Pennsylvania decision-makers’ poor understanding of the electricity industry led them into a big mistake 13 years ago: Giving up the state’s authority to control electricity-generation prices.Read more
Consumers were promised a competitive retail electricity market that would restrain prices. The warnings that such a market would not develop went unheeded, but they turned out to be correct.
We’re told that today’s electricity prices are at early 1990s levels. That happens to be because prices at that time were off the chart for customers of utilities that invested in nuclear generation. Prices were trending downward by the mid-1990s, and they could have continued downward were it not for capping some rates at high levels in 1999.
Now Pennsylvania is approaching the end of the purported transition to full deregulation, with electricity monopolies still in place.
In the PPL service territory, that will mean a 30 percent rate increase for residential customers in January. Other utilities, such as PECO and FirstEnergy (including Met-Ed and Penelec), will go to full deregulation in January 2011.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission approved a $30.16 million refund for PPL residential customers that resulted from PPL Electric Utilities Inc. overcollecting its competitive transition charge (CTC).Read more
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the revised CTC rates that reflect actual collection and reconciliation data. Because of an overcollection of the CTC, PPL will refund about $30.16 million to its residential customers and $2 million to its industrial customers. These consumers will see the “transition charge” portion of their bill move from a charge to a credit.
PPL undercollected the CTC from its small commercial and industrial customers by about $17.6 million, meaning those customers will continue to pay the CTC in 2010.
Pennsylvania decision-makers' poor understanding of the electricity industry led them into a big mistake 13 years ago: giving up the state's authority to control electricity-generation prices. Consumers were promised a competitive retail electricity market that would restrain prices. The warnings that such a market would not develop went unheeded, but they turned out to be correct.
Now Pennsylvania is approaching the end of the purported transition to full deregulation, with electricity monopolies still in place. In the PPL service territory, that will mean a 30 percent rate increase for residential customers in January. Other utilities, such as PECO and FirstEnergy (including Met-Ed and Penelec), will go to full deregulation in January 2011.
Unfortunately, the governor and the General Assembly are essentially ignoring the problems that will accompany full deregulation.
The 81 action items identified after a reliability assessment was conducted at Vermont Yankee in 2008 have been addressed, said a spokesman for the nuclear power plant in Vernon.
But a frequent critic of Entergy’s management of the plant, and a member of the oversight panel tasked by the state to review the reliability assessment, takes issue with the company’s view.
According to Vermont Yankee spokesman Rob Williams, "as of last week, more than two years before the license renewal period is set to start, all 81 recommendations have been addressed by Vermont Yankee and have been reviewed by the Department of Public Service and their consultant Nuclear Safety Associates."
The assessment was conducted on behalf of the Vermont Legislature, which is reviewing whether Yankee should be allowed to continue operating after its license expires in 2012.
But nuclear industry inside turned safety advocate Arnie Gundersen said Entergy’s assessement of the assessment is wrong.
"The 81 items that were identified by NSA and the oversight panel have yet to be addressed," he said.
Yankee has in fact only developed plans to address the items, said Gundersen.
"These plans will now take years to implement and will continue to require constant supervision by the state to assure adherence," he said.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
No. 09-200 December 18, 2009
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will host several public workshops next year to gather input on the agency’s draft policy statement on “safety culture,” and the staff wants to hear from individuals interested in participating in the workshops’ roundtable discussions.
“Safety culture is not a simple issue, but it is vital to the NRC’s mission of protecting the public’s health and safety,” said NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko. “Public involvement is critical to addressing the complexities of this topic and I welcome and encourage the public’s participation in the upcoming discussions.”
The Commission recently published the draft safety culture policy statement in the Federal Register, (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-26816.pdf ), setting forth the NRC’s expectation that all licensees and certificate holders establish and maintain a safety culture that protects public health and safety and the common defense and security. The draft policy defines safety culture as: “That assembly of characteristics, attitudes and behaviors in organizations and individuals which establishes that as an overriding priority, nuclear safety and security issues receive the attention warranted by their significance.”
