Showdown lack of state action puts nuclear plant at risk local business gas under 3 dollars


COMMENT: There is nothing in the Illinois State Constitution requiring the Legislature to bailout the faulty business decisions of private corporations. In the late 1990s then-ComEd lobbyists played major sponsoring roles in creating the deregulated utility market that we now have, and from which Exelon wants protection at ratepayer expense. Their failed “big-box” business model is an anachronism which should not be rewarded with consumer bailouts. Every reactor has a finite operating license. Utilities, workers, and their surrounding communities KNOW IN ADVANCE when the reactors are scheduled to close, and the gravy train will stop. Our organization has been advocating for years – since the closure of the Zion reactors in 1997-98, and the sale of Clinton-1 — the creation of escrowed “just transitions” funds, as a rainy-day hedge against the economic disruptions that will be caused by inevitable reactor closures. No one has listened, and no such funds have been mandated or set up. We did not see any unions stepping up over the years working with us to protect their members from this situation. Maybe now is the time to do so, while the plants are operating and before the closure disruptions begin. Back in the day (1982) then-Illinois Power Chair Wendell J. Kelly said, “If I knew (10 years ago) what I know today, we wouldn’t have started a nuclear plant [Clinton-1]. And if I had to make the decision today, Clinton-II (a subsequently canceled reactor) would be over.” Nobody listened to someone who was in the know to speak. Finally, EPI is an environmental organization by self-proclamation only. It is not considered one in most all environmental circles. It is a pro-nuclear front group allegedly being financed heavily by contributions from the largess of Rachel Pritzker, of the billionaire Pritzker family. So, money and a mouthpiece will get you far these days; but remember: caveat emptor.

Since solar “works” 15% of the time and wind “works” 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either. Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines. The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough. The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.

We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do. The energy storage would "cost" in the neighborhood of a QUADRILLION dollars for the US. That is an imaginary price because we could not get the materials to do it if we had that much money.

The only real way to reduce CO2 production from electricity generation is to replace all fossil fueled power plants with the newest available generation of nuclear. Nuclear can load-follow fast enough as long as wind and solar power are not connected to the grid. Generation 4 nuclear can ramp fast enough to make up for the intermittency of wind and solar, but there is no reason to waste time and money on wind and solar.

According to the US EIA (US Energy Information Administration, part of the US federal government) report, nuclear power costs about 33% less than natural gas or coal in 2014. The reports states that hydropower is the cheapest form of electricity and nuclear power is the second cheapest for of electricity in the USA for 2014. Solar, wind, and geothermal weren’t considered in the report. Since Illinois has almost no hydropower, nuclear power is the cheapest form of electrical power in Illinois [excluding solar and wind from this analysis].

Wind power receives a federal subsidy that is 18 times higher [$/MWh] than nuclear power. We need a level playing field for clean power. Right now, the big subsidies go to wind and solar, but the big subsidies for wind in Illinois and Iowa threaten to close down the Clinton and Quad nuclear power plants in Illinois. Should the US government trying to play favorites for wind over nuclear power with its big subsidies, or should it have a true free market for solar, wind, and nuclear?