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.......

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