Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

America’s big budget blowout – nuclear weapons

May 18, 2017

Where Your Taxes Go: The Militarized Budget On the other hand, there is another side of the US government: the government of tax breaks and tax cuts for the rich, the one that squanders as much on the military as the next seven countries combined.

Only 22 percent of military taxes go to US troops for pay and benefits. Meanwhile, nearly half of the military budget goes to a powerful group of multinational corporations that make billions in profits from US warmongering.

Take Lockheed Martin. As the federal government’s biggest military contractor, it received $36 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2015, amounting to 80 percent of its revenues from all sources.

And that’s just one contractor. In all, the Department of Defense handed out more than $297 billion in contracts in 2016….Events like the Syria bombing, and Trump’s election, tend to send stock prices for these companies soaring.

Where Your Dollars Are Going: Why Some Antiwar Activists Are Withholding Taxes, April 18, 2017, By Lindsay KoshgarianTruthout | News Analysis Among the marches, petitions and call-in campaigns that comprise much of the Trump resistance movement, one resistance tactic gets little attention: withholding taxes. As the US seems ready to slide into yet another Middle East war in Syria while preparing for massive cuts to government programs at home, what role does tax resistance play in opposing regressive and violent policies?

While being anti-tax is typically associated with conservatism, there is a small but longstanding tradition within the progressive movement of withholding taxes — specifically, war taxes.

How does tax resistance work, and does it result in a lack of support for government programs that most progressives support and would like to see grow? How much of our taxes go to war, the military and militarism anyway, and how much to worthy programs like education, aid for struggling families, the environment and more?

Paying income taxes may not usually spur introspection, but it might if Americans realized that, for example, they are working 27 days out of every year to pay taxes that support war profiteers. Most progressives and many on the right of the political spectrum would never willingly write a check to weapons contractors, or speak in support of weapons systems that will fuel tomorrow’s air strikes and drone attacks. If Lockheed Martin, the nation’s most prolific military contractor, were a store or coffee shop, many would boycott it. So why willingly give Lockheed $170 a year through taxes — which the average taxpayer now does?

Pride and Prejudice: How the Government Helps (and How Americans Pay for It) The extent to which government helps those who need it most and strengthens every community is certainly underappreciated in a country obsessed with “small government,” a nation that reveres former President Ronald Reagan, who once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Of course, the government does help. More than half of almost every group of Americans — from every region of the country, white, Black, Latino, rural, urban, conservative, liberal — have benefited at some point in their lives from government programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment and welfare. Government programs are often targeted to help those most in need of aid or those historically oppressed. Half of the students who receive Pell grants for college tuition come from families with incomes below $15,223, and 77 percent of them would be the first generation of their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. Nearly one in four Pell recipients is Black. Meanwhile, programs like Meals on Wheels for seniors are almost universally beloved and respected for taking care of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. The federal government serves as a crucial source of support for many………

Where Your Taxes Go: The Militarized Budget

On the other hand, there is another side of the US government: the government of tax breaks and tax cuts for the rich, the one that squanders as much on the military as the next seven countries combined; the one that has increased its spending on federal prisons by 10 times over the last 40 years — the government that seeks to consolidate power and exert control over the world’s most vulnerable people.

The US government promotes an extreme overreliance on military might and a disturbing parallel of policing, incarceration, surveillance and immigration raids and deportations here at home. A recent National Priorities Project analysis of the US discretionary budget showed that 64 percent of the federal discretionary budget — the budget decided by Congress each year, which is covered almost entirely by income taxes — is devoted to the military and militarism: to making and preparing for war, dealing with the consequences of war, and to programs that amount to intimidation and oppression here at home.

At least 23 percent of income taxes go to the military — and if you count spending on veterans’ benefits, national debt due to past wars, or other militarized spending like that for the FBI, federal prisons or immigration enforcement, the estimates only go higher. In addition to paying an average of $3,290 in yearly income taxes for the traditional military, Americans each pay $88 for border control and immigration and customs enforcement, $33 for the federal prison system, and more for programs ranging from the FBI to the CIA and beyond.

Only 22 percent of military taxes go to US troops for pay and benefits. Meanwhile, nearly half of the military budget goes to a powerful group of multinational corporations that make billions in profits from US warmongering.

Take Lockheed Martin. As the federal government’s biggest military contractor, it received $36 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2015, amounting to 80 percent of its revenues from all sources. Lockheed used those taxpayer dollars to pay its CEO more than $19 million in 2015. Taxpayers contributed six times as much to this one weapons maker as they did to all foreign aid in 2016. This should give us pause when we consider how often the US turns to military intervention versus prevention, diplomacy or other means during international crises.

And that’s just one contractor. In all, the Department of Defense handed out more than $297 billion in contracts in 2016 — more than half of the department’s budget.

Events like the Syria bombing, and Trump’s election, tend to send stock prices for these companies soaring.

An Act of Resistance

So, how does it all balance out? Does the government help more than it harms? Is there a way to support the good while resisting the bad?

This is what some war tax resisters attempt to do. In practice, resisting war tax runs the gamut from not paying any taxes at all to withholding a token amount of tax — as low as a few dollars — as a way of registering resistance. For those who want to support the government in its helping capacities, or who want to see those capacities grow, the second may be the better option.

Clearly, resisting taxes is not for everyone — it can come with legal penalties, headaches and a good deal of uncertainty. And of course, war tax resisting is not the only way to influence how your tax dollars are used: calling, visiting or writing your representatives in government; voting; and engaging in street protests play key roles in resisting war and militarism. Still, we are in the midst of a big resistance, and for some, resisting tax may be just what the doctor ordered.

The Pentagon managed to lose 10 $trillion

May 18, 2017

$10 Trillion Missing From Pentagon And No One — Not Even The DoD — Knows Where It Is 27, 2017, BY CLAIRE BERNISH

Over a mere two decades, the Pentagon lost track of a mind-numbing $10 trillion — that’s trillion, with a fat, taxpayer-funded “T” — and no one, not even the Department of Defense, knows where it went or on what it was spent.

Even though audits of all federal agencies became mandatory in 1996, the Pentagon has apparently made itself an exception, and — fully 20 years later — stands obstinately orotund in never having complied.

Because, as defense officials insist — summoning their best impudent adolescent — an audit would take too long and, unironically, cost too much.

“Over the last 20 years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when an audit would be completed,” Rafael DeGennaro, director of Audit the Pentagontold The Guardianrecently. “Meanwhile, Congress has more than doubled the Pentagon’s budget.”

