee Valley Authority 6 River Bend LA Gulf States Utilities 7 Brunswick-1 NC Carolina Power & Light 7 Brunswick-2 NC Carolina Power & Light 9 Turkey Point-3 FL Florida Power & Light 9 Turkey Point-4 FL Florida Power & Light 11 Perry-1 OH Cleveland Electric Illuminating 12 Fort Calhoun-1 NE Omaha Public Power District 13 Clinton-1 IL Illinois Power Company 14 Indian Point-3 NY New York Power Authority 15 Beaver Valley-1 PA Duquesne Light Company 15 Beaver Valley-2 PA Duquesne Light Company 17 Oyster Creek-1 NJ GPU Nuclear Corporation 18 Davis-Besse-1 OH Toledo Edison Company 19 Sequoyah-1 TN Tennessee Valley Authority 19 Sequoyah-2 TN Tennessee Valley Authority 21 Millstone-1 CT Northeast Utilities 22 Millstone-2 CT Northeast Utilities 23 Cook-1 MI Indiana Michigan Power Company 23 Cook-2 MI Indiana Michigan Power Company 25 Duane Arnold IA Iowa Electric Light & Power 26 Haddam Neck CT Northeast Utilities 27 Fermi-2 MI Detroit Edison 28 Grand Gulf MS System Energy Resources 29 Cooper NE Nebraska Public Power District 30 Monticello MN Northern States Power Company In total, 57 nuclear reactors had operations & maintenance costs that were higher than the cost of replacement power. Public Citizen is a consumer advocacy organization founded by Ralph Nader in 1971. Critical Mass Energy Project is its energy policy arm. Copies of the report may be purchased for $40 by calling Public Citizen’s publications department at 202-833-3000.