Thursday, June 18, 2015


on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

March and rally on August 8, 2015 10:30 AM Bissell Park, Oak Ridge, Tenn. [See,-84.2630897,18z?hl=en for location.]

About 1942, the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. produced a secret agreement and subsequently expanded it: to mine the uranium, build reactors to produce nuclear weapons material, expose humans and other life forms to ionizing radiation at whatever level necessary, produce, test, and use atomic weapons.

All other uses for nuclear reactors were an after thought and dependent on public funding and governmental indemnification of reactor owners; without which, no commercial reactor would have ever existed. Commercial reactors—-Watts Bar, TN—-produce nuclear weapons material today. The first purpose of Fermi 1 was to produce nuclear weapons material. Reactors and nuclear weapons are joined at the hip, spawning each other and an enormous legacy of high (lethal in minutes), mid and low level radionuclides; for which there is no solution except shield and monitor into eternity.
There is no safe level (National Academy of Sciences).

In 1945, 3 high level U.S. military commanders—-Generals Eisenhower and  Lemay (Army Air Force) and Admiral  Leahy (top military commander during WWII)—- opposed the use of the atomic bomb on Japan saying it was unnecessary and (Leahy) that it was immoral. Japan’s efforts to negotiate a surrender had been under way. General Lemay had said “there are no civilians in Japan” and had fire bombed Japanese population centers killing 900,000 civilians. Nonetheless, he said of atomic bombing of Japan, “It’s anticlimactic. The verdict is in”.

61 scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to produce the atomic bomb opposed its use on Japan or other population centers. They were told by Secretary of State Byrne that this was about Russia, not Japan. President Truman had made the decision to use the atomic bomb.

General Groves, who oversaw the Manhattan Project, wanted a target that had not had any previous bombardment.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were listed as a test until 1998.

President John Kennedy was determined to end the threat of nuclear war and end the cold war. He achieved back channel communication and cooperation of Khrushchev and the support of Pope John the 23rd in avoiding nuclear war over the Cuba and Berlin crises. Steps were to be taken to achieve non-aligned or neutral status of other nations.

Kennedy said he knew he was a marked man and feared a coup but was determined in his efforts.The military was pushing hard for a first strike nuclear attack on Russia. Kennedy’s service to humanity was at the cost of his life. He clearly indicated that he understood that.

The Israeli Defense minister recently cited the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as precedent for action Israel might take.  In the Desert Storm war, Israel had its nuclear missiles pointed at Iraq.

In a survey reported in 2012, 73% of Americans said they supported abolition of nuclear weapons. Asked a different question, 78% said nuclear weapons are necessary for security. But the reality is that nuclear weapons combine homicide and suicide in a single act. Humans are the only species that, at an accelerated pace, is fatally destroying its own nest and maintains the requisite circumstances for its own extermination. 

The continuing disaster of  Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima and all of the nuclear reactor accidents on record and the development and testing of nuclear weapons, as well as “normal operation” of nuclear reactors have resulted in broad spectrum illness, morbidity and genetic mutations. In 2003, the European Committee on Radiation Risk estimated that there were 123,000,000 cancers with 61,000,000 deaths from nuclear weapons testing.

U.S. nuclear missiles remain on hair trigger alert and the U.S. has historically  asserted a prerogative of first strike preemptive use under varying circumstances.

The U.S. remains determined to build a new uranium production facility at Oak Ridge with a capacity of 80 new nuclear warheads per year. For more on this:   For transportation to the August 8th event [from the Metro Detroit area]: Kim Joy Bergier:  Cell 248-515-2380.

Philip Berrigan subsumed all of the nuclear legacy in saying “I go to my death with the firm conviction that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth. To mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself.”

Vic Macks, Michigan Stop the Nuclear Bombs Campaign, Peace Action of Michigan, Alliance to Halt Fermi 3

Article by Vic Macks; posted by Art Myatt

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fermi 3, Round 2

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has given DTE Electric (DTE) the license it needs in order to build Fermi 3. They plan to build this new nuclear reactor on the shore of Lake Erie adjacent to Fermi 2.

The Sierra Club along with the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3, Beyond Nuclear and other anti-nuclear groups, was opposed to this license. We delayed its issuance by more than 3 years. There are still open objections which should have been resolved before the NRC issued the license, but that part of the process is finished for practical purposes.

We're still opposed to Fermi 3. The grounds on which we continue to fight have now shifted to Michigan state government. In particular, DTE will need the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to issue a "Certificate of Need" for "Construction Work in Progress." Once they have it, DTE can put an extra charge on the electric bill of every customer to cover the cost of building the reactor.

That cost is already estimated to be in the range of $7 billion to $15 billion. That would translate to an average cost of thousands of dollars (over a decade or more) on every electric bill in the DTE service area. Customers would be forced to pay for many years before a single watt of electricity is generated. DTE could make a profit on construction even if the reactor is never finished and never generates any electricity.

You may have heard that DTE does not actually plan to build Fermi 3. Don't believe it for a minute. If you were not planning to build something, would you spend $100 million developing the plans?

$100 million is DTE's number, not something made up for effect. They have already applied to the MPSC for "compensation" for $100 million to be added to their rate base.