Worse, President Trump’s newly-proposed budget seeks to toss an additional $54 billion into the evidently bottomless pit that is the U.S. military  — more for interventionist policy, more for resource-plundering, more for proxy fighting, and, of course, more for jets and drones to drop more bombs suspiciously often on civilians.


Because, without the mandated audit, the DoD could be purchasing damned near anything, at any cost, and use, or give, it — to anyone, for any reason.

Officials with the Government Accountability Office and Office of the Inspector General have catalogued egregious financial disparities at the Pentagon for years — yet the Defense Department grouses the cost and energy necessary to perform an audit in compliance with the law makes it untenable.

Astonishingly, the Pentagon’s own watchdog tacitly approves this technically-illegal workaround — and the legally-gray and, yes, literally, on-the-books-corrupt practices in tandem — to what would incontrovertibly be a most unpleasant audit, indeed.

Take the following of myriad examples, called “plugging,” for which Pentagon bookkeepers are not only encouraged to conjure figures from thin air, but, in many cases, they would be physically and administratively incapable of performing the job without doing so — without ever having faced consequences for this brazen cooking of books.

To wit, Reuters reported the results of an investigation into Defense’s magical number-crunching — well over three years ago, on November 18, 2013 — detailing the illicit tasks of 15-year employee, “Linda Woodford [who] spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense’s accounts.”

Woodford, who has since retired, and others like her, act as individual pieces in the amassing chewed gum only appearing to plug a damning mishandling of funds pilfered from the American people to fund wars overseas for resources in the name of U.S. defense.

“Every month until she retired in 2011,” Scot J. Paltrow wrote for Reuters, “she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon’s main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAS accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy’s books with the U.S. Treasury’s – a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.

“And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from. ‘A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate,’ Woodford says. ‘We didn’t have the detail … for a lot of it.’”

Where a number of disparities could be corrected through hurried communications, a great deal — thousands each month, for each person on the task — required fictitious figures. Murkily deemed, “unsubstantiated change actions” — tersely termed, “plugs” — this artificial fix forcing records into an unnatural alignment is common practice at the Pentagon.

Beyond bogus books, the Pentagon likely flushed that $10 trillion in taxes down the toilet of inanity that is unchecked purchasing by inept staff who must be devoid of prior experience in the field of defense.

This tax robbery would eclipse the palatability of blood money — if it weren’t also being wasted on items such as the 7,437 extraneous Humvee front suspensions — purchased in surplus over the inexplicable 14-year supply of 15,000 unnecessary Humvee front suspensions already gathering warehouse-shelf dust.

And there are three items of note on this particular example, of many:

One, the U.S. Department of Defense considers inventory surpassing a three-year supply, “excessive.”

Two, the stupefying additional seven-thousand-something front suspensions arrived, as ordered, during a period of demand reduced by half.

Three, scores of additional items — mostly unaccounted for in inventory — sit untouched and aging in storage, growing not only incapable of being used, but too dangerous to be properly disposed of safely.

Worse, contractors greedily sink hands into lucrative contracts — with all the same supply-based waste at every level, from the abject disaster that is the $1 trillion F-35 fighter program, to the $8,123.50 shelled out for Bell Helicopter Textron helicopter gears with a price tag of $445.06, to the DoD settlement with Boeing for overcharges of a whopping $13.7 million.

The latter included a charge to the Pentagon of $2,286 — spent for an aluminum pin ordinarily costing just $10.

Considering all the cooking of numbers apparently fueled with burning money stateside, you would think Defense channeled its efforts into becoming a paragon of economic efficiency when the military defends the United States. Overseas. From terrorism. And from terrorists. And terrorist-supporting nations.

But this is the Pentagon — and a trickle of telling headlines regularly grace the news, each evincing yet another missing shipment of weapons, unknown allocation of funds, or retrieval of various U.S.-made arms and munitions by some terrorist group deemed politically less acceptable than others by officials naming pawns.

In fact, so many American weapons and supplies lost by the DoD and CIA become the property of actual terrorists — who then use them sadistically against civilians and strategically against our proxies and theirs — it would be negligent not to describe the phenomenon as pattern, whether or not intent exists behind it.

Since practically the moment of nationalist President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the ceaselessly belligerent of the military-industrial machine have been granted a new head cheerleader with a bullhorn so powerful as to render calls to apply the brakes effectively, if not unpatriotically, moot.

Sans any optimistic indication thus far lacking from the Trump administration it would reverse course and move toward, rather than against, transparency, the painstaking audit imperative to DoD accountability remains only a theory — while the Pentagon’s $10 trillion sits as the world’s largest elephant in apathetic America’s living room.

For now, we know generally where our money is going: war. Which aspect of war — compared to the power of your outrage about its callous and reckless execution in your name — matters little.

Claire Bernish writes for, where this article first appeared.

Stagnation: the global nuclear industry

May 18, 2017

Countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or phase-out policies (e.g. Germany, Belgium, and Taiwan) account for about half of the world’s operable reactors and more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation

Lobbyists debate responses to the nuclear power crisis, Online opinion

By Jim Green – , 27 March 2017, Nuclear lobbyists are abandoning the tiresome rhetoric about a nuclear power ‘renaissance’. Indeed they’ve turned full-circle and are now warning about a crisis. Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute, a US-based pro-nuclear lobby group, has recently written articles about nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis” and the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West“.A recent articlefrom the Breakthrough Institute and the like-minded Third Way lobby group discusses “the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries” and states that “the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies”.

‘Environmental Progress’, another US pro-nuclear lobby group connected to Shellenberger, also acknowledges a nuclear power crisis. The lobby group notes that 151 gigawatts (GW) of worldwide nuclear power capacity (38% of the total) could be lost by 2030 (compared to 33 GW of retirements over the past decade).

As a worldwide generalisation, nuclear power can’t be said to be in crisis. To take the extreme example, China’s nuclear power program isn’t in crisis ‒ it is moving ahead at pace. Nuclear power is moving ahead at snail’s pace in some other countries (e.g. Russia, South Korea), while in others the industry faces problems but is not in crisis (e.g. UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Ukraine).

Nonetheless, the global picture is one of stagnation and malaise. The July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an overview of the troubled status of nuclear power: (more…)

Top salesman for nuclear war – Lockheed Martin

March 9, 2017

Lockheed Martin Used Pentagon Dollars to Lobby Congress for Nuclear Weapons Funding One of the uses of the billions of dollars from these contracts is to recycle them back into lobbying the government to push for additional conventional and nuclear weapons spending, as reported by William Hartung and Stephen Miles. Of course, in addition, these funds are used to support a general environment of fear and insecurity, through contributions supporting hawkish think tanks.

