Responding to your editorial of Monday, August 21:   Proposing wind while Zion languishes!

I was shocked twice Monday morning, August 21, with news related to energy sources that should be disturbing to all Lake County News-Sun readers

My first encounter was when reading the “Our Turn” editorial in the Lake County News-Sun, Future Energy, which expresses a desire to see wind power expanded in Lake County.

Without laws forcing utilities to use “renewable energy” and other subsidies, wind turbine and solar plants would be found mostly in amusement parks.

Forgotten by many proponents of wind power is that they require some kind of back-up — usually gas turbines with very high fuel costs.  European studies have also shown that when about 5-10 percent of grid electricity is generated by wind, the grid becomes unmanageable because of constant fluctuations.

Moreover, the peak electricity usage in most of the U.S. is on summer afternoon, the very time that wind is at its minimum.  The highest winds come on winter nights, the very time when there is an excess of inexpensive base load power being produced.

My second morning encounter on August 21 was even more disconcerting.  A Crain’s Chicago Business report titled, Exelon spending $4.6B to overhaul plants, related that “the Zion station decommission was to begin next month and is projected to cost $1 billion and take 10 years to complete.

After spending so much time and effort in advocating for the reopening of the Zion Facility, has all my hard work been in vain?

Exelon, in its lengthy and widely distributed memo, suggested that the $4.6B plan to overhaul plants would be its “economic stimulus program for Illinois.”

How does shutting down the Zion Facility for which Illinoisans paid billions for in order to waste the Facitliy, thereby withholding supply from the market so electric Market Clearing prices might be kept higher for its other generation units and consumer prices high, benefit anyone but Exelon Corporation?  It appears evident that Exelon is attempting to cloak the fact in its elaborate and carefully-crafted “Economic Stimulus” Epistle of a press release.

There is no better alternative for electrical-power generation than nuclear energy.   It provides the safest, cleanest, and the most inexpensive and potentially most plentiful and useful energy in human history.

The Lake County News-Sun, with its proximity to the Dual Zion Nuclear Plant, should have been editorializing for years in favor of reopening the Zion Nuclear Facility since its unnecessary and premature shuttering in 1998.   Now to be advocating for wind power strikes me as a rather bewildering and unwise position to be taken at the News-Sun.

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This is my seventh letter to Springfield legislators on the Energy and Environmental Committees in the Senate and the House, Republican and Democrat, sent on August 27, 2010

Prelude to my letter:

Legislators have washed their hands of Zion and the possible criminal activity Exelon has committed in dealing with its Zion Dual Nuclear Plant.

Is Exelon Corporation too big to touch?  I suppose it is.   Exelon is politically connected with the Daley administration and with those in the White House.   Neither legislators or newspapers were “man” enough to stand up to CEO John Rowe to question his motives.

Where are today’s investigative reporters?   I suppose they are a dying breed.  Perhaps there is not much need for them in this politically correct world where one must accept and not question that which is presented as news.

It’s so sad that newspapers are only too willing to report the pabulum given to them without trying to seek the truth.

No wonder many newspapers are going under.    They are not to be trusted!

Zion will be wasted and so will its massive 2,1o0 Megawatts of power, all because of Exelon’s greed over the all-mighty dollar!

Dear Legislator,

I do apologize for sending out yet another email so soon after my email of yesterday.

Below is an insightful article written by Rod Adams at his http://www.atomicinsights.com blog.  It is a must read if you are even slightly interested in knowing more about the decision by Exelon to decommission Zion.  http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/08/from-utah-perspective-destroying-
zion.html

I would implore you to read the other articles posted by Rod Adams over the past few years about the Dual Zion Nuclear Plant, if you find yourself even slightly curious about why the massive power of Zion is to be wasted.

Rod Adams postings are filled with eye-opening facts about the history of Zion, with many questions asked why the Zion Facility was targeted and treated in ways not experienced by the other Illinois Nuclear Plants owned by Exelon.

Yesterday (Wednesday, August 25) Rod Adams posted an excellent article about the Zion decommissioning, with  good  links to
all his prior articles on the subject of Zion.  It is featured below.

I would hope that at least a few of you would be bold enough to do some investigative work of Exelon Corporation to try to get some answers.  Exelon’s actions so far regarding Zion have been cloaked in secrecy.  I would think that transparency would be required of corporations, especially private ones like Exelon Corporation who affect lives of countless numbers of Illinoisans through their electric rate charges.

The area now occupied by the dual Zion Nuclear Plant, despite what Exelon has said, will never function as a green playground on which residents can frolic and play!

On the Atomic Insights Blog, Rod Adams discusses energy supplies, energy technology, and energy politics from an atomic point of view. This blog is closely associated with Atomic Insights at http://www.atomicinsights.com.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

From the Utah Perspective, Destroying the Zion Nuclear Station is a Big Business Win

by Rod Adams

Satellite View of Zion Nuclear Power Station

There were two contrasting announcements of decisions on the fate of silent, but potentially productive nuclear power stations in the past week. On the positive side, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors included $248 million for engineering, evaluation, maintenance, preservation, establishing a regulatory framework, and long lead time procurement of items needed to finally complete Bellefonte Unit 1 in its budget for fiscal year 2011, which begins on October 1, 2010. That unit was started in 1974 and had reached about 85% completion when its construction was suspended in 1988.

In contrast, Exelon and EnergySolutions announced that their long pending decision to transfer custody of Zion units 1 and 2 would take effect on September 1, 2010. That transfer is being made to enable EnergySolutions to dismantle the plants, a process that will involve approximately 200 workers at the site for a period of 10 years. The custody transfer allows a more cost-effective distribution of the risk associated with low-level waste disposal that will be a major part of the project costs. The project costs will be paid out of the $900 million decommissioning fund that has accumulated from funds set aside by adding a small fee to the price of the electricity produced during the 25 or so years that the nuclear power plants were owned and operated by Commonwealth Edison as a rate-regulated monopoly utility company.

(Aside: There is a difference between the project cost in the press release of $1 billion and the $900 million that is currently in the decommissioning fund. The press release number takes into account the effect of investment returns and inflation over the ten-year life of the project. As I learned in my most recent assignment, one of the important questions associated with any budget number is “what year dollars are you using?” A budget projected in “then year” dollars always has larger numbers than one that is projected using this year’s dollars and taking out the inflation escalation computed for future years. End Aside.)

The announcement of the date for starting the Zion dismantling project was the headline story in a press release discussing a number of capital investment projects. As Michael Pacilio, Exelon’s chief nuclear officer and president, described the package of projects, “This is our own economic stimulus program for Illinois”.

Here is a video clip from a Utah television station that provides a glimpse of the story from the point of view of the Utah company that will be running the project and storing the low level waste from the construction demolition.

The project is being marketed to people in Illinois as a beneficial effort to clean up a site that is currently hosting an unused industrial facility. The implied promise is that completing the project will allow the lakefront site to be returned to more productive uses. As the above video clip shows, and as experience in several communities around the countries with “orphan” nuclear fuel dry storage areas reinforces, that result is not yet certain. Under the current US used fuel storage model, the Zion nuclear plant site would be turned into a “greenfield” surrounded by an imposing fence and heavily armed guards protecting a small, isolated pad holding a few dozen dry storage casks. The only jobs involved will be security guards and there will be no output of beneficial products.