We need to convince our state officials, both the elected ones and the appointed ones, that Fermi 3 is a bad idea. The facts are on our side. There are better - faster, cheaper, cleaner and safer - ways to generate electrical power in Michigan. If $7 billion to $15 billion were spent on solar and wind generation plus conservation and efficiency measures, we the people of Michigan would be much better off.

To start with, new electricity would start coming on-line in the first year, not in 10 years or 15 years or never. The new electricity would come with no danger of a meltdown. There would be no spent fuel and other radioactive waste to dispose of. There would be nothing spent on fuel that comes from far out of state. Finally, there would more jobs installing and servicing solar panels and wind turbines than there would be in reactor construction.

The problem, from DTE's point of view, is there would be less opportunity for them to profit, and definitely no guaranteed profit. The question is, what is the priority for our state government? Is it the people of the state, or DTE shareholders? That's the question we should put to the governor, our state legislators, and the members of the MPSC.

DTE did not ask for our permission to spend $100 million planning to build Fermi 3. We should not be forced to compensate them for it. We should certainly not be forced to pay for construction of an obsolete, dirty, dangerous and expensive nuclear reactor when so many better alternatives are available.

We don't have DTE's paid lobbyists on our side. We do have the ability to write letters - to the editor, to legislators and to the MPSC. We do have the ability to talk to our state elected officials - in Lansing and in their districts. We have the ability to bring up this issue to city councils and county commissions, even if all they can do is pass a resolution. We can certainly hold our own educational meetings to make the public aware.

We had better do all of these things, and more. Act now or pay later.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Without Warning

Not a lot of people living near the corner of Michigan and Ohio see stopping Fermi 3 and shutting down Fermi 2 as a high priority. That's understandable. Neither the current operation of Fermi 2 nor the prospect of building Fermi 3 poses an immediate threat comparable to the immediacy of numerous other issues.

Tar sands, for instance, have brought us very visible piles of petroleum coke on the banks of the Detroit River. The Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit which produces petroleum coke also produces choking fumes rising from the basements of nearby houses because of toxic chemicals the refinery dumps into the sewers. It also produces the occasional fire, explosion and neighborhood evacuation.

Enbridge's tar sands pipeline dumped over a million gallons of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. As the components separated, the bitumen sunk to the bottom where much of it remains five years later. The more volatile chemicals of the mix evaporated, causing enough air pollution that people living near the river had to be evacuated.

Fracking also causes a host of immediate problems. Before fracking even begins, drilling sites are cleared and a steady stream of tanker trucks and construction equipment dominate roads around the sites for months. Multi-thousand horsepower pumps producing multi-thousand horsepower noise run for days on end. Cancer-causing fumes travel downwind; cancer-causing chemicals show up in nearby wells; millions of gallons of contaminated water must be disposed in injection wells. In case of flooding, this contaminated water ends up downstream, as it did from thousands of well sites in Colorado in 2014.

Fracking is also responsible for the oil coming out of North Dakota. This fracked oil is more volatile and more flammable than typical crude oil. It's generally shipped by long trains of tank cars. These have earned the title of "bomb trains." National Geographic recently published a mapo sillustrating the astounding increase in bomb train accidents; 143 in 2014, up from 9 in 2010. ( The worst so far killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) also cause intense and immediate problems. In North Carolina, a single spill from a sewage lagoon sent 25 million gallons of concentrated sewage into the nearby river. With widespread flooding, sewage lagoons containing months or years of waste from thousands of animals ended up downstream, resulting in "black tides" along the seacoast when it finally reached the ocean.

Just operating "normally," CAFOs expose everyone nearby and downwind to ammonia and other components af bad odor. We have plenty of CAFOs in Michigan and Ohio which you can visit if you doubt the odor problems.

The possibility of a nuclear reactor disaster just does not have the same sights, sounds and smells that put our brains and bodies on high alert for immediate danger.

It is true that back in 1966, the original Fermi reactor experienced a fuel meltdown. This turned out to be a kind of partial and contained meltdown. Several hundred million dollars (1966 dollars, not todays much less valuable dollars) worth of rquipment was wrecked, but no evacuation was required. Many people living nearby did not even know it happened. There were more important things to worry about, such as being drafted to fight in Vietnam.

Today, Fermi 2 just sits there, producing electricity when it is not shut down because of one failed part or another. The cancer rate in the area has increased considerably since 1966, but that just quietly takes out one person at a time, and it is impossible to say which particular case of cancer came from radiation and which came from some toxic chemical. There's not much going on that would alert the whole community, and the authorities tell us there is nothing to worry about in any case.

For "Fermi 2," substitute the words "Chernobyl" or "Fukushima" and the above paragraph would be an accurate description of life around Chernobyl or Fukushima before those infamous disasters. Well, the worst did happen there, without a lot of warning. It can happen here.

Unfortunately, we have nothing but our intelligence to warn us. But fortunately, we do have our intelligence to warn us. It's up to each of us to listen to the warning, and act on it.

It's too late to prevent the meltdowns at Chernobyl and Fukushima. It is too late to prevent the meltdown of Fermi 1. It is not too late to prevent more meltdowns in Monroe, Michigan. Fermi 3 does not have to be built. Fermi 2 can be shut down (it has been shut down many times) and it can be dismantled. That's the only way we lill ever be safe from a local meltdown. If there is one, it's not hundreds or thousands of people who will need to be evacuated; it's at least hundreds of thousands; it could be millions. (About 5 million people live within 50 miles of Fermi.)

