Following are my impressions of Krista Lopykinski, Sr. Manager, Midwest Communications for Exelon Corporation, from our two-hour face-to-face meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13 in Lake Bluff, to address my questions about The Zion Station (Ms. Lopykinsk initially contacted me to set up the appointment.).
Ms. Lopykinski is an attractive, pleasant, and charming young lady (She has three young children). In discussing The Zion Station, Krista was willing in theory to answer my questions, although she didn’t come prepared with the written detailed information requested of her in an e-mail prior to our meeting.
I expected Krista to be a high-powered corporate executive commensurate with her job. Krista, however, didn’t live up to my expectations in her Zion pitch to me. The facts related by Krista were not hammered home to me, but were spoken in a non-controversial tone, always with input back and forth between the both of us. Conversation remained polite, even when I countered Krista’s explanations. Krista listened. She didn’t attempt to rebut my thoughts. She was a polished PR person.
I don’t think I would be incorrect to speculate that my knowledge of The Zion Station was far superior to what Krista had imagined it would be. This might have accounted for Krista’s low-key approach in dealing with me. Krista certainly recognized my passion for Nuclear Energy, telling me that in all her conversations with business leaders, etc., I’m one of the few she has ever encountered who was fully supportive of Nuclear Energy.
Krista did inform tell me that she had already spoken to Rod Adams by phone, telling Rod that he could respond back to her if he had any further questions to address. Rod Adams is the publisher of the excellent Atomic Insights blog on which he has posted numerous accounts about The Zion Station. Rod, like me, believes that Zion was prematurely and unnecessarily shuttered in 1998, and that even now The Zion Station could be restarted.
After a cordial introduction, I handed Krista a copy of my registered, certified letter sent to CEO John Rowe on November 4th of 2010, indicating that John Rowe had never responded back to me. I suspect that Krista was well aware of these questions submitted over four months ago, but she came with no hard information in response.
Thereafter I handed Krista the e-mail I had sent her detailing the Zion information I was particularly interested in hearing about during the course of our meeting. Again Krista came with no hard Information in response, other than to say that if anyone had offered to buy Zion Exelon would have sold it to them, rather than transferring it to Energy Solutions for shutdown. Krista did confirm that Exelon never attempted to find a buyer for the plant, something she had also informed Rod Adams.
To make it easier to follow what Krista and I discussed — some Zion issues were brought up more than once — I thought it best to enumerate how Krista described Exelon’s decision to waste Zion and how I responded. At times I initiated the conversation by first addressing a question to Krista.
1. Kristin was asked when and if an analysis had been done by Exelon to evaluate why, if economics was the reason, The Zion Plant was shut down in 1998 and put into StoreSafe? Kristin responded how a financial analysis had been performed three times, in 1998, 2002, and 2006. According to Krista, the closing of Zion was a difficult decision for Exelon to make. In 1998 it was not economical to operate Zion because of the regulation of utilities. Further, at the time all Exelon plants needed upgrading (steam generators), and because Zion was performing below par, Zion required more upgrading than did other Exelon plants.
Regarding the analysis done by Exelon in 2002, Kristin claimed the economy was still not good enough to consider restarting Zion, even though I pointed out to Kristin that gas prices were higher to warrant the restart of the plant.
In regards to the 2006 analysis, Exelon supposedly determined that the cost to restart Zion would be $2 billion, just for capital equipment, and that the $2 billion needed to restart Zion was “too large an amount for Exelon to consider.” Krista didn’t say why, or give any details of the economic analysis that was done, nor did she indicate whether part of the reason Zion was kept shut was to intentionally keep electric supply limited and prices high for their other six nuclear units in the area, a question I had asked repeatedly of Krista by letter and e-mail.
I responded telling Krista how I thought $2 billion was a reasonable amount considering the cost (possibly $20 billion or more) to construct a new plant the size of Zion. I also explained to Krista how licenses are now being extended time and again without fail by the NRC, a procedure not done back in 1998. Even a 2006 restart of the Zion Station would have provided Exelon, with license extensions, ample time to have Zion become a profitable nuclear plant to operate. Upon inquiring whether the decommissioning fund could be used to restart Zion, a fund paid for by rate payers, Krista told me how the NRC requires that a decommissioning fund be established at the time a plant is built. Further, that the fund can only be used for the eventual decommissioning of the plant.
