Texas' Energy Future Can Be Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free, Expert Says

February 10, 2008
For Immediate Release

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, IEER, 301-509-6843
Cyrus Reed, Lone Star Sierra Club, 512-477-1729
Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition, 512-797-8481

  • Rising Costs and Likelihood of Delay Causes Austin to Back Away From
    South Texas Nuclear Plant Expansion
  • Opponents file a motion to stop nuclear licensing process because application is so incomplete

(Austin) The first application for a nuclear plant license in 29 years is for two reactors proposed for the South Texas Nuclear Project site, near Bay City<, Five other commercial nuclear plants are in the planning stages for Texas. At a press conference today in Austin, Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research outlined a Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free plan to meet the burgeoning energy needs of Texas and the nation without building any additional coal or nuclear plants.

Makhijani's latest book, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap for U.S.Energy Policy examines the technical and economic feasibility of achieving a U.S. economy with zero carbon dioxide emissions. "Zero" is defined as within a few percent of present-day CO2 emissions. Makhijani maintains that today's movement towards action on climate change is analogous to the 1985-1987 time period when citizens, scientists, corporations, the federal government and other governments took action to protect the ozone layer by reducing chlorofluorocarbons. Once key players decided it was time, the changes were as remarkable as they were rapid.

The overarching finding of Dr. Makhijani's analysis is that

  • a zero-CO2 U.S. economy can be achieved within the next thirty to fifty years without the use of nuclear power and without acquiring carbon credits from other countries. In other words, the physical emissions of CO2 from the energy sector can be eliminated with technologies that are now available or foreseeable.
  • This can be done at a reasonable cost while creating a much more secure energy supply than at present. There will be ancillary health benefits from eliminating much of the regional and local air pollution, such as high ozone and particulate levels in cities, due to fossil fuel combustion.

"Efficiency and renewable energy can meet the energy needs of Texas, at a fraction of the cost of building nuclear plants and without radioactive wastes, or security risks" said Dr. Makhijani. His "Recommendations: The Clean Dozen" are included as part of this release.

"Nuclear plants are far from emissions free. They emit large amounts of CO2 during the mining, enrichment, building and decommissioning of massive plants. We have not found safe ways to store radioactive waste either in Texas or nationally, wastes which could potentially harm the world's gene pool for tens of thousands of years." said Cyrus Reed of the Lone Star Sierra Club.

City of Austin Projects Increased Nuclear Costs
The existing South Texas Nuclear Plant units (1 & 2) exceeded cost projections by six times and the reactors were eight years late coming online. Austin Energy released a report on Friday that concluded that the expected costs of the proposed two reactors (3 & 4) would be at least $1 billion more than NRG had projected and would take at least 2 years longer than anticipated to complete.

The study projected escalating costs due to increasing site development costs, increased costs of materials, and permitting delays. As a result, Austin's Mayor Will Wynn said that he will recommend that the Austin City council not buy into the proposed nuclear power plants.

Nuclear Plant Licensing
The Nuclear Regulatory Commisssion (NRC) has developed new rules that expedite licensing for nuclear plants. Two separate licenses, the construction and operating licenses, have been combined into one process. The application that was submitted by NRG on December 27th 2007 is so incomplete that the NRC has suspended review of the application. Yet opponents of the plants have only until February 25,th to review the entire permit, file objections, and find expert witnesses.

"Citizens cannot adequately review a permit that is so incomplete that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission refuses to do further review on it." stated Karen Hadden of the SEED coalition. "This is why SEED Coalition together with Public Citizen, Lone Star Sierra Club, Nuclear Information Resource Service and Beyond Nuclear, filed a petition on Friday to suspend the deadline for intervention." A suspension of the licensing process would mean a delay in the date by which parties, including the environmental groups filing the motion, would have to file "contentions," or matters of dispute, with an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

The filing made by the groups on Friday argues that, "No rational purpose could be served by requiring Petitioners to go ahead with the review of STPNOC's voluminous application where both the applicant and the NRC Staff have agreed the application is largely obsolete and not deserving of further review in its current state."

The motion filed with the NRC argues that if the NRC refuses to suspend the license proceeding, that it at least grant a 180-day extension of the period to file contentions, in order to give potential intervenors time to "review the massive, disjointed and incomplete application, the myriad applications for "departures" from the ABWR and their interrelationship with other parts of the application, and the relationship between the concededly incomplete final safety analysis report ("FSAR") and STPNOC's Environmental Report ("ER") (which necessarily relies in significant part on STPNOC's compliance with NRC safety regulations to support its assertion that the environmental impacts of the proposed facility are benign)."

"We will be ready to file a number of contentions about the deficiencies in the nuclear reactor license application by February 25th if necessary," said Hadden, "but it doesn't make sense for anyone involved, including the NRC, to waste time hearing contentions based on an application that may undergo fundamental changes before it is actually complete."

The filing by the environmental groups can be seen at:


Recommendations: The Clean Dozen

From Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy

Chapter 9, Page 175 www.ieer.org/carbonfree

The 12 most critical policies that need to be enacted as urgently as possible for achieving a zero-CO2 economy without nuclear power are as follows.

  1. Enact a physical limit of CO2 emissions for all large users of fossil fuels (a "hard cap") that steadily declines to zero prior to 2060, with the time schedule for tightening assessed periodically according to climate, technological, and economic developments. The cap should be set at the level of some year prior to 2007, so that early implementers of CO2 reductions benefit from the setting of the cap. Emission allowances would be sold by the U.S. government for use in the United States only. There would be no free allowances, no offsets and no international sale or purchase of CO2 allowances. The estimated revenues - approximately $30 to $50 billion per year - would be used for demonstration plants, research and development, and worker and community transition.
  2. Eliminate all subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels and nuclear power (including guarantees for nuclear waste disposal from new power plants, loan guarantees, and subsidized insurance).
  3. Eliminate subsidies for biofuels from food crops.
  4. Build demonstration plants for key supply technologies, including central station solar thermal with heat storage, large- and intermediate-scale solar photovoltaics, and CO2 capture in microalgae for liquid fuel production.
  5. Leverage federal, state and local purchasing power to create markets for critical advanced technologies, including plug-in hybrids.
  6. Ban new coal-fired power plants that do not have carbon storage.
  7. Enact at the federal level high efficiency standards for appliances.
  8. Enact stringent building efficiency standards at the state and local levels, with federal incentives to adopt them.
  9. Enact stringent efficiency standards for vehicles and make plug-in hybrids the standard U.S. government vehicle by 2015.
  10. Put in place federal contracting procedures to reward early adopters of CO2 reductions.
  11. Adopt vigorous research, development, and pilot plant construction programs for technologies that could accelerate the elimination of CO2, such as direct solar hydrogen production, hot rock geothermal power, and integrated gasification combined cycle plants using biomass with a capacity to sequester the CO2.
  12. Establish a standing committee on Energy and Climate under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board.

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