A few weeks ago, while at the ANS Utility Working Conference, I spoke to a man who was one of the operators at the Zion nuclear plant up until the very last day that it operated. He told me that the plant’s physical condition was far better than that of the plant that he went to after he reluctantly moved from the Zion area. He mentioned that there had been some conflicts between his union and the plant management, which might have helped the company to decide that it was not worth the effort to go through the necessary steam generator replacement.

In 1998, when Zion was “permanently” shut down, no nuclear plants had received operating license extensions, few had successfully replaced steam generators, and natural gas cost less than $2 per million BTU with projections from the gas industry and the Energy Information Agency of low prices for the foreseeable future. Here is a quote from a document titled NRC: Zion Nuclear Power Stations 1 & 2

On January 14,1998, the Unicom Corporation and ComEd Boards of Directors authorized the permanent cessation of operations at ZNPS for economic reasons. The cost and time it would take to repair the steam generators combined with the cost of electricity in a deregulated environment in Illinois made continuing operation of ZNPS uneconomical.

Why is Exelon committed to dismantling a facility that has numerous characteristics in common with Browns Ferry unit 1, which was recently restored to operating condition and Bellefonte unit 1, which is planned for completion? Isn’t there a market in the United States for emission-free power generation? Wouldn’t it be better for the Illinois economy if the local company that owned the plant decided to restore it to operation so it could generate low marginal cost electrical power, jobs, income and taxes instead of turning it over to a company from Utah to dismantle it and potentially leave behind a still unusable site?

It is too bad that there are no companies in the world with the equipment that would be required to relocate the plant to a place where the operators would put it to use.

Previous Coverage on Atomic Insights

June 14, 2010 – Public Versus Private Power – It’s Time to Reopen the Discussion

March 22, 2009 – Chicago Buys Meaningless Carbon Credits – Refurbishing Zion Would be a Better Investment With Real Climate Payoffs

March 14, 2009 – Discussing Zion Versus Wind Turbines

February 5, 2009 – Unfriending Exelon

January 24, 2009 – Exelon’s Strategy is Working for Stockholders but not Always for Customers

December 5, 2008 – More Questioning About the Zion Reactors

June 5, 2008 – Could Zion be the Next Browns Ferry


My sixth letter to Springfield legislators on the Energy and Environmental Committees in both the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat, on August 26.
Dear Legislator:
On Monday, August 23, it was disconcerting to read of Exelon’s “massive spending program” in Crain’s Chicago Business,  which included the decommissioning of the Dual Zion Nuclear Station in Lake County.

I have been imploring you for months to get involved in saving Zion as a legislator who deals with Energy issues, but there has been mostly silence at your end.  This has been perplexing to me as future energy needs here in Illinois are not going to be solved through wind and solar power.  The Zion Nuclear Plant is fully paid for, standing on land which was deemed suitable after much study prior to its construction.

Just in case you haven’t read reports about Exelon’s Monday morning news release.  The following account is for your information:

“Starting with Zion Station Decommissioning, Exelon to make 5-year, 4.6 Billion Investment in Illinois”
http://www.thestreet.com/story/10842100/1/starting-with-zion-station-decommissioning-exelon-to-make-5-year-46-billion-investment-in-illinois.html

Insight into how I feel about the decommissioning of Zion by Exelon Corporation can be found via this posting I made to a report at  Crain’s Chicago Business, Exelon spending $4.6B to overhaul plants, in which I state what the Press Release from Exelon should have more accurately stated.
http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20100823/NEWS11/100829972/exelon-spending-4-6b-to-overhaul

Title:
Exelon Shamefully Misleads the Public

Subject: “Exelon Insists On Shutting down Power Plant For Which Illinoisans Have Paid Billions in Order to Waste the Facility and to Withhold Supply From the Market so Electric Market Clearing Prices Might be Kept Higher for its Other Generation Units and consumer prices high.  Exelon is now Attempting to Cloak that Fact in this Elaborate and Carefully-Crafted ‘Economic Stimulus’ Epistle of a Press Release.”

My antennae tells me that whenever a utility goes to such elaborate lengths to dress
something up as “virtuous,” you can be sure that they are trying to distract the public
from something sinister.

Interestingly, they don’t quote the former Exelon insider who revealed to
Rod Adams that the reason the Zion plant has not been restarted is because
the additional supply would reduce wholesale market prices and prices for
consumers.

From Rod Adams blog:  ‘My sources tell me that the issue is not
technical, but financial. The financial issue is not whether or not the
project cost is too much for the amount of capacity that can be delivered,
but the effect that the additional capacity will have on the market price
for electricity in the service territory.'” Whole article can be read at:
http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/06/public-versus-private-power-it-is
-time.html )

Below is the letter I submitted to the Tribune’s “Voice of the People.”  I’ve also submitted letters to all Chicagoland newspapers to get the word out about the injustice done by Exelon Corporation in its zest to decommission Zion which was fully paid for by electric rate payers.

Zion must be revisited

With extreme sadness I read the Tribune’s account by Lisa Black and Julie Wernau titled:  Exelon handing off closed nuclear plant in Zion

After devoting so much of my life in the past two years in advocating for the reopening of the Zion Nuclear Facility, has all my time and effort been in vain?

There is no better alternative for electrical-power generation than Nuclear energy.  It provides the safest, cleanest, and the most inexpensive and potentially most plentiful and useful energy in human history.

How does shutting down the Zion Facility for which Illinoisans paid billions for in order to waste the Facility, thereby withholding supply from the market so electric Market Clearing prices might be kept higher for its other generation units and consumer prices high, benefit anyone but Exelon Corporation?

The Chicago Tribune article attempts to imply that what Exelon is doing should be considered virtuous by Zion residents.  My antennae tells me that whenever a utility goes to such great lengths to dress something up as virtuous, you can be sure it is trying to distract the public from something more sinister it wishes to hide.

The Dual Zion Nuclear Facility is capable of producing 2,100 Megawatts of power.  The decommissioning of the Zion Nuclear Plant will forever remove its massive 2,100 Megawatts of power from the Midwest Electrical Grid.  Is this a wise move by Exelon Corporation when electricity prices continue to soar?

It is but a pipe dream to believe that Illinois can meet future energy needs through investing in wind and solar power.  The only viable form of clean energy is Nuclear.
End of letter.

There is still time to get involved as the nail in the proposed Zion coffin still needs to be fully fastened.  Energy is your forte, yet you seem indifferent to getting  involved with a questionable decision that will not benefit Illinois in the way claimed by Exelon.

It isn’t over until the Fat Lady Sings!

Respectively yours,
Nancy J. Thorner
331 E. Blodgett Ave.
Lake Bluff, IL   60044
(847) 295-1035

.



This is my fifth letter written to Springfield legislators on the Energy and Environmental Committees in the House and Senate, Republican and Democrat, on August 24, 2010.

Dear Legislator:

This is another e-mail in a continuing series to have those entrusted with addressing Energy and Environment issues for the citizens of Illinois in the Illinois General Assembly to show some interest in the Zion Dual Nuclear Plant that Exelon mothballed back in 1998 supposedly for economic reasons.

It is now or never to take some action to delay the decommissioning of the Zion Nuclear Plant which would forever remove its massive 2,100 megawatts of power from the electrical grid.

