Quantcast

Echoes of Fukushima: Will Duke Energy Avoid Oconee Nuclear Meltdown?

Energy

Phil Radford

Oconee Nuclear Station is located on Lake Keowee in Oconee County, S.C.

Duke Energy and government regulators have been hiding a not-so-little secret from the people of the Carolinas. Duke's Oconee nuclear power plant—three aged nuclear reactors 30 miles from Greenville, SC—is at risk of a meltdown should an upstream dam fail. If that were to happen, a meltdown of all three reactors on the scale of the Fukushima meltdowns and subsequent containment failure are virtual certainties according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) documents obtained by Greenpeace.

We've also received a tip that the cost to upgrade the Oconee nuclear plant site to address this triple meltdown threat would cost Duke Energy a billion dollars.

A billion dollars.

So at Duke Energy's annual shareholder meeting yesterday in Charlotte, NC, I asked Duke CEO Jim Rogers a question about his company's dangerous nuke plants and the billion dollar cost to protect and upgrade. Tellingly, Jim Rogers did not dispute the billion dollar price tag nor the need to better defend Oconee from flood waters.

Here's Rogers' response (you can listen to it at the 51:35 mark):

With respect to the billion dollar expenditures ... I mean the reality is we're the most capital intensive industry in the country, and what we try to do is—we reinvest and take our nuclear because you're thinking about our Oconee plant and how do you deal with the dam and that situation—that's a—our nuclear fleet because of the investments we make in it—over the last several years—our cheapest electricity—our nuclear fleet is the—provides electricity at a lower price than of other nuclear fleet in the United States. So cost is really important to our consumers—so our ability to invest that money and maintain that fleet is important ...

It's worth noting that Rogers didn't deny the potential billion dollar price tag of the Oconee repairs. Even for Duke, that's a serious amount of money.

I wonder if Duke's shareholders know that the company could end up being on the hook for that kind of a pricey fix?

Greenpeace appreciates Rogers acknowledging the threat to Oconee and the enormous expense of fixing it. If Rogers wants to do the most fiscally prudent thing for Duke's investors, he should retire the reactors. Duke and its regulators have known about this threat for decades and have utterly failed to address it. While regulation of nuclear power can be very complex, the issue at Oconee is pretty simple to understand. According to documents, the potential flood height at Duke Energy's Oconee nuclear plant is well above the height of Oconee's flood walls leaving important safety equipment vulnerable.

Does this sound familiar? It should. In Japan, the nuclear industry knew that the flood wall at Fukushima was too low and did nothing about it there either.

Other nuclear laden electric corporations face steep costs to upgrade old and dangerous reactors. Dominion recently testified that Fukushima fixes would cost their corporation between $30 and $40 million. But the billion dollar price tag to reduce the risks at Oconee is truly staggering. Rather than wasting a billion dollars on old reactors that will never be safe, Duke Energy should invest in renewable energy and efficiency. Wind turbines and solar panels don't threaten the Carolinas with the prospect of nuclear meltdowns.

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY and NUCLEAR pages for more related news on this topic.

——–

Click here to tell Congress to Expedite Renewable Energy.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A dead sea lion on the beach at Border Field State Park, near the international border wall between San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. Sherry Smith / iStock / Getty Images

While Trump's border wall has yet to be completed, the threat it poses to pollinators is already felt, according to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, as reported by Transmission & Distribution World.

Read More Show Less
People crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on July 20, 2017 in New York City sought to shield themselves from the sun as the temperature reached 93 degrees. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

by Jordan Davidson

Taking action to stop the mercury from rising is a matter of life and death in the U.S., according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Salmon fry before being released just outside San Francisco Bay. Jim Wilson / The New York Times / Redux

By Alisa Opar

For Chinook salmon, the urge to return home and spawn isn't just strong — it's imperative. And for the first time in more than 65 years, at least 23 fish that migrated as juveniles from California's San Joaquin River and into the Pacific Ocean have heeded that call and returned as adults during the annual spring run.

Read More Show Less
AnnaPustynnikova / iStock / Getty Images

By Kerri-Ann Jennings, MS, RD

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide.

Read More Show Less
Protesters hold a banner and a placard while blocking off the road during a protest against Air pollution in London. Ryan Ashcroft / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Moment / Getty Images

By Bridget Shirvell

On a farm in upstate New York, a cheese brand is turning millions of pounds of food scraps into electricity needed to power its on-site businesses. Founded by eight families, each with their own dairy farms, Craigs Creamery doesn't just produce various types of cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss and Muenster cheeses, sold in chunks, slices, shreds and snack bars; they're also committed to becoming a zero-waste operation.

Read More Show Less
Coal ash has contaminated the Vermilion River in Illinois. Eco-Justice Collaborative / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

Summers in the Midwest are great for outdoor activities like growing your garden or cooling off in one of the area's many lakes and streams. But some waters aren't as clean as they should be.

That's in part because coal companies have long buried toxic waste known as coal ash near many of the Midwest's iconic waterways, including Lake Michigan. Though coal ash dumps can leak harmful chemicals like arsenic and cadmium into nearby waters, regulators have done little to address these toxic sites. As a result, the Midwest is now littered with coal ash dumps, with Illinois containing the most leaking sites in the country.

Read More Show Less

picture-alliance / AP Photo / NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

The Group of 20 major economies agreed a deal to reduce marine pollution at a meeting of their environment ministers on Sunday in Karuizawa, Japan.

Read More Show Less