It's not fair, but that's the way the world is. We have to deal with tar sands and fracking and CAFOs and meltdowns and more (even an occasional personal issue) all at the same time. They are all important, and we can't just pick one and focus on that. If you do, you're setting yourself up to be blindsided.

Friday, May 1, 2015

DTE Doubles Down on Danger of Disaster

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued the final operating license that DTE Electric (DTE) needs in order to build Fermi 3, a new nuclear rector. They plan to build it on the shore of Lake Erie adjacent to Fermi 2, the world's largest example of a Fukushima-type reactor. Fermi 2 was already built next to the site of Fermi 1, DTE's first reactor which melted down in 1966. DTE is planning to double down on the risk of another meltdown.

The NRC, according to the law which created it, is supposed "to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment." We could count many ways in which they have failed, but the main failure is that they invent ways to justify building commercial nuclear reactors at all. They insist that commercial nuclear reactors are safe. Let's examine that claim.

In round figures, around less than 500 large nuclear power reactors have been built world-wide. Of these, one at Chernobyl and three at Fukushima have experienced meltdowns resulting in gross contamination of the surrounding areas. In the United States, the less catastrophic meltdowns at Fermi 1 and Three Mile Island are well known. These events both resulted in wrecked reactor cores and permanent decommissioning. Substantially the same was true of the Saint-Laurent Nuclear Power Plant in France in 1969 and the KS 150 reactor in Czechoslovakia in 1977 (the year of the most serious incident).

That gives us 8 meltdowns (so far) of varying severity out of less than 500 commercial reactors. That's an actual failure rate of well over 1%. If you only look at the two spectacular failures in the United States' reactors, out of a base of just over 100, then the US rate is closer to 2% than 1%. This reality shows the deception involved in official reassurances that nuclear power is safe because the chances of a catastrophic failure are calculated (by the NRC) to be vanishingly small. Apparently, there is something wrong with their calculator.

There have also been numerous meltdowns in smaller military and experimental reactors:  The NRX reactor at Chalk River, Canada, in 1952; the Windscale Piles in the UK in 1957; Chapelcross, in south west Scotland in 1967; The Lucens reactor at Lucens, Vaud, Switzerland, in 1969. And and there have also been meltdowns for a number of nuclear submarines - a sunken submarine is beyond anyone's control.

The actual odds of a catastrophic failure at Fermi 2 are already unacceptably high. If Fermi 3 is built on the same site, then any disaster at the new reactor makes it harder to control the old one. Any disaster at #2 will make it harder to control #3. Any big release of radioactive material from one reactor will heavily contaminate the entire site (and beyond), making it very difficult or impossible to operate the other reactor. That's how DTE is doubling down on the risk of disaster.

While we (Alliance to Halt Fermi 3 and other organizations) lost our fight to keep the NRC from granting a license for Fermi 3, that does not mean we are finished. The fight now moves into the arena of the Michigan Public Service Commission and Michigan state government generally. We need to convince our state officials, both the elected ones and the appointed ones, that Fermi 3 is a bad idea. There are better - faster, cheaper, cleaner and safer - ways to generate electrical power in Michigan.

DTE could make a profit from building Fermi 3, even if it never generates any power. If the Public Service Commission grants DTE a "Certificate of Need" for Fermi 3, the construction costs get added to our electrical bills. We, the people of Michigan, can't afford the cost or the risk. We don't want Fermi 3. We don't need it. We do need to persuade our state officials to represent us instead of DTE on this issue.

It's time for a lot of us to speak up:  letters to legislators and editors; guest editorials on all kinds of media; tweets; Facebook posts; speaking up at any relevant meeting, from city council to legislative session; and any other way you can think of to get the message across. Just say no to Fermi 3.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Michigan in the Solutions Project

Using only existing known technology, Michigan can transition to 100% wind, water and solar energy for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling and industry) by 2050. That's the message from Prof. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University. The obstacles are purely political.

By this plan, Michigan's projected 2050 energy mix would be:
  • 40% Onshore wind turbines
  • 31% Offshore wind turbines
  • 18.8% Solar panel plants (utility-scale solar farms)
  • 3.5% Residential rooftop solar panels
  • 3.2% Commercial and government rooftop solar panels
  • 2% Concentrated solar power plants (utility-scale thermal from sunlight)
  • 1% Wave devices
  • 0.5% Conventional hydroelectric
The number of jobs created where a person is employed for 40 consecutive years would be 178,200; 108,700 in construction and 69,500 in operation.

Using wind, water and solar electricity for everything instead of burning fuel and improving energy efficiency means that much less energy is needed. Instead of 100 units of energy used today, only 36 units would be needed in 2050. Part of this comes from the greater efficiency of electric motors over gasoline and diesel motors. Part of it comes from better-insulated buildings and direct use of solar heat. Using less energy obviously saves money.

Other savings come from death and illness avoided because the pollution associated with burning fossil fuels would be avoided. The savings due to illness would amount to 4% of the state's “Gross Domestic Product,” in economic terminology. 1,740 deaths from air pollution would be avoided. The plan pays for itself in as little as 11 years from air pollution and climate cost savings. The new energy generators would have a direct footprint of 0.37% of Michigan's land, plus another 4.97%, mostly for adequate spacing between wind towers. The spaces between can still be used for farming.

