Frequently Asked Questions
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WHAT IS EMBRITTLEMENT?
Embrittlement is the loss of strength, ductility and resistance to cracking. In nuclear reactors, there are steel containers called reactor pressure vessels that hold nuclear fuel when the reactor is operating. Overtime, the particles (neutrons) hit that steel and that steel becomes weaker. However, some reactor pressure vessels were made with copper which is even more prone to embrittlement. This leads to embrittled reactors being more at risk of pressurized thermal shock related accidents.
Information on “Aging Nuclear Power Plants focusing in particular on irradiation embrittlement of pressure vessels Nuke Info Tokyo No. 148” available here.
WHAT IS THE NRC AND HOW ARE THEY INVOLVED?
NRC stands for Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was created as an independent agency by Congress in 1974 to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment. The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements.” (Source)
The NRC is headed by five Commissioners appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. One of them is designated by the President to be the Chairman and official spokesperson of the Commission.
WHAT IS A POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENT?
"A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is an arrangement in which a third-party developer installs, owns, and operates an energy system on a customer’s property. The customer then purchases the system's electric output for a predetermined period." (Source)
HOW MUCH ELECTRICITY DOES POINT BEACH PRODUCE?
After an uprate in the early 2010s, the reactors now produce about 1,263.5 megawatts of electricity.
WHAT IS A WPDES PERMIT?
“The DNR regulates the discharge of pollutants to waters of the state through the Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) program. Wastewater permits contain all the monitoring requirements, special reports and compliance schedules appropriate to the facility in question. Permits are issued for a five-year term.” (Source)
Point Beach’s current permit expires in June 2021; however, their current permit will be administratively continued due to delays at DNR. NextEra did submit their application for the next permit on time. As of May 19, 2021, DNR staff were working on the water quality based effluent limits memo for the new permit. The next steps are finishing the next permit draft, an internal review, and a fact checking review from the facility.
WHAT ARE THE DETAILS ON THE WATER USE BY POINT BEACH?
The intake in Lake Michigan is located 1,750 feet offshore in approximately 22 feet of water. The intake area has a 16 speaker acoustic deterrent system. There are 8 screens located at the intake. The intake is designed to take in a maximum of 1,108 million gallons of water per day (MGD). In the winter, Point Beach intakes an average of 697 MGD and in the summer the average is 1104 MGD.
Through the intake process aquatic life is still trapped and killed, despite the speaker system and sequence of screens. NextEra reported that the average total annual foregone fishery yield because of Point Beach is estimated at 7,406 kg. In 2017, 32,477 shellfish were collected.
According to NextEra, “A total of 15 ichthyoplankton taxa/life stage groups were encountered in the 2017 entrainment samples, with the most abundant being Rainbow Smelt (41.7% of the total), followed by Burbot (26.4%), Alewife (11.1 %), and Round Goby (8.3%). About 3% were unidentified fish eggs and 7% were unidentified larvae.” (page 1-17, 99)
According to NextEra, “PBNP calculates and reports its daily heat load based on measured cooling water flow and average daily increase in cooling water temperature. Compliance with the Plant's heat load limit of 8,273 million British thermal units per hour is based on a weekly average of the heat load calculation.” (page 109)
The 2019 average amount of noncontact cooling water discharged into Lake Michigan is 913.6 MGD. The water discharged is used for any of the following activities: Condenser Cooling, Water Screen Backwash, Fire Protection, Misc., Equipment Cooling, Steam Generator Slowdown, Primary Coolant Letdown, Reverse Osmosis, Neutralizing Tank. The discharge locations are located about 60 feet offshore.
WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC SITUATION FOR RATEPAYERS BECAUSE OF POINT BEACH?
Dr. Cooper, Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, and Director of Research at the Consumer Federation of America, said, "The Point Beach purchased power agreement (PPA) is totally uneconomic. The cumulative excess cost imposed on ratepayers is almost $5 billion for the period ending in 2030, which works out to over $3,000 per electricity customer, or $300 per year. With $5 billion and the remaining time before the early-2030s expirations of the current Point Beach 1 and 2 licenses, the net expected power generation from the plant during that period could be completely obviated by construction of renewables and implementation of efficiency.
Point Beach would cost ratepayers over twice as much as a least cost, low carbon, low pollution approach. The PPA for Point Beach imposes enormous excess costs on ratepayers and is unconscionable. By 2030 and 2033, but for the PPA, efficiency and renewable energy sources could have expanded and displaced this myopic baseload power plant. By 2030, Point Beach Units 1 and 2 will be completely redundant and obsolescent."