In prior letters it was explained how solar and wind are just the “flavors of the day.”  It is folly to believe that these forms of energy are going to meet the future energy needs of Illinois.  As explained in a previous email, solar and wind are just flavors of the day.  Both would not exist if not for huge state and federal subsidies.

Recently I shared an excellent article about Nuclear Energy, which I will include later on in my e-mail, with Jay Lehr, Ph.D., Science Director at The Heartland Institute and David Hollein of Barrington Hills, who as Project Engineer when he worked for Westinghouse, had charge of all Nuclear Plants constructed in Illinois.  Mr. Hollein is especially knowledgeable about the Zion Plant and has offered to speak with legislators, but his expertise has not yet been requested.  David Hollein can be contacted at Oakwoodent@yahoo.com
Home phone:  847-382-6538    Cell:  847-354-5174

The article, Clean Energy:  The Nuclear Solution, was rated fabulous by Jay Lehr and excellent by David Hollein. The article definitely relates to the two prematurely closed Zion Electrical Generating Plants.

When a month or so ago another one of my e-mails informed you of an inside Exelon “whistle blower” who said that the two Zion Nuclear Reactors were purposely shuttered to keep the price of electricity high, I was sure that at least a few of you would be interested in getting to the bottom of the accusation.  Instead, all was silent at your end.  One of you even suggested that Exelon as a private entity could do what it wanted to do.  There is, however, much to question about Exelon Corporation, given its close ties to both the state and federal governments.

The two Zion Nuclear Reactors did for many years and would again, feed the Midwest Electrical Grid which is connected to all the nation’s Electrical Grids.

Replacement Steam Generators were once ordered and on site, but never used, and were removed inside of being use, now Exelon says replacement Steam Generators are too expensive.

The two Zion Nuclear Reactors just sit, awaiting their demolishing and removal, while electricity prices continue to soar.   ComEd raised electricity rate here in Illinois by 17% this summer!

An an elected politician whose responsibility is dealing with energy issues, what is your next step?

As a tax-paying citizen, I’m certainly not getting any bang for my buck!

I hope you take the time to read carefully the Nuclear Energy article which follows and decide to follow through with some positive action.

Clean Energy: The Nuclear Solution | Print | E-mail
Written by Rebecca Terrell
Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:15
NUlcear PowerInterview of Art Crino by Rebecca Terrell

Controversy over rising demands for “clean energy” and costs associated with it has made finding “alternative energy sources” a priority on Capitol Hill. The New American sat down with an expert in power-generation technology to discuss why nuclear is the safest, most efficient answer to the so-called “energy crisis.”

Art Crino, P.E., is a retired licensed electrical engineer. He began his career in design and construction of gas-fired steam electric and large hydro stations. He later managed factories that produced switching equipment for the electrical utility industry. Crino has authored many papers on power-generation issues. He lives in Tigard, Oregon.

The New American: Thank you for taking time to discuss energy sources. There is much controversy over electrical generation, largely due to negative publicity from the environmentalist lobby. Is there really a problem, and if so, what do you see as the solution?

Art CrinoArt Crino: First, it needs to be made clear that CO2 is not a pollutant. It has a minuscule effect on Earth’s temperature, and vegetation of all kinds depends on it. The more the better. Records from 30 of the world’s most advanced economies show a positive correlation between CO2 emissions and increases in national income. There’s a similar correlation between per-person energy consumption and national income. Of course, CO2 isn’t the direct cause; the market economy causes the increase in energy use and emissions. But wealthier economies emit less per unit of production than developing nations, which translates to a cleaner environment and an economy prepared to control pollution.

But there is a better alternative for electrical-power generation. The single greatest technological advance in recorded history was when we learned to make heat and electricity by converting mass to energy in nuclear reactors. This advance provided the safest, cleanest, and, except for hydropower, the most inexpensive and potentially most plentiful and useful energy in human history.

But the environmentalist lobby doesn’t like nuclear any more than it does coal-fired generation, mainly because it works! The alternatives they give are non-solutions. Take wind turbines that require some kind of back-up — usually gas turbines with very high fuel costs. European studies show that when about 5-10 percent of grid electricity is generated by wind, the grid becomes unmanageable because of constant fluctuations. Fluctuations are a part of balancing the grid, but most can be anticipated. Not so with wind.

Moreover, the peak electricity usage in most of the United States is on summer afternoons, the very time that wind is at its minimum. The highest winds come on winter nights, the very time when there is an excess of inexpensive base load power being produced. Without laws forcing utilities to use “renewable energy” and without “production tax credits” and other subsidies, wind turbines would be found mostly at amusement parks.

Ocean wave and solar technologies are equally incapable of providing a consistent source of affordable, reliable electrical energy and, like wind, have a following only because of the hefty government subsidies available. Without government handouts, they would quickly die out.

TNA: Are the gas turbines used as back-up for wind generation also subsidized?

Crino:
Government subsidies caused the frenzy over natural gas in the 1990s. It was an open secret that private firms could obtain a fixed-price gas source for five years, a contract with the local power company for five years, and end up with the plant “written off.” The fully depreciated generating station is only five years old. All that construction was in part responsible for a significant increase in the price of natural gas. Now, many industries dependent on natural gas, such as fertilizer and plastic manufacturing, have moved to Mexico or Saudi Arabia where gas is cheaper.

TNA: Are there other “alternatives” aside from those you’ve discussed?

Crino:
Of course, there is hydro power, which provides approximately 10 percent of United States electricity and at very low cost. But, there are no prospects for additional hydro sites and there are those actively working to reduce the existing installations.

TNA:
If nuclear is the best solution, why is it not pursued in the United States? Aren’t other countries using it to their own advantage?

Crino: Nuclear technology was developed in the United States, but after many dec-ades it only provides 20 percent of U.S. electricity, while coal provides nearly 50 percent. The nuclear number would be much larger except for the hysteria over Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

There are 104 operating commercial nuclear reactors in the United States, producing electricity 90 percent of the time. There are more than 440 commercial reactor plants, spread out over 31 countries, that supply 16 percent of the world’s electricity. France generates approximately 80 percent of its electricity by nuclear.

In 2006, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was hailed as the “Green Chancellor” for promising to rid her country of coal and nuclear power. Now she is actively supporting construction of 26 new coal-fired plants, as well as keeping nuclear plants operating. Italy has reversed its decade-long “no nuclear power” policy.

Worldwide there are 47 nuclear plants under construction plus 133 more planned for the next decade, for a total of 180. China has 14 reactors in process and has plans for 86 by 2020. Though nuclear generation of electricity was developed in the United States, plans are more modest.

TNA: Why the difference?

Crino:
One explanation could be that most leaders in China are scientists, whereas the United States is led by lawyers. It’s all political. You hear, “If you elect me, I’m going to see to it we have more jobs.” If we let the rest of the world embrace nuclear power, the United States is going to be handicapped. How are you going to create new jobs when you’re letting other countries outstrip you in power generation? Electricity is crucial for advancing civilization. The Energy Information Agency projects that by 2030 the U.S. electrical demands will increase by approximately 45 percent.

TNA:
Let’s talk about objections to nuclear. There are those who point out the history of cost overruns in construction of nuclear power plants. What do you say to that?

