Florida’s nuclear threats loom

by Michael Canney, Co-Chair of the Green Party of Florida

Progress Energy’s nuclear plant at Crystal River (CR-3) is one of more than 100 aging US reactors approaching the end of their life spans. Engineered to run for 40 years, CR-3 was supposed to begin decommissioning in 2014, when its federal license expires, but the nuclear utilities persuaded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a fast-track relicensing process for the old reactors, postponing the expensive decommissioning process and allowing old nukes to generate power & profits for another 20 years.More than 60 old reactors already have rubber-stamp license renewals from the NRC, and four reactors in Florida are set to receive them, including Crystal River, which has been offline since September 2009 when cracking and delamination problems were discovered in the concrete and steel containment vessel.

Instead of retiring CR-3, the company boldly decided to spend five years repairing the reactor containment and “uprating” the reactor, at an estimated cost of $1 billion. Why invest $1 billion in a broken nuclear plant whose operating license expires in 2014 (the same year repairs will be finished) unless Progress Energy is counting on getting NRC approval for a 20-year license renewal?

In addition to keeping their old nuclear reactors running for 20 more years, Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light (FPL) are also planning to build new ones. Four new reactors are scheduled to be built in Florida, with two of them only 40 miles from Gainesville in Levy County. The other two will be at Turkey Point on Biscayne Bay.

Nuclear Cost Recovery: A license to steal

To prime the pump for investment in new reactors, utilities persuaded their legislators in Tallahassee to draft a law in 2006 giving them authority to collect in advance hundreds of millions of dollars from their ratepayers. The utilities must appear before their handpicked Public Service Commission (PSC) every year and ask for approval to continue collecting “Cost Recovery” funds, which Progress Energy can pocket if the nuclear plant never gets built.

There is growing resistance in Florida to this legalized theft by nuclear utilities. Progress Energy and FPL ratepayers filed a class action suit in federal court challenging Nuclear Cost Recovery. A Coalition Against Nuclear Cost Recovery recently formed, and a campaign is underway to flood the PSC with letters opposing this practice.

ThePSC held public meetings about Nuclear Cost Recovery in Tallahassee from Aug. 10-26, and public comments are open until Oct. 24 when the PSC will vote. An excellent analysis of the Nuclear Cost Recovery scam and Talking Points for public comments can be found at the Citizens Allied for Safe Energy (CASE) website. Be sure to reference Docket 110009 in the subject line and send comments to the PSC at contact@psc.state.fl.us.

Nuclear fission or biomass burning? We don’t really have to choose…

On Sunday, Oct. 9, Gainesville Citizens CARE (for Clean, Affordable, Renewable Energy) is sponsoring a Community Biomass Forum that will provide a comprehensive overview of the most costly private contract ever approved by the City of Gainesville.

For more information about the Biomass Forum, visit the Gainesville Citizens CARE website at www.GC-CARE.org. For more information about the biomass industry, visit the Partnership for Policy Integrity website at www.IFPI.net.

Nationally, there are many active legal challenges filed against the permitting and licensing of new nuclear plants, and information about them can be found at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) website. NIRS, the Green Party and the Ecology Party are interveners in the NRC licensing of the Levy County nuclear plant, and that intervention is still pending before the Atomic Safety Licensing Board.

As radiation from the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daichi reactor complex spreads around the globe, and as government regulators and corporate media outlets cover for the nuclear industry and downplay the disaster, grassroots anti-nuclear movements are growing worldwide. The Fukushima multiple meltdown dramatically illustrates the incalculable risks and costs of deploying this dangerous and unforgiving technology.

On Friday, Oct. 7, Howie Hawkins will be featured at an event at the Friends Meeting House (702 NW 38th St, Gainesville) that will challenge corporate spin about nuclear power, expose the financing of Florida’s nuclear industry, and discuss effective strategies for political organizing and policy advocacy. Hawkins has been an organizer in movements for peace, justice, labor, the environment and independent politics since the late 1960s. He was a co-founder of the anti-nuclear Clamshell Alliance in 1976 and the Green Party in the U.S. in 1984. A former Marine, Hawkins organized opposition to the Vietnam War and was active in the anti-apartheid movement. More info at: howiehawkins.com

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