Green Party: Florida faces nuclear threat

From the Winter 2010 issue of Green Pages:

Greens play key role in growing anti-nuke movement
by Michael Canney; Green Party of Florida

Nuclear expansion threatens residents of the “Sunshine State,” but resistance is growing.

Two utility giants – Progress Energy Florida (PEF) and Florida Power and Light (FPL) – are moving ahead with ambitious plans for a nuclear expansion that would double the number of nuclear power plants in the state. Florida Greens have been active in efforts to stop this looming threat to public health and safety, and have played a leading role in a growing anti-nuclear movement in the state.

FPL plans to build two new nuclear reactors at its existing Turkey Point power generation facility, on Biscayne Bay near Miami, situated between two environmentally sensitive National parks , Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park. FPL has operated two reactors at the Turkey Point site since the early seventies, which are now scheduled for an “uprate” that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and give the aging reactors a 20-year license extension.

PEF has applied to build a dual reactor nuclear power station on an undeveloped site in rural Levy County that is currently made up of woodlands and wetlands. The Levy site – currently the only “greenfield” site application in the U.S. – is located just a few miles north of PEF’s Crystal River nuclear plant, which is currently shut down until a crack in the outer shell of the containment vessel that was discovered in October 2009 can be fixed. Crystal River is also scheduled for an “uprate” and a 20- year license extension, but that plan may run into trouble if the problems with the containment vessel cannot be resolved.

Citizens concerned about the risky and expensive expansion of nuclear power in Florida have received little consideration or support from state legislators or regulatory agencies, and most elected officials of both establishment parties have either been cheerleaders for nuclear power or have remained silent on the issue. State agencies have acted as rubberstamps for the nuclear utilities’ plans, and in August 2009, Governor Charlie Crist and his Cabinet, ruling as the state’s Power Plant Siting Board, gave the state’s official seal of approval to the Levy County nuclear plant, despite the protestations of numerous citizens.

Florida Greens engage in energy policy advocacy

In February 2009, the Green Party of Florida (GPF) joined with the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and the Ecology Party (an offshoot of the 2008 Nader campaign) in filing a legal challenge to PEF’s Combined Operating license application for the Levy County plant. Several contentions allowed by the NRC’s Atomic Safety Licensing Board (ASLB). Meanwhile the construction has been delayed for 20 months. The petitioners won an important victory when the ASLB denied an appeal by Progress Energy that sought to toss out the contentions.

In 2007, the GPF delivered a letter to Governor Charlie Crist commending him for convening a climate change summit in Miami in July 2007 and for issuing Executive Orders on climate change. It was unprecedented for the state government to open the door to a public discussion of energy policy options that included advocates for clean, renewable energy solutions, but while Crist and other politicians were talking “green energy” and moving away from coal as the main fuel for Florida’s energy needs, the same politicians were cutting deals and approving laws and policies designed to pave the way for a fast tracking of new nuclear plants in Florida.

The Green Party let the governor know nuclear power does not belong in the Renewable Energy Portfolio being developed by the state. Partly in response to the governor’s climate change initiative, the GPF decided to draft a “green paper” on energy policy. In collaboration with Panagioti Tsolkas, co-chair of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, a 14-page document was produced and shared with public officials in Tallahassee, including Gov. Crist and the public at large. Titled Climate Change and Energy Options for the State of Florida, the green paper includes a comprehensive overview of the issues and challenges that govern our energy policy options.

The “Nuclear Revival” section includes these five points:
1. Nuclear radiation is lethal to human beings and all life forms on earth. In the event of a nuclear accident or attack, there is no known way to prevent radiation exposure. There is no known way to prevent illness and death from exposure to nuclear radiation.
2. Nuclear radiation is a result of all nuclear energy produced by human technology. There is no known way to produce nuclear energy without also producing nuclear radiation.
3. Nuclear radiation results in radioactive waste. There is no known way to safely transport or store this waste.
4. No technology designed to protect humans or other life forms from the lethal effects of nuclear radiation has ever been shown to be successful.
5. Nuclear radiation can destroy life, as we know it. Perfect security does not exist.

The position paper goes on to say, “Nuclear energy must be a primary concern of the energy future. The expansion and perpetuation of the nuclear power industry can only be accomplished by means of massive government subsidies. The public interest is not served by such a policy, and subsidies for nuclear power should be firmly opposed by all citizens and public officials who are truly concerned about the health and safety of future generations, and the future of the planet itself.”