Trump Is Bankrupting Our Nation to Enrich the War Profiteers
 March 06, 2017 By Jonathan King and Richard KrushnicTruthout | News Analysis

“……..Corporations that contract with the Department of Defense (DOD) for nuclear weapons complex work do not report revenues and profits from this work separately from their other military work, although they do break up government work from civilian work, and sometimes break up military work from other government work. Hence, it is not possible to determine profits made from nuclear weapons complex work from the annual reports and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings of large military corporations. However, it is possible to estimate, and to demonstrate how a significant amount of military R&D and production not recorded as nuclear weapons work is in fact partially nuclear weapons work. The nuclear weapons work financed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) is (not surprisingly) carried out in a semi-secret insiders club that insulates it from public knowledge and oversight. The first contracts for the upgrading of the nuclear weapons triads have already been awarded — one to Northrop Grumman — for a new generation of long-range bomber. But the public remains in the dark as to how many tens of billions of their tax dollars will be spent on the project.

From 2012-2014, according to Lockheed Martin’s 2014 annual report, the company realized an average of $46 billion a year in revenue, with an average of $3.2 billion in profits — 7 percent of revenue, and a 76 percent return on $4.2 billion of investor equity. The annual report informs us that 59 percent of 2014 revenue came from the Pentagon. We know from other sources that $1.4 billion a year is coming from the DOE for operation of the Sandia nuclear weapons lab, and we are estimating that an additional $600 million a year is coming for DOE nuclear weapons complex work. Information in the annual report indicates that around $6.1 billion came from foreign military sales. This adds up to around $35 billion of military revenue, or 75.3 percent of total 2014 revenue. The single biggest revenue earner in recent years is the F-35 jet fighter, bringing in $8.2 billion, 17 percent of total corporation revenue, in 2014. (William Hartung’s recent report describes additional aspects of Lockheed Martin’s military business, and his book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex provides extensive background).

The only references to Lockheed Martin’s nuclear weapons complex work in its 2014 annual report is a sentence noting provision of infrastructure and site support to the DOE’s Hanford complex, and a phrase noting continuing work on the Trident missile. The words “nuclear weapons” never appear in the report.

Lockheed Martin’s Nuclear Weapons Operations

In spite of the lack of mention in the annual report, Lockheed Martin is a partner with Bechtel ATK, SOC LLC and subcontractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS), in running the DOE Pantex Plant and the Y-12 Complex. Pantex does nuclear weapons life extension, dismantlement, development, testing and fabrication of high explosive nuclear warhead components. Y-12 stores and processes uranium, and fabricates uranium weapons components.

Lockheed Martin produced the Trident strategic nuclear missile for the 14 US Ohio-class nuclear submarines and for the four British Vanguard-class submarines. The 24 Tridents on each Ohio-class submarine each carry either eight or 12 warheads, all of them 20 to 50 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each warhead is capable of killing most of the people in any one of the world’s largest cities — either immediately or later, from radiation, burns, other injuries, starvation and disease. Lockheed MArtin is not producing new Trident missiles now, but it maintains and modifies them. Previously, Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors received $65 million for each of the 651 Trident missiles, in addition to the $35 billion in earlier development costs.

The other primary strategic nuclear weapon delivery vehicle is Boeing’s land-based Minuteman III strategic missile, also with many warheads per missile. About 450 of them are in silos in Colorado and northern plains states. Lockheed Martin produced and continues to produce key systems for the Minuteman III, and plays a large role in maintaining them. It was awarded a $452 million contract for this work in 2014.

Lockheed’s Sandia Subsidiary

Regarding the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons upgrades planned for the next decade; particularly important is the role of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). Outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, this DOE lab’s 10,600 employees make 95 percent of the roughly 6,500 non-nuclear components of all seven US nuclear warhead types. Components arm, fuse, fire, generate neutrons to start nuclear reactions, prevent unauthorized firing, preserve the aging nuclear weapons stockpile and mate the weapons to the missiles, planes and ships that deliver them to targets. Sandia Corporation LLC, wholly owned by Lockheed Martin, operates Sandia. The DOE is spending at least $1.4 billion a year on Sandia nuclear weapons work. The secret Lockheed Martin nuclear warhead assembly plant uncovered in Sunnyvale in 2010 is an extension of Lockheed Martin’s Sandia operations. Again, none of this received any mention or revenue numbers in Lockheed Martin’s 2014 annual report.

Lockheed Martin Used Pentagon Dollars to Lobby Congress for Nuclear Weapons Funding

One of the uses of the billions of dollars from these contracts is to recycle them back into lobbying the government to push for additional conventional and nuclear weapons spending, as reported by William Hartung and Stephen Miles. Of course, in addition, these funds are used to support a general environment of fear and insecurity, through contributions supporting hawkish think tanks. Technically, the federal government does not allow military contracting firms to use awarded funds to lobby Congress. Lobbying funds must come from other parts of the companies’ businesses. In reality, this is a non-functional restriction, since profits from various business segments are fungible; that is, once they are profits, they are intermingled, so in reality, the firms can use the profits from military contracts to lobby Congress. But Lockheed Martin went ahead and spent military contract funds from 2008-2012 as part of the contract expenditures. It didn’t even bother to book the lobbying expenditures as expenditures of profits. In 2015, the US Department of Justice required Lockheed Martin’s Sandia subsidiary to repay $4.9 million of a Sandia contract award to the Pentagon that the firm had spent under the contract for lobbying of Congressman the DOE secretary and the secretary’s family and friends………

The war profiteers – USA

March 9, 2017

Trump Is Bankrupting Our Nation to Enrich the War Profiteers March 06, 2017 By Jonathan King and Richard KrushnicTruthout | News Analysis “………The Role of Weapons Contractors

We have previously argued that it is the guaranteed profits from nuclear weapons manufacture that leads contractors to resist nuclear disarmament and promote the concept of danger from abroad.

The profitability derives from three distinct aspects of such weapons contracts:

  • First, they cannot be outsourced to lower cost suppliers, such as in China or Mexico, by congressional edict.
  • Second, the contracts are cost-plus. That is, no matter what the companies spend on the manufacture, they are guaranteed a healthy profit on top. And, of course, the more they run up the costs, the more they make.
  • And third, the contracts are screened from oversight, such as proper audits, by national security considerations.