Crino:
When the industry was new, cost overruns were common because there was no such thing as a standard reactor. Now reactors and reactor sites are pre-approved, which makes cost overruns a thing of the past. A selected location is approved with an Early Site Permit (ESP) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and then the utility ordering the reactor selects a pre-certified design. The only thing left is the Combined Construction and Operating License, known as the COL. It’s true all this bureaucratic red tape makes the process take longer here than in China or Japan, where construction is usually completed in fewer than five years. But it is a more efficient process than the past. Finance charges should also be reasonable under this NRC pre-approval program.

TNA:
What about environmentalist lawsuits?

Crino:
Well, we’re going to have those, but the approval process makes those more spurious.

TNA: There’s also the “NIMBY Syndrome” (Not-In-My-Backyard). Could that stand in the way?

Crino: During the site approval process, delays by public action do not become very costly because the reactor can be ordered after site approval. The enviable performance record, low operating costs of the existing reactors, and recognition of the carbon-free character have had a positive public impact for nuclear. Remember, we already have 104 reactors running in this country with no fatalities and no injuries over many thousands of reactor-years.

The ironic thing is a coal plant can’t possibly meet the requirements for radiation of a nuclear plant because they’re much bigger emitters. The heavy metals of poisonous by-products don’t have a half-life, so they’ll stay around forever. But I don’t like to harp on that point because radioactive emissions from either coal or nuclear plants are nothing to worry about. People only worry because of lies from the environmentalist movement.

TNA:
What about spent-fuel -problems?

Crino:
This objection is entirely political. Russia, France, Japan, India, and Great Britain have been reprocessing their fuel since the late 1960s. There is a great economic incentive because there is more usable energy in the spent fuel than consumed while in service. Reprocessing depends on the availability of new uranium sources. For example, Canada does not reprocess because they have an abundant supply. But reprocessing reduces the volume of waste by about 80 percent.

Our politicians ignore this fact. In 1972, escalating regulations shut down the West Valley, New York, reprocessing center. President Jimmy Carter dismantled the center in Barnwell, South Carolina, in 1977. President George W. Bush later authorized another center in the same state, but President Obama closed it on June 9, 2009.

TNA:
Others say there is not enough available nuclear fuel.

Crino:
Current reserves are sufficient for 90 years, but this number is expected to increase for quite a few reasons. Reactor designs continually demonstrate improved efficiency. All light-water reactors now have uranium enrichment in the 3 to 4.5 percent range and are non-explosive, as weapons-grade uranium must be enriched to at least 90 percent U235.

France has developed a process to dilute the 90+ percent uranium bombs from Russia with uranium tailings to form 3-percent fuel for reactors — also non-explosive. Half of the fuel used in the U.S. nuclear stations is from France. The Russians have copied the process for their electric generating stations.

Ultimately breeder reactors could be employed with numerous economic advantages. The most important advantage is they multiply the existing fuel supply by a factor of at least 50 to 75 times. Few people realize that 25 to 40 percent of our power from nuclear plants comes from plutonium that is formed in the reactor during operation — and is completely free!

TNA: How do you overcome all the negative publicity so the public will embrace nuclear?

Crino: I just talk about economics now, because everybody believes the lies Al Gore has told about science. (Actually, Gore tends to ignore nuclear power instead of fighting it, which is a compliment to nuclear power.)

Let me tell you about some success we’ve enjoyed recently with the Oregon state legislature. The 2009 Oregon legislature introduced Senate Bill 80 with great fanfare. It was Oregon’s version of  “cap and trade” and was to be Oregon Governor Kulongoski’s legacy as he approached the end of his second and final term. I met with SB 80 joint committee members to warn them of the economic effects of reducing energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. They each got a copy of the 2008 Cascade Policy Institute paper Oregon Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies: The Economic and Fiscal Impact Challenges. I emphasized three points during our meeting. First, a one-percent increase in energy use is associated with a one-percent increase in national income. Second, a one-percent increase in CO2 emissions is associated with a 0.71-percent increase in national income. Lastly, since SB 80 called for a 10-percent reduction in CO2 emissions below 1990 levels by 2020, passing the bill would mean an approximate 11-percent decrease in income for the state. That was the end of SB 80! I think we can have the same type of success educating legislators about the advantages of nuclear power.

TNA: What’s a realistic expectation for sources of power generation in the near future?

Crino:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received applications for up to 28 new reactors at 18 locations. But the primary sources of U.S. electrical energy in the near future will likely be gas-fired turbines, large nuclear plants, and large coal plants.

Meanwhile, the government will continue to waste taxpayers’ money on wind, solar, and other so-called renewables. Various states have enacted “renewable portfolio standards” (RPS), setting up quotas of renewable energy that utilities have to include among their sources of power generation. If renewables were so great, utilities would adopt them voluntarily to help lower their costs. RPSs are sure to keep energy prices inflated and production inefficient.


This letter was sent to Springfield legislators who serve of the House and Senate Committees, Republican and Democrat, on August 10, 2010.

Dear Legislator,

As one who deals with energy issues in the Illinois Senate, you have been advised from time-to-time over the summer months about the fate Exelon has in mind for its Zion Dual Nuclear Plant with a capability of producing 2,100 megawatts of emission-free power generation. Concurrently Exelon is dabbling with solar energy, not because it is cost effective to do so, but because the corporation was given millions of dollars from the federal government to invest in the Pullman Solar Project..

Recently Commonwealth, who partners with Exelon to deliver power, raised electric rates as of July 1st by 17%. Are you not curious as to why electric rates are going up for Illinois rate payers?

Below is another fine article by Jay Lehr, Ph.D. (jlehr@heartland.org), science director of The Heartland Institute.

Here is the link to Dr. Lehr’s article published in this month’s Environmental & Climate News of the Heartland Institute:

“Nation’s Energy Choice: Nuclear Prosperity or Renewable Decline” by Jay Lehr, Ph.D.
http://www.heartland.org/environmentandclimate-news.org/article/28014/Nations_Energy_Choice_Nuclear_Prosperity_or_Renewable_Decline.html

Some additional facts for your consideration:

~Exelon itself reportedly estimated that it would cost $1.5 to $2.0 billion in total to restart both generation units in 2007 in a Crain’s Chicago Business news article. A new facility equal to the dual Zion Plant would cost at least $14 billion to construct. Without a doubt it would be much cheaper to restart Zion than to build a new nuclear facility, which is exactly why Zion shouldn’t be wasted

~It might take some time to meet the new license requirements, but it is not impossible and certainly much easier than getting a license for a new site.where environmentalists can tie up the court system for years.

~Illinois has a law requiring 25% renewable, but this should not be grounds for wasting potentially the cheapest and cleanest unused power source in the state. Nuclear might well be included in the “renewables” definition, as it is as environmentally clean and (in the case of Zion) immensely cheaper for consumers than the feel-good, but inefficient and expensive and incredibly land-intensive solar and wind sources.

~Wind and solar are more labor intensive than nuclear, which makes them more inefficient and expensive than nuclear and immensely less reliable. Why don’t we just pay people to dig ditches and then fill them up to meet job quotas? It’s far better to come up with jobs that are independently and economically jusitfied by restarting Zion.

~If we are going to subsidize, we should do it where we will get the most bang for our buck in terms of the cleanest, most efficient and cheapest power sources for our people. Zion would seem to be a better place to put a subsidy than grossly less efficient and grossly more expensive wind and solar power, which is no clearner, costs more and devours potentially thousands of acres of land for even the slightest increase in generating capacity

~Electric rate payers have already paid for the Dual Zion Nuclear Plant. Now that it is paid for, Exelon needs to run it for our collective benefit, not waste Zion to keep its cheap supply out of the market so it can keep the market clearing prices high for its other generation units and our electric rates higher!