According to Krista, restarting Zion would have involved a big investment by Exelon Corporation. She also said a rate increase would have been necessary. To which I replied that rate payers in the past had already shelled out a handsome sum to build Zion, and for its decommissioning fund, and now all that money and energy is to be wasted! Krista made no comment on how the increase of Zion’s low-cost supply might bring down the market prices for consumers and save consumers much more that the $2 billion needed to restart The Zion Plant. Zion’s energy output would also result in an increase of emission-free electric output for the area and reduce the need for polluting coal or gas in our community, at only a fraction of the cost of solar or wind.
2. I pressed Krista a number of times about Exelon’s attempt to sell Zion to a responsible buyer. Krista responded that the $2 billion price tag to restart Zion, just for the capital equipment, would in her opinion (she provided no backup analysis of this opinion) be far too prohibitive for another entity to consider purchasing. Kristin speculated: ”Who would buy the plant to take on the $2 billion responsibility of the refurbishing, not knowing whether or not the plant’s licenses would be extended when the refurbishing was completed.” Krista further speculated that since it would take a number of years to complete the refurbishing, and then more years after the refurbishing for the license extensions to be approved and issued by the NRC, years would have been used up of the license extension period. My response to Krista once again emphasized the $2 billion price tag as a reasonable amount to refurbish the plant; the cost to build a comparable plant; how Nuclear Plants can run efficiently for 100 years if properly maintained; and how the land on which The Zion Station is built is fully surveyed and approved land, a difficult thing to do now days when court action can drag on for years.
Before we parted I asked Krista to inquire the following of Exelon officials and then get back to me with a response to this very important question which I had asked in my prior e-mail: “If a responsible buyer were found for The Zion Station, would Exelon object to its sale if Energy Solution agreed to the sale and the NRC approved the sale?” This was after Krista was unable to respond to the same question, informing me that my question was hypothetical in content. Krista did tell me, however, that any buyer would first have to approach Energy Solution before coming to Exelon Corporation and then ComEd.
Krista did volunteer that no one had ever approached Exelon asking to buy Zion Station (Most likely the reason Krista perceived my question as a hypothetical one), upon which I inquired, “Did Exelon ever try to market it? It was then Krista informed me of Energy Solutions’ approach to Exelon Corporation around 2007, asking to take Zion off Exelon’s hands for its decommissioning. Exelon agreed to the overture made by Energy Solutions, as its own timetable to decommission Zion was not scheduled to begin until around 2020. Krista could not inform me how long the decommissioning would have taken had Exelon, as the owner, assumed the responsibility. According to Krista, allowing Energy Solutions to do the decommissioning would permit The Zion Station area to be freed up so much sooner for the people of Zion.
3. I brought up a recent article relating how Germany is restarting its Nuclear Plants. Krista countered that The Zion Station is most likely different from the German Nuclear Plants because of the length of time it has been in SafeStore. Furthermore, Krista related how no Nuclear Plant has ever been reopened in the U.S. that has been placed in SafeStore. She gave no reason, however, why this wouldn’t be possible.
4. I asked Krista what SafeStore meant in relation to The Zion Plant? I informed Krista that according to information I have received, both plants have had engineers inside since 1998 making sure that all is maintained in accordance to standards specified by the NRC. According to Kristin, parts and pieces of equipment have been removed from Zion and sold to other utilities. Some pipes are missing. Other pipes have holes punched in them so they could be drained. Other pipes have been shut off. But despite all that was done and removed from Zion since it closure in1998, upon further questioning of Kristin, the cost to replace the equipment (refurbish) still remained fixed at $2 billion amount.
5. Krista informed me that uprates to its six operating Nuclear Plants are being done and how uprating is a more accurate system to generate additional nuclear capacity (Which I took to mean that it costs less money to make the uprates than it would to restart Zion.). 750 Megawatts have already been added. A future plan is in the works is to add an additional 650 megawatts, in varying amounts, across all six of Exelon’s operating Nuclear Plants here in Illinois.
6. I inquired about the nuclear waste that will still be stored at the site of The Zion Plant even after its decommissioning. Asked why the waste wasn’t reprocessed as in other countries? Krista was not knowledgeable on this issue. When I doubted whether the land would be immediately usable after the 10-year decommissioning project, I was informed that already there was interest in the land for use as an extended park area, a yacht club, and for apartments.
Krista was sent a follow-up email on Friday, January 14 requesting the economical evaluations done in 1998, 2002 and 2006 which relate to the decisions made by Exelon Corporation not to restart the plant. At the same time I asked Krista to humor me by inquiring of Exelon officials whether they would agree to sell Zion if a responsible buyer were found and if Zion Solutions and the NRC agreed to the sale.
Upon hearing back from Krista, the information will be passed along.
Nancy J. Thorner 331 E. Blodgett Ave., Lake Bluff, IL 60044 (847) 295-1035