Future energy costs in the period 2020-2030 are projected to be:
  • Average fossil fuel/nuclear energy costs = 20.1 cents per Kilowatt-hour.
  • Health and climate costs of fossil fuels add 5.7 cents per Kilowatt-hour.
  • Wind, water and solar average electricity = 6.2 cents per Kilowatt-hour.

The annual energy, health and climate savings per person in 2050 = $8000.
The annual savings on energy alone per person in 2050 = $5000.

All the above information comes from

Now, we all know that when 2050 rolls around, reality will not turn out to be exactly as described above. Reality today does not conform to the plans anybody made 35 years ago, and reality in 35 years is not going to conform exactly to the plans that anyone has today. 

The point is, it's technically and scientifically possible for our society to thrive without using the fossil fuels and nuclear power as it does today. The goal is feasible, and there are numerous reasons we ought to be moving in that direction.

To repeat - the obstacles are political. Altogether too many of our political and cultural leaders are trying to lead us in into an unsustainable future. Fossil fuels and nuclear fuels are getting ever harder to find and more expensive. A large and growing part of the expense is the pollution, both chemical and radioactive, that follows their use. No matter how often they say, "Jobs! Security! Economy!" there are no jobs, no security and no economy on a dead planet.

We need to learn how to say "Jobs! Security! Economy! And Sustainability!"  even louder, while we point in the direction of a clean energy future. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Michigan's Energy Future At A Crossroads

Written by Keith Gunter; posted by Art Myatt

Just after the fourth anniversary of the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima in Japan on March 11, here in Michigan we stand at a pivotal moment in the direction of our state's energy future.  Although we are half a world apart from Japan, on closer examination we're really too close for comfort.

DTE Energy's Fermi-2 nuclear plant continues to operate just 30 miles from here (and the utility is seeking to extend Fermi-2's license from 40 to 60 years).  It has the same, documented, flawed containment design that failed so spectacularly on global media in March 2011.  It has been a major source of controversy in industry circles for decades.

Yet at the same time, DTE is now at the precipice of receiving approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the construction and operation of a Fermi-3, which if built would be the largest single nuclear reactor in the world, right next to Fermi-2.  Cost projections are climbing towards $20 billion, and completion of a Fermi-3 will not be achieved without major federal subsidies in the billions, plus Construction Work In Progress (CWIP, translated billing the customer in advance with the approval of the Michigan Public Service Commission, MPSC).  DTE's 1500-plus megawatt Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor would be the first of its kind built anywhere.  It would require more concrete than to build the Pentagon, hardly a carbon-free operation.

Those who will remember will recall that Detroit Edison's Fermi-1 (also a prototype) suffered a partial meltdown on October 5, 1966, chronicled in John Fuller's excellent book, "We Almost Lost Detroit."

So as new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations are mandating the shutdown of coal-fired power plants around the state and the country, we stand at an energy crossroads.  After decades of pursuing the nuclear option at the direction of the "experts" and multi-million dollar ad campaigns with no solutions for permanent waste storage in sight, ever-multiplying reactor safety issues and construction price tags reaching into the stratosphere, at what point do we say "Yes!" in a big way to wind, solar, energy efficiency and conservation and green jobs?

Especially when electrical demand projections by independent analysts agree that electricity from Fermi-3 isn't needed.  Especially when there's some 650 tons of intensely radiated fuel (the most radioactive material on the planet) in Fermi-2's jammed storage pool with no national repository.  Especially when we come to the collective realization that safe, clean, "too cheap to meter" nuclear power has been a government/industry financed mirage all along?

Massachusetts Institute of Technology has estimated that global nuclear plant construction would have to triple to even begin to mitigate the effects of climate change with nuclear power.

But if DTE and the NRC go ahead with their choreographed power tangos for Fermi-3 and Fermi-2, challenges await them emanating from the public square---questioning the Certificate of Need for Fermi-3, and the 20-year license extension for Fermi-2.

From the public square, Albert Einstein once said, should come America's voice about nukes.

Keith Gunter of Livonia is co-chair of Alliance To Halt Fermi-3, a union of concerned citizens and 18 member and endorsing organizations opposed to the construction of a third Fermi nuclear plant near Monroe and in favor of the shutdown of the existing Fermi-2.

This op-ed was originally published Thursday, March 19, 2015 in the Livonia Observer.
The Monroe News has requested permission (which has been granted) from the Observer to reprint this op-ed.

Postscript from Co-Chair Keith Gunter:

On the very day of the publication of this op-ed in the Livonia Observer, Tokyo Electric Power Company (owner and operator of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear complex) admitted that the entire reactor core of its Unit-1 nuclear plant has melted down, location unknown.  We are truly in the realm of the nuclear unknown.  We'll have to await and see whether the very worst "China Syndrome" scenario comes to pass.......

Sunday, March 22, 2015

DTE's Nuclear Con Game

Written by Jeff Alson; posted by Art Myatt

Jeff Alson is an environmental engineer who has promoted sustainable transportation policies at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Ann Arbor since 1978. He is also a member of the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3 ( The views presented are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the EPA.

One of the best kept secrets in southeastern Michigan is that DTE Energy customers will almost certainly be required to pay over $100 million in expenses for wasted planning for a Fermi 3 nuclear power plant. While Fermi 3 is unneeded, unaffordable, and probably unlikely to be built and therefore to ever generate any electricity, ratepayers will likely have to reimburse DTE for its poor judgment due to what I call the Nuclear Con Game (By “con,” I do not mean to imply illegality; rather, that rules which appear to be impartial unfairly tilt the playing field to favor utilities at the expense of ratepayers).