The current 2017 congressional military authorization calls for spending of some $350 billion over the next decade for upgrades of our nuclear weapons ($35 billion a year) — land-based missiles in silos, long-range bombers and their bombs, new Trident submarines and upgraded Trident missiles and new nuclear-capable cruise missiles. The so-called “modernization” program that Trump supports will spend more than $1 trillion — a thousand billion — income tax dollars over the next 30 years.

Given that the Soviet Union no longer exists, that China has become a capitalist economy and that the major difficulties faced abroad are ISIS (also known as Daesh) and related groups, it is deeply questionable why the congressional budget still devotes tens of billions of dollars to Cold War-era nuclear weapons. Yet the Trump administration is proposing to spend a trillion dollars or more over the next three decades upgrading the US nuclear weapons triad.

Where does the pressure for these wasteful and provocative programs — which almost certainly decrease national security — come from? While military high command and the intelligence agencies also press for nuclear weapons upgrades, corporate profits derived from nuclear weapons contracts may be the most powerful driving force, supported by members of Congress with military research and development (R&D) and production facilities in their districts.

A closer look at Lockheed Martin, the largest weapons contractor in the world, reveals how this coupling between corporate profits and the continuation of nuclear weapons delivery programs operates……….

UK’s nuclear waste cleanup costs – up to £219 billion, with development of autonomous robots

March 9, 2017

UK funding development of autonomous robots to help clear up nuclear waste A new UK consortium will be developing robots to handle nuclear sites, bomb disposal, space and mining. International Business Times,     By   February 28, 2017 The UK government is funding a new consortium of academic institutions and industrial partners to jump start the robotics industry and develop a new generation of robots to help deal with situations that are hazardous for humans.

It is estimated that it will cost between £95 billion and £219 billion to clean up the UK’s existing nuclear facilities over the next 120 years or so. The environment is so harsh that humans cannot physically be on the site, and robots that are sent in often encounter problems, like the small IRID Toshiba shape-shifting scorpion robot used to explore Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, often break down and cannot be retrieved.Remote-controlled robots are needed to turn enter dangerous zones that haven’t been accessed in over 40 years to carry out relatively straightforward tasks that a human could do in an instant.

The problem is that robots are just not at the level they need to be yet, and it is very difficult to build a robot that can successfully navigate staircases, move over rough terrain and turn valves.

To fix this problem, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is investing £4.6m ($5.7m) into a new group consisting of the University of Manchester, the University of Birmingham, the University of the West of England (UWE) and industrial partners Sellafield, EDF Energy, UKAEA and NuGen…….

Pros and cons of tax-payer subsidies for nuclear power

February 1, 2017

Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.

In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.

We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long.

Should troubled nuclear reactors be subsidized? By Peter Bradford, The Conversation

Since the 1950s, U.S. nuclear power has commanded immense taxpayer and consumer subsidy based on promises of economic and environmental benefits. Many of these promises are unfulfilled, but new ones take their place and more subsidies follow.

Today, the nuclear industry claims that keeping all operating reactors running for many years, no matter how uneconomic they become, is essential in order to reach U.S. climate change targets.

Economics have always challenged U.S. reactors. After more than 100 construction cancellations and cost overruns costing up to $5 billion apiece, Forbes magazine in 1985 called nuclear power “the greatest managerial disaster in business history … only the blind, or the biased, can now think that most of the money [$265 billion by 1990] has been well spent.” U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Chair Lewis Strauss’ 1954 promise that electric power would be “ too cheap to meter” is today used to mock nuclear economics, not commend them.

As late as 1972, the Atomic Energy Commission forecast that the U.S. would have 1,000 power reactors by the year 2000. Today, we have 100 operating power reactors, down from a peak of 112 in 1990. Since 2012, power plant owners have retired five units and announced plans to close nine more. Four new reactors are likely to come on line. Without strenuous government intervention, almost all of the rest will close by midcentury. Because these recent closures have been abrupt and unplanned, the replacement power has come in substantial part from natural gas, causing a dismaying uptick in greenhouse gas emissions.

The nuclear industry, led by the forlornly named lobbying group Nuclear Matters, still obtains large subsidies for new reactor designs that cannot possibly compete at today’s prices. But its main function now is to save operating reactors from closure brought on by their own rising costs, by the absence of a U.S. policy on greenhouse gas emissions and by competition from less expensive natural gas, carbon-free renewables and more efficient energy use.

Only billions more dollars in subsidies and the retarding of rapid deployment of cheaper technologies can save these reactors. Only fresh claims of unique social benefit can justify such steps.

When I served on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1977 through 1982, it issued more licenses than in any comparable period since. Arguments that the U.S. couldn’t avoid dependence on Middle Eastern oil and keep the lights on without a vast increase in nuclear power were standard fare then and throughout my 20 years chairing the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions. In fact, we attained these goals without the additional reactors, a lesson to remember in the face of claims that all of today’s nuclear plants are needed to ward off climate change.

Nuclear power in competitive electricity markets

During nuclear power’s growth years in the 1960s and 1970s, almost all electric utility rate regulation was based on recovering the money necessary to build and run power plants and the accompanying infrastructure. But in the 1990s, many states broke up the electric utility monopoly model.

Now a majority of U.S. power generation is sold in competitive markets. Companies profit by producing the cheapest electricity or providing services that avoid the need for electricity.

To justify their current subsidy demands, nuclear advocates assert three propositions. First, they contend that power markets undervalue nuclear plants because they do not compensate reactors for avoiding carbon emissions or for other attributes such as diversifying the fuel supply or running more than 90 percent of the time.

Second, they assert that other low-carbon sources cannot fill the gap because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. So power grids will use fossil-fired generators for more hours if nuclear plants close.

Finally, nuclear power supporters argue that these intermittent sources receive substantial subsidies while nuclear energy does not, thereby enabling renewables to underbid nuclear even if their costs are higher.

Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.

Providing such open-ended support will negate several major energy trends that currently benefit customers and the environment. First, power markets have been working reliably and effectively. A large variety of cheaper, more efficient technologies for producing and saving energy, as well as managing the grid more cheaply and cleanly, have been developed. Energy storage, which can enhance the round-the-clock capability of some renewables is progressing faster than had been expected, and it is now being bid into several power markets — notably the market serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

Long-term subsidies for uneconomic nuclear plants also will crowd out penetration of these markets by energy efficiency and renewables. This is the path New York has taken by committing at least $7.6 billion in above-market payments to three of its six plants to assure that they operate through 2029.

