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.

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