Even though Exelon is a private corporation, this does not exclude the questioning of Exelon as to why it is so eager to decommission the Zion Plant, given that electric rate payers paid billions of dollars to build the dual Zion Nuclear Plant (The initial licenses have not yet expired.) and another billion which has been set aside to decommision the plant over a ten-year period.

Are legislators no longer interested in serving their constituents? Is Exelon too powerful to approach for fear of losing campaign funding or of upsetting the political applecart that is Exelon with its close ties to both state and federal government officials, the White House, and legislators.

I certainly hope not!

A response would be appreciated.

This letter was sent to all legislators in Springfield on the Environmental and Energy Committees, Republican and Democrat, on July 27.

Dear Legislator:

Recently a number of articles have been published indicating how the U.S. is sitting on the sidelines of a Global Nuclear Renaissance.   One of the biggest reasons the U.S. may be sitting on the nuclear sidelines may be because Exelon, PSE&G and other power companies discourage any other nuclear providers from coming in to their markets to inject more cheap, clean nuclear power supply, which would drive down the market clearing price for power from their existing nukes.

The same is true with incumbent big coal-fired plants.  Keeping cheaper, cleaner power out of the market is their mantra, so they can keep the prices for their own existing generation high.  Instead the companies favor the development of all sorts of subsidized, very expensive green power such as solar and wind by others, which doesn’t drive the market clearing price down and occupies the “greenies” and the government.

Most striking of all is that they also try and get those green projects themselves in their utility subsidiaries’ rate base where they can get a guaranteed 16% pre-tax rate of return on the investments through mandatory customer rates, all of which further increases electric prices and their already outsized profits.

This appears to be what Exelon is doing.  You might wish to read my account at Freedom Pub:  Exelon fiddles with ineffective solar power, yet is willing to waste 2,100 megawatts of power with its dual Zion Nuclear Plant!. http://www.freedompub.org/profiles/blogs/exelon-fiddles-with The press release is also included in my blog posting announcing the dedication of Exelon City Solar on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at which Mayor Daley was present. Facts about Exelon’s City Solar:

  • $60 million was spent for 10 megawatts of power — or $6 million per megawatt of unreliable power — versus about $2 million per megawatt of reliable nuclear power if Zion were restarted.
  • According to an announcement in 2009 which told of Exelon’s plans to build a solar plant, Exelon received an 80% loan guaranty and will be receiving renewable energy credits on this solar plant.
  • Solar energy is very expensive.  It is suspected that customers will be forced to pay the price and EXC will either come out even or make a profit on its venture into solar power.
  • Follow the money seems to apply to Exelon.  The rate payers are footing the bill so electricity prices can be kept high to maintain Exelon’s profit line.

China is embarking on an ambitious program to meet their present and future energy needs, including the construction of 100 plus Nuclear Plants to generate electricity.  Here in Illinois tax payer’s money is being used to promote the more expensive and environmentally less safe natural gas, windmills, solar, and coal.

As a members of the House Environment and Energy Committee,  you should be looking out for the taxpayers of Illinois and not for those who are making profits off the backs of taxpayers.

As legislators you should be interested in the wasting of 2,100 megawatts of power at the Dual Zion Nuclear Plant.

Please let me hear from you.

Below is an important, related article by James Lehr, Ph.D, senior fellow and science director of The Heartland Institute.

Environment & Climate News – The Heartland Institute, July 2010.     U.S. Sitting on Sidelines of Global Nuclear Renaissance by Jay Lehr, Ph.D, senior fellow and science director of The Heartland Institute.
http://www.heartland.org/environmentandclimate-news.org/article/27750/US_Sitting_on_Sidelines_of_Global_Nuclear_Renaissance.html

U.S. Sitting on Sidelines of Global Nuclear Renaissance

Environment & Climate News > July 2010 Environment > Nuclear Power
Environment > Nuclear Power: Jay Lehr
Email a Friend Written By: Jay Lehr Published In: Environment & Climate News > July 2010 Publication date: 06/05/2010 Publisher: The Heartland Institute


Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is taking a lead role in identifying the energy future of the United States, recognizing we will eventually turn away from fossil fuels but refusing to be seduced by the false promise of inefficient and expensive solar power, wind power, and bio-fuels.

Global Renaissance
Alexander reports there are 40 nuclear reactors under construction in 11 countries around the world, with none of them in the United States. In fact, only two are in Western Europe—one in Finland and the other in France, both built by Areva, a French company. All the rest are in Asia, which may soon lead the world in nuclear technology.

Japan has 55 reactors and gets 35 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, almost double the 19 percent we get here. The Japanese have two reactors under construction and plans for ten more by 2018. They are finding they can build a reactor, start to finish, in less than four years.

Alexander says that is less time than it takes an American reactor simply to get licensing approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

South Korea gets nearly 40 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and is planning another eight reactors by 2015. So far the South Koreans have bought their reactors from the Japanese, but now they have their own Korean Next-Generation Reactor, a 1400-megawatt giant evolved from an American design. They plan to bring two of these on-line by 2016.

China Shifts to Nuclear
Last September Bloomberg News reported Japan Steel Works’ stock had risen 8 percent on the Tokyo Stock Exchange because of China’s decision to double future construction from 60 to 132 new nuclear reactors. Much of China’s well-publicized $586 billion stimulus package is going toward developing nuclear power. China had been focusing on building new coal plants, but it has now shifted its focus to nuclear.

Alexander reports India is embracing thorium, a technology many people think may eventually replace uranium as nuclear fuel. Thorium is twice as abundant as uranium and doesn’t produce the plutonium that fuels nuclear weapons. India has six thorium-fueled reactors under construction and ten more planned.

Economic Opportunity
Alexander has used his office to delve deeply into Russia’s nuclear agenda. Russia (then under the Soviet Union) halted construction of new reactors after the horrible Chernobyl accident. But Russia learned its lesson and started constructing much safer reactors in the 1990s, completing the first in 2001.

Now Russia has plans to expand along the lines of France, building two reactors every year from now through 2030. They have a very good reason for doing this. Russia has huge natural gas supplies but is wasting it on domestic electricity production. Alexander estimates Russia could sell its natural gas to Western Europe for six times its production costs.

The United States, which has long been the global leader in nuclear technology and innovation, is sitting on the sidelines watching other nations reap the benefits of this booming growth industry. France’s Areva is building reactors in Finland, China, India, Italy, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi, and the Russians have signed deals with China, Iran, India, Nigeria, and Venezuela. They are even selling to the United States.

In July 2009 a Russian uranium enrichment corporation, Tenex, signed a long-term contract to supply fuel to Constellation Energy, which has reactors in Maryland and upstate New York. It was the sixth contract Tenex signed with an American utility in the past two months.

U.S. Nuclear Advantage Lost
Once upon a time we were pioneers in nuclear technology—forty years ago we were the only people in the world who knew how to deal with the atom. That’s not true now. We’ve shied away from nuclear technology while everyone else has forged ahead.

Even Europe is coming back. The British have announced they’re going to go nuclear. They just hired the French national electric company to help. Italy closed all its reactors right after Chernobyl but ended up importing 80 percent of its electricity at a huge cost. Now they’ve announced they’re going back to domestic nuclear power as well.