Nuclear power versus other carbon-free fuels  While power markets do indeed undervalue low-carbon fuels, all of the other premises underlying the nuclear industry approach are flawed. In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.

In California, these replacement resources, which include renewables, storage, transmission enhancements and energy efficiency measures, will for the most part be procured through competitive processes. Indeed, any state where a utility threatens to close a plant can run an auction to ascertain whether there are sufficient low-carbon resources available to replace the unit within a particular time frame. Only then will regulators know whether, how much and for how long they should support nuclear units.

If New York had taken this approach, each of the struggling nuclear units could have bid to provide power in such an auction. They might well have succeeded for the immediate future, but some or all would probably not have won after that.

Closing the noncompetitive plants would be a clear benefit to the New York economy. This is why a large coalition of big customers, alternative energy providers and environmental groups opposed the long-term subsidy plan.

The industry’s final argument — that renewables are subsidized and nuclear is not — ignores overwhelming history. All carbon-free energy sources together have not received remotely as much government support as has flowed to nuclear power.

Nuclear energy’s essential components — reactors and enriched uranium fuel — were developed at taxpayer expense. Private utilities were paid to build nuclear reactors in the 1950s and early 1960s, and received subsidized fuel. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, total subsidies paid and offered to nuclear plants between 1960 and 2024 generally exceed the value of the power that they produced.

The U.S. government also has pledged to dispose of nuclear power’s most hazardous wastes — a promise that has never been made to any other industry. By 2020, taxpayers will have paid some $21 billion to store those wastes at power plant sites.

Furthermore, under the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, each plant owner’s accident liability is limited to some $300 million per year, even though the Fukushima disaster showed that nuclear accident costs can exceed $100 billion. If private companies that own U.S. nuclear power plants had been responsible for accident liability, they would not have built reactors. The same is almost certainly true of responsibility for spent fuel disposal.

Finally, as part of the transition to competition in the 1990s, state governments were persuaded to make customers pay off some $70 billion in excessive nuclear costs. Today, the same nuclear power providers are asking to be rescued from the same market forces for a second time.

Christopher Crane, the president and CEO of Exelon, which owns the nation’s largest nuclear fleet, preaches temperance from a bar stool when he disparages renewable energy subsidies by asserting, “I’ve talked for years about the unintended consequences of policies that incentivize technologies versus outcomes.“

But he’s right about unintended and unfortunate consequences. We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long. It’s time to take Crane at his word by using our power markets, adjusted to price greenhouse gas emissions, to prioritize our low carbon outcome over his technology.

Peter Bradford is a the former chair of the Maine’s Public Utilities Commission and former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory commissioner. He also is on the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists. This piece was originally published on

Nuclear industry survival increasingly paid for from the public purse

February 1, 2017

Nuclear Energy Dangerous to Your Wallet, Not Only the Environment Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog and has been an activist with several groups. His book, It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, is available from Zero Books.

Quite an insult: Subsidies prop up an industry that points a dagger at the heart of the communities where ever it operates. The building of nuclear power plants drastically slowed after the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, so it is at a minimum reckless that the latest attempt to resuscitate nuclear power pushes forward heedless of Fukushima’s discharge of radioactive materials into the air, soil and ocean.

There are no definitive statistics on the amount of subsidies enjoyed by nuclear power providers — in part because there so many different types of subsidies — but it amounts to a figure, whether we calculate in dollars, euros or pounds, in the hundreds of billions. Quite a result for an industry whose boosters, at its dawn a half-century ago, declared that it would provide energy “too cheap to meter.”

Taxpayers are not finished footing the bill for the industry, however. There is the matter of disposing radioactive waste (often borne by governments rather than energy companies) and fresh subsidies being granted for new nuclear power plants. None of this is unprecedented — government handouts have the been the industry’s rule from its inception. A paper written by Mark Cooper, a senior economic analyst for the Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment, notes the lack of economic viability then:

“In the late 1950s the vendors of nuclear reactors knew that their technology was untested and that nuclear safety issues had not been resolved, so they made it clear to policymakers in Washington that they would not build reactors if the Federal government did not shield them from the full liability of accidents.” [page iv]

Nor have the economics of nuclear energy become rational today. A Union of Concerned Scientists paper, Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies, states:

“Despite the profoundly poor investment experience with taxpayer subsidies to nuclear plants over the past 50 years, the objectives of these new subsidies are precisely the same as the earlier subsidies: to reduce the private cost of capital for new nuclear reactors and to shift the long-term, often multi-generational risks of the nuclear fuel cycle away from investors. And once again, these subsidies to new reactors—whether publicly or privately owned—could end up exceeding the value of the power produced.” [page 3]

The many ways of counting subsidies

Among the goodies routinely given away, according to the Concerned Scientists, are:

*Subsidies at inception, reducing capital costs and operating costs.

*Accounting rules allowing companies to write down capital costs after cost overruns, cancellations and plant abandonments, reducing capital-recovery requirements,

*Recovery of “stranded costs” (costs to a utility’s assets because of new regulations or a deregulated market) passed on to rate payers.

Yes, you read that last item correctly. Even when the energy industry receives its wish to be rid of regulation, it is entitled to extra money because of the resulting rigors of market pressures.

The amount of government subsidies for nuclear (and for oil and gas) is far greater than that for solar energy, despite Right-wing attempts to exploit the Obama administration’s generous loan guarantees to failed California solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra. A primary source for Right-wing disinformation campaigns against renewable energy appears to be a report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency that lists direct federal government subsidies to renewables as significantly larger than for nuclear or for natural gas and petroleum liquids for fiscal years 2007 and 2010.

The report, prepared at the behest of three hard-line Republican members of the House of Representatives, was narrowly focused, and notes that it “do[es] exclude some subsidies.” And, as a snapshot, the decades of previous handouts to nuclear, oil and gas companies are not accounted for. Nor does the Energy Information Agency report account for legacy costs — solar and wind power, for example, do not leave behind tons of radioactive waste as does nuclear energy.

Numerous research papers paint a fuller picture. A Congressional Research Service report found that nuclear power had received $74 billion for research and developmentby the U.S. government for the period 1948 to 1998, more than all such money given for fossil fuels, renewables and energy efficiency combined.

A report by the venture-capital firm DBL Investors, Ask Saint Onofrio, reports that nuclear energy cumulatively has received four times more subsidies than solar energy in California, and that nuclear subsidies were higher than solar in 2011 and all previous years. Nuclear has received $8.2 billion in subsidies in California, while providing the state with three percent of its power in 2012.

