A little background:
NRG Energy, owners of the South Texas Nuclear Project, have an application pending with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build two new reactors at the plant, located near Bay City, Texas. The facility is on the Colorado River, and about ten miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico.
Austin owns 16 per cent of the two existing reactors at South Texas. NRG attempted to get Austin to buy into the new reactors, with no success.
San Antonio is also a partner in the existing units. They had been scheduled to be a fifty per cent partner in the new reactors, but balked when it became apparent that NRG was trying to cover up the true cost of the STNP expansion. San Antonio’s publicly-owned utility, CPS, sued NRG last year for $32 billion, accusing NRG of fraud, among other things. An out-of-court settlement reduced CPS’ share of the expansion to around 7 per cent.
NRG, desperate for investors, began shopping around for cities and utilities willing to buy power purchase agreements, a contract that would negotiate a low price for future power. (Assuming the new reactors are ever built.) NRG hopes to use the power purchase agreements to convince lendors to back the project, now estimated at $18.2 billion, up from an initial $5 billion estimate.
NRG hired Juan Garza, a former head of Austin Energy, Austin’s municipally-owned utility, to lead the drive to sell the power purchase agreements. Garza has been meeting with elected officials in Austin and San Antonio for the past couple of months.
Citizens in Austin and San Antonio recently formed Solar Si Nuclear No, a coalition of environmental organizations, businesses, labor and other concerned citizens, to oppose any new investments in nuclear power. Solar Si Nuclear No held several kick-off events in the last week.
On Sunday, we entered an enormous kite in the Zilker Park Kite Festival, an event that has been held in Austin each spring for the last 86 years. Our entry was a delta kite with a sixteen foot wing span, emblazoned with the words “Solar Si Nuclear No.” Although there was virtually no wind in the park Sunday, we did launch the kite high enough for some pictures. Here’s one of Solar 1 on the ground. It was a big hit with small children.
On Tuesday, March 8, we held press conferences in Austin and San Antonio. Here’s what the San Antonio Current reported today:
As city-owned CPS Energy re-enters talks with NRG Energy about possibly buying more deeply into the proposed nuclear power plant expansion they only recently largely extracted themselves from, local and Austin-based activists are fighting a sense of regret and déjà vu. “We wish CPS would have learned the lesson that it should have learned a year ago. I wish we didn’t have to go through this again,” Cindy Weehler, of the anti-nuclear group Energía Mía, said at a Tuesday press conference in front of City Hall.
After getting clearance from the CPS Energy Board of Trustees last week, CEO Doyle Beneby is planning to entertain proposals that could once again throw CPS and NRG into deeper partnership, priming the city to either further invest in the group’s two proposed South Texas Project reactors or agree to a long-term power purchasing deal.
Just a year ago, CPS and NRG’s equal partnership in the proposed nukes imploded in a $32-billion lawsuit amid allegations of fraud and manipulation on the part of NRG. “The history is so messy, so why would this even be considered again?” Weehler asked.
Karen Hadden, director for Texas clean-energy group SEED Coalition, said she has approached city council members and found “no excitement” about Beneby’s move. “Our concern is these talks just came up so quickly. We’re worried that serious arm-twisting could occur to push this thing through,” Hadden said.
For more information on Solar Si Nuclear No, visit our website: www.solarsinuclearno.org.