France already gets 80 percent of its power from nuclear and has the cheapest electricity in Europe, plus the second-lowest carbon emissions (behind Sweden, which derives half its electricity from nuclear power). France also sells $80 billion worth of electricity to the rest of Europe each year.

Potential Remains
Notice how well France did during the latest economic downturn. The nation barely went into recession at all, and not because the French spend less on government bureaucracy, work harder than we do, or take fewer vacations. It’s because nuclear power is helping keep their economy afloat.

In the United States, by contrast, every major power plant built since 1990 has been fueled by natural gas. We now get 20 percent of our electricity from natural gas—surpassing the 19 percent share of nuclear power—and the percentage is still rising. Natural gas would be an export windfall for us if we resumed construction of nuclear power plants.

Does that mean we’ve fallen behind completely? Not at all. In fact there’s a great irony to all this. We still know how to run reactors better than anyone else, and next month I will explain why the game is not over yet.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. (jlehr@heartland.org) is science director of The Heartland Institute.

This letter was sent to all legislators in Springfield who are on the Energy and Environmental Committees in both the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat.

Dear Legislator:

I hope you had a pleasant and a patriotic 4th of July!

I am contacting you with a request to arrange a meeting with your fellow Representatives on the House Environment and Energy Committee with David Hollein who lives in Barrington Hills.  I have found my discussions with you as a physicist, Representative Fortner, highly informative.  You are well versed in the field of energy production and distribution here in Illinois and else where.. .

Mr. Hollein will make himself available to work with you and your staffs, in Springfield or at your home office. Hollein strongly feels that Illinois legislators and citizens of the electricity grid need to hear what is being planned for the dual Zion Nuclear Plant:  the decommissioning of the Zion Facility by Exelon, forever wasting its massive 2,100 Megawatt power source.

Zion’s  lower cost, safe GREEN plants have already been paid for and are on seismically safe ground.  The plants are ready to restarted for a small fraction of the multi-year effort and cost of building two new electricity generating plants with Nuclear Reactors, once the outdated Illinois moratorium is lifted against building new nuclear plants.

What makes David Hollein qualified to speak on behalf of Zion?  Mr. Hollein was formerly the Westinghouse Project Engineer for all the Commonwealth Nuclear Plants built by Westinghouse and General Electric,  He knows the Zion plant from the inside out.  Prior to his Westinghouse position, Mr. Hollein was involved in the Navy Nuclear Program where he assisted the Navy with the development of nuclear fuel in submarines, aircraft carriers, and destroyer.  Our Navy has been powering ships with nuclear reactors for 50 years and has had no nuclear accidents!

Please let Mr. Hollein hear from you.  His experience in the nuclear energy field and his wealth of nuclear knowledge are equal to that of any other individual in this state or  nation.  It would be foolish to deny an expert like David Hollein a chance to speak about the valuable asset that is the Zion Nuclear Facility.

Legislators should be open-minded and listen to the concerns of their constituents.  May Mr. Hollein hear from you.  The restarting of Zion is a non-partisan issue!   The dual Zion Nuclear Facility must not be wasted by Exelon Corporation.  The decommissioning by Energy Solutions out of Iowa must be halted.   The Zion Dual Nuclear Facility must remain as a excellent source of energy here in Illinois.  It’s licenses can be extended for years, as has  been done at other plants owned by Exelon here in Illinois.

As legislators, you are very powerful in Illinois government and can make things happen!   There seems to be fear about taking on a corporation as powerful as Exelon that has close ties with both the Obama administration in Washington, D.C. and the Daley machine in Chicago where corruption runs unchecked and where deals are made.  In Washington, D.C. Exelon is lobbying for “Cap and Trade”, knowing that it would make billions of dollars if “Cap and Trade” were passed.

One important question to be asked by legislators is why Exelon doesn’t sell the Zion Facility to one who sees Zion as an excellent power source to be saved?    Speaking for myself and others, I am totally disgusted by wimpy Republicans who are too scared to take on that which benefits the people of Illinois.  This is why Republicans are not going to do well in Illinois this year.  There is a perception, which is all too true, that there is little difference between the Republican and the Democrat Party here in Illinois.

There are many Illinoisans who feel that the Zion plant should never have been closed initially and wish to see it restarted.   Replacing the necessary equipment inside the Zion plants could be done at a fraction of the cost now days to build a new plant.

David Hollein can be reached at 847-382-6538  (Home) or 847-354-5174 (Cell).   His email address is Oakwoodent@yahoo.com

Please contact him.

.

First letter sent to all Springfield legislator on the Energy and Environmental Committees in both the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat, on June 29, 2010.

Dear Legislator:

Even though I am a Republican precinct committeeman in Lake County, Shields Township #240, and a member of many Republican political group, I am approaching you about an issue that is non-partisan one as a citizen reporter and writer.

Recently I was honored in a Liberty Leader profile at the Illinois Policy Institute as one of the most prolific letter-to-the-editor writers in Illinois.  I am telling you this not to brag, but to let you know that I am a respected writer and stand by what I write.

When standing on Lake Bluff’s beach in my home town I can see the twin towers of the dual Zion Nuclear Facility which was prematurely mothballed in 1998. even though both licenses weren’t due to expire until 2011.  Safety was not the reason given for its closure.  Exelon, the owner and operator of the six other nuclear plants in Illinois, cited that it was economics. There are many individual who,  like me, doubt that “economics” was the reason for Zion’s shut down.

Time is running out to save the dual Zion Nuclear Plant with it capability of producing 2,100 megawatts of evergy, instead of wasting its massive source of power.

The plant is already there and the land upon which it stands.   It would be foolish to allow this valuable asset to be destroyed forever.   The other “green” sources of wind and solar will never be great producers of power in Illinois for many difference reasons.  They would not even exist if it were not for the huge state and federal subsidies that are provided to invest in both.

Most likely the restarting of the Zion Nuclear Plant is the furthest thing from your mind.  As such I have provided you a fact sheet complied over a period of several years in the hope that it will help you see the importance of Zion as it relates to the state of Illinois.

Time is running out.  Exelon has until November of this year to sign a contract with Energy Solutions our of Iowa for Zion’s decommissioning.  We can’t allow this to happen!

As a member of the Majority Environment & Energy Committee in the House, Representative Yarbrough, may you consider the facts and demand that Zion not be wasted.  It would be a definite loss for Illinoisans.

I can provide contact sources to verify the information which I have sent to you.

Respectively yours,

I. How Restarting the Zion Nuclear Plant Could Potentially Save Illinois Citizens Billions of Dollars and Massively Reduce Carbon Emissions:

I.  How Restarting the Zion Nuclear Plant Coult Potentially Save Illinois Citizens Billions of Dollars and Massively Reduce Emissions:

  • Lower Electricity Prices for Consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Lower Natural Gas Prices for Consumers by hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • Create hundreds of permanent jobs operating the plant and raise significant tax revenues for the town of Zion and other revenue for the state of Illinois.
  • Displace the equivalent of perhaps 8 coal power generation plants’ CO2 output with emission-free power.
  • Satisfy the state’s desire for additional emission-free power generation quickly, at perhaps 30% of the cost and many times the reliability of other renewable options, while using none of the thousands of acres of land needed for wind and solar facilities.
  • The citizens of Illinois and the government would otherwise spend billions to subsidize and build immensely more expensive and less efficient wind and power facilities to meet its clean emissions goals — which could be avoided by restarting Zion and generating its massive cheap power emissions free — obtaining the same carbon reduction cheaper and faster and at significantly lower prices for consumers.