The uneconomical state of nuclear power is a global phenomenon, not limited to any one place. A comprehensive study prepared for the Green Party of Germany’s Heinrich Böll Stiftung, The Economics of Nuclear Power: An Updatereports:

“Up to now, nuclear power plants have been funded by massive public subsidies. For Germany the calculations roughly add up to over 100 billion Euros and this preferential treatment is still going on today. As a result the billions set aside for the disposal of nuclear waste and the dismantling of nuclear power plants represent a tax-free manoeuvre for the companies. In addition the liability of the operators is limited to 2.5 billion Euros — a tiny proportion of the costs that would result from a medium-sized nuclear accident.”

The paper later says:

“Successive studies by the British government in 1989, 1995, and 2002 came to the conclusion that in a liberalised electricity market, electric utilities would not build nuclear power plants without government subsidies and government guarantees that cap costs. In most countries where the monopoly status of the generating companies has been removed, similar considerations would apply.”

New plants are being built, with new subsidies

Significant cost overruns are the norm in building nuclear power plants, and it isn’t investors who are on the hook for them.

Three nuclear projects are under construction in the United States and two in Western Europe, a group that features an assortment of cost overruns and generous guarantees:

*The two new Vogtle reactors in Georgia are already $3 billion over budget although their completion date is three and a half years away. The largest owner, Southern Company, has received $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees. Overruns at this plant are not unprecedented; the two existing reactors cost $8.7 billion instead of the promised $600 million, resulting in higher electricity rates.

*The Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor in Tennessee, which received its license to operate in October, has seen its cost rise to $6.1 billion from $2.5 billion. (This is technically a restart of a unit on which construction was suspended in 1985.) The existing reactor at this site has a history of safety problems.

*The Summer 2 and 3 reactors being built in South Carolina have already caused rate payers there to endure a series of rate increases. Cost overruns just since 2012 have totaled almost $2 billion.

*In October 2013, British authorities approved a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, England, that features subsidies designed to give the owner, Électricité de France, aguaranteed 10 percent rate of return on the project. Power from the plant will be sold at a fixed price, indexed to the consumer inflation rate. In other words, The Independent reports, “should the market price fall below that [agreed-upon] level the Government would make up the difference.” The agreed-upon fixed price set by the Cameron government at the time was double the wholesale price for electricity.

*Olkiluoto-3 in Finland was supposed to have cost €3 billion, but is 10 years behind schedule and €5 billion over budget.

High costs despite high subsidies

There would at least be a small silver lining in this dark picture if the electricity produced were cheap. But that’s not the case. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, the cost of producing electricity from nuclear power in France tripled and in the United States the cost increased fivefold, according to the Vermont Law School paper [page 46].

Then there are the costs of nuclear that are not imposed by any other energy source: What to do with all the radioactive waste? Regardless of who ultimately shoulders these costs, the environmental dangers will last for tens of thousands of years. In the United States, there is the fiasco of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada. The U.S. government has collected $35 billion from energy companies to finance the dump, which is the subject of fierce local opposition and appears to have no chance of being built.

Presumably, the energy companies have passed on these costs to their consumers but nonetheless are demanding the government take the radioactive waste they are storing at their plants or compensate them. As part of this deal, the U.S. government made itself legally responsible for finding a permanent nuclear-waste storage facility.

And, eventually, plants come to the end of their lives and must be decommissioned, another big expense that energy companies would like to be borne by someone else. The Heinrich Böll Stiftung study says:

“[T]here is a significant mismatch between the interests of commercial concerns and society in general. Huge costs that will only be incurred far in the future have little weight in commercial decisions because such costs are “discounted.” This means that waste disposal costs and decommissioning costs, which are at present no more than ill-supported guesses, are of little interest to commercial companies. From a moral point of view, the current generation should be extremely wary of leaving such an uncertain, expensive, and potentially dangerous legacy to a future generation to deal with when there are no ways of reliably ensuring that the current generation can bequeath the funds to deal with them, much less bear the physical risk. Similarly, the accident risk also plays no part in decision-making because the companies are absolved of this risk by international treaties that shift the risk to taxpayers.” [page 17]

The British government, for instance, currently foots more than three-quarters of the bill for radioactive waste management and decommissioning, and for nuclear legacy sites. A report prepared for Parliament estimates that total public liability to date just for this program is around £50 billion, with tens of billions more to come.

Liability caps for accidents are also routine. In the U.S., the Price-Anderson Act, in force since 1957, caps the total liability of nuclear operators in the event of a serious accident or attack to $10.5 billion. If the total is higher, as it surely would be, taxpayers would be on the hook for the rest. As a further sweetener, the Bush II/Cheney administration, in 2005, signed into law new nuclear subsidies and tax breaks worth $13 billion. The Obama administration, attempting its own nuclear push, has offered an additional $36 billion in federal loan guarantees to underwrite new reactor construction, again putting the risk on taxpayers, not investors.

The Vermont Law School paper aptly sums up this picture with this conclusion:

“If the owners and operators of nuclear reactors had to face the full liability of a nuclear accident and meet the alternatives in competition that is unfettered by subsidies, no one would have built a nuclear reactor in the past, no one would build a reactor today, and anyone who owned one would exit the nuclear business as quickly as they could.” [page 69]

If we had a rational economic system, they surely would.

Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog and has been an activist with several groups. His book, It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, is available from Zero Books.

France’s aging nuclear reactors and EDF’s debt crisis

February 1, 2017

EDF faces a seemingly impossible financial equation. It has colossal debt of €37 billion; it must deal with the complex €2.5 billion takeover of Areva; and find the money to extend the life of its 58 reactors at costs estimated between €60 and €100 billion up to 2030. (8)

Meanwhile EDF has been accused by Greenpeace France of grossly underestimating the cost of nuclear electricity.

Greenpeace claimed that if EDF disclosed the true cost of running its fleet of reactors in France while financing two new ones in the UK, it would be declared bankrupt.

“In summary, the French nuclear fleet is at the end of its course, dilapidated and dotted with deficient parts. At the same time, the finances of EDF are in such a deplorable state that the company could soon join Areva in bankruptcy, and is in any case unable to properly maintain its reactors.”

NuClear News No 90 , 26 Nov 16  Problems discovered at Areva’s metal forge at Le Creusot have been growing over the past six months and are now even threatening to derail EDF’s takeover of Areva’s reactor business.

