Zion Nuclear Plant information sent to IL General Assembly members of Senate and House Energy and Environmental Committees

March 3, 2011

To Members of the Senate Energy Committee in  97th General Assembly:

The Zion Plant is a valuable energy producing asset here in Illinois, yet few of you have indicated any interest in saving the plant from its planned decommissioning fate by Exelon Corporation in its transfer of The Zion Station and its licenses to Zion Solutions, a subsidiary of Energy Solutions out of Utah.

It is important that you look into the facts surrounding The Zion Dual Nuclear Plant with its capability of producing a massive 2,100 MW’s of electricity if the plant were refurbished and brought up to operating standards as determined by the NRC.   

The information below will get you up-to-speed about The Zion Station and will educate you about the importance of nuclear power here in Illinois in the following ways: 1) How the U.S. is losing the nuclear power race, 2) how many questions remain unanswered about Zion from its initial closing in 1998 until now, 3) and how spent nuclear fuel is anything but waste.

As time is an issue, it is vital that action be taken now to save The Zion Station.  It would be foolish to waste Zion which could become the cheapest source of a significant quantity of reliable, green and qualified clean energy available in the U.S. 

Number of the Week:  According to the European Nuclear Society, there are 65 nuclear reactors under construction world-wide. China has 27 under construction (the World Nuclear Association now reports more than 25), The Russian Federation 11, India 5, Republic of Korea 5, Bulgaria, Taiwan, Japan, Slovak Republic, Ukraine have 2 each, Argentina, Brazil, Finland, France, Iran, Pakistan, and US have 1 each. Please see article under “Energy Issues.” That Japan, the only country to experience the hostile use of nuclear weapons, and that the Ukraine, the country that experienced the greatest nuclear plant disaster, are building nuclear reactors reveals the extent to which nuclear fears control policies in other countries.
Readers in Australia, UK, US may wish to alert their legislators that their countries are losing the nuclear power race with Bulgaria and the Slovak Republic!
“Zion’s dismantling demands legislative and citizen concern”  –  Nancy J. Thorner

As one of a handful of private citizens who took the time to attend a February 22nd. 1:00 p.m. hearing hosted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at IL Beach Resort and Conference Center near Zion to discuss the Dual Zion Nuclear Station Decommissioning Project, I read with interest the published articles by Long Hwa-Shu in the Lake County New-Sun on Thursday, February 24 and in the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday, Feb. 27:  “10-year process for nuke plant cleanup.” 

As noted in Long Hwa-Shu’s article, Zion Solutions, a subsidiary of the Utah-based Energy Solutions, was given the contract to dismantle The Zion Station last September by Exelon Corporation.  Shut down back in 1998, Exelon’s decision for wasting Zion, and keeping it closed throughout the years, has remained the same.  It was a financially-based decision.

For me the NRC Zion Public meeting on Feb. 21st was a glorified PR stunt to pacify and ensure the public that the dismantling would be done in a safe manner.  Most likely the NRC will follow through with its mission of inspecting the work done by Zion Solutions for any dereliction of safety measure that are in place.

Most unsettling was that NRC representatives did not respond to my questions regarding the Zion Dual Plant, yet it is unrealistic to believe that Exelon, Zion Solutions and the NRC representatives are not working together.  A NRC representative, however, did admit that although never done before, Zion could be reopened for operation if refurbished and brought up-to-date by one wiling to purchase Zion from Zion Solution, on condition that all safety measures were met.  It is well known that the Tennessee Valley Authority successfully restarted a large mothballed nuclear power plant that saved consumers hundreds of dollars per year in electric costs under the watchful eye of the NRC. 

These questions about The Zion Station demand answers:

1.  Since it takes many years to satisfy the surrounding population, the seismic requirements, the lawyers, the environmentalists, etc. before one shovel of dirt is moved to begin excavation for a new Nuclear Plant, why tear down The Zion Plant?  It has already been paid for by rate payers along with its $1 billion decommissioning trust fund.

2.  Why didn’t Exelon Corporation attempt to sell the Zion Plant to another party if Exelon found Zion unprofitable to operate?

3.  Why does Exelon Corporation refuse to release its financial calculations as to why the decision was made to shutter The Zion Station in 1998 and then keeping it shuttered, after further audits were done, until the dual Zion Nuclear Plant was transferred to Zion Solutions for decommissioning in 2010?

4.  If considered feasible to construct the Dual Zion Plant, which was fully paid by rate-payers, why after only 24 years and 7 months of  commercial operation for the First Unit and 24 years and 7 months for Unit 2 did Exelon make the decision that both units were no longer needed?  Although the 40-year operational licenses were due to expire in 2012 and 2013, leaving each unit less than 15 years of remaining commercial operation in which to recover the investment required for repair, licenses are now routinely extended by the NRC for an additional 30 years of operation.

5.  What is the hurry to dismantle the two nuclear reactors when up to 60 years is permitted?  A 10-year time frame is way too optimistic for a first-time project of a size never before attempted.