Nuclear Con Game Rule No. 1 is that, if history is any guide, Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC)-approved utility expenditures are reimbursed whether they actually result in useful electricity or not. The PSC approved DTE expenditures for Fermi 3 planning in 2008 (stunning given that DTE’s two previous nuclear plants were spectacular failures - Fermi 1 partially melted down in 1966 and Fermi 2 cost much more than originally estimated). A December 19 filing by DTE states that these paperwork expenditures will soon exceed $100 million and asks the PSC to include them in the rate base.

Nuclear Con Game Rule No. 2
practically guarantees utility profit on every PSC-approved capital expenditure (perversely, the more a utility spends, even on cost overruns, the more it may profit). So DTE ratepayers must not only cover the $100 million, but possibly millions more in profits, rewarding DTE for its poor decision making.

Nuclear Con Game Rule No. 3 is continuing to give the benefit of the doubt to nuclear utilities like DTE, even though reactors completed in the 1980s and 1990s were routinely over budget, and continuing to place the burden of proof on those of us who point out that the nuclear emperor has no clothes. If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome, it is insane to ever expect a nuclear power plant to be built on budget.

Independent experts agree that we do not need electricity from Fermi 3. Even if electricity supply were an issue, conservation, wind, and solar are cheaper, can be brought online more quickly, yield lower life-cycle carbon emissions, and do not entail the risk of an industry-wide shutdown that would be likely after a major nuclear accident in the U.S.

If built, Fermi 3 would be the largest nuclear reactor in the U.S. and would cost at least $10 billion and almost certainly more given the history of massive nuclear cost overruns. I believe it would be the largest investment on a single project in Michigan history and would take capital away from infrastructure we truly need. For perspective, building Fermi 3 would cost at least 10 times the one billion dollars that nearly everyone agrees we need to repair our roads.

There are many other reasons to oppose nuclear power: the low-but-not-zero probability of a catastrophic accident, the health risks associated with routine radiation releases, and the lack of any long-term, high-level nuclear waste solution. But, however you view these safety and health risks, the nuclear option is simply unnecessary and uneconomic.

Yet, DTE is the only utility in the entire Midwest charging its ratepayers for nuclear plant planning. Why is DTE wasting our money?

The most plausible explanation is that DTE wants to up the ante in the Nuclear Con Game by trying to convince the PSC to approve the use of “construction work in progress” to build Fermi 3. This extreme form of corporate welfare would permit DTE to charge ratepayers in advance for the $10 billion or more needed to build Fermi 3. DTE could place all of the financial risk on its customers and would likely make a profit even if the plant turns out to be a nuclear white elephant.

In this scenario, every DTE customer, over the course of many years, would pay thousands of dollars to build Fermi 3, whether it ever successfully operates or not. This is one of the most important financial decisions affecting families in southeastern Michigan, yet most are completely unaware as so little is known about the project by its customers. DTE’s website makes only brief mention of Fermi 3, does not appear to have been updated since 2008, and also appears to make no mention of the $100 million spending to date or the billions that may be spent in the future.

If you want to influence your family’s financial future and prefer that your ratepayer dollars go toward conservation, wind, and solar rather than Fermi 3, then you should let DTE and the PSC know that it is time to come clean with ratepayers and shut down the Nuclear Con Game.

= = =

This article was originally published at Bridge - News and Analysis from the Center for Michigan and is republished here by permission of the author.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

We Need the Energy

Is nuclear power a good idea? Well, that depends.

Utility companies operating nuclear power plants make the basic argument, "We need the energy." "We" in this context means "our society," or "our economy," or just "we, the people who use electricity." We need the energy.

Picture yourself coming home from work at the end of the day. Man or woman, it doesn't matter. Whichever gender you are, you may be tired from a full day of work, but still need energy to deal with ordinary household stuff - getting something to eat, fixing a leaky faucet, making sure the children do their homework, and so forth.

Well, here's a solution. Take a hit of cocaine. That will give you the energy to deal with a whole list of household items. Cocaine will actually work - in the short term.

In order to think it's a good idea, you have to ignore the long-term effects, and just focus on the short-term benefits. You need the energy; take cocaine. Don't think about consequences for next month or next year. Don't worry about making a habit of it, just get through the day.

That's exactly the sense in which nuclear power is cocaine for the electrical grid. Sure, there's the possibility of a meltdown, causing the permanent evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people - or millions, depending on which way the wind blows. Sure, there's no known solution for what to do with "spent fuel" and other highly radioactive waste. Maybe we can put off dealing with it for a century or so longer. (That's the actual summary of current nuclear industry recommendations for their toxic waste.)

Get energy now. Ignore long-term consequences. Pretend that someone will figure something out, so you don't have to worry about it now. Just get the damned energy you "need." if you actually accept all the consequences, maybe you'll figure out you don't really "need" energy that comes with all the risk of disaster.

The nuclear industry and their political servants will argue endlessly that "we need the energy." Well, do we? Do you accept that idea, or not? That's the fundamental question you have to answer for yourself.