Last spring when Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron visited to tell the workers at Le Creusot that he had every confidence in the nuclear sector, despite the difficulties, 400 files which were being examined for suspected “anomalies” had to be hastily moved out of the meeting room. Now, six months later a crane has been moving prefabricated office buildings into position so that 6,000 records concerning nuclear components – 2.4 million pages – forged at Le Creusot over the last 60 years can be re-examined. Areva has had to accept that the original 400 suspicious files are just the tip of an iceberg and not the only ones containing “irregularities”. 50 people are now trawling through the paperwork and as many more are being recruited for a job that will take at least another eighteen months.

EDF’s CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy says if Le Creusot’s “problems prove insurmountable, the acquisition will not happen”. (1)

With potentially more than half of France’s 58 reactors affected by the “carbon segregation” problem the French nuclear watchdog, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) has ordered preventative measures to be taken immediately to ensure public safety. ASN confirmed that, as of late October, 20 reactors were offline and more could be shut down over coming weeks.

Questionable Materials and Documentation

At the heart of France’s nuclear crisis are two problems. One concerns the carbon content of the steel used in critical reactor components, steam heat exchangers, and other components manufactured or supplied by AREVA SA, the French state-owned nuclear engineering firm and global producer of nuclear reactors. The second problem concerns forged, falsified, or incomplete quality control reports about the critical components themselves. Excessive levels of carbon in the steel parts could make them more brittle and subject to sudden fracture or tearing under sustained high pressure, which is obviously unacceptable.

Steam generators from 18 reactors have carbon levels that are above the acceptable level. Some of these were forged at Le Creusot, but others were forged in Japan by JCFC, a subcontractor of Areva. Twelve reactors equipped with JCFC steel are still at a standstill and will be in December while inspections are carried out.

The massive outages are draining power from all over Europe. In the event of severe cold weather this winter, there could be blackouts. Worse, new questions continue to swirl about both the safety and integrity of EDF’s nuclear fleet, as well as the quality of some French- and Japanese-made components that EDF is using in various high-profile nuclear projects around the world.

In October EDF was forced to reduce its 2016 generation targets from 395–400 TWh to 380– 390 TWh, while estimates for nuclear output in 2017 have also been lowered to between 390 TWh and 400 TWh. For perspective, annual nuclear production averaged 417 TWh in the period 2005–2015.


The problem was originally discovered at the Flamanville EPR project in 2014. Since then an internal probe at Le Creusot where many of the components in question were manufactured, has uncovered new anomalies. AREVA is now reported to be reviewing all 9,000 manufacturing records at the forge dating back as far as 1943, including files from more than 6,000 nuclear components.

This autumn there have been almost weekly revelations resulting in plant shutdowns, extended outages, reduced generation, and lots more questions. According to ASN there are now a significant number of reactors offline, with more to be inspected in the next few weeks. “We are now finding carbon segregation problems from components coming from both Le Creusot and [the Kitakyushu-based Japan Casting & Forging Corp.] JCFC plant. As for now, there [are] 20 EDF reactors offline,” the official said, noting that the number will fluctuate as inspections take place.

The analyses performed by EDF thus far have found that since 2015 certain channel heads of the steam generators manufactured by Le Creusot and JCFC “contain a significant carbon concentration zone which could lead to lower than expected mechanical properties,” according to ASN. The Japan Times reports that the JCFC is now also under scrutiny by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Shaun Burnie for Greenpeace said “As a result of substandard manufacturing in Japan, citizens in France have been unknowingly exposed to the risk of catastrophic failure of critical reactor components which could result in a reactor core meltdown. Japanese-supplied steel is now at the centre of France’s unprecedented nuclear crisis the scale of which has never been seen in any country. All 12 reactors supplied by JCFC are either in forced shutdown or about to be. It lacks all credibility that the Japanese nuclear industry would claim that there are no implications for the safety of their own nuclear reactors. The steel production records released in France did not reveal the scale of excess carbon, which was only found after physical testing. There are currently no plans for such tests in Japan. That is wholly unacceptable. There are many urgent questions that need to be answered by the industry and the NRA, and with full public disclosure and transparency.” (2)

Energy traders and analysts warn that the French market needs to prepare for longer maintenance periods in coming years given the age of the nuclear fleet and the continuing design flaw revelations. With the average French reactor now more than 30 years old, equipment will need to be replaced more frequently, and increasingly stringent safety requirements will mean that components could be delayed, especially as ASN imposes additional checks. The safety inspections and other reviews “will lead in particular to extensions of certain planned outages,” EDF said in a press release.

 Erring on the Side of Safety?

Despite the outages and findings from the carbon quality investigations, EDF continues to downplay the risk. “The safety margins are very large and the carbon content does not undermine integrity or security, even in the case of an accident,” an EDF spokesperson told Le Monde newspaper. But questions about quality control practices at Le Creusot continue to grow. Indeed, the greater the scrutiny, the more problems are being discovered. The number of components affected by irregularities and already installed in operating reactors increased from 33 known issues in April to 83 by the end of September. Startlingly, irregularities affecting just the Flamanville EPR project increased from two to 20 during the same period.

While EDF and AREVA are dealing with costly damage control, ASN and other agencies are erring on the side of caution. Indeed, the ASN representative said, “We take no risks. That is the rule. If we don’t know the dangers of the carbon segregation, then we must take the reactors offline until we know what the situation is and [can confirm that] it’s not dangerous.”

ASN revealed that AREVA has now identified at least 87 irregularities concerning EDF reactors in operation, including vessels, steam generators, and main primary system piping, plus the 20 issues for parts intended for Flamanville 3, and one more affecting a steam generator planned for installation in Gravelines 5. Inspectors have also found four irregularities affecting transport packaging for radioactive substances. ASN said that whatever the outcome of these investigations, the irregularities “reveal unacceptable practices.”

External Parties Push for Answers

After the discovery of anomalies in the composition of steel in certain zones of the vessel closure head and the vessel bottom head of the EPR reactor being built at Flamanville in 2014, an internal audit was carried out and released in April 2015, suggesting the existence of many more anomalies. These were initially downplayed by ASN and AREVA. But in September 2015 an independent evaluation conducted by Large and Associates for Greenpeace France really set the cat amongst the pigeons. “The nature of the flaw in the steel, an excess of carbon, reduces steel toughness and renders the components vulnerable to fast fracture,” said the report’s author, John Large. The Greenpeace report, “Amplified the questions ASN already had,” said an ASN representative.