6.  Who is going to look after the interests of the ratepayers to make sure the decommissioning is done at the lowest possible cost in order to protect the ratepayer’s interest in residual (if any) in the decommissioning fund?  Was informed it was not the role of the NRC.  Safety is its only concern. 

7.  Is there a “watch dog” group to observe that the Decommissioning Trust Fund will be spent prudently?  Was informed there is not a “watch dog” group to keep tabs on the fund.

8.  How much of Zion’s 257-acre land front site will be unrestricted and opened to the public when decommissioning is completed?  The representative from Zion Solutions was unable to give me a ball park figure. 

9.  What is the relationship between Commonwealth Edison Company and Exelon Corporation?   Aren’t the two really the same entity as Commonwealth Edison has not split?  There is but one symbol on the NYSE for both Commonwealth Edison and Exelon Corporation.

Where is citizen concern over the wasting of Zion?  It wasn’t apparent at the NRC Zion meetings given the meager attendance at the two Feb. 22nd hearings, less than a handful at each.

The cost and physical limitations of solar and wind are prohibitive and impractical for mass production of energy.  Nuclear is cheap and also serves as an economic stimulus.  When the Zion Plant was closed, the economic situation in Zion went from good to bad. Since then Zion has struggled with budgetary shortfalls.  

The growth in overall U.S. electricity demand is expected to increase by as much as 30 percent over the next 25 years.  Citizens should be outraged and demand answers from their elected representatives, while at the same time advocating to save Zion!

It is insane to waste 2100 MW’s of energy that a refurbished Zion Plant could provide.  Nuclear Plants produce zero emissions of any harmful greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides.  It is a clean energy which gives the biggest bang for the buck. 


SPENT FUEL IS ANYTHING BUT WASTE – ScienceDaily (Feb. 21, 2011) — Failure to pursue a program for recycling spent nuclear fuel has put the U.S. far behind other countries and represents a missed opportunity to enhance the nation’s energy security and influence other countries, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

Dale Klein, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Texas System, said largely unfounded concerns and “long-held myths” about the reprocessing of spent fuel have prevented the U.S. from tapping into an extremely valuable resource.

Spent nuclear fuel, which includes some plutonium, often is inaccurately referred to as waste, Klein said.

“It is not waste,” he said. “The waste is in our failure to tap into this valuable and abundant domestic source of clean energy in a systematic way. That’s something we can ill-afford to do.”

Klein, who also serves as an associate director at UT Austin’s Energy Institute, made his remarks February 20 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

Compared to other fuels used in the production of electricity, the energy density of uranium is remarkable, Klein said, noting that 95 percent of the energy value in a bundle of spent nuclear fuel rods remains available to be re-used.

“The once-through nuclear fuel cycle, which is our practice in the U.S., is an enormous waste of potential energy,” he said.

Critics cite the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation as the biggest reason to oppose recycling. But such concerns are largely unfounded, Klein said.

“While it is true that the plutonium in recycled nuclear fuel is fissionable, no country in the world has ever made a nuclear weapon out of low-grade plutonium from recycled high burn-up nuclear fuel,” he said. “It just doesn’t work for a strategic or a tactical nuclear weapon.”

While the U.S. has sat on the sidelines, other countries, including France, Japan, the United Kingdom, Russia, India, and China have dedicated significant resources toward their reprocessing programs, Klein added.

“U.S. leadership in this area has been lost, and the underlying technological capability and intellectual capital needed to compete internationally have diminished to near irrelevance.”

Reprocessing not only recovers significant energy value from spent fuel, it substantially reduces the volume and radiotoxicity of high-level nuclear waste.

Today, U.S. utilities operating nuclear power plants continue to store spent nuclear fuel rods on site in pools of water, before eventually moving them to dry cask storage. And while there is some debate over whether the casks should be located in one central storage site, the practice is widely accepted as safe and secure.

“That’s another myth — that we don’t know how to safely store nuclear spent fuel,” Klein said.

Establishing a program to recycle nuclear fuel will require a public-private partnership that operates outside normal Congressional appropriations and has a charter to manage the fuel over a period of decades, he asserted.

The government’s Blue Ribbon Commission, chartered by the Department of Energy, is charged with making recommendations for the safe, long-term management of spent fuel. The 15-member commission is to issue a draft report this summer, with a final report to be completed in January 2012.

“At a time when we are seeking ways to limit carbon emissions from the generation of electricity, the recycling of spent nuclear fuel would appear to be a particularly good fit.”



2 Responses to “Zion Nuclear Plant information sent to IL General Assembly members of Senate and House Energy and Environmental Committees”

  1. Kimberley Says:

    Hi there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I
    came to take a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m book-marking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
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    • nancyjthorner Says:

      Thanks, Kimberley, much appreciated that you will be alerting others to my blog.

      Nancy Thorneer

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