The workshops, described in another Federal Register notice (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-29793.pdf), are tentatively scheduled for February, April and October 2010. The staff expects the workshops will help forge a consensus around the objectives, strategies, activities and measures that enhance safety culture for NRC-regulated activities. The effort should also help develop high-level description/traits of areas important to safety culture. These concepts will be incorporated into the final safety culture policy statement and could also be incorporated into the NRC’s oversight programs.Individuals or organizations interested in participating should submit names of individuals who will represent a group (or themselves) to Alex Sapountzis or Maria Schwartz, by mail to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Enforcement, Concerns Resolution Branch, Mail Stop O-4 A15A, Washington, DC 20555-0001, or by e-mail to Alexander.Sapountzis@nrc.gov or Maria.Schwartz@nrc.gov.
As you know, we have moved to a digital version of Pennsylvania Geology. The newest issue can be found at the following link: http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/topogeo/pub/pageolmag/pdfs/v39n3.pdf. I want to thank you for your patience as we continue to transition to this new format. It is a format which will allow us to make far more use of color photos and digital map data. Please forward this link to anyone who you might think would be interested in the geology of Pennsylvania and ask them to contact us at RAfirstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe. For previous versions of Pennsylvania Geology, please visit http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/topogeo/pub/pageolmag/pageolonline.aspx.
Monday, December 14, 2009
If no federal repository for spent nuclear fuel is opened in the next 100 years, the nation’s taxpayers could be on the hook to pay for on-site storage, such as the dry casks at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.
That cost could run anywhere between $10 billion and $26 billion.
That was the conclusion of the Government Accounting Office, which just released a report on the costs of nuclear waste management -- whether it be a long-term repository, centralized storage or on-site storage.
The United States has 70,000 tons of waste stored at 80 sites in 35 states. By 2055, the amount of waste is expected to increase to 153,000 tons.
PUC Expands the Role of the Office of Competitive Market Oversight to Include Electric Retail Choice Issues
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data. That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage. Regulators were informed of each of those violations as they occurred. But regulatory records show that fewer than 6 percent of the water systems that broke the law were ever fined or punished by state or federal officials, including those at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has ultimate responsibility for enforcing standards. Studies indicate that drinking water contaminants are linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year. In some instances, drinking water violations were one-time events, and probably posed little risk. But for hundreds of other systems, illegal contamination persisted for years, records show.Read more
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress passed a law instructing the federal government to help states build bigger stocks of a simple, cheap drug to protect people near nuclear power plants in the event of an accident or terrorist attack. But the 2002 law left a legal loophole allowing the White House to forgo distribution if officials found that there was a better way to prevent cancer than administering the thyroid drug, potassium iodide. And after years of delays, the Bush administration dropped the plan in 2007, saying evacuations would be a better alternative. Now advocates are trying again, bargaining on a new administration that is re-examining Bush-era policies.Read more
The poisoning of more than 90 workers with radioactive tritium at the Kaiga nuclear power station is a serious safety violation, which calls for a critical look at India's nuclear power programme. The way the episode came to light, and the manner in which the authorities, from plant managers to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, to top officials of the Department of Atomic Energy, responded to it is a disturbing tale in itself.
The tritium ingestion was noticed on November 24 only after its effects had become manifest in abnormal levels of the isotope found in the urine of 92 plant workers, of the 800 tested. The plant managers admitted to the incident only after it caused public concern and the media reported it. Although they called this a "malevolent act", they didn't report it to the police for a week. The police aren't convinced this was the first occurrence of its kind at Kaiga.
We still don't know precisely how and for how long the workers' internal exposure to tritium occurred, what was the concentration of tritium in the water-cooler (which was allegedly deliberately spiked with tritium), and how many people drank the water. All that the Nuclear Power Corporation, which operates the Kaiga reactors, said is that two workers received a dose exceeding the 30 millisievert maximum limit stipulated by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. This is a general limit for radiation, not specific to tritium, a highly toxic substance for which different measures such as Curies or Bequerels per litre are usually prescribed the world over.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
From the Patriot News:
The middle of an ugly economic climate when people are already struggling to pay their bills is the wrong time to jolt PPL customers with a 30 percent bill increase, a group of activists argued at the Capitol on Tuesday.
"The increases will be significant, the suffering will be significant," said Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital. "People will be making choices they shouldn't have to make between food, warmth and medicine."
