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Legislators struggling to meet deadline for nuke plants bailout

Source: 
The Times Reporter

For well over a year, FirstEnergy Solutions has said the same thing to Ohio lawmakers: Help us by June 30, 2019, or we'll be forced to start shutting down Ohio's two nuclear power plants.

So now that the circulated date is at hand, and the legislature will be greatly challenged to act by today's deadline, what's going to happen?

That's the big question as the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee convenes Saturday afternoon in a last-gasp attempt to reach an agreement on a measure that in effect would bail out the company.

The timetable is daunting because, even if the Senate committee can agree and get the full Senate to go along, the House must agree to changes made to its version of the bailout.

And Speaker Larry Householder said senators have not approached those who sponsored the House version to see what revisions would be acceptable to avoid a time-consuming conference committee.

Earlier this month, Charles Moore, a consultant who is leading the company's efforts to climb out of bankruptcy, told lawmakers it couldn't afford the $52 million needed for nuclear fuel rods at the Davis-Besse reactor east of Toledo. While that fuel isn't needed for several months, a long lead time is necessary for the painstaking process to essentially custom-make the material, he said.

"As a result of the unprofitable position of the plants, as well as the complex bankruptcy oversight process, FirstEnergy Solutions is unable to make this commitment by June 30, 2019 without legislative support," testified Moore test.

"Unfortunately, while the company has sought relief for over 18 months, the purchase and fabrication of the fuel is now on a final stage critical time path. Without a certain outcome on the legislative front, FirstEnergy Solutions will continue moving forward with the closure of Davis-Besse."

Senate President Larry Obhof is not so sure today's deadline is hard-and-fast.

"There may be an additional window, but it's still a tight time frame," the Medina Republican said.

"We do want to do what we can to save those plants."

Householder is uncertain as well, but notes, "They've thrown out that June 30 deadline as long as I've heard about this, which is a couple of years."

The Glenford Republican wondered if FirstEnergy Solutions would go ahead a buy the necessary fuel even if Sunday's deadline is missed, if company officials "saw ball moving forward."

Attempts to reach FirstEnergy Solutions today have been unsuccessful.

The measure has been one of the most-lobbied pieces of non-budget legislation in recent years at the Statehouse. And more than $9 million has been shelled out for TV ads, the most a prominent local media buyer has ever seen on such an issue.

The stakes are high. Closing Davis-Besse and the Perry plant east of Cleveland would not only end nuclear power in Ohio, the shutdowns would eliminate 1,400 jobs and hurt the rural economies in both areas.

Environmentalists, some business groups, and oil and gas interests have been fighting the legislation, while House Democrats have rolled out their own clean energy bill with the goal of having half of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2050.

The measure also would bail out two coal-fired power plants, one in Ohio and one in Indiana, which are owned by a group of power companies including Columbus-based American Electric Power.

And the bill would make it harder to develop wind farms like those in western Ohio, plus eliminate surcharges for energy efficiency and renewable energy and the requirement that the state's power companies get 12.5% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2027.

The bill passed the Ohio House 53-43 in May.

Discussions

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 1, 2019 5:31 pm GMT

More "bailout" BS. Ohio, like other states passing zero emission credits for all sources of clean energy, is leveling the playing field for nuclear plants, and for good reason: without the generous bailout Ohio's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) handed to renewables, nuclear plants have indeed been struggling.

So after eleven years of padding the profits of wind and solar developers with only a 3% rise in clean energy to show for it, Ohioans have had enough. The Ohio Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) will soon be toast, replaced by non-tradeable zero emission credits (ZECs) for both nuclear and solar.

If solar qualifies for a ZEC in Ohio, why are renewables developers calling it a nuclear bailout? Because after being permitted to double-count their clean energy contribution (Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs, operated under the untenable assumption CO2 emitted to the atmosphere could be scrubbed clean by generating more renewable electricity), they will now be forced to compete fairly with nuclear - a dispatchable, abundant source of clean energy. And for nuclear, there's really no competition.