II. The Likely Reason Its Owner – Exelon — Has Kept Zion Shut Down: To Keep Electric Prices High for Consumers:

  • The likely reason Exelon has kept Zion shut down is because operating Zion would increase electric supply to the market and cause the market clearing prices for electricity from Exelon’s numerous other nuclear generating plants to go down, thus reducing Exelon’s overall profits. A source claimed to be reliable has reportedly confirmed that this is the main reason Zion has been kept shut down and wasted as a source of power for the citizens of Illinois.
  • Withholding supply by large generators in order to keep the market clearing prices high for their other generation units is a well known – and legally prohibited – tactic used by generators to attempt to manipulate prices. The United States Department of Justice has strongly emphasized the importance of preventing such illegal intentionally manipulative conduct by generators.
  • Exelon has likely intentionally kept the plant shut-down to keep its power supply out of the market and thereby keep electric market-clearing prices high for its other generation units and prices high for consumers.
  • Thus the people of Illinois have fully paid billions of dollars for a massive source of low-cost emissions-free power which Exelon is simply wasting, apparently in order to keep electric prices higher for consumers for Exelon’s own enhanced profits.

III.   What Can Be Done:

  1. Exelon should make reparations for keeping this power plant out of the market over the last several years, resulting in the intentional increases of hundreds of millions of dollars in the market clearing prices for electricity and intentional increases in the price of natural gas for consumers.
  2. Exelon should be forced to divest the Zion plant (and its decommissioning fund) to a responsible party, including but not limited to potentially the Illinois Power Authority (legislative amendment to Power Authority Act needed) to operate the plant going forward, resulting in:
    • Lower natural gas prices.
    • Greater emissions-free power.
    • Reduced need fore highly subsidized and relatively inefficient new emissions-free generation, which would consume hundreds of acres and additional billions of dollars to produce the equivalent emissions-free output that Zion can produce.
    • Lower need for and consumption of Illinois federal tax dollars.
    • Increase of hundreds of permanent jobs and revenues in operating the Zion plant rather than wasting it.

IV.   Costs to Restart Zion:

Exelon has given various estimates from $400 million to $2 billion. Most recently it says replacing steam generators would cost $1 billion and gave no estimate for the rest of the work.

  1. Compare the $1-2 billion Zion restart costs with the $14 billion estimated cost of building the new Georgia plant of equal capacity where the US is guaranteeing part of the debt.
  2. Zion’s License expires in 2013, but plant licenses are being generally extended 20 years or more now, with few exceptions
  3. Need to identify the procedure at the NRC for restarting the plant  to understand the full costs
  4. We cannot rely on Exelon for a reliable estimate of the costs and obstacles, as Exelon has a strong vested interest in keeping the plant out of operation to avoid reductions in electric prices for its other plants.
  5. By taking Exelon’s most pessimistic estimate of costs at $2 billion, it is a potentially extremely valuable asset for the state of Illinois.  As stated above, it would reduce electric prices for consumers and the costs of obtaining emissions-free power from other sources by many times that $2 billion over the next twenty years. Indeed, it would likely save those costs just in terms of avoiding the need to build other emissions-free generation in the next several years, leaving aside the other billions of dollars it would likely save customers in reduced electric and natural gas prices

V.  Possible Advantages of Illinois Power Authority Taking Over Plant:

  1. VI. Possible Advantages of Illinois Power Authority Taking Over Plant:
  2. This requires careful analysis and a lot more information, but here are a few ideas:
  3. Tax-free financing and bond issues might be used, substantially reducing financing costs and increasing savings to consumers.
  4. ( Note: New York Power Authority has successfully owned and operated nuclear power plants which have saved New York consumers hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, in electric costs)
  5. The 18% or more pre-tax return on equity extracted by investor owned entities like Exelon, Com Ed or another commercial purchaser, could be eliminated, thereby reducing a huge element of costs and allowing a much greater reduction in prices for consumers. This huge 18% plus pre-tax return for Com Ed/Exelon’s private shareholders is what doomed the economics of the original financing for nuclear facilities and created the huge “stranded costs” that Illinois customers have been forced to pay to Com Ed/Exelon in the last decade.
  6. (Note – certain statutory amendments would be needed to undo the limitations that Exelon and other generators inserted on the ability of the Illinois Power Authority to purchase and finance nuclear power plants in Illinois in 2007).

For those who wish to question why I’m convinced the Zion Plant was closed prematurely and without good cause, and why I now feel that something more sinister lies behind Exelon’s decision to decommission Zion, I would like to introduce you to Rod Adam who heads an excellent Atomic Insights Blog at www.atomicinsights.com.

On his Atomic Insights Blog, Rod Adams discusses energy supplies, energy technology, and energy politics from an atomic point of view.

Rod Adams posted an excellent, insightful article on Wednesday, August 25  at Atomic Insights concerning the Zion shutdown, with good links to all his prior articles on the subject.

Reviewing what Rod Adams has to say about Exelon’s decision to decommission Zion, along with his other fine Zion articles, will confirm my remarks that Exelon is guilty of spinning the facts to make Illinoisans believe that the company is noble and looking out for the people of Illinois.

Published on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 by Rod Adams:
“From the Utah Perspective, Destroying the Zion Nuclear Station is a Big Business Win”

There were two contrasting announcements of decisions on the fate of silent, but potentially productive nuclear power stations in the past week. On the positive side, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors included $248 million for engineering, evaluation, maintenance, preservation, establishing a regulatory framework, and long lead time procurement of items needed to finally complete Bellefonte Unit 1 in its budget for fiscal year 2011, which begins on October 1, 2010. That unit was started in 1974 and had reached about 85% completion when its construction was suspended in 1988.

In contrast, Exelon and EnergySolutions announced that their long pending decision to transfer custody of Zion units 1 and 2 would take effect on September 1, 2010. That transfer is being made to enable EnergySolutions to dismantle the plants, a process that will involve approximately 200 workers at the site for a period of 10 years. The custody transfer allows a more cost effective distribution of the risk associated with low level waste disposal that will be a major part of the project costs. The project costs will be paid out of the $900 million decommissioning fund that has accumulated from funds set aside by adding a small fee to the price of the electricity produced during the 25 or so years that the nuclear power plants were owned and operated by Commonwealth Edison as a rate-regulated monopoly utility company.

(Aside: There is a difference between the project cost in the press release of $1 billion and the $900 million that is currently in the decommissioning fund. The press release number takes into account the effect of investment returns and inflation over the ten year life of the project. As I learned in my most recent assignment, one of the important questions associated with any budget number is “what year dollars are you using?” A budget projected in “then year” dollars always has larger numbers than one that is projected using this year’s dollars and taking out the inflation escalation computed for future years. End Aside.)

The announcement of the date for starting the Zion dismantling project was the headline story in a press release discussing a number of capital investment projects. As Michael Pacilio, Exelon’s chief nuclear officer and president, described the package of projects, “This is our own economic stimulus program for Illinois”.