12 reactors have been identified by ASN to have carbon problems in replacement steam generators forged by JCFC. In these reactors initial surface tests were followed by more invasive studies. The first reactors to enter scheduled refuelling outages for a more thorough examination were Tricastin 1 and 3. The early nondestructive inspection results for the JCFC bottom channel heads at these reactors revealed an alarming 0.39% level of carbon present, almost 100% greater than the maximum permissible level. That finding, with its associated reduction in material toughness, rendered the component vulnerable to fast fracture, reported Greenpeace in a late October update. ASN decided to order the shutdown of all but one of these reactors and these shutdowns will remain in force until EDF can demonstrate each reactor is safe to re-enter service.

Uncertainty Remains

At a French parliamentary hearing into the situation on October 25, ASN said it would need another year or two to examine the thousands of documents at the Le Creusot foundry and more anomalies and irregularities will probably be discovered. (3

As of late October 2016 ASN has confirmed the following:

  • Six reactors have been granted approval to restart and are operating normally: Blayais 1, Chinon 1 and 2, Dampierre 2 and 4, and Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux B2.
  • Seven reactos are in planned outages and have been, or are being, inspected. They are: Bugey 4, Civaux 2, Dampierre 3, Gravelines 2, Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux B1, and Tricastin 1 and 3. (4) The Times reports that the re-start of Civaux 2 and Dampierre 3 has been delayed until 31st December.

(5) · Five reactors have been ordered by ASN to be taken offline to conduct checks before 18th January 2017. They are: Civaux 1, Fessenheim 1, Gravelines 4, and Tricastin 2 and 4. (6)

  • Three reactors are currently scheduled to remain unavailable throughout the winter months. They are: Bugey 5, Gravelines 5, and Paluel 2.
  • One reactor has been ordered by ASN to shut down following the detection of an irregularity in the lower shell of the steam generator. That unit is Fessenheim 2.
  • Incidentally, Paluel 2 has been offline since May 2015. Its maintenance period is continuing, following an incident on March 31, 2016, in which a 465-ton steam generator tipped over during removal. (7)

EDF’s Debts

EDF faces a seemingly impossible financial equation. It has colossal debt of €37 billion; it must deal with the complex €2.5 billion takeover of Areva; and find the money to extend the life of its 58 reactors at costs estimated between €60 and €100 billion up to 2030. (8)

Meanwhile EDF has been accused by Greenpeace France of grossly underestimating the cost of nuclear electricity.

Greenpeace claimed that if EDF disclosed the true cost of running its fleet of reactors in France while financing two new ones in the UK, it would be declared bankrupt. Greenpeace commissioned an audit by AlphaValue, the equity research company. The French government has agreed to inject €3 billion into the group this year and has renounced dividend payments until next year. Shares in EDF, 85% of which are owned by the French state, have lost almost a third of their value in the past year and the company is no longer listed on the Paris blue-chip index.

The AlphaValue report described EDF as an “uncompetitive firm – incapable of reacting rapidly and efficiently to the variations in electricity needs and the changes created by the liberalisation of European markets”. It said that EDF’s rivals had written down the value of their nuclear plants because of the move to renewable energy and the fall in electricity prices and that EDF had failed to follow suit. Juan Camilo Rodriguez, author of the report, said the company might have to close 17 of its 58 French reactors to meet the government’s requirement that nuclear power should provide 50 per cent of the nation’s electricity in 2025, down from 75 per cent now.

“The provisions to safeguard the burden of financing the decommissioning of the French reactors are far from sufficient. [If 17 are closed], the group should increase its provisions by more than €20 billion.” Mr Rodriguez said the cost of handling nuclear waste added at least €33.5 billion to that figure. “Whatever scenario is retained, an adjustment of the nuclear provisions . . . would lead to the bankruptcy of EDF from an accountancy point of view,” he added. The report said that EDF would need to find a further €165 billion during the next decade to finance projects such as Hinkley Point and the renovation of reactors in France. EDF says it will spend €51 billion renovating its reactors and £12 billion on Hinkley Point. A spokesman for EDF accused AlphaValue of making erroneous calculations that failed to take account of long-term electricity price movements and differences between France and other European markets. (9) Greenpeace filed a complaint against EDF and its CEO, Jean-Bernard Lévy, for “stock trading offences” at the end of November and EDF responded by suing the group for making “false allegations”.

Greenpeace has asked the public prosecutor “to open a preliminary investigation or to appoint an investigating judge”, saying that “shareholders, investors but also French citizens are being misled by EDF and its CEO”. (10)

According to Stéphane L’homme, Directeur de l’Observatoire du nucléaire: “In summary, the French nuclear fleet is at the end of its course, dilapidated and dotted with deficient parts. At the same time, the finances of EDF are in such a deplorable state that the company could soon join Areva in bankruptcy, and is in any case unable to properly maintain its reactors.”

The the 15 most costly nuclear disasters

November 21, 2016

The 15 costliest nuclear disasters and the nuclear risks of the future,Treehugger, Christine Lepisto (@greenanswer)  September 20, 2016 The names Chernobyl and Fukushima connote nuclear disaster. But do you remember Three Mile Island? Have you ever heard of Beloyarsk, Jaslovske, or Pickering? These names appear among the 15 most expensive nuclear disasters.

  1. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986): $259 billion
  2. Fukushima, Japan (2011): $166 billion
  3. Tsuruga, Japan (1995): $15.5 billion
  4. Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, USA (1979): $11 billion
  5. Beloyarsk, USSR (1977): $3.5 billion
  6. Sellafield, UK (1969): $2.5 billion
  7. Athens, Alabama, USA (1985): $2.1 billion
  8. Jaslovske Bohunice, Czechoslovakia (1977): $2 billion
  9. Sellafield, UK (1968): $1.9 billion
  10. Sellafield, UK (1971): $1.3 billion
  11. Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA (1986): $1.2 billion
  12. Chapelcross, UK (1967): $1.1 billion
  13. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1982): $1.1 billion
  14. Pickering, Canada (1983): $1 billion
  15. Sellafield, UK (1973): $1 billion

A new study of 216 nuclear energy accidents and incidents crunches twice as much data as the previously best review, predicting that

“The next nuclear accident may be much sooner or more severe than the public realizes.”

The study points to two significant issues in the current assessment of nuclear safety. First, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) serves the dual masters of overseeing the industry and promoting nuclear energy. Second, the primary tool used to assess the risk of nuclear incidents suffers from blind spots.

The conflict of interest in the first issue is clear. The second issue may not be transparent to the layperson until they understand more fully how industry conducts the probabilistic safety assessments (PSAs) which are the source of the standard predictions of the risk of nuclear accidents. …….