Art Myatt

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Costs and Choices - Fermi 3

DTE Energy, formerly known as the Detroit Edison Electric Company, wants to build a new nuclear power plant, Fermi 3, next to Fermi 2 and the ruins of Fermi 1. The design of Fermi 3 is for approximately 1.55 billion watts of electrical energy output. It sounds like a lot of energy, and it is reasonable to wonder what this might cost.

DTE estimated in their 2008 application for an operating license for Fermi 3, that the construction cost would be $3,500 - 4,500 per kilowatt of electrical output, or $3.50 - 4.50 per watt. Applied to the design for 1.55 billion watts of electrical output, that would be a range of ~5.5 to 7 billion dollars. We can take this as a low estimate in 2008 dollars.

From the Wikipedia article "Economics of nuclear power plants":  "In Canada, cost overruns for the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, largely due to delays and policy changes, are often cited by opponents of new reactors. Construction started in 1981 at an estimated cost of $7.4 Billion 1993-adjusted CAD, and finished in 1993 at a cost of $14.5 billion." In round figures, this would mean that taking DTE's original estimate and doubling it to $14 billion would be closer to a real figure.

From a Physicians for Social Responsibility 2008 report, "Nuclear Power Plant
Construction Costs":  "... total costs (including escalation and financing costs) will be in the range of $5,500/kW to $8,100/kW ..." Applied to the 1.55 billion watts for Fermi 3, a range of 8.5 to 12.5 billion dollars results. it is not clear if this includes the costs of financing construction, which would be paid after the plant starts operating.

A 2010 article from Greentech Media ("How Much Does Nuclear Cost? $6,000 a Kilowatt or More") discusses a cost of $6,000 per kilowatt and points to a study showing the "all-in" costs, including the costs of financing, would be in the $10-12.50 per watt range. That puts the high estimate for Fermi 3 over $19 billion.

The estimates above are from the period of 2008-2010. There's been a bit of inflation since then. There's also been a horrendous multi-reactor meltdown at Fukushima since then, which reasonably ought to result at least in additional safety requirements, which would raise the cost.

We have a range of estimates from a low of 5.5 billion 2008 dollars to over 19 billion dollars. Doubling DTE's upper figure of $7 billion 2008 dollars and allowing a bit for inflation since 2008 would result in a rough estimate of $15 billion. $15 billion, which this article uses, is a very approximate but reasonable figure to work with for the purpose of comparing building Fermi 3 to an alternative use for the money.

This is public money we are talking about, not (at least not yet) DTE's money. DTE expects to pay for construction through a combination of federally guaranteed loans and electrical rate hikes approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. Whether it comes from federal taxes or rate hikes, that's our money, and we should decide how it will be spent.

The installed cost of solar panels for large-scale projects is now around $3.00 per rated watt. This is again a rough figure, with variations according to the scale of the project, local permitting costs, labor costs, etc., etc.

With solar panels, we can expect electrical power output equivalent to 4-6 hours of rated wattage per day in most US locations. That would be compared to an average 21-22 hours output per day for a nuclear reactor. In other words, the average daily power output from a nuclear reactor rated for 1 megawatt would be 4-6 times the power output of a solar farm rated for 1 megawatt, depending on the location of the solar farm.

I've worked up a table showing one possibility for spending $15 billion over 12 years on large-scale solar panel installations:

installed installed B watt-hrs B watt-hrs B-watt-hrs
year $ (B) $/watt B watts per day (new) per day (cum) per yr, (cum)

solar solar solar solar solar solar

1 1 3.00 0.333 1.410 1.410 514.650
2 1 2.95 0.339 1.434 2.844 1038.023
3 1.1 2.90 0.379 1.604 4.448 1623.659
4 1.1 2.85 0.386 1.633 6.081 2219.570
5 1.2 2.80 0.429 1.813 7.894 2881.262
6 1.2 2.75 0.436 1.846 9.740 3554.986
7 1.3 2.70 0.481 2.037 11.776 4298.369
8 1.3 2.65 0.491 2.075 13.851 5055.779
9 1.4 2.60 0.538 2.278 16.129 5887.137
10 1.4 2.55 0.549 2.322 18.451 6734.795
11 1.5 2.50 0.600 2.538 20.989 7661.165
12 1.5 2.45 0.612 2.590 23.579 8606.441

23.579 8606.441

B$ total
B watts
B watt-hrs B watt-hrs

per day total per yr total

1.55 Equivalent for nuclear

B$ total
B watts

B watt-hrs


per yr total

. “B” is used to mean “Billion.”

“(cum)” is used to mean “cumulative.”

I've assumed a steady but not spectacular drop in installed solar panel costs per watt from $3.00 to $2.45 over the period. This is a conservative estimate, in contrast to a "target" of $1.00 per watt (Google SunShot Initiative) which might prove to be unrealistic. I've also used the 4.23 hours per day annual average output factor provided by the national Renewable Energy Lab's PV Watts calculator ( for the Detroit area.

The result? $15 billion could give us just over 5.5 billion watts (rated) of solar electricity. In terms of power, with the conservative assumptions used, the annual average watt-hours from the new solar installations would be a bit over 2/3 of the average annual watt-hours from Fermi 3.

Now, if the assumptions were changed in favor of faster improvements in solar panel efficiency and a more rapid lowering of installation costs, the expected annual power output would increase. 5.5 billion watts of peak power is pretty near the minimum that should be expected from a program to spend $15 billion installing solar panels in Michigan. But even with this minimal expectation, the solar project is well worth doing.