Early cost recovery = a license to steal

Florida Greens are also trying to inform about the high cost to consumers, and the unfair advantages utility companies have in regard to nuclear energy. “Early Cost Recovery” is a law written by utility company lobbyists and approved by the Florida legislature in 2006. It allows private utility companies to collect funds, in the form of rate increases to their customers, to finance the advance costs for nuclear power plant construction. These funds can be collected and spent by the utilities even if the nuclear projects have not yet been licensed and approved by state and federal regulatory agencies,. If the nuclear plants are canceled by the utilities for any reason, the corporations can pocket the hundreds of millions of dollars they have fleeced from their customers, all with permission from the state.

Last October, Florida Greens issued a press release calling this arrangement “a license to steal” and a “form of corporate welfare designed to fast track nuclear power development and guarantee industry profits at the expense of the public interest.”

In January of this year, a class action lawsuit was filed by Progress Energy customers, which challenged the constitutionality of the “nuclear cost recovery” law, under which Progress Energy has already collected over $200 million.

Steve Wilkie, Green Party candidate for Congress in District 2, said about the lawsuit, “Members of the environmental movement have long understood that the true costs of nuclear energy are not competitive unless supported by publicly funded subsidies. It’s high time that citizens are taking this opportunity to oppose these “cost-plus” rate scams.”

According to Nicholas Ruiz III, Green Party candidate for Congress in District 24, this class action is the only remedy available at this point: “Nuclear cost recovery is the kind of policy we get when we allow politicians who fail to represent the will of the citizens to legislate public policy,” said Dr. Ruiz. “When our lawmakers write laws that serve only narrow corporate interests, the only recourse for citizens is in the courts, and in the ballot box. ”

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is the state regulatory agency charged with deciding how much money the utilities are allowed to collect from their customers, and the PSC has approved requests from Progress Energy and Florida Power and Light to raise rates in order to cover the costs of their planned expansion of nuclear power facilities in the state. The good news is that the PSC recently turned down requests for huge rate increases by FPL and PEF, without which the utilities will be less likely to push their expensive nuclear projects.

FPL has indicated it is reconsidering its proposed Turkey Point reactor project, but the utility is continuing with the plant approval process with the NRC, and may apply again in the fall for early cost recovery monies with the PSC. It is an election year, and once the election is over, it will likely be “business as usual” for the politicians who get elected with campaign contributions from the utility giants.

Nuclear expansion threatens investment in conservation, efficiency and renewables

Greens have emphasized that conservation, efficiency and renewable energy technologies, all essential to a secure energy future and a sound economic base, are in jeopardy if this planned nuclear expansion goes forward. Public investment that is needed for the development of safer and cleaner alternatives will be siphoned off to finance archaic and dangerous nuclear plants, which will take many years to build at a cost many times that of safer alternatives.

According to Steve Showen, a Miami-Dade Green who is active in the fight to stop the new reactors at Turkey Point, “The best way to stop the nuclear industry’s expansion is to deny the industry the massive public subsidies that guarantee their profits, because private investors consider nuclear power to be too risky an investment.” Showen adds, “It is absurd for President Obama to be announcing federal loan guarantees for building new nuclear plants, at a time when the renewable energy industry could make much better use of this support.”

The winds of change

Greens are hopeful that the groundswell of public opinion opposing construction cost giveaways to the utilities (influential in affecting the PSC decision to deny the latest round of rate hikes) will translate into support for the movement to pull the plug on utilities’ plans to build new nukes in Florida. It appears politicians beholden to the utility giants may be retaliating against J.R. Kelly, the Public Counsel credited with successfully leading the charge against the rate increase before the PSC. A Florida Senate subcommittee is preparing to review Kelly’s job performance and qualifications.

February brought a surprise in South Florida politics, when Florida International University Professor Philip Stoddard was elected Mayor of the city of South Miami over a longtime incumbent and FPL supporter. This political newcomer’s upset victory is an indication that the public has had enough of business as usual. Stoddard has been a leader in a local public interest group called Citizens Allied for Safe Energy (CASE), which has the support of local Green Party and community activists in opposition to FPL’s nuclear expansion at Turkey Point.


For more information:

Green Party of Florida
Green Party of the United States

Press Releases:

Florida Greens file petition against NRC licensing of Levy County nuclear plant

Florida Green Party opposes Public Service Commission approval of Nuclear Cost Recovery for utilities, calling it ‘a license to steal’

Green Party Welcomes Citizens’ Lawsuit Against Nuclear Cost Recovery Charges, Urges Floridians to Sign Petition Protesting Unconstitutional Rate Hikes

Site approval for Progress Energy nuclear plant in Levy County by DEP and Crist Cabinet is premature while problems identified in federal licensing process remain unaddressed, say Florida Greens

Green Party candidates in FL

Steve Wilkie for Congress, District 2
Dr. Nichola Ruiz III for Congress, District 24

