A new campaign is forming to take on UniStar Nuclear and its plans to build giant new atomic reactors in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Missouri.
UniStar Nuclear is half-owned by Constellation Energy and half by Electricite de France. It was created solely to build new reactors in the U.S. These reactors, called the EPR, are designed by the French company Areva and are 1600 Megawatts each, or nearly twice the size of the current average U.S. reactor. It might be worth noting that both Electricite de France and Areva are essentially arms of the French government, which owns more than 80% of each company.
According to sworn testimony before the Maryland Public Service Commission, UniStar chief George Vanderheyden said the cost of an EPR would be on the "upper end" of $4,500-$6,000/kw. That translates into about $9.6 billion for a single reactor. Similar costs are expected at all of the UniStar sites: Calvert Cliffs, MD; Nine Mile Point, NY; Callaway, MO and Big Bend, PA.
UniStar's business model calls for it to put up no money for these reactors themselves. Instead, UniStar wants U.S. taxpayer-backed loans for 80% of the cost, and it wants to get the French Export-Import Bank to pick up the other 20%. Yet the Congressional Budget Office has predicted that 50% of nuclear projects that get loan guarantees ultimately will fail--leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab.
Ratepayers, of course, will feel the pain if and when these reactors go into service--at nearly $10 billion each their electricity wouldn't come cheap.
Like all reactors, the EPR design is not "inherently safe," rather, as its name suggests (Evolutionary Power Reactor) it is simply a small evolution from existing, unsafe reactor designs. These reactors would produce more radioactive waste, with no disposal means or site even being contemplated (Yucca Mountain, NV--if it is ever completed which seems less likely by the day--is prohibited by the laws of Congress and physics from accepting waste from new reactors; it's intended to handle waste from the existing nuclear plants only).
Spending nearly $40 billion on four new reactors means diverting a lot of resources that could be used for safe, clean energy technologies like energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and distributed generation that would more quickly and economically reduce carbon emissions while providing the electricity we will need in the future. Given that it takes 10 years or more to get a single reactor online, we could reduce a lot of carbon emissions with clean technologies in the meantime with that kind of money.
Recently the billionaire Warren Buffett and his MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company bought Constellation Energy, and picked up its 50% share of UniStar Nuclear in the process. There is reason to believe that Buffett is not as ideologically disposed toward nuclear power as the UniStar executives--MidAmerican already cancelled a reactor it considered in Idaho on the grounds that it simply wouldn't be economic.
That was a good call, and it's time for Buffett and MidAmerican to make another good call and shut down UniStar and its ill-conceived plans laid on the backs of American and French taxpayers.
But if you can do more....
*Post a link to the petition on your organization's website
*We're also distributing paper copies of the petition. Contact us at email@example.com and we'll send you printed copies, or a file you can print yourself. You can use our logo or your own organization's logo.
The Stop EPR campaign is a collaborative effort among NIRS, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Beyond Nuclear, Public Citizen, grassroots groups in all of the EPR states, and, hopefully, you! Join us, but first sign the petition now.
Thanks for all you do,
Nuclear Information and Resource Service