Here is a video clip from a Utah television station that provides a glimpse of the story from the point of view of the Utah company that will be running the project and storing the low level waste from the construction demolition.

The project is being marketed to people in Illinois as a beneficial effort to clean up a site that is currently hosting an unused industrial facility. The implied promise is that completing the project will allow the lakefront site to be returned to more productive uses. As the above video clip shows, and as experience in several communities around the countries with “orphan” nuclear fuel dry storage areas reinforces, that result is not yet certain. Under the current US used fuel storage model, the Zion nuclear plant site would be turned into a “greenfield” surrounded by an imposing fence and heavily armed guards protecting a small, isolated pad holding a few dozen dry storage casks. The only jobs involved will be security guards and there will be no output of beneficial products.

A few weeks ago, while at the ANS Utility Working Conference, I spoke to a man who was one of the operators at the Zion nuclear plant up until the very last day that it operated. He told me that the plant’s physical condition was far better than that of the plant that he went to after he reluctantly moved from the Zion area. He mentioned that there had been some conflicts between his union and the plant management, which might have helped the company to decide that it was not worth the effort to go through the necessary steam generator replacement.

In 1998, when Zion was “permanently” shut down, no nuclear plants had received operating license extensions, few had successfully replaced steam generators, and natural gas cost less than $2 per million BTU with projections from the gas industry and the Energy Information Agency of low prices for the foreseeable future.

On January 14,1998, the Unicom Corporation and ComEd Boards of Directors authorized the permanent cessation of operations at ZNPS for economic reasons. The cost and time it would take to repair the steam generators combined with the cost of electricity in a deregulated environment in Illinois made continuing operation of ZNPS uneconomical.

Why is Exelon committed to dismantling a facility that has numerous characteristics in common with Browns Ferry unit 1, which was recently restored to operating condition and Bellefonte unit 1, which is planned for completion? Isn’t there a market in the United States for emission-free power generation? Wouldn’t it be better for the Illinois economy if the local company that owned the plant decided to restore it to operation so it could generate low marginal cost electrical power, jobs, income and taxes instead of turning it over to a company from Utah to dismantle it and potentially leave behind a still unusable site?

It is too bad that there are no companies in the world with the equipment that would be required to relocate the plant to a place where the operators would put it to use.

Previous Coverage on Atomic Insights
June 14, 2010 – Public Versus Private Power – It’s Time to Reopen the Discussion

March 22, 2009 – Chicago Buys Meaningless Carbon Credits – Refurbishing Zion Would be a Better Investment With Real Climate Payoffs

March 14, 2009 – Discussing  Zion Versus Wind Turbines

February 5, 2009 – Unfriending Exelon

January 24, 2009 – Exelon’s Strategy is Working for Stockholders but not Always for Customers

December 5, 2008 – More Questioning About the Zion Reactors

June 5, 2008 – Could Zion be the Next Browns Ferry

Over the past few years I have spent much time and effort trying to interest legislators in Springfield to engage with Exelon Corporation to reopen the Dual 2,100 Megawatt Zion Nuclear Plant. It has been a frustrating experience as legislators have shown a lack of interest.

Desirous not to let legislators “off the hook,” I’ll be sending my fifth e-mail letter later on today concerning Zion’s Nuclear Plant to all Springfield legislators serving on the Environmental and Energy Committees in both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats. It is as follows:

Dear Legislator:

On Monday, August 23, it was disconcerting to read of Exelon’s “massive spending program” in Crain’s Chicago Business, which included the decommissioning of the Dual Zion Nuclear Station in Lake County.

I have been imploring you for months to get involved in saving Zion as a legislator who deals with Energy issues, but there has been mostly silence at your end. This has been perplexing to me as future energy needs here in Illinois are not going to be solved through wind and solar power. The Zion Nuclear Plant is fully paid for, standing on land which was deemed suitable after much study prior to its construction.

Just in case you haven’t read reports about Exelon’s Monday morning news release. The following account is for your information:

“Starting with Zion Station Decommissioning, Exelon to make 5-year, 4.6 Billion Investment in Illinois”
http://www.thestreet.com/story/10842100/1/starting-with-zion-statio…

Insight into how I feel about the decommission of Zion by Exelon Corporation can be found via this posting I made to a report at Crain’s Chicago Business, “Exelon spending $4.6B to overhaul plants,”
in which I state what the Press Release from Exelon should have more accurately stated:
http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20100823/NEWS11/100829972/ex…

Title: Exelon Shamefully Misleads the Public

Subject Matter: “Exelon Insists On Shutting down Power Plant For Which Illinoisans Have Paid Billions in Order to Waste the Facility and to Withhold Supply From the Market so Electric Market Clearing Prices Might be Kept Higher for its Other Generation Units and consumer prices high. Exelon is now Attempting to Cloak that Fact in this Elaborate and Carefully-Crafted ‘Economic Stimulus’ Epistle of a Press Release.”

My antennae tells me that whenever a utility goes to such elaborate lengths to dress something up as “virtuous,” you can be sure that they are trying to distract the public from something sinister.

Interestingly, they don’t quote the former Exelon insider who revealed to Rod Adams that the reason the Zion plant has not been restarted is because the additional supply would reduce wholesale market prices and prices for consumers.

From Rod Adams blog: ‘My sources tell me that the issue is not technical, but financial. The financial issue is not whether or not theproject cost is too much for the amount of capacity that can be delivered, but the effect that the additional capacity will have on the market price for electricity in the service territory.'” Whole article can be read at:
http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2010/06/public-versus-private-po…
-time.html )

Below is the letter submitted to the Tribune’s “Voice of the People.” Letters were also submitted to all Chicagoland newspapers to get the word out about the injustice done by Exelon Corporation in its zest to decommission Zion which was fully paid for by electric rate payers.

“Zion must be revisited”

With extreme sadness I read the Tribune’s account by Lisa Black and Julie Wernau titled: Exelon handing off closed nuclear plant in Zion

After devoting so much of my life in the past two years in advocating for the reopening of the Zion Nuclear Facility, has all my time and effort been in vain?

There is no better alternative for electrical-power generation than Nuclear energy. It provides the safest, cleanest, and the most inexpensive and potentially most plentiful and useful energy in human history.

How does shutting down the Zion Facility for which Illinoisans paid billions for in order to waste the Facility, thereby withholding supply from the market so electric Market Clearing prices might be kept higher for its other generation units and consumer prices high, benefit anyone but Exelon Corporation?

The Chicago Tribune article attempts to imply that what Exelon is doing should be considered virtuous by Zion residents. My antennae tells me that whenever a utility goes to such great lengths to dress something up as virtuous, you can be sure it is trying to distract the public from something more sinister it wishes to hide.

The Dual Zion Nuclear Facility is capable of producing 2,100 Megawatts of power. The decommissioning of the Zion Nuclear Plant will forever remove its massive 2,100 Megawatts of power from the Midwest Electrical Grid. Is this a wise move by Exelon Corporation when electricity prices continue to soar?

It is but a pipe dream to believe that Illinois can meet future energy needs through investing in wind and solar power. The only viable form of clean energy is Nuclear.
End of letter.

There is still time to get involved as the nail in the proposed Zion coffin still needs to be fully fastened. Energy is your forte, yet you seem indifferent to getting involved with a questionable decision by Exelon Corporation that will not benefit Illinois.

It isn’t over until the Fat Lady Sings!