Recommended sites on nuclear power and alternatives:

Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Beyond Nuclear
Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research
Rocky Mountain Institute
Union of Concerned Scientists – Nuclear Power

Documents

Documents and updates on the PETITION TO INTERVENE AND REQUEST FOR HEARING In the Matter of PROGRESS ENERGY FLORIDA, Levy County Nuclear Station Units 1 & 2, Docket Nos. 52-029 COL & 52-030 COL

Florida Department of Environmental Protection – Conditions for Certification (90-page PDF)

Climate Change and Energy Options for the State of Florida

News articles

March 11, 2008 — Price triples for Progress Energy’s proposed nuclear plant in Levy

July 16, 2008 — Progress Energy nuclear plant is okayed

January 5, 2009 – Westinghouse, Progress Energy Sign EPC Contract for Two AP1000 Nuclear Plants

May 1, 2009 — Progress Energy nuclear plant delayed by at least 20 months

May 2, 2009 — Progress Energy seeks rate hike despite nuclear plant delay

October 21, 2009 – Westinghouse AP1000 Reactor Design Issues Concern NRC

October 22, 2009 – Experts: Energy Department Should ‘Immediately Halt’ Plans to Issue Taxpayer-Backed Loan Guarantees in Wake of Major NRC Safety Objection to Westinghouse Reactor Design

Februray 13, 2010 – Group sues Progress Energy over nuclear plant fees

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6 Comments

  1. Jack Gamble said,

    March 22, 2010 @ 11:33 pm

    Come now, Greens, you are intentionally misleading people.

    Isn’t it true that nuclear power requires LOANS or LOAN GAURANTEES? As in, they PAY IT BACK…with interest!

    Are you not also calling for actual SUBSIDIES for wind and solar (which coincidentally produce no power 70% of the time, even in the Sunshine State)?

    Why do you lie and call a loan a subsidy and then lie by omission by ignoring the fact the you are actually advocating subsidies for wind and solar?

    Perhaps being a bit less disingenuous would aid you cause?

  2. Dave Schwab said,

    March 23, 2010 @ 9:10 am

    Jack Gamble, what is your relationship to the nuclear industry?

    Here’s what a loan guarantee means: if the nuclear industry defaults on its loans, the taxpayer has to cover the cost.

    If they don’t default on the loans, the private lenders get all the interest.

    A clearer but no less accurate name for “loan guarantee” would be “guaranteed bailout”.

    Privatizing profits and socializing losses seems to be one thing that both corporate-sponsored parties can agree on.

  3. Lou Novak said,

    March 23, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

    Who’s paying for Yucca Mt. Jack? Who’s paying to insure all nuclear facilities Jack? Who’s paying you Jack?

  4. John said,

    December 28, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

    I do think that it’s now time for everyone to work together and find an efficient alternative to nuclear energy. It cannot be right to eventually have these kind of facilites all over the world. The chances of accidents and nuclear waste storage will be of huge concern.

  5. Jack Gamble said,

    February 2, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

    I’m an engineer in the nuclear industry. I make about $79,000/yr. I am not paid to advocate nuclear power, I do so because I beleive in it.

    Unlike professional antinuclear activsits, who make considerably more than I do and promote fear unceratinty and doubt, I am not paid to speak about nuclear power. Also unlike profesional antinuclear activists, I am in the unique position of actually KNOWING WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

    @Dave
    You forgot to mention that the government charges a fee of several hundred million dollars for the loan gaurantee and as such, the taxpayers will profit from it.

    @Lou
    The nuclear industry paid for Yucca Mountian. The industry has paid more than $34 billion to the Federal Government under the agreement reached in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The taxpayers have not paid one yankee dime for Yucca, Lou.

    @John
    Not one single human being in the United States public has been killed or injured by a nuclear power plant. Not 1. On the contrary, 25,000 people die every year from respiratory illness caused by fossil fuel emissions. The only power source that has offset fossil fuel emissions in this country is nuclear power, which from 1970 to 1990 grew to 20% of our electricity that would otherwise be generated by fossil fuels. Nuclear power has actually SAVED several hundred thousand lives in the United States.

    As far as waste storage goes, just look at Oklo, Gabon. Nuclear waste has been safely stored there for over 2 BILLION years. It’s been there since before any multicellular life ever even evolved on this planet. It is an undisputable fact that ever single organism on the Earth has evolved and thrived with nuclear waste safely stored underground. This was done without any engineered safegaurd or containment apparatus. If Mother Nature can do it safely by chance, then we can do it.

  6. Lou Novak said,

    February 3, 2011 @ 6:32 am

    this is a joke right? a supporter of nuclear power named ‘Gamble’?

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