It's important to note that solar panels provide peak demand watts, more valuable than middle of the night "baseload" watts. A nuclear plant needs to run night and day, regardless of demand. In other words, building Fermi 3 would increase the need for "dispatchable on-demand" electricity to cover peak periods. Solar panels would reduce this need, and indeed would reduce the need for baseload power.

It's also important to note that installing solar panels adds to the supply of electricity gradually over time, rather than adding nothing for the first ten years followed by the sudden introduction of new generating capacity. If more or less electricity is needed in a particular location than was imagined at the outset, adjustments can be made with solar construction planning. The nuclear reactor can't make that kind of adjustment.

There are also other advantages of numerous solar farms distributed over the service area, compared to a centralized nuclear reactor. The federal Energy Information Administration estimates that national electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 6% of the electricity that is transmitted and distributed in the United States each year. (See

Proper planning to site solar farms near demand for peak power would mean less transmission losses. No new high-voltage "transition corridor" leading away from the reactor would be needed. With the sources of power close to peak demand, even lower-voltage distribution line power losses could be cut.

And of course, the fuel cost for solar panels is absolutely zero. We do not have to pay the sun to shine.

The nuclear fuel for Fermi 3 would cost about $100 million per year. $100 million is a bare minimum cost, to which could be added $300 million or more if we attempt to account for the cost of disposal of spent fuel. This added amount is really impossible to quantify, because we still do not know a satisfactory method to dispose of spent nuclear fuel. It's an unsolved problem for future generations. Neither the problem nor the cost exists for solar panels.

There will be some failures in any extensive installation of solar panels. These will be distributed failures; distributed over time and space, fixable on a regular maintenance schedule. A nuclear reactor failure is a centralized failure. At a minimum it is a crisis, even if it only means the electrical output is shut off for a month or two.

And then there is the spectacular failure - the meltdown. A meltdown at Fermi 3 could also cause a meltdown at Fermi 2, and a Fermi 2 meltdown could cascade into the same at Fermi 3. Constructing Fermi 3 next to Fermi 2 makes a meltdown at Fermi 2 more likely, and it makes a meltdown at Fermi 3 more likely as well.

One or both reactors melting down could cause the permanent evacuation of a million or more people while also ruining Lake Erie, Niagra Falls and Lake Ontario with radioactive contamination. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, we may have to write off Toledo or Detroit or both. The events at Fukushima prove conclusively that such a result is possible and that assurances of safety coming from the nuclear industry are worthless.

This is the main (and sane) reason spending our money on solar panels rather than a nuclear reactor makes so much sense. If we need the electricity, we can get it without nuclear fission. The disaster of uncontrolled fission that a nuclear reactor makes possible is not possible with solar power.

If a meltdown in Monroe, Michigan happens, all the fine cost analysis of solar versus nuclear will be meaningless. There will be nobody left in the radioactive contaminated zone to enjoy the benefits of any type of electricity.

That's our real choice. Make the possibility of a Fermi 2 disaster more extensive and more likely, or pursue the alternative. Eliminating the possibility of the Fermi 2 disaster means closing Fermi 2 in addition to never building Fermi 3. Put that way, the right choice is obvious.

Art Myatt

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Midgley Effect

The title comes from Kurt Cobb's January 11, 2015 article on He's not addressing Fermi 3, or Fermi 2, or even nuclear power specifically. His topic - the religion of eternal progress - is quite a bit broader than that. It's still worth our time to read.

Unfortunately, this religion, if we can call it that, is one of the major obstacles to organizing an effective movement opposing nuclear reactors. Of course, it is not an organized religion, but it is a faith which allows believers to be comfortable dismissing the dangers of nuclear reactors. In that respect, it is certainly like a religion. People resent it when you challenge their faith, whether it's comes from an organized religion or not.

Here's how Mr. Cobb describes the Midgley Effect:

Chemist Thomas Midgley Jr. was heralded for his work in creating leaded gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons. The story of leaded gasoline is rehearsed every time we pull up to a gas pump and fill our automobiles with UNLEADED gasoline. Lead added to gasoline for the purpose of preventing so-called engine knocking turned out to be very bad for human health. Big surprise!

But chlorofluorocarbons were even worse. Used primarily as refrigerants from the 1930s onward and later as aerosol propellants, they escaped into the air. No one thought to track their destination until the 1970s when one scientist, F. Sherwood Rowland, asked where these compounds ended up. They were by design inert--that is, they didn't readily break down--so they must be somewhere.

That somewhere turned out to be high in the atmosphere attacking the ozone layer which protects humans and other living creatures from excessive radiation from the Sun. Had it not been for Rowland asking a very specific question and receiving a grant to fund the answer, we might well be living with little or no atmospheric protection from dangerous levels of solar radiation. Such are the perils of our technology. In this case, only one curious man stood between the human species and widespread disaster. Chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-destroying chemicals were subsequently phased out worldwide by the Montreal Protocol.

Midgley--who believed he was doing good things for society and received many awards for his discoveries--turned out to have "had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth's history," according to environmental historian J. R. McNeill. And, it wasn't a good impact.

One of the pillars of our modern techno-utopian outlook is that invention is presumed to be good and should not be unduly impeded. It turns out, however, that our own science has shown that inventions can be potentially catastrophic.