Robert Magyar's picture
Robert Magyar on Jul 15, 2019 1:29 pm GMT

For the record and all well documented in federal and a number of state laws, nuclear receives government construction loan guarantees, large tax credits, complete immunity of any public lawsuits and mandated laws which put ratepayers on the hook to pay for nuclear plants old and new and in the case of new nuclear plant construction, to pay for those plants even if never completed such as the case of the very recent Santee Cooper nuclear financial debacle. 

While it's always popular to hammer away at solar and wind, the primary reason nuclear is no longer economically viable is the massive glut of fracked natural gas and the fact, few if any private sector investors, will put money into a multi-billion nuclear facility with can become completely inoperable in any given event. Think Crystal River in Florida, San Onofre in SoCal or Fort Calhoun in Nebraska as just three recent examples of this.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 15, 2019 4:10 pm GMT

Robert, you'll have to provide references to your contention nuclear plants receive "complete immunity of [from] any public lawsuits," and support for the notion nuclear energy is "no longer economically viable" - they sound like well-worn products of the anti-nuclear imagination without basis in fact.

It's always popular to hammer away at solar and wind only because they don't work very well. Never have, never will. And mandated laws? It was my impression obeying all laws was mandatory, do you have optional ones in your neck of the woods?

Robert Magyar's picture
Robert Magyar on Jul 16, 2019 5:51 pm GMT

Bob, take a look at these for a start:

The The Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act of 1957 which, among other immunities provided to the nuclear industry states individuals are not allowed to claim punitive damages against nuclear-operating companies.

Or this statement from the former CEO John Rowe of Exelon, "Let me state unequivocably that I've never met a nuclear plant I didn't like," said John Rowe, who retired 17 days ago as chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation, which operates 22 nuclear power plants, more than any other utility in the United States. "Having said that, let me also state unequivocably that new ones don't make any sense right now."  stated Former Exelon CEO John Rowe. Bob, Mr. Rowe made this statement back in 2012 and you can find it here in this Forbes article; Exelon's 'Nuclear Guy': No New Nukes 

Or you might remember the Yankee Rowe nuclear plant which filed its NRC required termination plan back in November 2004 due to admitted poor operating economics; see the proof of termination plan here at http://yankeerowe.com/siteclosure/YNPS_LTP1.pdf

 As for legislation which mandated state ratepayers pay for new nuclear plants, check out this one; South Carolina Base Load Review Act of 2007

This law resulted in among other things a $9 plus billion-dollar hole in the ground formerly called V.C. Summer Nuclear plant expansion which the owners abandoned in part because it was not economically viable but still has several million South Carolina ratepayers on the hook for a reported $300 a year per ratepayer electric utility metered account to pay off the incurred debts. But don't take my word for it, read about it here at The moment that helps explain how South Carolina lost its $9 billion nuclear power bet

Fracked natural gas and the billions of dollar in shareholder debt which go with it, an industry subsidized just like nuclear industry and as all energy industries are, is the now the electric utility fuel of choice having nothing to do with solar or wind and going forward, the batteries which will store its intermittent electrical generation. 

As for solar and wind, their ever-increasing installed generation base speaks for itself on a  worldwide and no matter what you, I or anybody else says about it pro or con, today, tomorrow or in the future, it's here to stay. 

I understand the nuclear industry struggles with its legacy history of tough, tarnished and less than stellar reputation in the minds of many people but these are part of today's energy industry realities.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 18, 2019 3:39 pm GMT

Much more, Robert, I'm enjoying watching you having to backpedal in an attempt to rescue your misinformed talking points. You wrote:

"...nuclear receives...complete immunity of any public lawsuits..."

then tried to clean it up with

"...individuals are not allowed to claim punitive damages against nuclear-operating companies..."

I could educate you on the difference between punitive damages and liability; why batteries don't now, and will never be able to provide reliable, baseload grid electricity; how in the next two years Vogtle Units 3-4 in Georgia will be generating more clean electricity than all of the wind and solar east of the Mississippi combined, why solar and wind are 100% dependent on fracked gas to be viable - but it's all publicly-available information and I don't have the time. Have a good day.

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