Epstein and others argued that legislators should quickly act to extend rate caps that have kept prices at 1996 levels.
From the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
“The Commission has established its tentative schedule for the first months of 2010 with the goal of continuing to ensure that our stakeholders are informed of, and involved in, the agency’s activities and plans. The Commission is moving into the new year with a comprehensive meeting schedule, tackling diverse and timely issues as well as undertaking discussions to resolve several long-standing issues from the past.
The Commission is moving forward in our planning while not losing sight of where we have been, or the challenges that face us currently. I look forward to discussions about our anticipated activities, such as those in the area of uranium recovery, to make sure that our mission – for safety, security and protection of the environment – is being met. I’m also looking forward to discussions to help us close out long-standing generic safety issues, such as the GSI-191, which addresses sump performance issues. The meetings planned around current issues will provide an opportunity to engage stakeholders on such critical items as safety culture and ensuring adequate decommission funding.
I am looking forward to exploring these items with my Commission colleagues, the agency staff, and our stakeholders, as we move forward with the agency’s business of protecting people and the environment.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said there "are still a lot of questions" about an incident Friday in which a Davis-Besse security guard accidentally shot himself in his leg.Read more
The incident occurred in the bathroom of a men's locker room at 7:35 a.m. when security guard Jamie Arthur bent over to set down a rifle. A 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun issued by FirstEnergy Corp. went off in the holster he was wearing and a bullet struck his calf, Capt. Steve Levorchick of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office said.
Governor Edward G. Rendell announced today that one of the world’s most competitive and innovative thin-film solar panel producers will open a manufacturing facility in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, creating 400 jobs and leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment.
The Governor said the planned project by Heliosphera US represents an exciting development for Pennsylvania’s green economy that will bolster the state and city’s reputation as an emerging leader in solar technology and development.
“This was a very competitive project and Heliosphera’s decision to locate this exciting facility at the Navy Yard speaks volumes about Pennsylvania’s efforts to build a competitive economic climate and one that encourages growth and innovation in the renewable energy field that will define our future,” said Governor Rendell.
“This project means a great deal for the city and the state, not only in terms of jobs and the sizeable investment the company is making here, but also in strengthening our state’s presence in the solar energy industry. Solar is the fastest growing source of electric generation in the world. With this and other solar projects underway across the state, we’re making a statement that we intend to be a leader in that growth.”
Pennsylvania provided the company with a $49 million funding offer, coordinated through the Governor’s Action Team, consisting of a variety of grants and loans.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited is taking seriously the incident of tritiated heavy water, a radioactive substance, getting mixed with the water in a drinking water cooler in the reactor building of the first unit of the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka, its Chairman and Managing Director S.K. Jain said on Sunday.
Mr. Jain called it “possibly an act of mischief.” Sixty-five workers, who drank that water, received doses of radiation higher than the prescribed limits. The incident came to light when their urine samples were tested on November 24. “The contamination of water in the cooler is a matter of serious concern, and the cause is being investigated,” he said.
The Three Mile Island nuclear station's former operators learned from the 1979 partial reactor meltdown that there's no such thing as overcommunication about TMI.
Two former spokesmen for GPU Nuclear Corp., which operated the facility after the 1979 accident, said that based on lessons learned from that incident, they subsequently alerted local officials about every minor event at the plant, such as when an ambulance was called or a steam release was loud.
They issued so many notifications that officials receiving them complained.
"The operation of a nuclear power plant is based on trust, and communication is an exercise in trust," said Douglas Bedell of Cornwall, who was a communication manager for GPU Nuclear.
Bedell and Joe Benish, who joined GPU Nuclear's communication staff six months after the 1979 accident, said they find it puzzling that Exelon Corp., which operates the facility now, did not alert state officials to last Saturday's radiation leak inside a TMI reactor building until more than five hours after it occurred.
A group of Cuban nationals who fled their country by boat landed in the cooling canal of a nuclear power plant along Florida's coast on Thanksgiving Day, according to a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission event report issued Friday.Read more
The plant's operations were not disrupted by the incident, according to the report.
The Turkey Point nuclear power plant control room received a call from an individual stating that he was a member of a group of 33 Cuban nationals that had landed in the cooling canal. The group was made up of 29 adults and 4 children.