There is no guaranteed effective way of overcoming an individual's faith in progress, even in a one-on-one conversation. If the person with such faith is trying to be rational, then maybe you can undermine the faith with a clear example like the Midgley Effect, but that's if and only if they are trying to be rational.

There's still no guarantee it will work. The counter-argument might be raised that lead in gasoline was eventually eliminated, and so was freon. And the counter-counter-argument naturally follows, that nuclear reactors also need to be eliminated. Certainly, we should not be building more.

Whether our arguments are immediately effective or not, we still have to keep trying. Sometimes they are effective, even though we don't necessarily get the feedback to let us know they're effective. Sometimes, the effect is months or years later.

If we can simply get people to consider the idea that nuclear reactors are both expensive and dangerous, then facts make the rest of the case for eliminating nuclear power in favor of better alternatives. As Kurt Cobb said, "... inventions can be potentially catastrophic." The history of nuclear reactors has demonstrated that several times over. Let's hope it does not have to be demonstrated yet again before people in general understand - if we don't eliminate them, they can eliminate us.

Art Myatt

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Open Letter to the Michigan Public Service Commission

In January of 2007, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) issued a report with the title "Michigan's 21st Century Electric Energy Plan." This report is still (in January 2015) available on their website at In it, they predict that demand for grid electricity in Michigan should grow at an average rate of 1.3% per year from 2006 through 2025.

If in fact demand had grown as predicted, in 2013, it would have been for approximately 123,000 Million KW-hr total for the year. In reality, demand for 2013 was around 104,000 Million KW-hr, less than the total for 2007. Actual demand for 2013 was short of predicted demand by roughly 19,000 Million KW-hr. From 2007 through 2013, demand did not grow at all. In fact, it declined, though not in a smooth fashion.

The actual pattern of Michigan's electrical demand from 2000 through 2007 was a growth trend, though not a smooth one. Some years were down; some, up. If the numbers are plotted on a graph, the trend for this period is clearly up. The MPSC prediction of continued growth was simply a projection of the recent trend into the near future. However, the financial crisis of 2008 broke a lot of trends, including that for Michigan's electrical demand.

In 2008, demand dipped. Then in 2009, when the entire year was affected by the recession, demand dipped sharply, by an additional 7«%. Since then, demand recovered to a level between the 2007 peak and the 2009 low point. For 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 (the last year for which we have data), it has been essentially flat, at 104,000 Million KW-hr plus or minus 1%. If the current flat trend is the new normal, the gap between expected demand (according to the 2007 plan) and actual demand will grow larger and larger.

In the year following the MPSC study, DTE Energy proposed to build Fermi 3, a new nuclear reactor to be located adjacent to their existing Fermi 2 reactor. Their original schedule called for Fermi 3 to be producing power by 2025. In their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), they relied on the 2007 MPSC projection for future electrical demand. They said that, by 2025, the generating capacity of Fermi 3 would be needed to meet that demand.

Gross divergence between actual demand and MPSC projected demand was pointed out in public comments on the Draft EIS. In the final EIS, it was admitted that the MPSC study was not an accurate prediction. However, DTE Energy argued that the general idea of increased demand was still valid because demand could still reasonably be expected to increase in the region. This supposed validation is just nonsense.

We have data, supplied by the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA), not just for the region but for the entire United States. Demand for electricity in the entire country followed the same pattern as described for Michigan. There was a trend of growth from 2000 through 2007; a decline in 2008, a sharp dip for 2009, a recovery to less than the 2007 peak in 2010, and flat plus or minus 1% of the average value through 2013. The sharp decline for 2009 was a bit more than 4% for the country as a whole, not so severe as Michigan's 7-1/2% decline.

At a utilization factor of 90% (meaning it would run at full output 90% of the time), Fermi 3 would have an annual output of about 12,000 Million KW-hr. Recall that actual demand for 2013 was already 19,000 Million KW-hr less than the projected demand , and that discrepancy is likely to be much larger by 2025.

It is clear that the capacity of Fermi 3 is not - repeat, not - actually needed to meet foreseeable electrical demand in Michigan. Regardless, DTE Energy will soon be applying to the MPSC for a "Certificate of Need" for Fermi 3.

If this Certificate of Need is granted, then DTE Energy will be able to significantly raise the rates for electricity for everyone in the DTE service area. They will then be allowed to charge for "Construction Work in Progress" for as long as it might take to build the un-needed Fermi 3 reactor. This increase is expected to amount to $5,000 - $10,000 per household in the next ten years, and more if construction takes longer.

If this amount of money were instead spent on solar panels over the same ten years, every household in the service area could have several thousand watts of solar panels installed. There would be tens of thousands more local jobs in installation. There would be no danger from handling Fermi 3's radioactive fuel rods, new or spent. There would be no danger of a meltdown - at least from an unbuilt Fermi 3. (Fermi 2 could still have a meltdown.)

Even with safety considerations put completely aside, there is no need - as DTE Energy and the MPSC defined need - to build Fermi 3. At the very least, the MPSC should deny a Certificate of Need until it comes up with a new and more realistic plan for Michigan's 21st Century electricity. The best case would be if DTE Energy never gets a Certificate of Need for Fermi 3.

[Permission is hereby granted to anyone to republish this open letter, so long as it is republished in its entirety, including this notice, and the source is credited.]

Art Myatt