Goodbye Nuclear Power; So Long, Oil and Gas
August 3, 2017
Harvey Wasserman / Progressive.org & Kate Aronoff / Nation of Change
Two of the last four commercial nuclear power plants under construction in the US -- at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina -- have been cancelled. A decision on the remaining two in Georgia will be made in August. The US may soon be free of all new commercial reactor construction for the first time since the 1950s, marking the definitive death of the dream of "too cheap to meter" radioactive energy. Most teens now see the fossil fuels as bad for society while jobs with oil and gas companies are unappealing.
Goodbye Nuclear Power. Construction of Two of
Four Remaining Planned US Plants Just Canceled
Harvey Wasserman / Progressive.org
(August 1, 2017) -- Two of the last four commercial nuclear power plants under construction in the United States -- both of them at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina -- have been cancelled. A decision on the remaining two, which are in Georgia, will be made in August.
"DING DONG, Summer is dead," says Glenn Carroll, one of a core group of safe energy activists who have labored for decades to rid the southeast of these last four reactor projects.
"This project has been a multi-billion-dollar disaster," adds Stephen A. Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "We also call on Georgia Power and their utility partners to protect their customers from the similarly risky, mismanaged project" at the Vogtle site in Georgia.
Should those two plants in Georgia also be cancelled, as seems increasingly likely, the United States would be free of all new commercial reactor construction for the first time since the 1950s. It would mark the definitive death of the dream of "too cheap to meter" radioactive energy, and end an era marked by massive cost overruns, soaring operating and maintenance expenses, a string of bankruptcies, two major meltdowns, an unsolved radioactive waste burden.
The US nuclear fleet, which Richard Nixon projected in 1974 would reach 1,000 reactors by the year 2000, never got higher than about 250 on line or in the works. Currently, 99 nuclear plants now operate in the United States. Five have shut in the last several years, with dozens more poised to follow, primarily due to their inability to compete with cheap gas, solar, and wind power.
The fate of two reactors under construction in South Carolina was sealed July 31, with the unanimous vote of the board of the publicly owned Santee Cooper utility, which owns 45 percent of the project. The SCANA Corporation, which owns 55 percent, immediately followed with a statement saying it would also abandon construction, first proposed in 2007.
Santee Cooper had been forced to raise rates five times to pay for construction at Summer. SCANA had raised them nine times.
The two Summer reactors were slated to come on line in 2017 and 2018. The plants were to be Westinghouse AP 1000 designs, an upgraded version of the traditional light water reactor, of which some 430 are now licensed worldwide. Westinghouse pioneered and built the Pressurized Water Reactors that count for about half the world's fleet.
The AP 1000 was meant to provide a safer, more economical upgrade. But an unending stream of technical failures and soaring costs, as well as plummeting prices for gas, wind, and solar, and a drop in electricity demand, doomed the project. In a catastrophic financial failure, the four reactors it was building in South Carolina and Georgia drove Westinghouse into bankruptcy in March.
(The iconic company dated back to the 1800s, when it won the contract to produce and deliver the first major loads of commercial electricity from Niagara Falls to the American northeast using technology developed by the legendary Nikola Tesla.)
The Westinghouse bankruptcy has driven its parent company, Toshiba, to the brink of bankruptcy as well. Toshiba has offered some $2.2 billion to help finish the South Carolina project, but many doubt the giant company could actually make good on the pledge.
Some $11 billion or more could be needed to finish the two new Summer reactors. Among other things, their owners have concluded that they could not meet a 2021 completion date to qualify for a critical federal tax credit.
The news about the South Carolina plants is just the latest in a series of death shudders from the nuclear power industry.
Reactors under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland, and Flamanville, France, are also massively over budget and teetering on the brink of collapse. In the American northwest, construction of five reactors for the Washington Public Power System triggered the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.
More than forty reactors remain shut in Japan in the wake of the 2011 multiple meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima. Two US reactors, Fermi I near Detroit and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, have also melted, along with the catastrophic 1986 explosion at Chernobyl.
In Georgia, America's two remaining nukes under construction at the Vogtle site are on the precipice. Though President Barack Obama provided the project with $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees, the massive cost overruns, multi-year delays, Westinghouse's bankruptcy and public anger over repeated rate increases have cast a long shadow.
Worldwide, only China is still proposing to build large numbers of atomic reactors, a decision it will hopefully soon reverse.
With massive hot water and steam emissions, plus carbon emissions in plant construction, waste management and the production of nuclear fuel, atomic reactors are a significant factor in unbalancing planetary weather patterns. Their cancellation, alongside the rise of green technologies like solar and wind power, bring the Earth a giant step closer to preservation.
See Harvey Wasserman's Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth. He edits www.nukefree.org. This article is written with profound thanks to the great activists who helped make this vital victory happen.
Millennials Are Killing the Oil Industry
Kate Aronoff . Nation of Change
(August 1, 2017) -- Depending on who you ask, millennials are either lazy, trophy-weaned basement dwellers or ruthlessly efficient killing machines, taking down everything from Buffalo Wild Wings to department stores.
But unless you peruse the business press and semi-obscure trade publications, you may have missed the news about our latest mark: the fossil fuel industry. A handful of articles have pointed out that the workforce of the oil industry is rapidly aging, and companies are having trouble attracting younger workers into their folds.
According to a recent report by pollsters EY, 57 percent of teens now see the fossil fuel industry as bad for society, and 62 percent of those aged 16 to 19 say working for oil and gas companies is unappealing.
Other findings suggest that millennials dislike the oil industry the most of any potential employer, with only 2 percent of college graduates in the United States listing the oil and gas industry as their first-choice job placement.
Given that a majority of millennials now also reject capitalism, the fact that we don’t feel too much warmth towards the industry that’s been at its dirty, beating heart of it for 300 years shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Millennials are now the largest part of the U.S. workforce, meaning their flight could spell massive problems down the road for the world’s most destructive companies.
To win back the youth, a series of recent ads from the American Petroleum Institute, the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying arm, announced “This ain’t your daddy’s oil . . . Oil strikes a pose. Oil taps potential. Oil pumps life,” flashing pictures of products made with oil -- like spray paint! Because young people like graffiti, right?
Not more than we like being able to breathe air and drink water. Aside from having a few suspicions about an industry whose business model stands directly at odds with a habitable planet, millennial workers also want more from their jobs than a paycheck -- including a sense of doing something halfway decent for the world.
As the consulting group, McKinsey wrote in its report on the industry’s future, “Millennials don’t just want personal career growth; they expect to make a positive contribution to society . . . If companies want to attract the best and brightest, they must design ways for employees to make an impact beyond the walls of the company.”
This might be difficult for an industry hell-bent on wrecking the planet. Some 75 percent of existing coal, oil and natural gas reserves have to stay buried in order to avert catastrophic levels of warming, and de-carbonization needs to happen rapidly at every level of the economy.
As is the case with a host of other progressive issues, the overwhelming majority of millennials -- 91 percent -- believe in climate change, and the vast majority support government action to do something about it.
Because of this, there have been massive, millennial-led campaigns targeting the fossil fuel industry, like the one to divest major institutions’ holdings from coal, oil and natural gas companies.
If there’s any other defining trait of millennials, it’s that we’re a political generation, and lean fairly far to the left. We occupied Wall Street and turned out in droves to back socialists Bernie Sanders here and Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom.
So, when it comes to killing the fossil fuel industry, game on.
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